A prison artist in California who uses the dye from M&M's for paint has been disciplined for what a prison official yesterday called “unauthorized business dealings” in the sale of his paintings. The prison has also barred the prisoner, Donny Johnson, from sending his paintings through the mail, reports the New York Times. Johnson's work has been on display for the last several weeks at a gallery in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Twenty of his paintings have been sold, for $500 each.
Johnson had donated the paintings to the Pelican Bay Prison Project, a charity which says it will honor Johnson's wish that it use the proceeds from the show to help the children of prisoners. According to a “serious rules violation report” issued by the prison last month, Johnson ran afoul of a corrections department regulation that prohibits engaging in a business or profession without the warden's permission. The regulation defines a business as “any revenue-generating or profit-making activity.” The discipline was prompted by a front-page article about Johnson in the New York Times last month, according to the violation report. Johnson, 46, is serving three life sentences. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1980 for a drug-related killing, drawing a sentence of 15 years to life. In 1989, he was convicted of slashing the throat of one guard and assaulting another.