'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 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.
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."