Art helps prisoners escape French prison, sort ofNovember 6, 1998
Web posted at: 10:50 p.m. EST (0350 GMT)
STRASBOURG, France (CNN) -- An art exhibit was opened Friday in France's Strasbourg Prison by Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann.
Trautmann said prisoners should not be cut off from the arts.
"Each person has the right to have contact with the works of art," Trautmann insisted. "Culture must also go behind the bars of a prison."
She joined the warden, prisoners and artist Pascal Henri Poirot at a cocktail party that featured a live band.
Trautmann insisted the art show had a therapeutic value for prisoners.
"It's part of the social integration." she said. "It allows the prisoners to realize that culture is present through books, works of art or music."
One prisoner said he was very moved by the exhibit.
"It's a way to escape -- in a figurative way, of course," said prisoner Jean Charles.
It also turned him into something more than a convict: an art critic.
"I was impressed by the vivacity of the paintings. It's something special," he said. "It's full of warmth compared to the austerity of this world."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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