In 1967, the twenty-five-year-old photographer, who was already known for his work with the civil-rights movement and his book on the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle gang, embedded himself in Texas prisons for more than fourteen months. The resulting pictures indict a brutal, dehumanizing system in which inmates were treated like slaves. The project’s strength—seen in thirty-three extraordinary vintage prints—is how it balances images of field labor, shakedowns, and strip searches with more private moments. Given one-on-one access to prisoners, Lyon put a human face on an inhumane system.

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