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Picture of the Day
February 17, 2019

i grew up with whitewashed
history, and most tourist sites
tend towards sanitized revision,
especially when big funders
tend to punish boat-rockers.
so i expected eastern state pen
to follow the usual neutral
pattern. built in 1829, ESP
was the first true penitentiary--
emphasis on penitence, with
churchlike vaulted ceilings to
inspire reverence. the word
"cell" itself comes from
monasteries, and the idea was
to induce reflection through
enforced isolation and silence.
the road to hell is paved with
good intentions. authorities
realized solitary confinement is
cruel and unusual punishment
which doesn't mean we use it
any less--but overcrowding
made it impractical, as well.

i accidentally skipped
ahead to stop 10 of the
 audio tour.  instead of the
expected fluff about how
today's prisons are more
humane, art director sean
kelley's testimony's a stark
critique of USA penology.
the oppressive taste of cold
stone and cramped quarters
was moving and i kept trying
 to tune into the presence of
ghosts, but the most affecting
exhibits came at the end--a
 towering 3D bar graph of
escalating incarceration
interactive displays that
  break down privilege, and
heartbreaking requests for
photos of life "outside."

 recidivism is not a pretty
word, but this is one place
i'd like to come back to.