After watching Michelle Alexander’s Tedx Columbus talk, The Future of Race in America, I was in a flurry of mixed emotions. I was ashamed at myself for being naive about our incredibly unjust criminal justice system and how, as Michelle Alexander puts it, African Americans are being thrown into a “redesigned racial caste system.” I was angry at the US for treating criminals in such an inhumane manner. I also was in disarray. I wanted to do something immediately to help those who experience unnecessary cruelty behind bars and a “permanent second class status” once released from prison. But, I didn’t know where to start. Most of all, I was astounded by the statistics Alexander unveiled about African Americans in the prison system. Two stats especially stood out to me: 1) “Today there are more African American adults under correctional control—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than where enslaved in 1850…” and 2) “As of 2004, more black men where denied the right to vote than in 1870, the year the 15th amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.”
I’m a visual person. So I wanted to put what I learned from Alexander’s Ted talk into picture, literally. I wanted to not only hear the truth, but also see the truth. An article on the Huffington Post talks about a photo exhibition called “Prison Obscura,” which provides a lens into the prison industrial system. Pete Brook curated the exhibition. His goal is to “open the eyes of the American public to the atrocities that occur behind prison walls” (Huffington Post). The images in the exhibit are a compilation of various photographers’ work as well as photographs done by prisoners. The prisoners’ photographs give a more intimate perspective of life behind bars and “[allow] inmates to reclaim agency over their personal narratives” (Huffington Post). Here’s a link to the “Prison Obscura” official website: http://exhibits.haverford.edu/prisonobscura/
The Huffington Post Article also linked me to a website of Josh Begley’s work “Prison Map.” It consist of birds-eye view pictures of prison complexes. When looking at something, I think’s it’s important to view it from a micro and macro perspective. When looking at Brook’s exhibition and Begley’s work, we are able to view the US prison system this way.
photo by: Josh Begley (http://exhibits.haverford.edu/prisonobscura/media/works/#jp-carousel-203)