Jeremy MacKenzie was incarcerated when he was young, sent to a Corrections Corp. of America for-profit facility in Kentucky prison. But during his time in jail, he discovered art, and created a series of intricate, captivating art panels that captured the inner life of his fellow prisoners through the lens of mythology and other heightened modes of storytelling.
One unique character eventually found its way into these panels: a praying mantis named Mikey by the prisoners. Inmates in Lee Correctional Facility used the insects for mantis fights as a source of entertainment, betting on the outcome of the matches.
Mikey, though, was no normal insect: it would come to the prisoners when called, reach out to people it knew and seemed to listen when people talked. Mikey became a friend to the prison collective, living in the cells with them. Its personality eventually convinced prisoners to stop pitting the insects against each other.
But when the prison warden begins abusing his power and the prison becomes overcrowded to increase profits, Jeremy and his fellow prisoners decide to protest without hurting or killing anyone. Sadly, Mikey finds itself caught in the crosshairs and is the only creature killed during the ensuing riot. Jeremy then decides to immortalize Mikey’s stories in his art, ensuring that Mikey’s legend continued to pass and grow, inspiring inmates and changing lives in unexpected ways.