Trapped is a powerful photographic series and documentary by Jenn Ackerman that reports the disturbed worlds of people who are both a prisoner of the United States government and of their own state of mind.
The reality of the situation, or rather the unreal handling of the situation, is that funding is being progressively withdrawn from psychiatric institutes in the US, turning jails into “default” mental health facilities. Ackerman states: “The system designed for security is now trapped with treating mental illness and the mentally ill are often trapped inside the system with nowhere else to go.”
His photos are grainy, unpretentious and very close to their subject. Inside the Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit of Kentucky State Reformatory, he photographs the inmates and the people who check on them (not exclusively guards) in a reportage style. He also makes use of a wide range of in-camera devices, like losing the solidity of foreground objects while focussing on the distance so that the subtle play of perception is a nuance of the subject’s mindset.
These people cannot be allowed to hurt themselves or those around them and those that work at the prison are aware of this thin line drawn between mental health and security. They are surrogates of care in institutions where “the criminally insane are sometimes locked up in their cells for 23 hours a day with nothing to occupy their minds but their own demons.”