U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Expanding the Frame: The Role Visual Research Methods Played in Documenting the Lives of Incarcerated Indigenous Women in Oaxaca, Mexico

NCJ Number
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Volume: 22 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2006 Pages: 113-136
Marcia Esparza
Date Published
May 2006
24 pages
In portraying the world of indigenous women in Santa Maria Ixcotel State Prison in southern Mexico, the author argues that the photographs of the women in prison, a textual narrative of her experiences and perceptions while at the prison, and information from her research and relevant sociological and criminological literature combine to provide a deeper understanding of the effects of incarceration than could be achieved without all of these elements.
The photos in particular are an essential component in giving meaning to the context in which these women live their lives. The expressions on the women's faces, for example, allow the viewer to appreciate the dehumanizing effects of their imprisonment. The author concludes that abandonment pervades these women's lives, as they are separated from their children and communities and forced to endure discriminatory practices. Their children and family members may not be able to afford the long- distance phone calls, not to mention paying for the long bus journey to the prison, which is located in a remote rural area. Of the 13,000 children who were affected by their mother's incarceration, 1,500 live with their mothers in prison. Staff reported children as young as 3 years old living with their mothers in prison. These women lack meaningful rehabilitation programs, and most spend their prison days engaged in knitting and embroidering, reinforcing their traditional gender role. More than 80 percent of the 55 women incarcerated in Ixcotel are sentenced or awaiting trial for offenses against public health (trafficking in and using drugs). The author's visit to Ixcotel occurred in the summer of 2003. This article includes photographs taken during this visit and an analysis of the prison conditions encountered during the visit. 12 figures, 19 notes, and 25 references