Of the five parts of a newspaper story – who, what, where, when and why – this project focuses on the third, where. The goal is to collect, in one place, a table of longitudes and latitudes of prisons. There are thousands of prisons, and if it were not for the fact that so much work has already been done by others, it would be hopeless to attempt such a project. It is not hopeless.
Even considering all of the work already done, there is still much work to do. The world of incarceration is large and though the available geographic information is plentiful, it is scattered. Wikipedia has assembled much, as has Wikimapia (not part of Wikipedia), some governments have websites listing the larger of that country’s prisons, some prisons can be found by using information from newspaper articles to narrow a search on Google Earth, also the photographs posted by tourists can help in finding a prison. Just gathering the information presents obstacles.
Finding Colony 14
Finding Penal Colony No. 14 is made easier by the presence of a famous inmate, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the singing protest group Pussy Riot. The writer Masha Gessen traveled to Partsa, Mordovia to visit Ms Tolokonnikova. On the trip north from Potma she mentions a men’s prison that is divided by the road into two parts connected by an enclosed walkway (shown above) over the road. Following the road north on Google Earth one comes to Partsa. There are two penal colonies, one east of the main road and one west (shown above). Olga Kapustina in an article, “Everyday life in a Russian penal colony”, Oct. 2, 2013, Deutsche Welle, included a ground level photograph of Penal Colony 14 that was taken from the main road and shows that the sun is to the photographer’s right. Because Partsa is 54°N, the photographer had to have been facing east and so Colony No. 14 is east of the main road. She also states that the two colonies in Partsa are No. 13 and No. 14.
Along the road in Mordovia from Potma through Partsa to Yavas there are several recognizable prisons whose names are unknown to Prison Spotters. It is not even known how many of them are still in operation. Until the names are known, they will be designated as No Name followed by the country name followed by numbers in sequence starting with 1 as they are added to the list. Perhaps they don’t have a currently famous inmate. Maybe there’s not enough fame to go around. At any rate they do have names that are known to someone, so they won’t remain anonymous. They are shown above.