Alysia

Alysia, age 16, stands in command call at the juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“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.

Alysia stands in front of her cell door during command call.

Alysia, age 16, cries on the phone to her grandmother, attempting to get in touch with her mother.

Alysia, age 16, comforts her cellmate, Jasmine, age 15, who just found out that her grandfather passed away.

Alysia, age 16, reclines on her bed at the juvenile detention center.

Elisha, age 13, sits in front of her cell door as Alycia sits to the left.

Alysia looks back during a Catholic Mass in the cafeteria at the juvenile detention center.

With her mother, Anastasia to the right, Alysia cries as she embraces her cousin before getting into a van to be transported to a drug treatment facility in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

Alysia, age 19, looks at her husband, Emmanuel, while seated on the couch in their apartment in Albuquerque, NM.

Emmanuel and Alysia hold up their daughter, Leticia.

Alysia tickles her daughter, Leticia, as Emmanuel stands next to them.

A bouquet of dry roses, a bottle and a photograph of Alysia's mother and her brother, who is in foster care, on the dining room table

Alysia puts on makeup before going to school.

Portraits in Alysia and Emmanuel's bedroom.

Alysia rests her head against the door of the housing office. Alysia and Emmanuel hope to move to a safer neighborhood where their daughter can play in the street.

Alysia carries Leticia's car seat down the corridor, as Leticia walks behind her.

Alysia holds onto Leticia's hand as she rests on grass at the park.

Leticia in Alysia's arms because of the heat at the park.

Alysia, Emmanuel and Leticia in a photograph taken at the zoo.

Leticia holds onto two bears as she lies on the floor of the apartment.

Alysia holds Emmanuel from behind.

The window inside Leticia's room.

Emmanuel, wearing his security guard uniform, walks out of the apartment building before work.

Alysia and Emmanuel move towards each other to kiss.