“Alysia” is an ongoing, long-term photo essay that documents a young woman’s incarceration and life thereafter in New Mexico; the photo essay begins during Alysia’s incarceration at the age of 16 and shadows her until her present age of 20. Incarceration of young women is a visually underrepresented issue. Incarceration is often too through a male lens, overlooking a large population of girls and women who are affected by mass incarceration in the United States. I consider this series as another visual articulation of love-loss intersections.
When Alysia was sixteen, the police raided her aunt’s trailer and arrested Alysia for being under the influence of methamphetamine. Alysia was detained at the Juvenile Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we met. Alysia’s stepfather introduced her to meth when she was fourteen, after her mother was arrested and sentenced to three years in state prison for car theft. Alysia confides, “The day my mom got arrested, that’s when I started fucking up in school.” When Alysia was thirteen, her biological father died suddenly. She confides that she doesn’t remember much from that time period, as the meth “burned all the bad memories out of my brain.” After being arrested at sixteen and incarcerated in juvenile detention, Alysia ran away from her foster home.
Soon after, she met Emmanuel, who would become her husband a year later. Both dealing with addiction, they ended up in county jail on Alysia’s 18th birthday. After completing probation twice and becoming pregnant, Alysia married Emmanuel and gave birth to Leticia, who is now two years old. Alysia remarks, “The best part of my life was when I met my husband and we had our daughter.” Now age 20, Alysia has returned to school to finish her high school diploma. She hopes to become a nurse. Meanwhile, Emmanuel, who has been incarcerated 28 times, has secured a full-time job as a security guard. Right before Leticia’s birth, Emmanuel’s former gang affiliate threatened his life, causing Alysia and Emmanuel to go into hiding ever since. Alysia and Emmanuel spend most of their time in their apartment when not at school or work.