Looking South From the Prison at Eager & Fallsway

A barbed wire fence in the foreground, a tree at the left of the picture, and the hint of an old stone building behind the tree. The sky is gray and cloudy, and behind the fence you can just see Baltimore's downtown skyline.

Tuesday’s bike ride was like most of my bike rides these days–to and from downtown to catch the shuttle out to work. I’m on campus most days in June working with a few students on a project in Special Collections, which means great teaching and learning experiences, and also a whole lot of bike commutes. On the way home, though, I took a detour around Baltimore’s many prisons and jails that I ride by on my way to and from several times a week, to take pictures for another project I’m working on.

I walked my bike as I did laps around the many different prisons and jails here. There’s the Maryland Transition Center, the Chesapeake Detention Center, the Baltimore City Detention Center, the Reception Diagnostic Classification Center, the Juvenile Justice Center, and all the buildings that help those other buildings go. So many cages on just a couple of blocks, not even a mile from downtown.

And around these buildings are so many services for people in poverty, people who are houseless. Edgar Allan Poe spent time in prison for a debt his brother couldn’t pay, I think, joining so many who are caged for the crime of poverty. Wealth is extracted from people who are then blamed for their own poverty, toss them in jail for the crime of trying to survive it all.

I snapped picture after picture, acutely aware that my whiteness, womanness, and bicycleness all likely kept me from getting asked what I was doing, reminded that the whole place is under surveillance, move along, move along. I took this picture as I rounded the last corner to head back to the bicycle lane. This part of the prison has been demolished, and behind it you can see downtown against the gray sky. There is there because here is here, so close and yet so far.

And then I got back on my bike and rode the rest of the way up the hill, because I have the privilege to leave that space, and that’s a whole lot of luck, and responsibility.

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