Starting around 1980, the United States exponentially expanded its prison system, now the largest in the world by a long shot. This country has put a name to the phenomenon that now has one in every 36 people under some sort of correctional control. We call it “mass incarceration.” But what does the result of four decades of mass incarceration look like?
We launched @EverydayIncarceration on Instagram in late 2014 to explore that question. The story of incarceration is often told through one lens at a time — that of the state, or advocates, or a single photographer. But to understand what having millions of people behind bars every day means for society, we need to look through more than one set of eyes. That’s why our feed is collaborative, bringing together archival photos of established photographers, current images of emerging photographers, work of conceptual artists and illustrators, and students at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
This edit of images we’ve featured moves from life inside of prisons to the world outside, showing the way the effects of incarceration ripple through families and communities. Each photograph is one of a set, which can be explored at greater length by visiting @EverydayIncarceration on mobile or the web. All images are contributed by individual photographers, who spent months, years or sometimes decades working on these stories.
About 23,544 people were released from New York State prisons last year. While some are met by families, many must make their own way home. Prisoners are given $40 of “gate money,” plus any funds left in their personal accounts. According to the state, they are also provided transportation to the county where they were convicted, and “civilian” clothing if they do not have any of their own.During the 21 years Seth Ferranti, 43, spent in prison, he avoided the meal hall. Instead he took cooking tips from other prisoners, who taught him how to make spaghetti in a hot pot. “I went to prison, basically, to learn how to cook from mobsters,” he said.Ferranti ate his first meal after his release in August in the car on the way to the halfway house: a large Meat Lover’s pie from Pizza Hut. “I ate it cold,” he said. One of the biggest things for him is being able to choose what to eat. Now that he’s out, he cooks more than ever. (Julius Motal, @juliasmotalphoto)