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Continue the conversation on issues explored in ZEKE magazine.

Rohingya

Forum Editor: David Verberckt
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Incarceration

Forum Editor: Isadora Kosofsky
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South Caucasus

Forum Editor: Ara Oshagan
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  • isadorakosofsky
    May 15, 2017

    'Ketamine Dress’ "Once the drug test came back positive, I knew the contact visit wouldn't go ahead. He [her husband] was angry. He hadn't done anything wrong, and neither had I. I didn't even know what Ketamine was until they [the guards] told me." This dress, belonging to a mother of two, tested positive for Ketamine during a routine drug swab before visitation. It was bought a few days prior to a visit with her husband at a prison near Brisbane, Australia. Despite insisting that she had not come in contact with (or even knew of) the drug, the positive drug test meant that she would not be allowed to have a contact visit with her husband and would instead have to visit behind glass or a 'box visit' as it is commonly referred to. Further, this record of a positive drug test would be attached to her visitor file along with her picture for future reference. Photographs and Text by Cory Wright My interest in incarceration comes from a sort of sheltered familiarity with the victim’s perspective after my brother lost someone close to him as a result of a violent crime. The person responsible was sentenced to over a decade in prison. Over the years I saw how that loss affected him, and when the individual was released there was anger at the thought of the person responsible being free after years in prison. This led me to wonder what life would be like for someone who had been in prison and, eventually, what life was like for those with family members inside. ‘The Box’ The non-contact visiting area, or ‘the box’ as it is more commonly called, at a prison near Brisbane, Australia. The ‘boxes’ sit side by side and are shaped in a ‘U’ where visitors sit on the outside and prisoners are contained on the inside. The box is used as a disciplinary measure for prisoners, but also for family members and friends visiting who have tested positive for banned substances or failed to follow visiting rules and regulations in the past. The more I learned about prisons, the more I saw how broad and how diffused punishment intended for the individual could be, and how it often affected on those outside not responsible for committing a crime. ‘Best Dad’ An image of a small box containing keepsakes and reminders of her incarcerated Father whose passport photo is centred on the box lid and pixelated to protect his identity.The image was taken nearly a year after he went inside and a few weeks before he would be deported. Under Australia's "Deportation of Non-Citizens" Policy—foreign nationals with a criminal conviction and record of imprisonment are deported from the country regardless of how many years they have resided in Australia. 'An Impossible Middle Ground' explores the affect of prison on Australian families. Phrases like "serving time on the outside" and "a sentence for one is a sentence for the family" are commonly used to describe the experiences of family members who have someone inside and led me to visually explore what a prison sentence meant for the people close to the incarcerated—people who are guilty of committing no crime but are often subjected to feelings of stigma and shame due to their relationship with those inside. ‘Second, Second, First’ Athletic ribbons marking achievements made by the young daughter of an incarcerated father. The ribbons were kept in a small box containing keepsakes and reminders that she had collected while he was inside. She kept them here because he was absent for the occasions on account of being in prison. Shortly after this image was taken her father was informed that he would be deported on account of his foreign nationality (New Zealand) and his criminal record as part of Australia’s “Deportation of Non-Citizens” policy. ‘My Cell’ A drawing done by an incarcerated father for his children shortly after he was imprisoned and approximately 12 months before subsequently deported under Australia's "Deportation of Non-Citizens" Policy—a scheme devised to remove foreign nationals with a criminal conviction and record of imprisonment. Many of those who find themselves likely to be deported are citizens of New Zealand (as was the case here) with whom Australia's government have a reciprocal agreement allowing citizens of each country resident status without the need for a visa. ‘Inmates must not approach children in the play area’ The children’s play area in the contact visit section of a prison near Brisbane, Australia. The area is home to 5 prisons, including a youth detention facility, all within a 5-kilometre radius. Each week (mainly on weekends) hundreds of family members and friends drive or take public transport, with some traveling interstate from neighboring New South Wales in order to visit. The series title comes from a phrase used by Author Ann Aungles when describing the position that family members of incarcerated individuals find themselves in. The series uses ideas, artefacts and places of significance rather than a traditional documentary approach owing partly to restrictions on image making and recording outlined in the Corrective Services Act 2006. " This is where he works now” A young mother explains her attempt to keep the truth of a father's whereabouts from the youngest child in the family: “I guess the only thing I said to (the older kids) was ‘Don’t tell him (the youngest). Tell him we’re visiting Dad at work; this is where he works now.' ...and then this one time we were visiting there was this little kid from (his) school and he was like ‘Oh hey, your Dad’s in jail too?’” This image was taken by a family member outside of a correctional center near Brisbane, Australia prior to a visit with his father. The image has been pixelated to protect the child's identity. 'I just wanted him, but he couldn't be there' An ultrasound of a couple's first child as a young mother recounts the birth of her daughter at a time when her partner was incarcerated. The first time the child met her father was during a non-contact visit at a prison near Brisbane, Australia shortly after being born. An infant headband bought by a newborn girl's father shortly before he went in to prison. "I remember pointing it out to him in the shop. I told him it was nice but we couldn't really afford it. He bought it for her before she [the child] was born. He wanted her to have it. She was born when he was inside so he couldn't be there. I remember wanting out first visit to be special, so I brought the headband with us for her to wear so he could see how it looked on her. When we went in for the visit the guard said it was against 'policies and procedures'. [As a nurse] I understand policies and procedures, but it was something so small that meant so much to the family. I asked to see the supervisor. The supervisor just said 'No, anything that is removable is not permitted.'" Cory Wright is a Canadian-Australian photographer currently based in South East Asia, but often pursuing projects involving incarceration in Australia and the United States. He graduated from Griffith University’s Bachelor of Photography in 2015 and has since had his work featured by a number of news and social media including clients: Prison Photography, Everyday Incarceration, Prisons Today at ESP, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bangkok Post, The Diplomat, Foreign Affairs, Vice Australia, News Corp. Australia and UCAN News. ‘I am ok. Feeling the cold, but we all are, young and old... 'Miss you love and very proud of you. - Dad’ An excerpt of a letter sent from an elderly father to his adult daughter from inside prison. When speaking of the affect his imprisonment had on her: "It's not where you want to be when you're 68 years-old and you worry about that because of his age you know? He [Dad] used to tell us when we were younger that there was sort of a code in there [prison]: There were certain things you didn't do and there were certain things that were ok to do. But he's saying now that things are not like that anymore. So I worry about that side of it."
  • ara
    Apr 15, 2017

    by Ara Oshagan My father died in June 2000. My last memory of him is seeing him in a hospital bed. My first, of a man hunched over a desk, writing. Sometime in the late nineties, my father and I decided to embark on a project about Nagorno-Karabagh: a place we had barely heard of before its precipitous rise to the world stage as the first nationality conflict of the collapsing Soviet Union. A region that is part of our homeland: a place where our forefathers had lived and died. Until the nineties, neither one of us had stepped foot in that part of the Armenian homeland. Both our generations were born and came of age in the sprawling cities of the Armenian Diaspora: in Jerusalem, Paris, Beirut, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. On New Year’s Eve 1998, I landed in Nagorno-Karabagh for the first time, alone. En route, our car hit ice on the dark road and came within inches of falling off a cliff. Mud at the side of the road saved us. In the dark, a car stopped, five men got out, pushed our car back onto the road. They told our driver to be careful. I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a family I had just met. Their father: the lone survivor of his entire platoon. They had two boys, one a baby. We ate and we drank. We drank to the memory of the men who fell in war. We drank to our fathers and forefathers. We drank to the future and to life. I returned home and within months I was a new father: my first son, Sebouh. I returned to Nagorno-Karabagh in the fall of that same year, 1999, in the wake of that euphoria and madness of newborn life. This trip I made with my own father. The father and the new father, one writing, the other photographing: this land, this people, this way of life so unfamiliar to us yet so naturally ours. Working together and in parallel, working to bring something to life. Being witnesses. We ate and drank with the same family. It would be the only trip I made to Nagorno-Karabagh with my father. Next year, I lost him. His writing for our project was the last thing he completed. In the spring of 2002, almost immediately after my second son, Adom’s birth, I returned to Nagorno-Karabagh. I wandered and I photographed. I saw soldiers at the front lines, I spent time in hospitals and homes for the aging, I witnessed a birth. I moved under the constant gaze of the generation of men who died in the war, whose images are omnipresent in public spaces, at school entrances, on the walls of every home. I ate and drank again with the same family. They had a newborn baby girl. They no longer had their grandmother. We drank to our fathers and forefathers. We drank to life. During my last and final trip, in 2006, atop Nagorno-Karabagh’s mountainous heights, I got news that my wife was pregnant. Within a few months of my return my twin sons, Shahan and Aren, were born. And so, unbeknownst to me, a process, a cycle seemed to conclude itself. A cycle of new life and death. A cycle that linked and begot generations. And a project seemingly intertwined in this cycle. The loss of the father, the becoming of a father, the transfiguration of the son to see himself finally, after so many years, as the father. An emergence from under his shadow. A transformation. A becoming. Nagorno-Karabagh—the people, the land, the very way of life—in a similar transformation. Political, social, existential. A nation with a president, parliament, and military but no political recognition: victors in war but yet to win the peace, its process of self-­determination and re­construction yet to be concluded. A place and a people emerging out of a dark history, transforming. This Father Land itself in a state of becoming, looking for its own father. All images by Ara Oshagan taken in Nagorno-Karabagh, 1999-2006, from Father Land , published by powerhouse Books, 2010 http://www.powerhousebooks.com/books/father-land/
  • isadorakosofsky
    Apr 15, 2017

    “Locked Apart: The Koger-Harris Family” is one of a series of stories by Gabriela Bulisova and Mark Isaac about the impact of incarceration on families in Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC. It is now well known that the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, with devastating consequences. However, the impact on children and families deserves significantly more attention. Approximately 10 million children in the U.S. have had a parent incarcerated at some point, and human rights advocates have called parental incarceration "the greatest threat to child's well-being in the United States.” The absence of Sherrie Harris looms over the Koger-Harris Family. With Sherrie serving a long-term prison sentence in West Virginia and father William sometimes in prison himself, grandmother Sandra Koger stepped in as main caregiver for the three children, Isaiah, Demetri, and Dashawn. “I’ve been taking care of them since ‘06, and it was a learning experience. I did not know what I was doing, to tell the truth,” Sandra recalls. William Koger, the boys’ father, was injured in a car accident, and he is often in pain. He has trouble finding jobs, and he has been in and out of prison himself. The Koger-Harris Family had ample experience with this negative impact over the past decade after Sherrie Harris, the mother, was sent to United States Penitentiary-Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, in 2006. William Koger, the father, lives with his mother, Sandra, and three boys – Isaiah, Demetri, and Dashawn -- in Capitol Heights, MD, just outside the nation's capital. But it is the absence of Sherrie that looms over the household. William often cares for the children, but he has been in and out of jobs and in and out of prison himself. Sandra does her best to keep the family together, but they are stretched financially and often unable to afford food or medicine. The children are emotionally scarred by their mother’s absence and sometimes withdraw into their shells or act out. Only when pressed do they express their intense yearning for their mother to come home and provide them with the love they are missing. This photograph of the boys with their mother was taken during their first visit to Hazelton Penitentiary. Before this trip, the boys were unaware their mother was in prison. They had a hard time parting with her, and they were extremely upset after the visit was over. According to the Urban Institute, the experience of a parent going to prison will have a “significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child.” Children have difficulty visiting their parents and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Separation due to a parent’s incarceration is often accompanied by stigma, ambiguity, and a lack of compassion and support. In the case of the Koger-Harris family, the three boys found out for the first time that their mother was in prison when their grandmother took them to visit her at Hazelton Penitentiary. In a promising development, however, Sherrie Harris was recently released and is now completing her stay at a transitional facility, also known as a "halfway house." She sees the boys on Sundays. Pastor Sonja L. Drumgoole of the Church of St. Martin De Porres, in Capitol Heights, MD, hugs Isaiah Harris, 13. Isaiah and his brothers attend the church regularly with their grandmother and sometimes serve as ushers. Demetri Koger, 11, lies down in the bedroom the boys share with their grandmother. Of the three children, Demetri is the most affected by their mother's absence. He is often withdrawn and non-communicative. Dashawn on a bunk bed in the family's apartment in Capitol Heights, MD. He says that he wants to become “Superman” so that he can “fly over the big wall” that separates him from his mother. The three boys were only able to visit their mother, Sherrie Harris, twice during her ten years of incarceration. Both times they went on a four-hour bus trip, sponsored by the Washington, DC, Office of Returning Citizens Affairs, which was designed to give family members time with relatives they would not otherwise see. Demetri Koger prepares for the four hour bus trip to visit his mother at Hazelton Penitentiary. At the end of the trip, Demetri had a hard time separating from his mother and had to be torn away and consoled by his grandmother. Locked Apart makes clear that children of offenders are among those who are victimized when a crime occurs. Like the voices of crime victims and their families, the voices of family members must be heard. This contributes to the hope that victims, offenders, and the community can repair the harm caused by crime and create a peaceful future in which all are contributing members of society. A short documentary on the Koger-Harris Family is available on Gabriela Bulisova's website . More images on the impact of incarceration on children are also available in Smithsonian Magazine (Jan/Feb 2017): Sherrie Harris, recently released from Hazelton Penitentiary in West Virginia, is housed in Washington DC’s Residential Reentry Center, also known as a "halfway house" for returning women. She sees her three boys, Isaiah, Demetri and Dashawn, on Sunday afternoons. Here, they play football in front of the facility. Gabriela Bulisova and Mark Isaac are documentary storytellers and artists based in Washington, DC. For the past six years, Bulisova and Isaac have collaborated on projects focused on mass incarceration, including the incarceration of women and men, obstacles to reentry, sentencing reform, and the impact of parental incarceration on children. Their current work highlights the criminalization of mental illness and the trauma to prison pipeline for women who have experienced abuse. Their recent projects can be viewed on their websites: gabrielabulisova.com and markisaac.net