Abstract

Eric Kunsman diligently traveled to Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) 362 times between 2003 and 2014 to photograph, inspired by reading the 1830s–1840s journals of ESP administrators who recorded the prisoners’ “moral condition.” ESP’s “Pennsylvania System” minimized social interaction among inmates, who in solitary confinement for years were expected to reform themselves through meditating on their crimes. Today ESP’s deteriorated appearance and doleful aspect is maintained by museum policy. Kunsman’s evocative work reminds us that ideas about crime and punishment have evolved over time and that artists have a role in shaping public policy regarding incarceration.

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