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The Incarceration Issue

Editor's Letter

You can learn a lot about a country by looking at the places it locks people up.
September 6, 2015, 12:00am

This article appears in The Incarceration Issue , a special edition of VICE Australia.

It's said you can learn a great deal about a country by looking at the places in which it locks people up. The first thing hammered home while researching this issue was that Australia is exceedingly secretive about its prisons and detention centres.

Frustratingly, requests for access to these places aren't met with immediate rejections. The nos unfailingly received (generally put down to "operational reasons") often take months to come. The strategy, it seems, is to keep you on the hook for as long as possible to stop you from bothering the next place on the list. You may have noticed that of all the reality shows and documentaries set inside prisons, almost none of them are made here. If our experience is anything to go by, it's not hard to see why.

But Australia's lack of transparency when it comes to incarceration is unfortunate beyond making our jobs more difficult. From drugs and violence to race relations, poverty, terror, mental illness, and immigration, imprisonment is a catch-all for our biggest issues and fears. And when a society locks issues away, people stop talking about them and nothing gets solved. This edition, while not a solution to the problems incarceration highlights, and in some cases perpetuates, is an attempt to tell as many stories about the subject as possible.

Click here to browse The Incarceration Issue, a special edition of VICE Australia

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