A Letter From The Publisher: Sep. 13, 1982

Most Americans' images of prison life have probably been shaped by Hollywood, from James Cagney's White Heat to Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz. TIME's Special Section this week sets out to capture the raw reality of both prison life and the people subjected to it. To this end, Staff Photographer Neil Leifer took his cameras over a period of a year to six state prisons, including one for women, and a federal penitentiary. He returned with an extraordinary collection of several thousand photographs.

The editors chose to publish 35 from Leifer's portfolio, the largest...

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