Jessica Earnshaw: Aging in Prison
By 2030, the number of elderly prisoners in the United States is expected to reach 400,000—a 4,400 percent increase since 1981. Although many of the elderly suffer from numerous physical ailments and are unlikely to ever commit another crime, compassionate release is almost never granted. Jessica Earnshaw has created several series about incarceration. In Discipline and Women in Prison she focuses her lens on an 82-year-old Iowan woman who has been incarcerated for more than 42 years. Her work makes us look at a life lived inside prison walls and wonder at the cruelty of continued incarceration.
Jessica Earnshaw is a documentary photographer & filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work focuses on criminal justice, familial relationships and women. Her photography has appeared in National Geographic, The Marshall Project, Mother Jones Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, amongst others.
Jessica is a graduate of the International Center of Photography’s photojournalism program (New York). She later worked as a junior photo editor at TIME Magazine.
In 2015, she received the prestigious Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation Fellowship & Grant to photograph aging in American prisons. During this project, she received unique unrestricted access in Maine State prisons and an Indiana State prison. In 2016, her Aging in Prison work was published in National Geographic, Huffington Post and PDN Magazine and named one of the most interesting photo essays of the week by Buzzfeed. Jessica has worked on stories in the criminal justice space for several years that cover issues surrounding re-entry after life sentences, gender-responsive corrections, and trauma.
Jessica’s first feature film, JACINTA, won the Albert Maysles Best New Documentary Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival 2020. Executive produced by Impact Partners, JACINTA was selected for the Cinema Eye Stay Focused 2021 initiative and nominated for a Cinema Eye Honors Spotlight Award. Jessica was recently selected for Doc NYC’s 40 under 40 list. @jess_earnshaw
Aging in Prison
In 2016, my series of photographs on Aging in Prison were published in National Geographic. A few years later, my editor at National Geographic moved to NPR, and asked me to photograph for a special series on Discipline and Women in Prison—the photos you see here. This work on women in prison is very much in line with my other work which over the last six years has been incarceration focused, including my feature documentary, JACINTA. My film JACINTA, about women in prison, generational trauma, and addiction told through the lens of a family I followed in Maine is currently on the film festival circuit.
After spending 18 years as a public defender, Sara Bennett turned her attention to photographing women with life sentences, both inside and outside prison. Her work has been widely exhibited and featured in such publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker Photo Booth, and Variety & Rolling Stone’s “American (In)Justice.”
Like the women she photographs, Bennett hopes her work will shed light on the pointlessness of extremely long sentences and arbitrary parole denials. To bring Life After Life in Prison, The Bedroom Project, or Looking Inside to your community, please contact her. IG: @sarabennettbrooklyn
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