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Essex County Jail Annex

The main prison building and power house of the austere Essex County Jail Annex were built in 1872/3, and the entire site was closed when another facility was built (on a landfill contaminated with lead, petroleum, and arsenic) to consolidate this prison with another. It is hardly surprising that this prison's history is not a cheery one; inmate's files filled with mugshots and rap sheets cover the floor of the auditorium, and features such as shotgun ports and tear gas modules on the ceilings of the mess hall serve as a constant reminder of the daily struggle for control over the convicts. The scale of the buildings and the multitude of intimate glimpses into the harrowing lives the inmates led present evidence of a reality many of us are very fortunate to never have to confront.

If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe. Photographs and unattributed text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.