There are secrets that are kept from the public and there are ‘public secrets,’ -- secrets that the public chooses to keep safe from itself. The trick to the public secret is knowing what not to know. This is the most powerful form of social knowledge.

In the United States the injustices of the war on drugs, the criminal justice system, and the Prison Industrial Complex are ‘public secrets’. The public perception of justice relies on not acknowledging that which is generally known. When faced with massive social problems such as racism, poverty, addiction, and abuse, it is easy to slip into denial. This is the ideological work that the prison does. It allows us to avoid the ethical by relying on the juridical.

Public Secrets provides an interactive interface to an audio archive of hundreds of statements made by current and former prisoners, which reveal the many secret injustices perpetrated by the state against its most vulnerable citizens. Visitors navigate a multi-vocal narrative that links individual testimony, public evidence and social theory, in order to challenge the assumption that imprisonment provides a solution to social problems.

website Public Secrets
website Sharon Daniel
bio Sharon Daniel

The Public Secret (pdf)