NORMAN — Black and white photos shot with a 35mm film camera lined two walls, giving viewers a glimpse into daily prison life in the early 90s.
Some were of men jogging or working out, while others showed illegal activity in the facility such as a handful of pills just smuggled in or getting tattooed. The photos, shot by an Oklahoma ex-convict, were displayed Sunday at the West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation during a dual prison event.
The event featured the prison photography exhibit, accompanied by Quaker John Fletcher’s presentation about mass incarceration.
The felon, who asked not to be named, has been out on parole for about two years after a 1980
conviction of first-degree murder. He took the photos as part of a photography program offered at the prison in the early 90s. He said the photos were a result of about two years of work, first being shown in 1992.
Only half of them were on display Sunday because the other half had been damaged in a fire. However, he said he still has the negatives for all of the photos.
At the time the photos were taken, he said an agreement was made with the warden that any illegal activity caught on film would not result in further punishment. The faces of those participating in the illegal activity were not pictured and they didn’t need to be in order to understand the photo. Inmates whose faces were shown signed photo releases for the project, which the whole facility quickly became aware of, he said.
The second part of the event showed statistic after statistic of the rise of mass incarceration and Oklahoma’s particular problem with mass incarceration, as presented by Fletcher. Some of the information presented was from Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow”.