Kevin C. Pyle attended the University of Kansas where he received a B.F.A. in illustration, studying under illustrator Thomas B. Allen. He moved to Brooklyn N.Y. in 1988 to pursue a career as an illustrator. He has done illustrations for The New York Times Op-Ed page, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The National Law Journal, The Progressive, Adbusters and numerous other publications. From 1990-1991 he was the director of the non-profit Minor Injury Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and was very involved in the nascent art scene there. He produced puppet shows, played in a band, and was a core member of Organism, a 1994 proto rave/art installation staged in an abandoned warehouse on Brooklyn’s waterfront.
In the early 90s he started contributing and co-editing World War 3 illustrated, America’s longest-running radical comics anthology. Much of the work done for WW3 illustrated was collected in his docu-comic, Lab U.S.A.:illuminated documents, published by Autonomedia in 2001. A non-fiction comic investigation of clandestine racist and authoritarian science, Lab U.S.A. won the Silver Medal for Sequential Art from the Society of Illustrators. He has done performance and installations based on the text that have been exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Mass MOCA, and numerous gallery settings. In 2007 his first graphic novel, Blindspot was published by Henry Holt. Blindspot was included in The Best American Comics 2008, edited by Lynda Barry. He is currently working on another one, Katman, also to be published by Henry Holt. He lives with his wife and son in a creaky old house somewhere just past the swamps of Jersey.
The Real Cost of Prisons Comix
Edited by Lois Ahrens
Written by: Ellen Miller-Mack, Craig Gilmore, Lois Ahrens, Susan Willmarth, and Kevin Pyle
Illustrated by: Kevin Pyle, Sabrina Jones and Susan Willmarth
Introduction by: Craig Gilmore and Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Published by: PM Press
Pub Date: September 2008
Page Count: 104 pages
Size: 7 by 10
Subjects: Comics, Social Justice, Penology
Winner of the 2008 PASS Award (Prevention for a Safer Society) from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
One out of every hundred adults in the U.S. is in prison. This book provides a crash course in what drives mass incarceration, the human and community costs, and how to stop the numbers from going even higher. This volume collects the three comic books published by the Real Cost of Prisons Project. The stories and statistical information in each comic book is thoroughly researched and documented.
Prison Town: Paying the Price tells the story of how the financing and site locations of prisons affects the people of rural communities in which prison are built. It also tells the story of how mass incarceration affects people of urban communities where the majority of incarcerated people come from.
Prisoners of the War on Drugs includes the history of the war on drugs, mandatory minimums, how racism creates harsher sentences for people of color, stories on how the war on drugs works against women, three strikes laws, obstacles to coming home after incarceration, and how mass incarceration destabilizes neighborhoods.
Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women and Their Children includes stories about women trapped by mandatory sentencing and the "costs" of incarceration for women and their families. Also included are alternatives to the present system, a glossary and footnotes.
Over 125,000 copies of the comic books have been printed and more than 100,000 have been sent to families of people who are incarcerated, people who are incarcerated, and to organizers and activists throughout the country. The book includes a chapter with descriptions about how the comix have been put to use in the work of organizers and activists in prison and in the "free world" by ESL teachers, high school teachers, college professors, students, and health care providers throughout the country. The demand for them is constant and the ways in which they are being used is inspiring.
"I cannot think of a better way to arouse the public to the cruelties of the prison system than to make this book widely available."
"The Real Cost of Prisons comics are among the most transformative pieces of information that the youth get to read. We take it with us to detention centers, group homes, youth shelters and social justice organizing projects. Everywhere we go we see youth nodding with agreement and getting excited to see their reality validated in print. The Real Cost of Prisons helps youth know what's up and gives them the push they need to get active in the struggle to make interpersonal and community-wide change."
--Shira Hassan, Co-Director Young Women's Empowerment Project, Chicago, IL
Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Read book reviews
- The Real Cost of Prisons Comix: Bitch Magazine
- Prison Comix: Jim Ridgeway, Unsilent Generation
- The Real Cost of Prisons Comix: Colorlines
- The Real Cost of Prisons Comix: Feminist Review
- Real Cost of Prisons Comix: Rethinking Schools
- Feel the Real Cost of Prisons: Paul Buhle from the Monthly Review
- Comics for community organizing, outreach and education: Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty Task Force
- Lessons on the Real Cost of Prisons: Changing Lives, Changing Minds, Jordan Beltran Gonzalez, UC Berkeley
- The Real Cost of Prisons Comix: Our Bodies Ourselves
- Review: Illustrations From the Inside and The Real Cost of Prisons: Just Seeds
- The Prison Industrial Complex and Political Prisoners: Z Magazine
- The Personal is Polemic: The Real Cost of Prisons Comix: High-Low
- Comic Book Series Provides a Fresh Look at Prison Myths: Street Roots
Comic books can't change the world, right? Maybe they could, if more were like The Real Cost of Prisons Comix (PM Press).l Comprising three comic books originally published by the Real Costs of Prisons Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate about and track the human and communty impacts of incarceration, this collection combines graphic-novel punch with the facts about what drives prison policy and growth. From exploring the economic impact of a new prison, to laying out the history of drug laws as they relate to imprisonment, to telling the stories of incarcerated-women and the children many of them leave behind, these 100 pages contain vital information for anyone interested in the realities of the prison-industrial complex and the need for reform.Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top
By Jim Ridgeway
With more and more older people going to prison there is a growing demand for educational materials to keep their minds alive and well amid the deadening atmosphere of the American correctional system—created in large part by government and supervised and informed by the judiciary. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of young and middle-aged people whose “rehabilitation” has been cut short by the cruel sentencing laws. There are all sorts of projects afoot in this area, but one is of special interest. It is called the Real Cost of Prisons, and is run by Lois Ahrens of Northampton, Mass., on a shoestring. You can get a feel for her work by obtaining the Real Cost of Prisons Comix book which includes three comics: Prison Town about the financing and placement of prisons and their effect on rural communities; Prisoners of the war on Drugs, a history of the war on drugs; and Prisoners of a hard Life,which includes stories of women trapped by mandatory sentencing. To me, this last book is the most telling. PM Press publishes the book at $12.95 a copy.
Vivid comics show the impacts of mass incarceration on communities of color
By Jenna M. Lloyd
Locking 2.3 million people behind bars is a vast social project. It takes work to hide the equivalent of a large US city in plain sight. The explanations served up on the nightly news and by tough-on-crime politicians graphically focus on violent crime, despite its decline. More prisons, they say, will create safe and drug free communities. The Real Cost of Prisons Comix (PM Press), winner of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s PASS Award, asks whether the billions of dollars invested annually in mass incarceration delivers on these promises. Hidden behind these fear-provoking images, the book documents the steep human costs exacted on individual health and freedom, family unity, and community well being. What else could be done with the social wealth and creativity now trapped into cycles of cage-building and neighborhood abandonment?
The Real Cost of Prisons Comix
By Jeanne Vacaro
As activists know all too well, crafting a political message and effectively mobilizing an audience is an elusive task. In The Real Cost Of Prisons, Lois Ahrens and her contributors beautifully stage a difficult dialogue—about mass incarceration, mandatory sentencing, and the “war on drugs”—with comics. Comics are an accessible, popular form of education, and most importantly, addictive, and hence become a subversive way to raise awareness. The Real Cost of Prisons Project has distributed 115,000 comics to the incarcerated, affected families, and social justice organizations free of charge. Comics are just one part of the organization’s mission to end mass incarceration; since Lois Ahrens founded organization in 2000 a coalition of artists, activists, and researchers has produced and distributed educational materials about the costs—material and affective—of the prison industrial complex and it’s devastating impact on family preservation, women’s reproductive rights, rural economies, and much more.
The Real Cost of Prisons Comix
Between the 1920s and 1960s, about one out of every one thousand people in the United States were incarcerated. By 2000, about five out of every thousand people were incarcerated. With compassion, insight, plain language, and compelling images, The Real Cost of Prisons peels back this startling statistic to explore the human stories it hides. Student-friendly comic chapters examine prison towns; the so-called "war on drugs" and prisoners; and women prisoners and children. The U.S. prison-industrial complex deserves a bigger place in the curriculum. This slim volume is an excellent start.
This remarkable book is the political proof and artistic expression of what has become a key movement for prisoners in the United States. As a book, it is beautiful and genuinely entertaining in its own right, the veritable launching pad of a new artistic/political press. As an organizing tool, it is perhaps a great deal more...
Comics for community organizing, outreach and education
Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty Task Force
Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association
Monday December 15, 2008
Graphic novels are a suitable medium for illustrating cold, hard facts. They can literally put a face on morbid, impersonal economic reality. Lois Ahrens understands this and perfects the medium well in the graphic novel, The Real Cost of Prisons Comix. This collective work, part of the Real Cost of Prisons Project, which initially began with the work of economists, reveals the human cost of the prison industry, where 2.3 million people a day are locked up in our nation's prisons. The work is in three parts, "Prison Town," "Prisoners of the War on Drugs," and "Prisoners of a Hard Life." "Prison Town" details the economic incentives behind mandatory sentencing guidelines and describes how the prison industry thrives in rural America, driving out local businesses and eroding community. "Prisoners of the War on Drugs" relates how racism, sexism, and classism fuels the prison industry. "Prisoners of a Hard Life" provides personal stories of women prisoners and their children. The illustrations, all in stark black and white, are paired beautifully with the text. Each section ends with reader responses, from community organizers to academics to prisoners and there is a glossary of terms used in the book. The series is designed as an educational tool for anyone who is interested or affected, which given current statistics, is one in every 32 Americans.
Lessons in the Real Cost of Prisons
By Jordan Beltran Gonzales
Changing Lives, Changing Minds
This anthology combines three engaging and educational comics with dozens of letters and testimonials from readers. Fewer than 100 pages yield a thorough breakdown of how America’s economic and social addiction to imprisoning Black, Brown, and poor people for particular behaviors has spiraled into an epidemic of mass incarceration. Through vivid black-and-white images, well-researched background information, and case studies of women and men in context, readers gain vital knowledge and access to progressive networks that will transform this crisis...
The Real Cost of Prisons Comix
By Christine C
Our Bodies Ourselves
PM Press has recently published “The Real Cost of Prisons Comix,” three comic books produced by the Real Cost of Prison Projects in one volume.
The number of incarcerated women has risen at a rate nearly double that of men in recent decades, in large part due to mandatory sentencing and draconian drug laws. There is now believed to be about 200,000 incarcerated women in U.S. prisons, jails and immigration detention centers...
Review: Illustrations From the Inside and The Real Cost of Prisons
By Josh MacPhee
Just Seeds Blog
The Real Cost of Prisons covers similar material, but is a completely different take on it. This is primarily a paperback compilation of 3 comic books produced by the Real Cost of Prisons Project in order to educate prisoners and the public. The project is a nation-wide public education campaign designed to illustrate in plain and simple language what the real costs of prison are in our society. Since the 1970s the levels of incarceration in this country have skyrocketed, but there has been little to know public dialog about the reasons for this, or what it all costs, not just in financial terms, but the human costs. These comics were designed as popular education tools, and are being used as just that. Tens of thousands of copies have found their way into high school classrooms, prison study groups, politicians desks, and activist hands.
The Real Cost of Prisons
The new book The Real Cost of Prisons Comix, reprints three comic books published as part of the Real Costs of Prisons Project (RCPP), which began in 2000. So far, 125,000 comic books have been printed, with over 100,000 distributed for free to community groups and college classes alike. Featuring artwork by Kevin Pyle, Sabrina Jones and Susan Willmarth, all three comic books can be freely downloaded at www.realcostofprisons.org.
Prison abolitionists Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Craig Gilmore write in the book’s introduction that the RCPP’s value “has been to show us how the system of mass incarceration permeates our lives, who is paying the costs of that system and the many ways the system is vulnerable to people who put their thought and effort into organizing to shrink it.” Significantly, the RCPP’s comics “demonstrate that the ideas we need to change the world can be explained simply enough and packaged attractively enough to be used by all kinds of readers.” Prisoners and their families can “understand material usually circulated only among academics and those who focus on policy.”
The Person is Polemic: The Real Cost of Prisons Comix
By Rob Clough
The philosopher & historian Michel Foucault wrote a number of books that tended to have the same core idea: that the nature of human relations, stripped bare of idealistic constructs, is one of power relationships. In HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, Foucault makes a case that sexual relationships are entirely based on power and hierarchy. In DISCIPLINE & PUNISH, he gives us a history of prisons and pushes the idea that the Enlightenment Project did nothing to make the concept of the prison more humane, and in fact made it less so in certain ways. In MADNESS & CIVILIZATION, he lays out the history of the treatment of mental illness. He exposes the curious phenomenon of madness "rising" in certain areas during certain eras, which he posits is again a rationalist position of defining certain behaviors or groups of people as insane. The writers and artists behind THE REAL COST OF PRISONS COMIX use aspects of all three of these arguments to aggressively push for a total reform of not just the prison system, but the entire justice system that surrounds it.
Last week I spoke to a group of prisoners about the power of truth. After a lengthy discourse about the importance of truth, and that it empowers us to become a part of the oneness of man, and I have had to discern the untruths from the truth, I concluded by offering a way to search for truth. Of course I listed free-press papers such as Street Roots, free-speech radio such as KBOO, and the many books written by conscientious research journalists – including a few books I’ve reviewed in this column...
The new book The Real Cost of Prisons Comix reprints three comic books published as part of the Real Costs of Prisons Project, which began in 2000. So far, 125,000 comic books have been printed, with more than 100,000 distributed free to community groups and college classes. Featuring artwork by Kevin Pyle, Sabrina Jones and Susan Willmarth, all three comic books can be freely downloaded at www.realcostofprisons.org. Prison abolitionists Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Craig Gilmore write in the book’s introduction that the value of the “Real Cost of Prisons Project” “has been to show us how the system of mass incarceration permeates our lives, who is paying the costs of that system and the many ways the system is vulnerable to people who put their thought and effort into organizing to shrink it.” Significantly, the comics “demonstrate that the ideas we need to change the world can be explained simply enough and packaged attractively enough to be used by all kinds of readers.” Prisoners and their families can “understand material usually circulated only among academics and those who focus on policy.”
2009 Katman, Henry Holt.
2007 Blindspot, Henry Holt.
2006 Prison Town, Real Cost of Prisons Project.
2001 Lab U.S.A.: illuminated documents, Autonomedia.
1994-present World War 3 illustrated.
2005 Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, Verso.