Law & Order is a photo project that compares the criminal justice system in four different countries on four continents: Colombia (South-America), France (Europe), Uganda (Africa) and the United States (North-America). It combines an artistic view with a documentary approach and sheds light on the key institutions within the criminal justice system: the police, the courts and prisons. Thanks to the avoidance of visual clichés – hands gripping prison bars, humbly bowed, seated prisoners and the like – that do little other than confirm the existing image, it can contribute to the international debate on criminal law. It raises questions such as: how do we deal with criminals? What is the relationship between punishment and crime? Is confinement, besides being an instrument of punishment, also effective as a means of correction?
The choice of the four countries was made in consultation with the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (MPI) in Freiburg, Germany, a scientific institute respected worldwide. Criteria were – besides being able to gain access – the diversity of legal systems (civil law and common law), the murder rate and a division between developed and developing countries.
The police and the judiciary come up frequently in the public debate and are a favorite subject for populist politics. There is rarely sympathy for criminals and politicians’ arguments for harsher penalties “because this cannot continue” find a receptive ear with large parts of the population in many countries. However, statistics show that developments in the field of serious crime are not necessarily unfavorable: murder and violent crimes in large parts of Europe are declining steadily over the past decade or two – and even longer in the US.
Law & Order is presented in the form of a book and an international traveling exhibition. In addition to the photographs, both contain relevant information and infographics (source: Max Planck Institute); the book also contains an introduction by Dutchman Michiel Scholtes about his experiences as a convict in a French prison.
For my work in Colombia – and the attitude of the corrupt prison authorities – see also here.
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I apologize for not being able to publish the results of my work in Colombia, France and the USA just yet. Please return later.