Photographer Scott Houston has created this photography series entitled Incarceration Inc. Today’s American Slavery to highlight the connection between mass incarceration in the United States and mainstream commerce.
He explains: “The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. There are over 2.3 million people within prison systems in the U.S. This is a multi-media project on the chain gangs that have been institutionalised as part of a prison system at Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix Arizona.
“The inmates are used for menial labour. In one day they pick and gather five tonnes of grapefruit from a private farm. That grapefruit is then sold back to the prison. The next day they may be clearing public highways, or painting over graffiti.
“All of this is free labour done in chains and sanctioned by the state. This form of incarceration performs like a commercial enterprise, and it is only a tiny part of America’s disturbing and unsustainable prison culture.
“American prisons today are functioning as commercial enterprises, backed by corporations. Private business is taking advantage of vulnerable, powerless, and disenfranchised prisoners who are mostly people of colour. The inmates themselves have become state property.”
See more of Scott’s work at scotthoustonphoto.com.
Main image: Female inmates on the bus at dawn | All images courtesy of Scott Houston
Female inmates during weeding duty
Sheriff Joe Arpaio shows a newspaper clipping about himself to a writer during an interview in his office in Phoenix
Inmates wait for a coffin during “ burial duty, ” at Whitetanks cemetery
Sam Jackson, stands in line after chain gang duties at Estrella Jail
Inmates on chain gang duties
Female inmates march to work near Phoenix, Arizona
An inmate with chains after chain gang duty in Estrella Jail, in Phoenix
Sister Mary Ruth Dittman watches a coffin being lowered during burial duty
An inmate and two priests during burial duty