|“I know I do not exaggerate, unconsciously and unintentionally, the scantiness of my resources or the difficulties of my life [...] I know that I worked, from morning until night, with common men and boys, a shabby child. I know that I lounged about the streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily fed. I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a little vagabond.” (David Copperfield, 172)|
Inspired by the novel’s vivid bodily descriptions of travel and twinned indignity and precarity of low-wage work, this project finds their intersection and analog in the bus shelters of Tucson, Arizona. Among over 2,250 bus stops distributed throughout Pima County, an untold and unmarked number of shelters are fabricated by the incarcerated workers of Arizona Correctional Industries.* These bus shelters mark sites where we might begin to view the extreme labor exploitation of individuals in prison alongside quotidian injustices of the low-wage economy, in which invisibilized, essential workers are often reliant on stigmatized public transportation. Through the 19th century visual technology of stereoscopy, I investigate these connections in the built environment and recover the bus shelter as an intimate space for care with a series of stereographs that combine multiple forms of labor to reimagine these spaces and systems.
The Arizona Republic with KJZZ News published a major investigative report into the practices of ACI across the state in July 2022. A summary is available at prisons.kjzz.org, and the full series (behind paywall) is at prisonlabor.azcentral.com. In June 2022, the ACLU released the report Captive Labor: Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers that looked at the use of prison labor, including ACI, nationwide.