© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

'In Prison Air': Echoes of Life Behind Bars

In the northeast corner of Philadelphia, an abandoned penitentiary shelters a terrible past. For more than a century, the Holmesburg Prison housed convicts in long, thin cellblocks, with as many as five inmates occupying a single six-by-eight foot cell.

Before it was shut down a decade ago, Holmesburg was notorious for the experiments carried out on prisoners over a 25-year period. Inmates sometimes earned extra money by volunteering to test everything from skin creams to LSD.

Those abandoned cells attracted Thomas Roma, a well-known artist and director of photography at Columbia University School of the Arts. His new book of photos of some of those now-dilapidated cells, In Prison Air: The Cells of Holmesburg Prison, evokes the hopes of the former inmates amid a hopeless situation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.