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Last November, I delivered a lecture entitled Photography and Haiti’s Prisons in the Aftermath of the Earthquake. (Listen here, prep here.)

The lecture was more about how scant photographic evidence compounded the scare-mongering in written media following the escape of over 4,000 prisoners from Haiti’s National Penitentiary, Port-au-Prince.

I also paid tribute to The New York Times for their tenacious investigation of a prison massacre cover-up at Les Cayes Prison, 100 miles west of Port-au-Prince.

I encouraged students to have both critical stances on these contested and emotional narratives, but also keep a look out for media follow ups to the situation in Haiti regarding prison conditions, the reconstruction of the justice/prison system, and policing in the capitol.

Today Bite Magazine! published a 10 image essay by Boots Levinson of the ongoing “round-up” of prisoners.

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti’s prisons were renowned for corruption. Levinson’s images show us policing activities but they do not answer whether these prisoners were guilty of a serious crime in the first place.

#PICBOD

So successful was Jonathan Worth’s Photography & Narrative (#PHONAR) course, that Coventry University has decided to repeat the open and free, web-based format once-more. Classes are already underway for the Picturing the Body (#PICBOD) course. I am pleased to say I shall be involved again. More on that later.

Visit the site #PICBOD website.

Andy Kershaw‘s view is a welcome counter to the presumptions of an unknown scenario I and others had considered:

“Most journalists were reporting breathlessly that Port-au-Prince’s main prison had collapsed. Good story. But not for the reasons we were told. The inexperience – and indeed arrogance – of every single reporter who drew our attention to the jail, missed the real significance of its destruction.

It was not that “violent criminals”, “murderers”, “gang bosses” “notorious killers” or “drug dealers” had “simply walked out the front gates”. (And just how did these escapees miraculously avoid being crushed to death in their cells?) Even if true, that was a minor detail to the people of Port-au-Prince, who had more urgent concerns.

The true significance of the prison’s implosion was that it represented for ordinary Haitians, like the wreckage of the presidential palace and the city’s former central army barracks, exquisite revenge upon the prime symbols of decades of state cruelty and oppression.

And many of the prison’s inmates were surely not the dangerous stereotypes of these lurid reports. Haiti’s jails were, notoriously, full of petty thieves and other unfortunates who shouldn’t have been in there anyway. I once had to go into that Penitentiaire Nationale, where I saw hundreds of men kept in cages, without room to lie down, shuffling around literally ankle deep in their own shit, to get out of there the son of a Haitian friend who’d been arrested so that the local police could extort money from his father for the release of his boy.”

via Colin

Currently, truth is also a large casualty in Haiti.

Kershaw’s version is as politically self-serving as most accounts coming out of Haiti, in the confusion following the earthquake citizens, aid-workers and journos are making fast assertions based on their own observations. We should expect that most of these assertions will need modifying in time.

Nevertheless, Kershaw’s is the only commentary that has countered the immediate furor and conjecture surrounding the vacated national prison.

Indeed, Kerhsaw makes it clear that the obfuscations of fact are the direct result of the typical blend of fear and uninformed judgement; judgement applied to prison populations of every nation.

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