In the early 2000s I spent a number of years volunteering as an anti-prison activist, mostly producing media to assist in grassroots organizing campaigns against the construction of new prisons in California. Over the course of this work, I spent time with people in rural communities where the majority of prisons were being constructed.
California’s state prisons are massive concrete behemoths, typically housing thousands of prisoners. Set against the backdrop of sparsely populated farmlands and deserts, their presence is an overwhelming contrast to their environs. The environmental impact of prisons can be enormous in terms of water use and ecological degradation. Local people who live in their vicinity often talk about how the prisons have transformed the night sky, saturating pastoral darkness with the bright orange and green hues of their always-on floodlights.