Flicking through my old bookmarks, I was pleasantly bothered by bumping into the Corrections Photography Archive (CPA). This is a great small collection of prints organised by theme and location. Unfortunately, the online form doesn’t work so I can’t learn more about CPA just yet. I now the collection is larger than that number digitized for the interwebs.

A couple of my favourite groupings are Music (for fun) and Dining Rooms (which arranges itself as a Becheresque typology of prison food halls). In the end, I decided to use the collection twofold; 1) as counseling for myself, and 2) as a guarantee for the readers.



Regardless if the tiers recede to the brightest white or darkest gray. Regardless of the cause. When given a choice between a receding cell-tier-photograph and another, I will take the other. Let us exhaust this inevitable angle of all incarceration-based-photojournalism. Let us gloss over those photographs and move to the other images, which will be the ones to make the story anyway.











Official Blurb: The American Prison Society Photographic Archive records collection was acquired by the Eastern Kentucky University Archives in 1984 through the auspices of Dr. Bruce Wolford of Eastern’s College of Law Enforcement. Dr. Wolford received the photographs in 1979 from William Bain, instructor at the Kentucky Bureau of Training. In the 1960s Mr. Bain, a former staff member of the American Correctional Association, conceived the idea of a pictorial history of the American prison. With the aid of David A. Kimberling, a prison inmate and photographer, Bain had photographs copied from the American Correctional Association archives plus ones he received from various federal and state correctional facilities throughout the United States. In addition to the copies, which comprise the negative part of the collection, he acquired many original black and white photographic prints. Finally in 1978 through the work of Anthony P. Travisono, executive director of the American Correctional Association, Bain’s dream, The American Prison: from the Beginning. A Pictorial History, was published.

The photographic collection is rich in its depiction of early twentieth century prison life and conditions. The collection covers numerous subjects such as prison living conditions, recreational activities, industries, hospital care, corporal punishment, work gangs on the farm and quarries, vocational activities, weapons confiscated, prison architecture, and the death house. A few of the images are of prison officials, primarily in the federal penitentiary system.

Images from Top to Bottom. All images courtesy of Corrections Photographic Archive

1. One of the cell corriders in the old penitentiary for males on Welfare Island. Note the distance of the cells from the outside walls and windows and the consequent limitations of light and ventilation, especially needed on account of the absence of toilets in the cells, 1924.
2. Isolation unit at Huntsville, Texas, 1953. Photo by Frank Dobbs.
3. Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Section of E.D.C.C.
4. Heating pipes in cell house at Indiana State Prison.
5. “A” block (North extension “outside cells”) 352 cells now used by Reception Center. Folger Adams Locking, December 5, 1946.
6. West cell block, Central Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina.
7. New Hampshire State Prison, portion of cell block.
8. No Information available.
9. Central aisle, Work House, Blackwell’s Island, New York.