Andrew Lichtenstein is interested in long-term projects of social concern, particularly in America. His photographic essays have taken him to Haiti, South Africa, and across America, exploring poverty, addiction, the prison industrial complex, and the casualties of war. His work has been published and exhibited in New York and around the world.
Today, there are more than 2.2 million people serving sentences inside America’s prisons. The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than almost any other country in the world. Since 1980, the nation’s prison population has tripled.
Such dramatic expansion has changed the prison environment. In the Adirondacks, the state of New York is building its largest maximum security prison. In Texas, a prison is being converted into a facility for teenagers convicted as adults. In California, the influence of organized gangs is so extensive that people who are suspected of gang affiliations are separated into different wings of the prison.
Beginning in 1995, I started visiting prisons on assignment. I have spent time in 12 facilities in Texas, the state with the greatest prison expansion in American history. My photographs—which show people who are in prison for the first time, people who are mentally ill and behind bars, and maximum security units—document life inside a closed, secretive, and unique world.
I hope this body of work offers a compelling portrait of life inside America’s prisons.
—Andrew Lichtenstein, spring 1999