ARTS & CULTURE

Photos Show How Different Prisons And Jails Look Around The World

From Uganda to Colombia, France and the U.S., prisons look very different across the globe.

21/10/2016 6:45 PM IST | Updated 21/10/2016 8:28 PM IST
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Jan Banning
Central surveillance tower of the Grand Quartier of the Maison d’arrêt de Bois-d’Arcy in France. The prison, holding people on remand and people sentenced to a maximum of two years, was built as a panopticon in 1980 with a capacity of 500 inmates. It now houses 770 and many maisons d’arrêt suffer such overcrowding. (France, Oct. 2013.)

We must maintain law and order at the highest level or we will cease to have a country, 100 percent,” Donald Trump said in a speech this summer. “We will cease to have a country. I am the law and order candidate.”

Ever since, Trump has incorporated the phrase “law and order” into his personal lexicon, dropping the expression into conversations regarding “inner cities” and police brutality with his signature incomprehensible intensity. “Trump is posing as the champion of law and order,” Dutch photographer Jan Banning explained in an interview with The Huffington Post. “But what’s the logic behind it? You lock people up, but what comes next?”

Banning has long been intrigued in the idea of “law and order,” a notion as vague and indeterminate for many as it seems to be for the presidential nominee. Determined to bring the blurry designation into focus, Banning resolved to use images where words sometimes fail. 

Jan Banning
San Diego medium security Women's Prison in Cartagena. Rosa (L) has been sentenced to 10 years for criminal conspiracy. Eliana (R) is under investigation, accused of attempted extortion. She has been here for seven months. They share this group cell with some ten other women. (Colombia, Aug. 2011.)

In 2008, Banning had just finished a photography project about bureaucracy, chronicling what exactly that meant and looked like, in eight countries. “That was about one of the three pillars of the state ― the executive,” he said. “After finishing that I thought it would be interesting to turn to the judiciary, to try to turn this abstract force into something more concrete.”

So, years before Trump began touting the phrase, the project dubbed “Law and Order” was born. The series revolved around a single question: “How do we handle crime?” and was answered through three vessels: the police force, the courts, and prison. 

Banning’s first destination was Uganda, where he visited in 2010. “I wanted to see whether it was possible to visualize the whole thing in an interesting way,” he explained. After spending two weeks there, he determined the answer was yes. 

Jan Banning
Nakasangola Prison: This high-security facility is Uganda's newest prison, built in 2007 for 600 inmates. It houses 667 men and 22 women. (Uganda, Feb. 2013.)

The photographer then visited spaces instrumental to the criminal justice system in Colombia, France, and the United States, as well, exploring the way each nation interpreted and dealt with ideas of law and order, crime and punishment. “The big question, I think, is: what do we actually want the result of the prison state to be?” Banning explained. “Is it punishment? To isolate people from society? Do we want to protect society?”

It took Banning up to five years to gain access to some of the spaces he documented. Yet he was determined to gain access to the places that so often remain unseen by those who aren’t condemned to them. Banning hoped his project would dislodge the stereotypes many hold about prisoners, policemen and the places where they interact, providing physical imagery where only vague imagination once was. 

Jan Banning
Centre Penitentiaire de Lille-Annoeullin is a prison with different security levels in France. In the back of the courtyard lies J.M., member of the Corsican gang "Sea Breeze." He had already spent 14 years in prison before being sentenced to 15 years for murder in 2007. In 2013, he was sentenced to another four years plus €100,000 for extortion of nightclubs, from his cell. (France, April 2013.)

In creating the series, Banning encountered images that surprised and disturbed him, many of which interrupted his preconceived notions and expectations. For example, he described his surprise at seeing with his own eyes that prisoners in Uganda were treated far more humanely than at a prison in the American state of Georgia. “It was far more relaxed and gentle,” Banning said, “which is not exactly what one would expect.”

As the election draws nearer, and talk of “law and order” weighs heavy on voters’ minds, Banning’s images provide a visual ― and often quite emotional ― foil the to frightening rhetoric and vague epithets propagated by certain nominees. 

Jan Banning
Establecimiento Carcelario de Reclusion Especial in Sabana Larga is a medium-security prison. The official capacity is 50 inmates; it houses over 100. Many sleep on the floor. (Colombia, Aug. 2011.)
Jan Banning
Meeting of the committee of "lifers" -- men with a life sentence -- in Georgia State Prison. This medium-security prison near Reidsville was opened in 1937. It houses 1,500 inmates. (U.S., Nov. 2012.)
Jan Banning
Putnam County Jail in Eatonton, Ga., constructed in 1991. (U.S., June 2012.)
Jan Banning
Archive of the Chief Magistrate's Court (Buganda Road), handling criminal cases for Central Kampala. Completed cases. (Uganda, 2013.)
Jan Banning
Warden Carl Humphrey of the Georgia Diagnostic & Classification State Prison in Jackson. It is a maximum- and high-security prison, built in 1968, with about 2,250 inmates and it includes a Death Row. (U.S., Oct. 2012.)
Jan Banning
First President of the Court of Appeal in Douai, Dominique Lottin. The painting is of Louis XV. (France, March 2012.)
Jan Banning
Countryside Police Substation in Retiro Nuevo, Patrolman Luis Ruiz Luna. (Colombia, Aug. 2011.)
Jan Banning
Kakira Police Station in Jinja. Constable # 11431, John Ndalira. (Uganda, May 2010.)
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