Powerful photography series addresses mass incarceration in the USA

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

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

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

Inmates wait for a coffin during “ burial duty, ” at Whitetanks cemetery

Sam Jackson, stands in line after chain gang duties at Estrella Jail

Sam Jackson, stands in line after chain gang duties at Estrella Jail

Inmates on chain gang duties

Inmates on chain gang duties

Female inmates march to work near Phoenix, Arizona

Female inmates march to work near Phoenix, Arizona

An inmate with chains after chain gang duty in Estrella Jail, in Phoenix

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

Sister Mary Ruth Dittman watches a coffin being lowered during burial duty

An inmate and two priests during burial duty

An inmate and two priests during burial duty