A dozen or so photographers attempted to define Everyday Incarceration. You should see the results

To bring to life dozens of stories about mass incarceration in America, NBC News Investigative Unit’s Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville have raised near $40,000 with the crowdfunding platform Beacon.

Before any stories were published on Beacon, NBC News or other news outlets, the Everyday Incarceration Instagram account was created, and its run alongside reports from The Legacy of Mass Incarceration project.

With sketches, archival photos and the work of a handful of talented photographers from across the United States, Everyday Incarceration has some thick storytelling. Some photographers whose work is exhibited is the result of years of work.

Sometimes the photos mirror the project, and sometimes they tell their own story.

Here’s some of that work, which ranges from prisoner rodeo in Louisiana, families torn apart, families reunited, convicted murderers, teens on probation and the complex story that is mass incarceration in America, the world’s largest jailer.



A series of photos of women prisoners outside Atlanta, Georgia by Marilyn Suriani were shared in Everyday Incarceration. Suriani was interviewed for The Legacy of Mass Incarceration project.


There’s also about a dozen sketches of inmates at Rikers Island by artist Ricardo Cortes.

For three years, artist and publisher Ricardo Cortes ran art workshops for women and young men incarcerated on Rikers Island. After a few requests, he began to draw portraits of inmates. Controversy has been building over conditions on Rikers Island. Last year, the Department of Justice found “a pattern and practice of conduct at Rikers that violates the constitutional rights” of adolescents held there. Violence has increased across the island. A recent assessment by the city found a growing number of incidents between inmates, as well as between inmates and staff. In February, the New York Times reported that violence has continued, including inmates seriously injured by staff, even as officials have focused on improving the facilities. In March, the Mayor and head of the DOC instituted a 14-point plan aimed at reducing violence in the jails. The DOC says it is continuing to “expand upon its broader reform agenda to create safer jails for both inmates and staff.” Find the New York Times coverage here: http://nyti.ms/19niFhB Read the recent city report here: http://on.nyc.gov/1Bs4BKA Pencil portrait by @Rmcortes #everydayincarceration #portraits #prisonportraits #drawing #newyorkcity #NYC #RikersIsland #drawing #criminaljustice #incarceration #jail

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Last year, a 22 year old man named Victor White was shot in the back of a police car in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. An investigation found that he had shot himself in the chest while cuffed behind his back. A federal investigation was opened into the death. In her months-long investigation for The Advocate, @hrappleye has found more than 30 civil lawsuits have been filed against the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office in federal and state courts since the sheriff took office in 2008. At least six people, including five inmates, have died in Sheriff’s Office custody during that time. Documents examined by The Advocate — including complaints filed by inmates and settled civil lawsuits — allege a wide array of misconduct by Sheriff’s Office employees, ranging from excessive force used in routine arrests to an inmate beating that was so savage that guards slipped and fell in the victim’s blood. (link in profile)

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New Orleans-based photographer William Widmer, whose work has also been featured in Sports Illustrated, New York Times and Al Jazeera America, shared a series of shots with Everyday Incarceration from a prison rodeo in Louisiana.

He also took a portrait of this man whose sentence was reduced by President Obama as a result of changes to sentencing laws that make penalties for crack and cocaine comparable.


Andrew Lichenstein shared photos from Ohio, Texas and other parts of the country.



Street photographer Julius Motol spoke with recently released inmates for his project “First Meals: This Is What Freedom Tastes Like” to recreate and photograph their first meal after leaving prison.

First Meal: Two Supreme Steak Chalupas, a Steak Burrito and a Large Mountain Dew Baja Blast from Taco Bell Released from prison on Sept. 5, 2014, Levi Wheeler bought his first meal at Taco Bell. "It tasted like freedom, really," said Wheeler, 29. "I been waiting for five years to eat that.” Prison food was largely devoid of flavor, he said, making food after prison a delight. Though Wheeler's still nervous in a supermarket–”I feel like people are looking at ya, like you’re gonna steal stuff”–he finds the freedom to choose what he eats comforting. Photo by @juliusmotalphoto for a project called “First Meals | This Is What Freedom Tastes Like #firstmeals #reentry #incarceration #food #cunyjschool #massincarceration #everydayincarceration #prison #prisonphotography #prisonlens #tacobell #mountaindew #freedom

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Scott Houston shared some photos from Estrella Jail in Phoenix, AZ.

Men march on a chain gang at the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, AZ on March 5th, 2012. Jail inmates stay in 8×12 foot cells 23 hours of the day during lock down, unless they are out on assigned chain gang duty, for which they can volunteer. The nation’s only male chain gang, and the world’s first-ever female chain gang, clean streets, paint over graffiti, and bury indigents at White Tanks cemetery on the outskirts of Phoenix. Photo by Scott Houston. See more of Scott Houston's work at scotthoustonphoto.com #legacyofincarceration #prisonlens #everydayeverywhere #cunyjschool #nycityphotowire #prisonportraits #criminaljustice #chaingang #Arizona #everydayeverywhere Read an interview with Scott Houston on Beacon Reader – The Legacy of Mass Incarceration: http://bit.ly/163emqM

A photo posted by Everyday Incarceration (@everydayincarceration) on


Sean Kernan’s photos from 1977-1978 in a West Virginia prison are definitely worth a look. Kernan was interviewed as part of The Legacy of Mass Incarceration project.




Robert Gumpert shared a photo story with Everyday Incarceration that go inside the San Francisco County Jail.




Joseph Rodriguez (rollie6x6 on Instagram) went into California prisons and followed people trying to get their life back together on the outside for his “Reentry” series. 

Marcos Luna, 37, is a recovering drug addict and a resident of Walden House. He spent almost 11 years behind bars. He now works at bakery at Homeboy Industries, which offers job training to former gang members, and volunteers his time giving food to the homeless. “Myself, I’m a two-striker, so I really got to think about what my third strike might be,” he said. “With my criminal record, automatically I get a term of 25 years to life, with no possibility of parole.” In 2012, Californians reformed their “three strikes” law, eliminating some of the harshest punishments. Now a life sentence can be imposed only in serious violent crimes. The reforms also allowed those in prison for life for a more minor “third strike” to petition for their release. Since 2012, more than 1,000 “three-strikers” have been released from prison. Photography by Joseph Rodriguez @rollie6x6 Read an interview with Rodriguez on Beacon Reader (link in tagline) for @everydayincarceration #reentry #incarceration #cunyjschool #massincarceration #everydayincarceration #prisonphotography #prisonlens #criminaljustice #legacyofincarceration #waldenhouse #california #losangeles #parole #homeboyindustries #threestrikes #everydayeverywhere

A photo posted by Everyday Incarceration (@everydayincarceration) on



Isadora Kosofsky photo story follows two brothers in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Vinny punches trash cans behind his aunt's house. Vinny attempts to find ways to vent his anger about past experiences. "Vinny and David" is a long-term project that begins with Vinny, then 13, when he was incarcerated for stabbing his mother’s assailant, and shadows him and his older brother, David, who cycles in and out of jail; the ongoing photo essay focuses on the brothers’ lives in their family and community over three years in New Mexico. I'm Isadora Kosofsky @isadorakosofsky – a documentary photographer based in Los Angeles. I will be guest posting on #EverydayIncarceration for 4 days. To view more of this photo documentary, visit www.isadorakosofsky.com #family #legacyofincarceration #prisonlens #youth #everydayeverywhere #EverydayIncarceration #brothers

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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.


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