Behind the Razor Wire: Portrait of a Contemporary American Prison System

Behind the Razor Wire: Portrait of a Contemporary American Prison System

by Michael Jacobson-Hardy, John Edgar Wideman
     
 

More than one million Americans live in federal and state prisons and close to another half million are in local jails. One out of every three young black men is involved in the criminal justice system. To house our ever increasing prison population, the construction of new prisons has become a growth industry in many local and state economies. Yet while prisons

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Overview

More than one million Americans live in federal and state prisons and close to another half million are in local jails. One out of every three young black men is involved in the criminal justice system. To house our ever increasing prison population, the construction of new prisons has become a growth industry in many local and state economies. Yet while prisons are a rapidly expanding feature of America's cultural and political landscape, the people in them, as well as the buildings themselves, remain hidden from public consciousness. Determined to break this silence, Michael Jacobson-Hardy entered the prison system to record the voices and the lives of the people who live and work within its walls.

Behind the Razor Wire continues the tradition of documentary photography by reporting in words and photographs on the conditions in the American prison system. Jacobson-Hardy examines the physical and psychological environments of a range of contemporary correctional institutions and the lives they contain. The foreword by Angela Y. Davis and essays by John Edgar Wideman, Marc Mauer, and James Gilligan, MD make a searing indictment of America's criminal justice system, while offering a framework for understanding the photographs in their historical and cultural context. By recording the faces, the emotions, and the lives of those who live and work in the prison system, Jacobson-Hardy heightens public awareness and promotes dialogue on criminal justice policy.

Behind the Razor Wire creates a visual portrait of prisons and prisoners, and a compelling documentary of how prisoners see themselves and of how in turn they are seen by others.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jacobson-Hardy strives to show whole people by portraying not just their likenesses, but the lives and times the inhabit."

-Amherst Bulletin

Theresa Washington
Michael Jacobson-Hardy's Behind the Razor Wire: Portrait of a Contemporary American Prison System is a sobering, difficult book. It takes courage to examine the parts of ourselves that we shunt aside, and Jacobson-Hardy does just that. He has spent time visiting and photographing Massachusetts prisons. The black-and-white images mix portraits with shots of graffiti, chain-link fences, and bolted doors. The portraits are the strongest; prisoners and guards alike posture and protect themselves. The pictures, as much as the essays by Angela Davis, John Edgar Wideman, Marc Mauer, and James Gilligan, argue for improvements, indicting the penal system as a horrible byproduct of an economic system that celebrates the rich and tramps on the poor. The essays read like polemic beside the photographs, a variety of statistics, and Jacobson-Hardy's own words about what he saw, all of which paint a vivid picture of a system that aims to dehumanize, not rehabilitate. --The Boston Sunday Globe, December 6, 1998
Pittsburgh Newsweekly
[This] intimate look at the physical and psychological environments of prisons reveals how we see the more-than-a-million federal and state prisoners-hidden behind walls and bars, and better there than out in our world-and how they see themselves-dead abused and turned savage by prison conditions. The foreword by Angela Y. Davis and essays by John Edgar Wideman, Marc Mauer and Dr. James Gilligan are searing indictments of the failure of prisons as well as a framework for understanding the photos.
Choice
[The photographs] offer direct, jolting encounters with the human beings who must live, work, or visit in these dehumanizing contexts. They achieve an admirable accuracy as snapshots of a world that most never see. The first third of the book provides a cogent set of messages from five authors whose bases of authority are as varied as they are impressive.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814742402
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
11/01/1998
Pages:
152
Product dimensions:
11.24(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.70(d)

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From the Publisher

"Jacobson-Hardy strives to show whole people by portraying not just their likenesses, but the lives and times the inhabit."

-Amherst Bulletin

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