prison cells

Photo via Jean Vaillancourt/Getty (Licensed)

They've been highlighting it for years.

Being incarcerated in the United States means facing the trials and travails of a life in prison as well as the oft-difficult reintegration back into free society. Pervasive stereotypes and stigmas remain—even once the imprisoned are out―about those who end up behind bars.

But human lives and experiences aren’t always so easily packaged and boiled-down to assumptions. To the contrary, they’re usually packed with complexity, uncertainty, and even artistry. That’s what the Everyday Incarceration Instagram account has been highlighting for years.

The product of Zara Katz and Lisa Riordan Seville, the account currently boasts 75,000 followers—and it’s a virtuosic example of the “photo essay” form.

William Howard ‘Tex’ Johnson, 67, Robbery “Well, I got 50 years. Snatching $24 out of a man's hand. It was 1959, in Birmingham (Alabama). A lot was going down. We were struggling with the civil rights thing, and Dr. Martin Luther King was leading it. And I had come down there with this organization. I didn't even think about it [the racial motive], because all I was thinking about is, I get the chance, I'm gonna escape, and I did. I've escaped three times. And I could go like the wind, and they never could catch me. The last time I escaped, it was 1962. They didn't catch me till 1992. They never gave me no time for escaping. All they do is just get you and bring you back, and that's all. I'm a little disappointed at myself, you know. Cause I got a good education. My first wife had died. Then I married another girl. She and I had a son.I guess she's dead, too. It's a waste of a life, it is. I’m in no shape to run now. I’d like the freedom. But I’d never get over the fence. I’m doing 50 years for robbery. But I never robbed anyone. I only took 24 dollars from one man. I consider robbery is when you use a weapon. I never used a weapon. What I would like to do, I would like to write a book for young black people. Tell them that this ain't the way. This ain't the way. You don’t do it this way. That’s what I would like to do. Maybe someday, I will.” Photo by Ron Levine #incarceration #prison #prisonphotography #portrait #everydayincarceration #everydayeverywhere #prisonportraits #ronlevine #prisonersofage #alcatraz #ACLU #elderly #aging #costofincarceration #massincarceration See a selection of portraits from “Prisoners of Age” on @Narratively. Link in tagline.

A photo posted by Everyday Incarceration (@everydayincarceration) on

Katz and Seville also curate an Everyday Incarceration page on Medium, which adds rich, new details about some of the photos, while also highlighting comments from those who’ve experienced the correctional system—either first-hand or through the imprisonment of their loved ones.

A huge part of the impact and the beauty of the photo essay format comes in the spaces that are unspoken and unwritten, allowing the viewer to fill in the emotional and contextual gaps of the pictures. Everyday Incarceration uses this to great effect, whether to show the circumstances of life on the inside, or the impact that incarceration has on friends, family, and loved ones.

As it stands, an absolutely staggering number of Americans are living their lives in prison. According to Amnesty International, despite accounting for just five percent of the world’s total population, the U.S. is home to more than 20 percent of the world’s prison population.

Cecil Williams, 65, Murder Clark Morse, 70, Vehicular Manslaughter “Cecil: This is my best friend. We’re always together. I look out for him and he looks out for me. We joke together. We have our meals together. I know most of the circumstances, that he had been drinking a little too much that night and on his way home, he ran into this young lady that hit the lottery. There were two sisters. One had hit the lottery in Las Vegas, some $36 million. She sent for her sister and she came to Las Vegas to be with her. And she just bought a new car. And Clark hit her. One of the sisters succumbed to the injuries of the crash. And the other one was paralyzed from the crash. And she’s very, very, very bitter. The media had a frenzy over it. It was on the Internet, in all the magazines. He was like a celebrity. Y’know: “Drunk Driver Kills Girl That Wins Millions.” It was because of her winning the Megabucks that it was such a big story. Vehicular manslaughter or drunk driving — he should have got three or four years. All told, he got 90 years. Five or ten on this one, three to four on that one. Every time he goes to the parole board, the surviving sister in her wheelchair comes up and petitions the parole board not to give him a parole. She’s very vocal and she has the support and they shoot him down. This is not the guy who was convicted of that crime. He’s a big old teddy bear. He’s the big brother I never had.” Photo by Ron Levine #incarceration #prison #prisonphotography #portrait #everydayincarceration #everydayeverywhere #prisonportraits #ronlevine #prisonersofage #alcatraz #ACLU #elderly #aging #costofincarceration #massincarceration #bestfriends See a selection of portraits from “Prisoners of Age” on @Narratively. Link in tagline.

A photo posted by Everyday Incarceration (@everydayincarceration) on

Whether through images of the incarcerated themselves, or their families on the outside, Everyday Incarceration paints a vibrant and essential picture of American lives that too often go overlooked.
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