Prison Photos: A Deep Look into Their Importance
Date:  03-17-2016

With visits uncertain and sometimes rare, a photo taken with loved ones allows a visual connection and some solace to a person behind bars
As many families live far from their incarcerated loved ones, visits are the high point of the month or year for those behind bars. And, as anyone who has been incarcerated knows, photos taken at a visit become an important memento that often becomes worn through constant touching or tears.

With the invention of smart phones people in the “free world” often take photos for granted. It’s different in prison. Photos taken in a prison capture a moment of togetherness that might not happen again for a long time, and as such becomes a vital part of an incarcerated person’s sterile world. It is not uncommon for a person behind bars to tell a guard, “You won’t get any trouble from me as long as you don’t mess with my visits, my phone calls or my photos.” After all, there’s not much more to look forward to besides that.

Most prisons set a limit on the number of photos that can be kept. In the federal system it is twenty-five. For someone serving decades behind bars it is difficult to have to choose which ones to keep and which ones not to. Do you choose a photo of the smiling toddler daughter you left behind? Or do you keep the one of her first prom? Do you keep a photo of you and your mom in happier times, or the latest photo of the two of you together in the visiting room, with her grey hair and frail body?

Not much is said or written about prison photos. The following article by Lisa Riordan Seville takes a deep look into their importance.

Via Vantage

Prisons is Where Families Go

Rikers Island, in the crook of the East River, is New York City’s main lockup. Often thought of as a single jail, it is in fact a cluster of facilities, a penal colony of decrepit buildings where about 10,000 people sleep each night. You can see it from from Queens, the Bronx, from the runways of La Guardia Airport. But you can’t so easily see in.

I went to Rikers for the first time last fall. For several years, I have reported on criminal justice, which has brought me inside jails and prisons. But that day, I visited Rikers as a civilian, to attend the graduation of a jail workforce program. For 12 weeks, dozens of men had taken classes designed to help them find jobs upon release. Chairs and a podium had been arranged in an echoing room that felt like a high school gym. Metal legs scraped, men in jail scrubs shifted, laughing, elbowing one another as they waited. The audience trickled in?—?a few mothers, several wives or girlfriends. Children bounced, restless even before the ceremony had begun. A boy about 10 years old jumped up and ran over to his father, surprising him with a hug. The man broke out in a wide grin, and wrapped his arms around his son. Then he shooed him back over to where the free people sat.

Though rarely captured in photographs of prisons, each time I visit a correctional facility, I’m reminded that prison is a domestic place. It’s true that bloodshed brings some people in, and blood is shed inside, but more often the crimes are less dramatic?—?theft, parole violations, fights, drugs. Life within is less dramatic, too. Doing time is boring, a grind of days that look the same. Gossip breeds, as it does in schools, old folks homes, office parks?—?places where people don’t control their fate. Violence can be one distraction. Visiting day is another. Continue reading