Aurora Detention Facility, Aurora, Colorado, Google Earth Screenshot

Aurora Detention Facility, Aurora, Colorado, Google Earth Screenshot


One of the main stated goals of Prison Photography is to bring visual documents of prisons in America and abroad to a wider audience, so I was very excited to hear about Thousand Kites‘ newest initiative.

Incarceration Nation is a prison mapping and image bank that (un)earths the presence of prisons in our communities using Google Earth videos and user generated content. Our goal is to provide bloggers, researchers, activists, and interested citizens access to often suppressed images of the U.S. prison industrial complex.

Thousand Kites artist Nick Szuberla tells it as it is:

There are often strict regulations around film outside and certainly inside prisons. We believe that sunlight is the best sanitizer for human rights violations, and it is often not in a state’s interest to provide access. In Virginia, where we are based, they literally moved the prison gate back, from where you could film, as media scrutiny increased. Prisons are often in rural, hard to reach places. One reason for this is to support faltering rural economies, but the other is an out of sight, out of mind mentality.


Minutes after viewing the nations’ subdivided carceral systems lounging up against the nations’ desert mountains, rural towns and even sub-divided suburbs, I came across the BLDGBLOG analysis of California City:

In the desert 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles is a suburb abandoned in advance of itself—the unfinished extension of a place called California City. Visible from above now are a series of badly paved streets carved into the dust and gravel, like some peculiarly American response to the Nazca Lines.

Geoglyphs of Nowhere

BLDGBLOG continues:

And it’s a weird geography: two of the most prominent nearby landmarks include a prison and an automobile test-driving facility run by Honda. There is also a visually spectacular boron mine to the southeast – it’s the largest open-pit mine in California, according to the Center for Land Use Interpretation – and an Air Force base.

The prison is the California City Correctional Center, a private prison run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for federal authorities. If you want to buy shares in CCA and profit from the misery of and warehousing of human beings CCA operates on the stock market under CXW. But, please note: By investing in CCA you automatically qualify as the sperm of the devil and invite a dump-truck of shat-karma to your door and into your life.

The Geomentry of Incarceration

The Geometry of Incarceration

Szuberla’s opinion that prisons are hidden is indisputable; prisons are willfully sited in remote locations. Policy provides prisons with predictable, constant, distant operating funds – even when local monies may dwindle.


Prisons, while occasionally a boon to local economic health, are always moral and morale parasites to their host towns.

Prison Town is a great film that follows the workers and residents of Susanville, CA. Initial apprehension, curiosity and hope for what prisons could bring to a suffering economy soon turn to realizations that the prison spurred mainly minimum wage jobs outside the institution and destroyed the will of those working inside.

Prison Valley is a web-documentary in production right now by Frenchmen David Dufresne and Philippe Brault. It looks at Colorado’s prison towns during the recent recession.