TO JULY 24

In 1994, I went to Brixton Prison in London to interview its governor, a man who had been installed shortly after an infamous and spectacular escape aided by smuggled firearms. Meeting him, I was surprised to find that he was not a hardass but a committed prison reformer, and that his boss—the head of Her Majesty’s Prison Service—was a kindly former judge who had made it his priority to improve the often horrid conditions in British prisons. When I returned to Washington a month later, I was struck by the difference between British and American attitudes toward corrections. California was about to implement three-strikes-and-you’re-out sentencing, and my story found a ready home as a curiosity piece for jaded Americans who considered “prison reform” a quaint, Victorian-era pursuit. “Looking in the Mirror: Society Behind Bars,” consisting of 40 photographs made over the past two decades by Texas photographer Alan Pogue, seeks to resurrect dormant American outrage at prison conditions. Using both stark black-and-white images (Adult Education is pictured)and an accompanying booklet-length commentary, Pogue provides both evidence of injustice and reason for hope, showing the morbid machinery of death row side by side with innovative rehabilitative programs. Harking back to the work of Depression-era documentary photographers, Pogue’s images and commentary are inseparable, both buttressing his plea for compassion. For those who feel moved, there’s even a petition to sign. On view from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, to Saturday, July 24, at the Washington Center for Photography, 406 7th St. NW, Third Floor. $XX. (202) 737-0406. (Louis Jacobson)