The Prison Industrial Complex, a bird’s eye view

The Prison Map was produced by Josh Begley, an Interactive Telecommunications student at NYU.  Attempting to create a visual representation of the geography of incarceration in the United States, the prison capital of the world.  The Prison Map combines location information compiled by the Prison Policy Initiative with the Google Maps satellite images, intending to create a sense of the volume and scale of the prison industrial complex operating in America.

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Begley’s project provides an interesting visual experience, that feels almost illicit.  While the modern carceral system is designed around making the prisoner seen and observable (see Foucault, Discipline and Punish), the system keeps prisoners out of the public eye.  The implications of this concealment are legion, the lack of public awareness of prisoners’ rights or of the effects of private for-profit incarceration are just a start.  Begley’s map doesn’t offer explicit information about contemporary carceral practices, but in depicting the sprawling spaces of incarceration it prompts some key questions: what is going on in there?  how many people are in these complexes?  what would it mean to take a closer look?

In assisting viewers in visualizing the physical scale of carceral infrastructure, perhaps Begley’s map also opens new avenues of inquiry into an often unseen and undiscussed institution.

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