A “VIBRANT” show of art made in prisons could transform the way critics see offenders, it is claimed.

Author Jenni Fagan said paintings, sound installations and poetry created by people in jails, secure hospitals and secure children’s homes will challenge stigma and preconceptions held by viewers.

Fagan, whose debut novel The Panopticon is currently being adapted for the screen, chose 180 pieces from a 1130-strong field for the show at Glasgow’s Tramway venue.

All of these are Scottish entries to the Koestler Awards, which recognise artistic achievement in the criminal justice and secure sectors.

Fagan says the high number of exhibits, which outstrips the number organisers initially expected, reflects the high quality of the submitted work. She said: “Some people will always want to not think of prisoners as real people. That is their choice.

“I think it would be very difficult for anybody to come and see this exhibition and walk away and still think that.”

The writer won critical acclaim and commercial success for The Panopticon, which centred around a teenage girl in a young person’s unit designed to allow guards to observe residents at all times without being seen themselves.

This concept of visibility is central to the show, which opens today. Titled Narrative, it aims to take in the stories of the artists behind the exhibits and, according to Fagan, “seeks to explore the truth of individuals, human connection, humour, loss, regret, beauty, strength and humility”.

She said: “Each of the people behind the pieces is an individual and they don’t always get treated that way. They all have their own story and own journey.”

The Koestler Trust has been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for more than 50 years. Entries from Scottish establishments have “increased rapidly” since its first Scottish show in 2009.

The Scottish Prison Service said the initiatives have contributed to the education and rehabilitation of many inmates, with the positive impact continuing beyond release.

Participating institutions this year include HMP Edinburgh, which produced 56 award winners, as well as HMP Glenochil, HMP Dumfries and the Prison and Young Offenders Institution in Grampian.

Fagan said: “If you don’t extend the idea of rehabilitation and treating people as individuals, then you are just warehousing people. That’s not a fair system and it’s not a system that benefits the people in it or the community. That doesn’t serve any purpose for society. I don’t know if we are moving away from that, but I think it’s vital that we do.”

On the links between offending and wider society, she went on: “There are complicated stories behind every person’s life.

“We’re in a situation now where there are hundreds of thousands of children living in poverty. That is a guarantee of more people in the prison system. If you look at the way countries are run, then it is fairly self-explanatory why crime exists.”

The free exhibition, which runs until December 22, also includes sculpture, drawing and woodwork.

Fagan said: “There is a lot of vibrancy, a lot of colour.

“I’m a massive fan of art. I’m very fussy and critical about what I like. The artwork here is just extraordinary – you could walk into any gallery in the world and see it on the wall.”

Tramway public engagement co-ordinator Holly Rumble said she was “excited” by the “very powerful” content.

Sally Taylor, chief executive of the Koestler Trust, said: “There are people of extraordinary talent in Scotland’s prisons and secure centres and the awards give them something to aspire to. In some cases they provide new avenues in life after they are released.

“The entries can be from people of any age, sex, race, religion and social background. They include adults, children and young people, convicted offenders, ex-offenders, mental health secure patients or immigration detainees. Jenni’s curation has captured the sheer variety of people and talents.

“Narrative is an excellent exhibition in its own right and it encourages us to see the artists as diverse, complex and multi-faceted individuals rather than simply as inmates.”