At the Ohio State Reformatory

Brenda and I went to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield when we met last Saturday.  

You can see an image of the outside and read more about this historic place by following this link.  If you’ve seen the movie “Shawshank Redemption” then you’ve seen part of this prison.

Neither of us had been in a prison before.  This place is a bit creepy in places but still interesting.  

This image shows one of the wings where prisoners were kept.  The cells are incredibly small for two people, stacked up like cages at the county fair where you see rabbits and chickens.  The layers of pealing paint just go on forever; in fact, visitors are warned of the dangers of exposure to lead.

I used my 50mm lens exclusively, and really was glad I did.  It is unbeatable in low light conditions.

I have more images that I’ll share as the week progresses. 

8 Replies to “At the Ohio State Reformatory”

  1. Wow, you are brave — it looks a bit intimidating in there! I'm sure it was a photographer's heaven, with all that disintegration.

  2. Deb – love how this one turned out. Your inclusion of the people gives us context for the towering height of the stacked cell blocks and, also the feeling of claustrophobia from the tiny spaces which would have been packed with inmates. And yes, that 50mm lens did a fine job in difficult lighting conditions.

  3. Powerful image! I'm like Brenda, the people really give a sense of how huge this is. I need to work more with my 50mm lens again.

  4. Boy, you two really know how to have a good time! Talk about capturing a sense of place: your most excellent photo gives me the horrors. I agree too that the people really add context to the image. It looks like something out of the middle ages.

  5. Fabulous shot. I can almost hear the echo from the metal bars. Love the inclusion of the people, gives such a sense of the vast space.

  6. I told you I'd been there. I'll tell you more here. In the early 70's I took a sociology class in college. This prison wasn't that far from my school and the soc teacher took our class there as a field trip. (NOT the definition of "field trip" I'd ever been used to before.)

    The prison was in use and surprisingly, groups like ours with women included were still allowed to visit. We walked around the prison with a tour guide and when we went down the hallway you photographed here, I looked up to see men pushing their faces through the bars as far as they could to see us and make cat calls and whatever noises they could to feel human, I suppose, and be seen.

    Three rows up and many cells wide, does, indeed, seem like looking at stacked animal cages in a zoo.

    A group of men were coming to eat when we went to see the dining room (if you could call it that). All of them had to enter and be seated in single file from back to mid-room. The two halves of the room had a series of long, continuous, narrow tables that faced the middle. All men looked upon the back of another except where they could look to the other side where there was a sea of faces mirrored back at them. No one sat directly in front of another. It was a heavily guarded room, I remember. I suppose normal, mundane communication around the table had to be gagged.

    There were other things to see…class rooms, solitary, etc. But I remember coming away from that field trip with more emotions than my 19-year-old heart could process.

    Maybe for that reason, I decided to volunteer after that at the honor farm for Mansfield, helping lead weekly worship services for those on good behavior. Maybe it was a way I could contribute what seemed like a drop of kindness in an ocean of hopeless feelings. Alas, even the "Cons for Christ" program folded at least for us women. The guards might have been able to keep the men from physically touching us, but they couldn't keep our hearts protected and too many of us (one of my best friends, for example) got sucked in to believing the stories of love the men desperately (and not completely insincerely) fed us.

    I will never feel the same about prisons. I don't have any better ideas for punishment but I know that I don't believe our prison system is working well.

    Thank for your candor.

  7. Deborah, thanks for sharing this. I would have loved to have been there with you and Brenda. This is a great example of how powerful the 50mm lens can be. The vertical format and the light make this image so powerful.

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