Bruce Jackson first began documenting life in America's prisons while researching the music and culture of incarceration in the summer of 1964. He went to Texas to record work songs and started photographing what he observed. A group of these photographs, taken at the Cummins Prison Farm in Arkansas (once considered the most difficult prison in the country), were the subject of the exhibition Bruce Jackson: Cummins Wide at the Albright-Knox in 2009. Many of the workers Jackson photographed were actually toiling on lands that had been slave plantations before the Civil War. As Jackson has written, prisons "continue to be grim places where American society hides its failures . . . the two primary functions shared by American prisons now are providing jobs to people in rural counties who would not otherwise have jobs, and keeping off city streets people the cities don't know what else to do with, about, or for, or just don't want to look at."
Label from Overtime: The Art of Work, March 8–May 17, 2015