Archive: May 2011

Tour Guide Tips on Staying Cool

Posted: May 31, 2011

Things are finally starting to warm up in Philly, but inside the prison you can still find some relief from the heat. Here are some insider tour guide tips on how to keep cool during the warm season:

Before you start your tour, make friends with the guide on "Gravel Beach" (they have the only oscillating fan on site).

Make your way into "Center" and stand in the middle. ESP's radial plan design was not just great for surveillance, it was also great for ventilation and airflow. You'll have eight cross-breezes from this spot.

Alumni Reunion

Posted: May 23, 2011

Last weekend was the annual reunion of former inmates and staff (“alumni”) from ESP. After a BBQ with family and friends, a panel of eight alumni took their seats on a stage facing a crowd of about 100 people from the general public. They told stories of their experiences with food, racial tensions, and people at ESP. Although many of the memories they shared were serious in nature, several of the panelists received a few laughs from the audience for their anecdotes, including Willie “No-No” Smith, a former inmate, who shared a story of his monopoly over the kitchens.

Michelle Handelman’s piece Beware the Lily Law is controversial and disconcerting. Naturally, it is my favorite exhibit at Eastern State. Handelman focuses on the issues plaguing transgendered inmates in American prisons, a topic largely overlooked in today’s prison discussions. Not only does the artist delve into the problems these inmates face but she does it with refreshing empathy and little pretense. The piece is set up so the video’s very construction forces confrontation.