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http://www.lacountyarts.org/civicart/01_First_District/1_ela_s_sbi_ppdt_davis.htm

The Sybil Brand Institute for women, Los Angeles. Photo Credit: LA County Arts http://www.lacountyarts.org/civicart/01_First_District/1_ela_s_sbi_ppdt_davis.htm

The fixations of Prison Photography on the infrastructural order of sites can as easily be applied outside of carceral space.  The Center for Land Use Interpretation has terminus container ports, petrochemicalscapes, first responder training sites, landfill waste streams, pacific coastlines, nuclear proving grounds and even the Trans-Alaska pipeline covered by roving reconnaissance.

There is even a brief field report from the Angola Prison Museum, but I’ll have to come back to that.

I’d like to present the archive for the CLUI’s 2001 exhibit, On Locations: Places as Sets in the Landscape of Los Angeles.

Have you ever questioned the fabric of prison environments in TV or film? There were plenty prison (visiting room) scenes in The Wire, but I was too engrossed in episodes to pay the backdrop any mind. Well, this should get you thinking.

Filming in active prisons is generally not permitted for obvious reasons, and as a result, prison sets are built in soundstages, back lots, and inside other locations. A few prisons in Los Angeles are currently closed, and are regular filming locations. The Sybil Brand Institute, at the County Sheriff’s complex in City Terrace, east of downtown, was the primary Los Angeles County correctional facility for women before it closed in 1997. Though still managed by the sheriff’s department, it is now used exclusively for filming.

 Credit: CLUI. Portions of the Sybil Brand Institute are familiar from films shot there. This visiting area has appeared in several films.

Credit: CLUI. Sybil Brand Institute's visiting area has appeared in several films.

Built in 1963, Sybil Brand was a minimum to maximum security facility, with a design capacity of 900, and a peak occupancy of 2,800. It once housed Susan Atkins (whose confessions to a cellmate at the prison led to the arrest of Charles Manson and family), and Susan McDougall of Whitewater scandal fame. When Sybil Brand closed, inmates were transferred to the new Twin Towers complex. The County may renovate the building and open it again as a prison, but in the meantime it offers modern looking prison rooms including cafeterias, hallways, recreation areas, visiting areas, infirmaries, and cells from solitary confinement to dormitories. As it was a women’s prison, the interior walls have a pink color, which is usually painted over for filming.

Productions film here at a rate of two or three per month. The film Blow, about cocaine dealers, recently spent five weeks shooting all over the prison. Other productions include Arrest and Trial, Gangland, X-Files, and America’s Most Wanted.

Though older and more run down, the City of Los Angeles jail in Lincoln Heights is also closed, and is used regularly as a film location, appearing in NYPD Blue, Unsolved Mysteries, and other film and television projects.

Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times. VISITING ROOM: L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Jack McClive peers through safety glass, while standing in the visiting room, during a tour of the Sybil Brand Institute Women's Jail in Monterey Park.

Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times. VISITING ROOM: L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Jack McClive peers through safety glass, while standing in the visiting room, during a tour of the Sybil Brand Institute Women's Jail in Monterey Park.

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