ZEKE-Fall 2023-Incarceration Issue-w

Fall 2023 Issue of ZEKE Magazine--The Incarceration Issue

Fall 2023 Issue of ZEKE Magazine--The Incarceration Issue


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Published by Social Documentary Network

FALL 2023 VOL.9/NO.2 $15 US

The Incarceration Issue

FALL 2023 VOL.9/ NO.2

$15 US

The Incarceration Issue

Photo by Brian Frank from What My Daughter

Learns of the Sea

Photo by Sara Bennett from Life After Life in


Photo by Peter Merts from Quests for Authenticity

Photo by Michele Zousmer from Absence of Being


Women in Las Calinas Detention and Reentry Facility

By Brian Frank


The Bedroom Project

By Sara Bennett


Artists in California Prisons

By Peter Merts


By Katherin Hervey and Massimo Bardetti


25 Years Later

By Howard Zehr


By Michele Zousmer


Portraits From Death Row

By Lou Jones

26 | Incarceration of a Nation

By Christopher Blackwell

58 | Open Eyes Within Hidden Places

By April Harris

62 | Interview With Jamel Shabazz

By Ryan M. Moser

66 | Book Reviews

On the Cover:

Photograph by

Michele Zousmer

Las Colinas Detention and

Reentry Facility for women

Photo by Lou Jones from Final Exposure



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Published by Social Documentary Network

Dear ZEKE Readers:

I am so excited to have been offered the role of guest editor for this

special edition of ZEKE magazine dedicated to one of the biggest issues

we face as a country — mass incarceration. Many of you may not think

often of the carceral system, believing it has minimal impact upon your

life. But in reality a third of all Americans are in some way connected to

the carceral system.

We’ve been led to believe that we need prisons and jails to keep us

safe. That without them our communities will suffer. But our communities

are suffering because of them — especially impoverished communities,

mostly filled with Black and Brown people. These communities have been

stripped of countless members to feed the machine of the prison industrial

complex. A system that harvests our children as they are locked up at

ages as early as 10 years old!

For prisons and jails to truly keep us safe, the individuals that enter the

system would need to be receiving proper support and treatment for what

led them to prison in the first place. That way when people are released,

they can be contributing members of society. Yet, rehabilitation has long

been an afterthought inside a majority of the prisons across America.

Today, many prisoners are simply being warehoused and abused

through disciplinary measures such as solitary confinement and then

dumped back into our communities with little or no resources. Leading

them right back to the only thing they know —- a life of crime and

violence so they can survive.

We must demand more. We can reconstruct the system to reshape

people. We can offer people a hand to rebuild their lives and a way

to process their traumas and hardships rather than punishment and

ostracizing them from being a member of our communities.

Often the people who fill our jails and prisons are only there because

of the traumatic experiences they’ve been forced to endure throughout

their whole lives, or the lack of investment and opportunity offered to

them. We must fix that by building the commUNITY we want to live in,

one that’s constructed from love and unity; not hate, abuse, and division.

This issue of ZEKE will offer you a view into the lives of those impacted

by the carceral system. Through testimony and imagery, you’ll be given

a deep look into the lives of those most impacted. The photos will display

the rawness of those suffering and will hopefully inspire you to fight

against this draconian structure.

We are in this fight together, so let’s educate ourselves to understand

the harms we are causing through the use of jails and prisons, and let’s

demand better!

Christopher Blackwell

Guest Editor

A little over three months ago, while looking

for someone knowledgeable about the criminal

justice system in the U.S. to be guest editor for

this issue, I saw an opinion piece in the New

York Times by Christopher Blackwell titled, “Two

Decades of Prison Did Not Prepare Me for the

Horrors of County Jail.” His bio said that he is

an incarcerated writer and a co-founder of the

nonprofit Look2Justice. I immediately shot off

an email to Look2Justice to see if they could

recommend someone. To my surprise, two

days later I received an email from Chris from

prison saying he was interested. Thus began an

enduring working relationship, friendship, and

education on the topic of this issue of ZEKE.

More than 100 emails and a dozen phone

calls later (Zoom is not an option), I am so thrilled

to present this special issue of ZEKE Magazine. I

am truly indebted to Chris and the many writers

and prisoner advocates whom he introduced me

to. In addition to Chris’s essay “Incarceration of

a Nation,” do not miss the extraordinary piece

by April Harris “Open Eyes Within Hidden

Places” about her own indignities experienced

while currently incarcerated. In addition there are

seven deeply moving photo essays, an interview

with Jamel Shabazz, and book reviews. I also

want to thank three people whose names do not

appear anywhere else since they are not writers,

photographers, or editors but were invaluable

in facilitating communications with incarcerated

writers—April Nonko, Robert Jensen, and

Jessica Schulberg.

Before closing, I want to inform our readers

of the redesigned ZEKE website (www.

zekemagazine.com). We are finally recognizing

that we have very important content to share and

we want to make it more accessible by creating

a full web version of what you see in the print


Glenn Ruga

Executive Editor

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 1

What My Daughter

Learns of the Sea

Women in Las Calinas Detention and Reentry Facility

by Brian Frank

What My Daughter Learns of The

Sea is a look behind the walls of

the Las Colinas women’s jail in

San Diego, CA.

Las Colinas’ approach to

gender-specific incarceration is

considered revolutionary, with its expansion

of an honors program that allows women

more freedoms inside its walls and access to

a wide range of job training, in addition to

physical and mental health programming.

Trauma is the common denominator

underlying the life experience of the vast

majority of female inmates. More than half

of female prisoners are survivors of physical

or sexual violence with 73% of female

state inmates and 61% of female federal

inmates suffering mental health problems.

Many of the honor programs at Las Calinas

attempt to address these issues.

However, in the criminal justice system

in general, women are often ranked at a

higher security level than necessary due to

a classification system based on their male

counterparts. Although Las Colinas is on

the forefront of a gender-specific progressive

response towards women’s incarceration,

these dated classification systems, as

well as staffing and budget constraints,

keep most women at the jail under a more

traditional type of lockdown, something

that many at the prison, both inmates and

staff, would like to change.

2 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Pamela Hernandez and

Kathleen Salinas sit together in

the exercise yard of their highlevel

cell block at Las Colinas

correctional facility in San

Diego, CA.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 3

Women at the Las

Colinas correctional

facility take a break from

sewing prison uniforms to

watch Downton Abbey.

4 / ZEKE FALL 2023

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ZEKE FALL 2023/ 5

Women at the Las Colinas correctional

facility sing together while

folding the prison’s laundry. Having

a laundry room job is considered a

privilege, reserved for detainees who

have demonstrated good behavior.

6 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 7

8 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Lakyesha Jenkins calls home from

a high-level cell block at the Las

Colinas correctional facility in San

Diego, CA.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 9

10 / ZEKE FALL 2023



The Bedroom Project

by Sara Bennett


or nine years, Sara Bennett

photographed formerly

incarcerated women in their

bedrooms. All were convicted of

serious crimes — mostly homicide

— and spent 14 to 37 years in

a maximum-security prison. By the time

they came up for parole they were all

profoundly changed, yet most of them

were repeatedly denied release because

of the crimes they had committed

decades earlier

“These women were open and trusting

enough to allow me into their most

private spaces — their bedrooms — and

to share the handwritten comments that

accompany the photos. Like me, they

hope this work will shed light on the

pointlessness of extremely long sentences

and arbitrary parole denials, and thus

help their friends still in prison: women

(and men) like them who deserve a

chance at freedom.”

Karen: 69, in a homeless shelter four weeks

after her release. East Village, NY (2017)

Sentence: 25 years to life

Served: 35 years

Released: April 2017

“When I made parole plans, I thought I was

going to have a good re-entry situation in

the house I paroled to. I realized almost

immediately that it wouldn’t work out, so I

left, without anywhere else to go.

“Parole sent me to a homeless assessment

shelter in the south Bronx. The quality of the

bedding and the food was a lateral move

from prison . But factoring in my freedom,

there’s no question that it was an improvement.

“Now, I’m in a shelter run by the

Women’s Prison Association. I feel safe and

secure. The room is spare, with not much in

it, but it’s mine.

“In this room, I find comfort, privacy,

safety, and peace of mind.”

ZEKE Fall 2023/ 11

12 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Tracy: 51, in her own apartment

three and a half years

after her release. Jamaica, NY


Sentence: 22 years to life

Served: 24 years

Released: February 2014

“I imagined coming home,

living in a one- or two-bedroom

apartment, where one was a

master and an extra room for

guests. Here I have that. I call

this room my ‘doll house,’ my

safe haven. I feel at peace.

I’ve finally unpacked. I spend a

lot of time in here. I take pride

in everything. I put more into

this room than into the kitchen.

I know I need to eat, but my

room is my nutrition.”

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 13

14 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Evelyn: 42, in an apartment she

shares with a roommate five years

after her release. Queens, NY


Sentence: 15 years to life

Served: 20 years

Released: April 2012

“Look where I am now. Five years

ago, I came out from a little cell,

started out in a halfway house,

moved to an apartment, back to a

transitional home, and now I’m in my

own room in an apartment I share

with a roommate. What can be better

than this? This is happening.”

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 15

Monica: 46, at home, two and

a half years after her release.

Rochester, NY (2022)

Sentence: 50 years to life

Served: 23 years (Granted

clemency by Governor Andrew


Released: January 2020

“Carpe diem! Wonderment

and awe. My life is filled with

gratitude, love, sorrow and

despair. My life’s journey and

experiences are imprinted on my

soul. The good and the bad, the

beauty of decay and the passage

of time. I now experience all of

life’s moments with wonderment

and awe. With eyes wide open

in anticipation of what’s next,

with love, joy, reflection, and the

freedom to shape a future that is of

my own making.”

16 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL Fall 2021/ 2023/ 17

Quests for Authenticity

Artists in California Prisons

by Peter Merts


his project shows incarcerated men

and women creating and performing

artworks in California prisons; beyond

that, it portrays the passion, creativity,

and humanity of those artists.

Upon first hearing of these classes,

I was intrigued by the incongruity of artistic

expression in such a regulated, disruptive,

and sometimes violent environment; I also

felt an empathy for incarcerated men and

women, many of whom had experienced

childhood trauma. Beyond these factors, it

just felt like a good fit—a project about art

as a response to troubled lives.

From the beginning I was impressed with

the commitment, risk-taking, enthusiasm,

and technical mastery of the artists as they

addressed topics of identity, culture, family,

and society.

Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness

of art practice in improving the attitudes

and behaviors of incarcerated men

and women, but here I go beyond these

empirical matters. My aim is to illuminate

the humanity of these incarcerated men and

women, who are working so passionately

to express themselves, to recover from their

traumas, and to lead more fulfilling lives.

18 / ZEKE FALL 2023

A theater student applies his makeup

with a mirror, California State Prison,

Sacramento, 2019

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 19

20 / ZEKE FALL 2023

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Musician with his engraved guitar,

Sierra Conservation Center, 2019

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 21

22 / ZEKE FALL 2023

An artist paints a portrait in the

art studio, San Quentin State

Prison, 2006

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 23

An artist paints in the

gym, RJ Donovan State

Prison, 2019

24 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 25

By Christopher Blackwell


Photograph by Michele Zousmer

The United States has the highest

rate of incarceration in the world,

imprisoning 664 per 100,000

people. On any given day in the

U.S., we imprison an estimated 1.9

million people and each year spend

an estimated $182 billion on the

criminal legal system.

Christopher Blackwell is an

award-winning journalist currently

incarcerated at the Washington

Corrections Center, Shelton, WA. He

is serving a 45-year prison sentence

for taking another human’s life

during a drug robbery—something

he takes full accountability for.

He was raised in a mixed Native

American/white family in the Hilltop

Area of Tacoma, Washington, one

of the roughest places to live in the

country– ravaged by over-policing,

gangs, violence, and drugs.


was 12 years old the first

time I was incarcerated. This

wasn’t uncommon where I

grew up, in the impoverished

and overpoliced Hilltop area

of Tacoma, Washington. One

day in 1993, a cop frisked

my friend and I while we

were on our way home from

school. I had a small amount

of marijuana in my sock — but enough

to change my life forever. The cop

found the weed in my backpack and

my school books were replaced with

handcuffs. I was hauled off to juvenile

detention, the beginning of my long

journey through the carceral system.

Thirty years later, I’ve still been unable

to free myself from its grasp.

This is the system we have created

in America, one that targets the poor to

feed the monster of mass incarceration.

It is a system sustained by fear and

misconceptions that crime is, somehow,

always on the rise and that we

must take action to keep our communities

safe. This narrative is reinforced

daily, from TV shows like Law and

Order to breathless news coverage of

crime, which often lacks context about

broader trends or the specific circumstances

that led to a particular crime.

The only solution, we are told, is to

incarcerate more and more people for

longer and longer periods of time.

In reality, the “overall crime rates

remain near historic lows,” the Prison

Policy Initiative wrote in a recent report.

Even during a spike in homicides in

2020, which is now declining, homicide

rates remained far below their

peak in the 1980s and 1990s. “What

has actually changed the most is the

public’s perception of crime,which is

driven less by first-hand experience

than by the false claims of reform

opponents,” the report continued, citing

public polling data.

Politicians responded by using the

violent crime spike in the 1980s and

90s to justify a tough-on-crime crackdown.

They spread the racist myth that

the country would be overwhelmed by

a wave of “super-predator” youth —

mostly used to refer to Black and Brown

boys — who would kill for no reason

26 / ZEKE Fall 2023

at all. In this climate of fear, voters

and lawmakers throughout the country

dramatically increased prison sentences

and worked to oust from office those

who didn’t fall in line.

In my home state of Washington,

voters passed Initiative 593, commonly

referred to as “Three Strikes,” mandating

life without parole sentences for

people convicted three times of certain

crimes. Until recent legislative reform,

hundreds of people were struck out,

serving life without parole sentences for

second degree robbery offenses, which

can include stealing food from a grocery

store. For some, their “strikes” date back

to cases from when they were kids,

waived into adult court. Some even had

crimes committed under the age of 18

used against them to get stuck out, often

because they refused a plea deal for

decades in prison by prosecutors.

Disproportionate Harm

Just two years after three strikes,

Washington imposed weapons

enhancements under a bill called the

Hard Time for Armed Crime Act of

1995, resulting in longer prison sentences.

Despite the promise that these

harsh laws would reduce crime, there

is no evidence that occurred. Rather,

crime rates were already declining

nationwide, both in states with similar

laws and those without. Meanwhile,

prison populations exploded. In

Washington, the state’s prison population

nearly tripled from about 9,800

people in state prisons and jails in

1983 to 26,913 by 2015, according

to the Vera Institute. The expansion of

life without parole sentences has created

a ballooning aging population,

at great cost to the state. In 2001, the

Sentencing Commission found that

elderly prisoners cost more than four

times as much to imprison as the average

prisoner — a finding the commission

found “even more troubling” given

how rarely the elderly recidivate.

Today, the United States has the

highest rate of incarceration in the

world, imprisoning 664 per 100,000

Photograph by Isadora Kosofsky from Vinny & David: Life and Incarceration of a Family.

people. For reference, Canada imprisons

just 104 per 100,000 people. On

any given day in the U.S., we imprison

an estimated 1.9 million people (1.26

million in state and federal prisons

and about 514,000 in local jails). The

U.S. spends an estimated $182 billion

on the criminal legal system per year,

including $81 billion for prisons, jails,

probation and parole.

Over the past 50 years, the state

and federal prison population has

grown by a staggering 700%. It is

clear that impoverished communities of

color are disproportionately harmed by

increased incarceration. Although Black

people make up 38% of the prison

and jail population, they represent only

12% of the U.S. population.

“Incarceration is a traumatizing

experience both for those who are

locked up and for those who love

them,” Melissa R Lee, the assistant

director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center

for Law and Equality wrote in an email.

It “deprives loved ones of their children,

their parents, their partners, their

friends, and of the experience of living

together. It also deprives communities,

especially communities of color, and

society at large, of vast amounts of talent

and resources.”

Having spent most of my life in the

criminal legal system, I have witnessed

one heartbreaking story after another.

Like Jonathan (Jon) Kirkpatrick, now

serving a life sentence for a murder he

committed at the age of 19.

Jon grew up in extreme poverty.

His mother, who had been married six

times during his childhood, struggled to

support her children. Some of the men

she brought home were abusive. One

of his stepdads was an escaped convict

who took him and his family on the run,

evading the U.S. Marshals for years.

They lived in rundown motels, where

drug addiction, violence and sex work

were common.

Looking to escape this toxic environment,

Jon moved in with his biological

father. He quickly realized that this living

situation was no better. His father beat

him often and by the age of 11, Jon

was using meth. He spent much of his

childhood in juvenile group homes and

eventually dropped out of school. Living

on the streets of Los Angeles, he did sex

work to pay for his drug addiction. He

was a kid trying to survive in environments

that would jade him forever.

Jon leaned further into drug use, the

only thing that helped him forget the

cards he’d been dealt. As he struggled

to afford his habit, he fell into a dangerous

path of robbing drug dealers and

stealing anything of value. Tragically,

someone lost their life and Jon lost his


Now three decades later, Jon is

drug-free, a mentor to younger prisoners,

and a successfully published writer.

These changes were possible because

people began to see who Jon really

was and invest in him. Older prisoners

in mentorship roles taught him how to

facilitate non-violent communication

dialogues. He connected with others

who struggled with addiction through

Narcotics Anonymous and learned

to lead those meetings. Eventually, he

partnered with the nonprofit group

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 27

San Quentin Prison. Photograph by Katherin Hervey from The Prison Within.

Empowerment Avenue, which supported

him in publishing his writing in mainstream

media outlets. (Empowerment

Avenue also supports my writing.) One

step at a time, Jon developed his confidence

and grew into the man he was

always meant to be.

It has become exceedingly apparent

that the majority of people in prison

are here due to the circumstances they

grew up in, which were often out of

their control. They are the victims of

being born into poverty, abusive or

neglectful families, over-policed neighborhoods,

and the violence that these

conditions create. In short, they have

spent their entire lives living to survive,

not to thrive. They carry generational

trauma and often lifelong connections

to the carceral system.

“Prison exacerbates all of those

feelings,” James King, the co-director

of programs at the Ella Baker Center

for Human Rights, said in an interview.

“If you felt low self-worth in your family,

wait until you see an indictment

that says, ‘The State of California vs.

James King.’ You’ll feel a little bit more


Unjust Financial Burdens

“If you have feelings of low self-worth

or low self-esteem, prison increases

those feelings and significantly contributes

to the lack of tools to deal with

trauma that underlie where a lot of

harmful activities come from in the first

place,” King said.

It’s not just the people imprisoned

who are harmed by the status quo —

our family members and loved ones

bear an enormous emotional, logistical

and financial burden as well. First

there’s the cost of legal support, for

those who can even afford to hire a

lawyer. Families often borrow from

friends, take out loans, or even sell their

homes to hire lawyers they hope can

bring their loved ones home. But the

cost doesn’t stop there. Once inside,

prisoners are faced with a deluge of

fines and fees related to victim’s funds,

court costs and the cost of incarceration.

If my family sends me any money,

roughly 50% of it gets taken out for

these fees. As a result of these high fees

and low wages, many prisoners rack

up institutional debt just by purchasing

things like soap, toothpaste and

stationery to stay in touch with friends

and family.

Everything in jail and prison — from

phone calls to Top Ramen to a sheet of

paper — costs exponentially more than

in the free world. And because prisoners

typically earn pennies per hour for

their labor, the costs of basic necessities

fall to our loved ones. Private companies

that provide commissary goods

or phone services to prisons bring in

$2.9 billion per year, the Prison Policy

Initiative estimated in 2019. Inflation

in recent years has only driven up the

prices of food and personal hygiene

products. Maintaining relationships is

expensive too. Visiting requires taking

time off work and often spending

hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in

travel and accommodation.

“I hate that they need to support me

in this way,” Bud Fraser, who is incarcerated

in Washington state, said in an

interview. “Knowing they struggle to do

it is frustrating.”

Inside of each and every prison in the

U.S., you will find a humanitarian crisis.

The infrastructure is rotting, the pipes

are eroding, the water is often contaminated,

the heat and the air conditioning

are constantly broken (or non-existent),

flooding is common, mold spreads

freely, and infectious diseases run rampant.

We subsist on a diet of processed

foods — even the prisoners put to work

growing crops often do not have access

to the fresh fruits or vegetables they

grow. Violence is commonplace, both

from guards who operate with impunity,

and from other prisoners, many of

whom are in desperate need of mental

healthcare. We have minimal access to

medical care and plenty of reasons not

to trust the medical professionals inside.

(In my state of Washington, the prison

ombudsman found that medical staff in

facilities throughout the state delayed

for months in diagnosing and treating

cancer patients, sometimes resulting in


Many facilities operate beyond their

intended maximum capacity, the risk

of which was made especially clear

as COVID-19 tore through prisons and

jails. It is no coincidence that incarcerated

people have accounted for a

disproportionate amount of the pandemic’s

death toll.

Forced to live in these unsafe

environments, we are often sentenced

to more than simply a loss of liberties

and freedom. Spending time in prison

can be a death sentence, even if that

wasn’t the assigned punishment. Each

year that someone spends in prison

decreases their life expectancy by two

years, the Vera Institute found.

Although prisons pay lip service to

rehabilitation, carceral environments

encourage violence and often punish

efforts at self-betterment. The few

rehabilitative programs that do exist

are often watered-down classes that

exist to justify more funding for the

prisons. Prisons function primarily to

28 / ZEKE FALL 2023

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warehouse people until their time is

up, at which point they are released

back into the community with limited

resources, extensive unprocessed

trauma, and a criminal record that

restricts their employment and housing


Alternatives to Incarceration

True change doesn’t come from spending

an arbitrary number of years locked

up — it comes from accountability and

learning to love and respect yourself.

Those of us who learn to take responsibility

for the harm that we have caused

and have the sense of self-worth to hold

ourselves to a higher standard have

done so in spite of, not because of, the

prison system.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We

do not need prisons to keep us safe —

and there’s plenty of evidence that they

only put us in more danger. Although

prison abolition sounds like a far-off

reality, we already have a model of an

alternative way of addressing harm.

“When I think about the principles

of abolition, I think about many of the

wealthiest and most resourced communities

among us, and look at them

as a template in the roadmap for what,

in an ideal world, would be available

for everyone,” said King. “They have

the resources needed in those communities

to address trauma, for people to

have a living wage, for people to have

affordable housing, for people to live in

healthy environments. Their basic needs

are taken care of so they are able to

work towards better communities.”

“Equally important to that is, as

they’re growing up and they are

sometimes creating harm in their

neighborhood, it’s not criminalized, it’s

treated as something that needs to be

addressed through means other than

the criminal system,” King continued.

Seeking alternatives to incarceration

does not mean abandoning accountability.

As a society, we will always need

ways to address harm that is caused, but

the U.S. criminal legal system and incarceration

rarely do a good job of making

anyone feel whole,” Lee said. “Locking

people up doesn’t result in healing for

either the person who was harmed or

for the responsible party. Creating more

possibilities to address the harm itself

will result in much better outcomes for

everyone involved.”


Prison Policy Initiative


Prison Policy Initiative produces national

and state level research and data about

incarceration in prisons, jails and other

detention facilities.

Sentencing Project


The Sentencing Project works to minimize

imprisonment and criminalization by

promoting racial, ethnic, economic and

gender justice.

Worth Rises


Worth Rises works to dismantle the prison

industry, expose the commercialization of

the criminal legal system, and organize

to protect the economic resources of

impacted communities.



Families Against Mandatory Minimums

was founded in 1991 to challenge mandatory

minimum sentences. It continues to

work to create a more fair and effective

justice system.

Innocence Project


The Innocence Project works to free the

innocent, prevent wrongful convictions

and create fair, compassionate and equitable

systems of justice.

Black and Pink


Black and Pink is a prison abolitionist

organization that supports LGBTQ and HIVpositive

people who are incarcerated.



Dream.org focuses on ending mass incarceration,

stopping climate change, and

alleviating economic inequality.



The American Civil Liberties Union works

through litigation and lobbying to defend

and preserve individual’s guaranteed

constitutional and legal rights.

Unlock the Box:


An advocacy campaign aimed at ending

solitary confinement, a UN-recognized

form of torture, in U.S. prisons, jails,

detention, facilities and juvenile facilities.

Empowerment Avenue


Empowerment Avenue works to normalize

the inclusion of incarcerated writers

and artists in mainstream publications

and venues. It supports writers and artists

in prisons and helps them place and get

compensated for their work.

National Disability Rights



The National Disability Rights Network is

the only legally based advocacy organization

established by Congress to protect

the rights of people with disabilities,

including those who are incarcerated.



Look2Justice is a grassroots organization

of system-impacted organizers and

researchers who use an inside-out organizing

model to cultivate justice, fairness

and accountability in Washington state’s

criminal legal system.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 29

Still Doing Life

25 Years Later

by Howard Zehr

In the early 1990s, I interviewed and

photographed 75 men and women

serving life sentences in Pennsylvania.

Fifty of these were included in the

book, Doing Life: Men and Women

Serving Life Sentences in 1996. In

2017, I was able to revisit 22 of these

same men and women, re-interviewing

them and making new portraits.

Conversations focused on life sentences,

what they had learned and how they

were coping. The 2022 book Still Doing

Life: 22 Lifers 25 Years Later (co-author

Barb Toews; The New Press) presents the

portraits and interview selections from the

two years side-by-side.

The primarily goal with this project has

been to humanize people, encouraging

thought and dialogue about crime, justice

and life sentences drawing upon real

people instead of the usual stereotypes

and generalizations.

My similar book project, Transcending:

Reflections of Crime Victims (Good Books,

2001), did the same with violence survivors.

Taken together, these projects reflect

the restorative justice philosophy that

guides my work as well as that of coauthor

Barb Toews.

30 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Yvonne Cloud

1990s: “A life sentence is like nothing to hold on to. It’s

like being in total darkness and you don’t know if the

light is ever going to shine through. But although I’m

in a bad situation, there are people in worse situations

than mine. I’d rather have a life sentence and be alive

than be on the streets dead.”

2017: “If I could turn back the hands of time and make

a difference choice, I would. But I can’t. I took a life.

Now I try to save lives. It has taken me many years to

forgive myself for the wrongs that I’ve done. I didn’t

have any right to take the life of another human being

-— and I have deep remorse for doing so.”

Aaron Fox

1990s: “Life without parole is a death sentence without

an execution date. It is doing something you don’t want

to do, being with people you don’t want to be with,

being somewhere you don’t want to be. Not having

your fate within your control.”

2017: “I have to confess, I’ve been blessed with a

good life, even in prison. This has come primarily

through prayer. And I have a vision, I have a future.

You have to have a dream in life and the ability to

realize it by putting a plan together.

“I try to be what I say I am and I think I’ve been pretty


ZEKE FALL 2023/ 31

Marilyn Dobrolenski

1990s: “A life sentence is like fishing. The river looks calm and you forget to drop the

anchor. You don’t realize that your boat has started to drift into the rapids. Then you get stuck

in a whirlpool. Just about the time you think you’re able to break free of it, the water sucks

you right back down.”

2017: “I get through one day at a time. I’ve been busy with the dog program for 14 years

now, since it started. It gives you a chance to give back to the community and see what these

dogs do for the people they’re with.”

32 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 33

Harry Twiggs

1990s: “From what I hear from people who come in, they talk about me on the streets as if I’m

dead. A life sentence, in essence, is death. It’s one step away from it. It doesn’t have to be that

way. I took a life, but I can save lives now if I’m given a chance.”

2017: “We are all blessed with two lives. The first life we live, we make all the mistakes. We commit

crimes, we hurt people. Once we wake up and move into our second life, we can draw from

the first life and learn our mistakes. Not only can you help yourself, you are able to help other

people. My job is to plant a seed for changes.”

34 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 35

Gaye Morley

1990s: “A life sentence is a vacuum. Everything is being sucked out of me, leaving me nothing.

I know I have to fight that. I have to create a whole world within myself and hopefully be able to

spread that to those around me.”

2017: “You can’t undo what you did. All you can do is try and make yourself a better person and

contribute to something worthwhile, try and keep that compassion and reach out to anybody you

can. I’m grateful that I have not allowed the years here to harden me. It has made me an even

more sensitive and peace-seeking soul.”

36 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 37

The Prison Within

by Katherin Hervey

& Massimo Bardetti

These photographs were taken

inside San Quentin Prison during

the filming of The Prison Within

documentary; contrasting the

healing and community created

by the men inside, with the cruelty

and isolation of mass incarceration.

Prisons represent the darkest parts

of ourselves, where we lock away that

which is most difficult to confront—the

poor, the addicted, the other, anybody

or anything that slightly threatens our

sense of safety.

Using trauma-informed restorative

justice models based in accountability

and compassion, the men pictured here

— Sam J., Eddie, H., Michael N., Nate

C., Phoeun Y., and Barry S. — are

showing us another way. Their courage

and commitment to healing and

forgiveness reveal how every one of us,

on both sides of the wall, can break out

of our own personal prisons.

Barry S: Nothing can change unless I

change myself. I’m going to keep working

on me. I want to be the best man I can in

here, and the best man I can if I ever make

it onto the streets.... I fear growing old and

dying in here. That’s my biggest fear.

38 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Sam J: What’s important is connecting

the dots from my childhood to adulthood.

Going through that pain. Going through

that fire. And accepting it and being a better

person to give to society and to myself.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 39

Phoeun Y: I want to give the full me to

everyone. And the full me is the person

that can help in any way I can. To lead

by example. To love. To care. To be


40 / ZEKE FALL 2023

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Nate C: I have a 60-to-life sentence and

the one thing I desire the most is to one

day be a father and a husband. To be

back in society and make a difference.

Michael N: What I desire the most is to

not be defined by my poor choices in

life. To be seen by the opportunities that I

create to give back to my communities and

create healing in the world.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 41

42 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Absence of Being

by Michele Zousmer

In August 2014, San Diego Sheriff

Bill Gore spoke to me about a new

reentry program starting at Las

Colinas Detention and Reentry Center

for women. He asked me if I could

‘change the perception of the female

convict with my images.’ The following

week I entered Las Colinas open to this

new challenge.

Listening to the women I quickly realized

they were all victims of physical,

emotional, and/or sexual abuse. They

all experienced hardships and suffered

deprivation. As an observer, I heard their

tales and felt their pain. My heart hurt for


As my involvement deepened, my

relationships with these women grew.

I shared the grief I was feeling being

recently widowed. They appreciated

my expressing vulnerability. I encouraged

them to discard their shame and

not allow incarceration to define them. I

showed up for them.

Reentry is a big challenge in the judicial

system. Women’s issues are different.

Many women are single parents who

will be reunited with their children. Their

criminal behavior was associated with

negative self-esteem from their complicated

histories. I gave them hope. I made

them smile.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 43

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ZEKE FALL 2023/ 51



by Lou Jones

Portraits from Death Row

The Final Exposure project started for me

at about age 15 when I argued on the

issues of the death penalty with my father.

Throughout the Civil Rights movement, the

Vietnam War, in college, and afterward,

it stayed with me. Six years of my life

have been devoted to documenting the unseen,

unheard stories of an American subculture –

people on death row. I wanted to see if art could

make a difference. I realized before I began that

we don’t have to travel halfway around the world

to find some unique phenomenon or recently discovered

civilization to pique our jaded curiosity.

The problem of our government-sanctioned murder

lives with us.

My crew and I endured bone-chilling snowstorms,

cheap motels, greasy meals, and numerous

episodes of having our bodies frisked in

order to bring this story to light. We explored the

darkest side of the human condition even though

it was our objective to humanize the people that

the federal government and the states execute.

We made sure we understood who was being

killed in order to start a real debate about capital

punishment. Many of the men/women are stoic

when marching to their demise. But even though

we admire the stamina that it takes to endure this

ordeal in the super-macho environment, these are

not heroic voyages these men are taking. And we

must never be seduced into thinking otherwise.

Edward Dean “Sonny”


Florida State Prison

Starke, Florida

Year of birth: 1945

Marital status: Single

Children: None

Date of offense: April 11, 1981

Sentenced to death: January 12,


Status: Executed July 21, 1992 by


52 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 53

LaFonda Fay Foster

Fayette County Detention Center

Lexington, Kentucky

Year of birth: 1963

Marital status: Divorced prior to crime

Children: None

Date of offense: April 23, 1986

Sentenced to death: April 24, 1987

Status: Re-sentenced to life without parole,

January 1999

54 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Nicholas Yarris

State Correctional Institution at Greene

Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

Year of birth: 1961

Marital Status: Married while on death row

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Children: None

Date of offense: December 15, 1981

Sentenced to death: January 23, 1983

Status overturned: Exonerated January 2004

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 55

Jack Foster Outten, Jr.

Multi-Purpose Criminal Justice Facilty

Wilmington, Delaware

Year of birth: 1966

Marital Status: Single

Children: One

Date of offense: January 12, 1992

Sentenced to death: April 30, 1993

Status: Re-sentenced to 38 years in prison

56 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Walter Lee Caruthers

Riverbend Maximum Security Institution

Nashville, Tennessee

Year of birth: 1946

Marital Status: Married

Children: Two

Date of offense: October 11, 1980

Sentenced to death: February 8, 1983

Status: Died of natural causes in prison, January

30, 2017

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 57

Open Eyes Within Hidden Places

By April Harris

April Harris is an author who is incarcerated

at the California Institution

for Women in Chino, California. Her

experiences are a powerful insight

to advocate for incarcerated people

and the betterment of their environment.

She has been interviewed

by LA Weekly, The Guardian, San

Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post,

and Solitary Watch, among many

other outlets.

Although I know it’s coming, I can

never really prepare myself for

the succession of loud popping

sounds at 6:00 a.m. every morning.

It feels like a thousand jarring pops

although the number of metal doors

being opened is only 60.

Sitting up in bed trying to steady my

racing heart, I realize that it is only the

sound of the unit being opened for us

to begin our daily program. I squint as

I am temporarily blinded as a guard

shines his flashlight into my cell for the

morning security check. I take a slow

look around at the brick walls. I stretch

and raise up from my metal bed and

place my feet on the concrete floor. My

name is April Harris and I am currently

a resident of California Institution for

Women. I have been incarcerated north

of three decades.

As I make my coffee the thundering

sound of footsteps stampede by my

door as 120 women compete for the

eight showers available to our unit. The

repetitiveness of this program every

day takes a mental toll. The knock that

is about to take place on my door in...

one...two...three...four...(knock) is so

expected. A friend of mine wants to

know if I would like for her to save me

a spot in line. The shower line in the

morning is our daily newspaper. It is

here where we find out what fights are

going to happen today, what guards

were disciplined and walked off, who

is going to the parole board.

Most of this information is

unsolicited but you stand

there and do your best to

close your ears without using

your hands. The less you

know the better.

Just moments after the

unit opens at 6:15 a.m., an

announcement is made for

chow release. Directly in

front of the chow hall there is

a metal corral that looks like

it was once used for cattle.

You are made to enter it and

form a line. From a distance

you can hear the loud chatter

from the different conversations

all being had at one

time. While in line you try

your best to focus on the

fresh crisp morning air and

not be affected by the violation

of your personal space

as you are all packed in tight

like a can of sardines.

A guard is giving a signal for ten

women at a time to enter the chow

hall. The rest of the line moves forward

through the corral maze. Women are

leaning back on the metal bars holding

their state-issued cup and spoon in their

hands—the only thing you are allowed

to bring with you to chow. Some women

are still half asleep as others are overly

animated while telling their morning

tales. Once inside you are immediately

slapped with the smell of fresh onions

and sewage. You encounter a long steel

wall that seems to go on forever. At the

end of this steel wall your tray appears

out of a small rectangular hole. The

yelling guards directing traffic, the extra

bright flickering lights, and shouts coming

from behind the steel wall becomes

a symphony as the trays find their

rhythm and slam together.

Once seated you are finally able to

58 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Photographs by Michele Zousmer

discover that in their haste the kitchen

workers have mixed together most of

your food. They have also either forgotten

to give you something, or gave you

a portion significantly smaller than the

person seated next to you. For some

women this is the only food they will

have until dinner at 5:45 p.m. Some

women will take their tray back to complain,

however, most women will just

accept their fate and eat what they can

while picking out what they cannot.

Most of the food is unrecognizable

and you will oftentimes find leftovers

from dinner floating around as goulash

for breakfast. You are not given basic

salt and pepper to spice up your meal.

Attempting to bring your own spices

will result in disciplinary measures.

A World Inside of a World

Once finished you are escorted out of

the chow hall where they hand you a

clear plastic bag containing a sandwich,

a small bag of sunflower seeds,

and a sugar-free Kool-Aid pack. As

you slowly walk to inspect the contents

of your lunch, you look up to see four

female guards wearing latex gloves

waving you over to search you. You

stand in front of them with your arms up

as they search your body to ensure that

you did not bring out anything from

your tray. Trying to disconnect yourself

from this early morning violation of

your body as you vow to never come

back to this chow hall ever again.

Walking away you cannot help but

notice the huge pile of food and cartons

of milk on the ground, trashed and

confiscated by the guards.

Around 7:45 a.m. every morning a

piercing scream rings throughout the

unit as a guard announces program

release. The PA system would suffice but

of course it would have taken away their

power and control to scream instead.

Everyone in prison is assigned to a job

or a class. Failure to show up more than

one minute late will result in disciplinary

measures taken against you.

Program release is an interesting

time. Throughout the prison, jobs

and classes are starting. Women are

pouring out from different buildings. It

looks like a freeway as traffic moves

at an alarming rate. I stand still amid

the traffic as I take in my surroundings.

Looking around I cannot help but notice

that this is a world inside of a world.

Shot callers are out dealing drugs.

Prison-made families move about as

one unit. The innate desire for women

to nurture has them walking around

talking baby talk to lizards, smothering

them with kisses.

I watch women handle their time

in different ways. You have the

”Grouper.” This person spends their

entire waking moment attending selfhelp

groups. Their only goal is to do

what is required of them for a second

chance at freedom. Then there are the

women who exercise all day. At any

point throughout the day this person

will run past you at least twice, regardless

where you are in the prison. This

is their coping mechanism and a very

strategic way to isolate themselves from

everyone else. I see women dressed in

their finest state-issued clothing on their

way to visiting to spend a few hours

with their loved ones, only to leave

heartbroken having to say goodbye.

As the traffic intensifies I close my

eyes and tune in to the chatter.

“I finally passed my GED. I had to

take it six times.”

“Did you go to graduation in the

auditorium last night?”

“Everybody who went to board

yesterday was found suitable except

for Ashley. I knew she wasn’t going to

get it.”

“Our unit got raided last night and

the dog left his paw prints all over my


The flow of traffic reveals their

secrets as everyone rushes to get to

their destinations.

The sound of the alarm jolts me as

ten guards run past me, screaming for

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 59

us to get down. I immediately drop to

the ground where I will remain until the

alarm stops.

Sometimes these alarms can last

up to an hour. If it is raining, we are

forced to sit in the same spot and watch

a puddle form around us. The reasons

for the alarms vary from medical, to

fights, to a disruptive prisoner. Time

freezes as I think about how sad this

place is.

A lot of women in here are on drugs

or addicted to alcohol. It is their coping

mechanism. They feel that it is what

is needed to get through this mental

torture chamber.

I have seen a coping mechanism

that is even worse. Some of these

women have denied that this world

even exists. They have mentally created

a world of their own. Believing in

the world they have created so much

that they are now lost in it. Anything to

find a different reality other than their

own. They speak of children that have

passed away as if they were still alive.

Women who deny that they have a life

term will try to convince you that they

are going home any day now. Women

who believe that they are receiving

letters from home, when no one has

written to them in years.

Television shows could never truly

capture the ways that the mind will find

to adapt to an environment such as this.

A woman took out her own eyeball and

ate it in front of staff. In England long

ago, they proved that isolation causes

mental issues. Their prison was called

“The Stir,” hence the phrase “stir crazy.”

The highs and lows of what I see and

hear on a daily basis are exhausting.

Hoping for a Lifeline

Once the alarm clears everyone rises,

hundreds of women brushing off their

clothes from being on the ground.

Traffic is back in full swing. Brushing

my clothes off I can’t help but think

about my own issues. When I was first

arrested, I screamed my innocence

from the rooftops, hoping and praying

someone would believe me. But when

I entered the county jail, every rooftop

was occupied with someone else

screaming their own innocence.

I could no longer hear my own

screams as I watched all claims of

innocence become a joke to all who

heard them. I have been denied

parole numerous times because the

panel believes that my claims of

innocence are implausible and I have

no insight. Heading to class I remind

myself to hold on because better days

are coming.

When class is over I rush back to

my unit so I can get in the shower line

before count. At 3:30 p.m. a loud

horn that sounds like a boat leaving

the dock sounds throughout the prison.

This is the signal for recall. Everyone is

ushered like cattle into their units where

we prepare to stand and be counted.

This is also the time where most of us

discover that the guards have searched

our cells. I take this time to clean up

the mess they made, talk to my family

on my prison-issued GTL tablet, and

prepare myself for my self-help group at

5:00 p.m.

When count clears at 4:30 p.m.,

the same succession of loud pops open

the doors. Again, the traffic is high as

women move at a rapid pace. I sit in the

day room and socialize with my friends

for 30 minutes. Women utilize the kiosks

and video chat with their families. A

movie plays on the TV and an argument

happens somewhere close by.

The day of the week dictates which

self-help groups are being held. All

groups end at 7:30 p.m. when another

loud horn blows letting us know that

everything on the yard is closed and

everyone must return to their units.

Once in our unit, we have 45 minutes

to do whatever we need to do before

we are locked in for the night.

Once the doors lock at 8:45 p.m.

we are left alone with our thoughts, our

choices, and our regrets.

As I drift off to sleep I play out different

scenarios of things I could have

done differently in life. I pray and

hope that I will be thrown a lifeline, an

opportunity to choose again.

60 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Visual Stories About Global Themes

Photo by Scott Brennan from Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico

Social Documentary Network

SDN Website: A web portal for

documentary photographers to

create online galleries and make

them available to anyone with an

internet connection. Since 2008,

we have presented more than

4,000 documentary stories from

all parts of the world.


ZEKE Magazine: This bi-annual

publication allows us to present

visual stories in print form with indepth

writing about the themes

of the photography projects.


SDN Salon: An informal gathering

of SDN photographers to

share and discuss work online.

Documentary Matters:

Online and in-person, A place

for photographers to meet with

others involved with or interested

in documentary photography and

discuss ongoing or completed


SDN Education: Leading

documentary photographers and

educators provide online learning

opportunities for photographers

interested in advancing their

knowledge and skills in the field

of documentary photography.

SDN Reviews: Started in April

2021, this annual program brings

together industry leaders from

media, publishing, and the fine

art community to review work of

documentary photographers.

ZEKE Award: The ZEKE Award

for Documentary Photography

and the ZEKE Award for Systemic

Change are juried by a panel of

international media professionals.

Award winners are exhibited

at Photoville in Brooklyn, NY and

featured in ZEKE Magazine.

Join us!


ZEKE FALL 2023/ 61


Jamel Shabazz, a Brooklyn-born Army veteran

and master of street photography, is best

known for portraying African American communities

over the years, crushing stereotypes

and shining a light on the humanity he saw

with his lens. His work has been published

in books, shown in exhibitions, and used in

editorial magazines. What many do not know

is that the New York City icon had a career as a

correctional officer at Rikers Island, a maximumsecurity

jail housing thousands of incarcerated

men and women, and that Shabazz took photographs

of the residents, showing true empathy

for the struggle in front of him every day. I sat

down to ask the legend about his experiences

inside a jail, and his life’s work.

Photo by Mike McCoy


By Ryan M. Moser

Ryan M. Moser: What was it like

being a corrections officer at Rikers


Jamel Shabazz: Being a correctional

officer was the most challenging

experience I have ever encountered. I

actually became an officer as a result

of my father prompting me to take

a number of city exams when I was

discharged from the U.S. Army. For

his generation, city jobs were equal

opportunity careers with good benefits

and were welcoming to veterans.

No amount of training nor research

that I had done over the years would

prepare me for what I was exposed

to; however, I took the assignment as

a necessary journey and embraced it.

As a result of my Army experience,

I understood the importance of leadership

and discipline, two attributes

that provided me with a firm foundation.

I also had two close friends who

were falsely accused of crimes they

did not commit, and both served time

on Rikers Island in the late 1970s. It

was through my conversations with

them that I became keenly aware

that there were a number of innocent

people who were incarcerated, but

at the same time I was not so naive to

think that all detainees were innocent.

Honestly, I really had no idea what

I was getting involved in. Watching

the film Short Eyes, by Miguel Pinero

provided a serious glimpse into the

violent world of the NYC Department

of Correction. The correction academy

at that time was on Rikers Island,

and the racial mix of the recruits was

evenly balanced between Blacks,

Whites and Hispanics, a handful of

women, and a number of veterans.

The instructors were all seasoned

officers, many being former hostages

during the riots of the 1970s. Hearing

about their experiences allowed me to

see the seriousness of the job.

Upon graduating from the academy,

I was assigned to the Adolescent

Reception Detention Center. This facility

housed adolescent pretrial detainees,

the overwhelming majority awaiting

court as many had bails they could

not afford to pay, and a few had been

convicted and were waiting to go to

the state prison where they would carry

out their sentences. What I noticed

about many of the officers and supervisors

assigned there, was the fact that

a lot of them were Vietnam veterans,

and they were very serious in their

dispositions. My first real encounter

with inmates put me in shock. I recall

walking toward the receiving room (the

first stop in the jail for arriving inmates)

and there was a large bullpen, packed

to capacity, standing room only, and

with about 80 teens awaiting court

appearances. In this mix I saw the

helpless faces of young men looking

terrified because of the stronger and

more aggressive cellmates and what

they might do to them. I knew then that

I was up against a serious challenge,

and I had to find a way to navigate

through this madness and create a

system that would work for me.

One of the very first posts I was

assigned to was “The Bing,” aka

solitary confinement. It was a separate

area, where detainees who had

committed infractions were being held,

locked in their cells for 22 hours a day,

and let out only for a phone call, a

shower, and a little recreation. Every

housing area had 60 inmates and two

officers. To my surprise, when I entered

the housing area, I saw a number of

familiar faces from my neighborhood,

and many of them I had photographed

months earlier. The whole experience

was bittersweet, as there was relief

that I did know a few folks, but yet

painful seeing them in such conditions.

Many of them would provide me with

helpful insights, such as telling me the

ins and outs, and who to be mindful

of. One of the things I also found very

interesting as a new officer was that

during the daily cell searches, on many

occasions I would see photographs of

what I believe were the fathers of the

detainees in military photographs; most

looked like they were taken in Vietnam.

Adolescent, pretrial detainees find a moment of joy despite

the daily hardships of incarceration. Adolescent

Reception Detention Center, Rikers Island. 1986. Photo

by Jamel Shabazz.

62 / ZEKE FALL 2023

venture and if poor people and

people of color had more equality in

society perhaps the prisons and jails

would not have been so full. Illegal

drugs have intentionally been placed

in poor communities from heroin

to crack to cocaine, and the users

needed treatment not incarceration.

RM: Do you see a parallel between

the Jim Crow era following the Civil

War and the mass incarceration of

Black people in America today?

A young detainee connecting with the outside world, while another detainee prepares to hand wash his clothes.

Adolescent Reception Detention Center, Rikers Island. 1986. Photo by Jamel Shabazz.

RM: What was it like being a Black

corrections officer having to patrol

mostly Black prisoners?

JS: Being a Black corrections officer

was extremely painful and depressing.

I saw so many young men of color in

bondage and brokenness throughout

my 20-year career. I felt caught in the

middle at times as the majority of the

detainees viewed me and officers in

general as the enemy. On the other

end, officers, particularly the racists,

both uniform and brass, saw all

inmates as “Mutts.” I will never forget

when I was gathering up my housing

area of approximately 60 adult detainees

in the corridor to escort them to the

mess hall, when a known racist supervisor

heard me refer to them as “gentlemen.”

He flew into a rage, and the

next morning at a roll call, stating how

he overheard an officer refer to inmates

as gentlemen. Looking me dead in my

face, he said “They are not gentlemen,

they are mutts and animals and if I ever

hear one of you say that I will come

after your job.” That is when the reality

of what I was dealing with hit me.

After that incident, those in the

uniform force who held racist views,

or officers in general who just hated

all detainees, kept an eye on me. I

came from a very different world than

many of my co-workers, as I still lived

in the neighborhood and had a sincere

concern for my community and how so

many young men were getting caught

in the system. As a Black officer I could

not stand by and not use my voice

and position to help guide young men

who might have made a bad decision,

which got them locked up. For me it

was deeper than just the care, custody,

and control of them. It was my assignment

and responsibility to try to put

them on a better path and I was in a

unique position to help turn the lives of

these broken young men around, so

that they could go on to be better citizens.

I stressed having dignity despite

their circumstances and told them that

when they walk with me, they must be

erect, with no hands in their pockets,

chest out, stomach in, something that

was instilled in me during my time

in the service. Many under my care

appreciated the discipline and sense

of pride, and later in life when I would

see them, they told me how I changed

their lives around, by the guidance and

example I showed them.

RM: What are your views on the

criminal justice system/incarceration

today in America?

JS: The criminal justice system is completely

flawed in that it has contributed

to the destruction of countless lives

over the many decades. Mass incarceration

has always been big business

from slavery through today. The prison

industrial complex is a money-making

JS: Yes. During the Jim Crow days,

cheap labor fueled the economy.

African Americans were often targeted

under the vagrancy laws and in

many cases, especially in the South,

railroaded without legal representation

and placed in the system to work

for little or nothing under some of the

harshest conditions, which mirrored

slavery. Very little has changed from

that time until now. Through lack of

employment and educational opportunities

due to systemic racism over

the many decades, many African

Americans have been trapped. So

much could have been gained, after

World War II, if Blacks would have

benefitted from the GI Bill like White

Americans. White soldiers became

homeowners and students in universities,

thus allowing them greater opportunities

and chances to create generational

wealth. However, due to blatant

discrimination against Blacks, many of

those opportunities were not provided

and families found themselves stuck in

poverty. Illegal drugs were introduced

into Black neighborhoods, from heroin

throughout the 1950s thru 1970s,

to crack in the 1980s. This devastated

African American communities

throughout America destroying lives

that needed rehabilitation, but instead

got incarceration with unfair prison

sentences that made matters even


RM: Having worked at Rikers Island

for 20 years, how do you feel about

its closing now?

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 63

An adult detainee is escorted to the courtroom to await his fate. NY State Supreme Court. Manhattan. 1998.

Photo by Jamel Shabazz.

JS: Closing Rikers Island and spending

six billion dollars of taxpayers money

to create four smaller jails throughout

the city is not going to solve the problems

that plague Rikers. What really

needs to change is management and

leadership. Rikers has 413 acres of

land and numerous facilities that could

be used to help those who are suffering

from mental illness. Well over 40

percent of those who are incarcerated

on the Island are suffering from some

form of mental illness and trauma. With

the closing of mental health facilities

throughout the country, jails and

prisons become places where many

people suffering from mental illness

are placed. These folks, like many of

those battling with addiction, need to

be placed in special facilities to help

them because incarceration only exacerbates

the problem. With so many

mentally ill people both incarcerated

and homeless on the streets, Rikers

could even be that place to give them

the treatment they need to better adjust

in society. The money being considered

to build new jails will then be used to

build assisted living housing for those

in need, along with general housing

for the over 70,000 homeless New


Another major problem creating

havoc on Rikers Island is gang culture.

Rather than seeking a way to remedy

the problem, the leadership came up

with this questionable solution of housing

gang members together, thus giving

each individual gang more power.

More guidance counselors, mentors,

former gang members, and social

workers are needed to help these

young men and women navigate their

life to reenter society. Sadly, for so

many, the gangs are the only families

they have and if there is no intervention,

they will continue to engage in

self-destructive ways and upon their

release, return back to the city streets

much worse. With the various functional

jails on Rikers Island, money

could be spent to refurbish them,

creating schools and job training to

give those confined a better chance in

returning back to society.

RM: You have said that you use your

photographs as a form of protest.

What advice would you give to incarcerated

artists and writers as they try

to have a voice against injustice?

JS: I recently read the book Solitary:

Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary

Confinement by Albert Woodfox.

Albert spent nearly 44 years in

solitary confinement under some of

the worst conditions imaginable in

Louisiana. Despite all the many trials

and tribulations during his incarceration,

he remained steadfast and turned

a negative into a positive with his writings

and unwavering voice. Albert,

who has since passed away, served

as a great example for those presently

incarcerated to use their voices and

experiences to shed light on a broken

and violent system, in hopes that it

could create awareness and inspire

reform, while educating the youth to

the horrors of incarceration.

There is so much talent behind

those prison walls. America is in a

major crisis now. We need all hands

on deck; conscious artists, poets,

writers, painters, photographers, and

motivational speakers both on the

inside and outside, to lend their voices

and creativity to address this growing

problem of mass incarceration and

help young people from falling into

the traps of incarceration.

RM: You stated once that photography

gave you a purpose. Do you think

that the arts can save incarcerated

people in that same way?

JS: Absolutely. I remember the story

about Valentino Dixon who spent

27 years in Attica State Prison for a

murder he didn’t commit. During his

imprisonment, he spent much of his

time drawing golf courses. Despite

never playing golf, he was able to

draw various and different courses

based on magazines he had on golf.

His case gained national attention

when he was profiled by Golf Digest

magazine and shortly afterwards the

staff of that publication, along with the

Georgetown University Prison Reform

Project, took an interest in him. This led

to the district attorney’s office revisiting

the circumstances surrounding his case,

which resulted in the actual murderer

confessing to the crime, thus gaining

him his freedom. That story alone can

serve as a great source of inspiration

for those battling for their freedom.

RM: When you took a picture of a

boy at the Brownsville train station

standing behind the steel bars, you

said that it felt like it was your responsibility

to lend a hand to kids who

were struggling. Is there anything you

could do for those same kids that are

now incarcerated?

64 / ZEKE FALL 2023

Subscribe to ZEKE today and

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There is so much talent behind

those prison walls. America is in a

major crisis now. We need all hands

on deck; conscious artists, poets,

writers, painters, photographers,

and motivational speakers both

on the inside and outside, to

lend their voices and creativity to

address this growing problem of

mass incarceration and help young

people from falling into the traps of


—Jamel Shabazz

JS: It is very challenging for me at

this particular point in my life as a

retiree, and trying to save so many

lives within my own immediate circle.

However, what I have done over the

many years has encouraged the next

generation of corrections officers, to

understand that they are in a very

unique position to mentor the young

people who are under their care. I let

them know that it is bigger than a paycheck,

and that there are a number of

young people who need help, and if

the circumstances are right, being that

guide could help save a life and allow

a person to return back to society a

better person.

RM: How important do you think it is

for people from a culture to tell their

own stories?

JS: It’s very important for people of all

cultures to tell their stories, who else

is going to do it properly? One of the

reasons that I got into photography

was because I knew that everyone that

I photographed had an important story.

Knowing that, mainly during telephone

conversations, I ask specific questions

regarding one’s backstory, and I am

amazed by the things that they share

with me. Earlier today, I was looking

at some of my original notes from the

1980s and 1990s, and I realized that

I have extensive handwritten notes

from countless Vietnam veterans that I

conversed with, along with prostitutes,

correction officers, and just everyday

people whom I met; each one sharing

precious insight, that goes beyond

anything I learned in school. I encourage

all of my students to act as journalists,

and get those important stories,

starting with their family members and

the people they meet on their journey,

much like the alchemist.

RM: You documented life at Rikers

Island with your photography for

many years. What was the biggest

impact from that, and is there one

Childhood friends from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn shopping on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of

Manhattan. 1985. Photo by Jamel Shabazz.

particular story that stood out to you

over the years?

JS: The biggest impact that I made

during my time on Rikers Island is

being brought to my attention [today]

via my social media feeds. A number

of formerly incarcerated young men

who I supervised during the 1980s

are reaching out to me, explaining

how I helped to transform their lives

through my mentorship and through

my photography.

One particular young man took an

interest in me. I would bring in newspapers

and magazines of substance and

encourage him to read, something he

told me he never had an interest in until

he met me. I stressed the importance

of taking advantage of the educational

opportunities while he was in jail, which

he did. I shared stories of redemption

and atonement and how it was

not too late to change his life around.

He explained that he never knew his

father, he was the oldest of four siblings

and how his mother used to take her

frustration out by physically abusing

him. She would fall victim to drugs, so

as the oldest he would engage in petty

crime to feed his younger brothers and

sisters, eventually landing him in jail. I

saw the good and potential in him and

I spent time providing him with guidance

throughout the time I supervised

him, until I was transferred to another

command. I would reconnect with him a

few years later and was impressed with

how he had grown into a productive

citizen, however still struggling due to

his past trauma. I decided to continue

the mentorship, and the only thing that I

required was that he stay out of trouble

and mentor other young men in the community,

which he would do for a number

of years, gaining great respect and

having a serious impact. Back in July, I

was informed that he passed away after

a long battle with diabetes, but a year

prior to his passing he gave an incredible

video testimony about the impact

that I had on his life, saying that, if it

were not for my intervention, he would

have been dead a long time ago.

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 65







Roger A. Mitchell Jr., MD and

Jay D. Aronson, PhD

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023

312 pages / $28.95

It’s a simple question, one that should

be easy to answer: How many

people in the United States have

been killed by police or died while in

the custody of the criminal system?

The frustrating answer is that no one

knows, because law enforcement agencies

and their allies don’t want us to

know, according to the authors of Death

in Custody: How America Ignores the

Truth and What We Can Do about It.

Roger A. Mitchell Jr. and Jay D.

Aronson provide details and data

about the alarming number of people

who have been killed during encounters

with law enforcement.

First, the details. While some were

gunned down and brutally beaten by

police officers, others “mysteriously” died

while confined in the horrible conditions

all too common in jails and prisons

across the country. Yet it is rare for law

enforcement agencies to be held accountable

for these preventable deaths.

One of the many examples the

authors present is from an investigation

by Mike Masterson, a young

journalist who has dedicated his

career to reporting what happens in

police precincts, mental health care

facilities, courtrooms, jails, prisons,

and medical examiners’ offices.

Masterson found that in Chicago’s

Harrison District police lockup, more

than 20 men were declared to have

died by suicide in police custody

over 20 months. The majority were

Black or Latinx, and seven of them

had been arrested for minor crimes.

According to the medical examiners,

10 had hung themselves with belts

and shoelaces, and most of them had

been locked up for only a few hours

before they died. Despite clear signs

of brutal treatment, no one was held

accountable, mainly because of the

medical examiners’ findings.

Second, where is the data?

Mitchell and Aronson point out that

one of the primary reasons for the

lack of accountability is the absence

of reliable information about those

who have died during encounters

with law enforcement. In addition,

they provide compelling evidence

that racist and biased ideologies

have motivated medical examiners

to either exclude or falsify autopsies

when a death incriminates the legal

system or political allies.

As it has become clear that these

injustices are not anomalies, activists

and journalists have pressed the criminal

justice system for greater transparency

and accountability, only to be met

with excuses for why it can’t be done.

But the authors point out that the U.S.

government has been able to track

every other type of death. The refusal

to account for those who have died in

prisons and jails, and at the hands of

police, speaks to the miniscule value

that law-enforcement agencies have

placed on communities of color who

are disproportionately being killed.

In response to this very real problem,

Mitchell and Aronson call for the

National Center for Health Statistics to

add a check-box to death certificates

for those who have died during interactions

with the criminal legal system.

They argue that in a democracy, citizens

should be able to figure out how

many people are killed during interactions

with law enforcement, why they

are killed, and whether training and

policies can be modified to decrease

the number of officer-involved deaths.

Without this data, citizens won’t be

able to analyze trends and demand

action. The result: no accountability.

Nearly all homicides committed by

police are written off as “justified,”

and people will continue to lose their

lives, all under the narrative of protecting

society from crime.

The refusal to account for those who

have died in prisons and jails, and

at the hands of police, speaks to the

miniscule value that law-enforcement

agencies have placed on communities

of color who are disproportionately

being killed.

This problem is hardly new. Death

in Custody provides readers with the

brutal history on which the U.S. criminal

legal system was built. Beginning

with the gruesome era following

the enslavement of Black people in

America, the book unpacks the history

of how Blacks were lynched by White

supremacists and then dehumanized

by racist narratives as a means

of justifying these barbaric acts of

murder. When Ida B. Wells and other

anti-lynching activists began to force

greater awareness of these atrocities,

the United States passed an anti-lynching

law. But the country also held onto

White supremacy, shifting from lynching

Blacks to a more professionalized

way of controlling and oppressing

communities of color — the criminal

legal system.

These days, when police shoot an

66 / ZEKE FALL 2023

unarmed person on the streets, there

likely will be media coverage. On

the other end of the spectrum lies the

silent indifference to the wellbeing

of people who are placed in their

custody, especially people of color. As

someone incarcerated in that system,

I have witnessed firsthand this routine

neglect. One example is how an

incarcerated student who had been a

part of a Black Prisoners Caucus educational

programs in Washington state

was inappropriately taken to solitary

confinement. According to prison staff,

the prisoner didn’t feel safe with other

prisoners in the main part of the facility.

Later, that prisoner committed suicide

by slitting his wrist with a razor.

On the surface, one may believe

the prison can bear no fault for the

prisoner’s suicide, but as Mitchell

and Aronson argue, negligence that

leads to death is inexcusable. Solitary

confinement is a place of punishment

and has never been a safe place for

prisoners. In addition, prisoners are

supposed to be thoroughly searched

before being placed in solitary confinement.

Despite this negligence, no

one was held accountable.

Death in Custody shows that from

the late 1800s until today, people

have died under the care of this

same criminal legal system. This book

reveals more than the obvious killings

that happen at the hands of violent

law enforcement officers -— it uncovers

the silent deaths that result from

neglectful prison staff who fail to do

their jobs. The point here is clear:

these unnecessary deaths will continue

to occur until there is a uniform way of

making our judicial system transparent

and accountable for what they do and

don’t do, for those in its care.

—Antoine Davis

Let the World See Your

Documentary Projects

Start uploading your projects

to the SDN website today

• Gain exposure for you and the issues you

are documenting

• Absolutely free for the first year.



The En Foco Photography Fellowship is

designed to support New York-based

photographers of color who demonstrate the

highest quality of work as determined by a

photography panel of peers and industry

professionals. The program awards 10

fellowships at $1,000 each, includes fellows in a

group exhibition, features them in the Nueva

Luz publication (printed and online editions),

and provides professional development and

networking opportunities.



En Foco’s Media Arts Fund: Work in Progress

(WIP) Initiative is a grant to support New York

City-based, early-career artists of color who

engage with digital media technologies in their

art-making processes. In collaboration with

BronxNet, these $2,000 awards will focus on

applicants needing support for the completion

of a quality work in progress.



Visit www.enfoco.org

for upcoming deadlines

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 67

displaced հատում

Ara Oshagan

Արա Օշական

Krikor Beledian

Գրիգոր Պըլտեան





By Ara Oshagan and

Krikor Beledian

Kehrer, 2022 | 160 pages | $45

Photographer Ara Oshagan and

author Krikor Beledian grew up

in Beirut’s Armenian communities

formed by refugees and survivors of

genocide. They came of age in families

and neighborhoods fraught with the



collective memory of extreme violence

and dispossession. Both left Beirut

decades ago and now return to immerse

themselves in its fractured urbanscape.

Oshagan captures dark and lyrical photographs

that bring scenes in the dense

neighborhoods of Bourj Hammoud to

life. Beledian, widely regarded as the

most important poet writing in western

Armenia, contributes a beautifully

written, semi-autobiographical essay

drawn from his youth. Displaced is a

unique symbiosis of deeply personal

work interrogating diasporic memory,

multi-generational displacement, and the

ambiguities of narrative.

Ara Oshagan has exhibited his work

worldwide. Following Traces of Identity

(2005) and Fatherland (2010), Displaced

is the third project of a trilogy of work

about identity and diaspora.


By Hinda Schuman

Daylight Books, 2023

128 pages | $50

Hinda Schuman is an awardwinning

documentary photographer,


and educator. In Done Doing Time,

Schuman documents life after prison

for two remarkable women, Linda

and Concetta. Her color photography

depicts scenes that illuminate their courage

and determination to walk past

the dealers and, instead, reunite with

family to overcome the obstacles stacked

against newly released prisoners. As

Concetta and Linda work towards their

individual goals in this new chapter of

life, they welcome Schuman into their

homes and share their lives and the

inevitable effects on their families as

they navigate this transition. Although

both women have faced real tragedy

and upheaval, they inspiringly continue

to remain true to their own hearts.

The author of the thoughtfully written

Forward, Magdelena Solé, is an awardwinning

social documentary photographer

and teaches photo workshops and

lectures internationally.


By Chris Maliwat

Daylight Books, 2022

128 pages | $45

New York City subways are part

of a 120-year-old transit system.

They’ve continued to operate

through humanity’s most trying times–two

World Wars, the Great Depression,

9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and most

recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Maliwat is a street-portrait

photographer who captures surreptitious

moments of everyday people on their

journeys in the cities where they live.

He has been photographing the New

York City subways for many years and

sharing his images on his Subwaygram

Instagram feed. This book, the artist’s first

monograph, is a collection of his favorite

portraits of subway riders captured using

his mobile phone two years before and

two years after the first case of COVID-

19 was confirmed in New York City.

He highlights the differences and yet

surprising similarities between the diverse

subjects using some of the most crowded

subways throughout this turbulent period

in human history.

68 / ZEKE FALL 2023




By Qween Jean, Joela Rivera,

Mikelle Street, and Raquel


Aperture, 2022 | 224 pages | $45

In June 2020, after a Black trans

woman in Missouri and a Black trans

man in Florida were killed just weeks

apart, activists Qween Jean and Joela

Rivera responded by returning to the

historic Stonewall Inn—site of the 1969

Stas Ginzburg

riots that The Stonewall launched Protests Anniversary the modern gay rights


June 2021

movement. There they initiated what

became known as the Stonewall Protests

— weekly gatherings, including marches,

voguing balls, and vigils that helped

center Black trans and queer lives within

the Black Lives Matter movement.

Revolution is Love compiles photographs,

interviews, and writing from

twenty-four photographers who participated

in these demonstrations. Their work

celebrates the power of shared joy and

struggle in this vibrant community fighting

for trans liberation.

This book is a monumental visual

record of a contemporary activist movement

and includes powerful images and

text by Ramie Ahmed, Lucy Baptiste,

Budi, Brandon English, Deb Fong, Snake

Garcia, Stas Ginzburg, Katie Godowski,

Robert Hamada, Chae Kihn, Zak Krevitt,

Erica Lansner, Daniel Lehrhaupt, Caroline

Mardok, Ryan McGinley, Josh Pacheco,

Jarrett Robertson, Phoenix Robles, Souls

of a Movement, Madison Swart, Cindy

Trinh, Sean Waltrous, Ruvan Wijesooriya,

and David Zung.



By Akintunde Akinleye

powerHouse, 2023

278 pages | $50

In the middle of the night on April

14, 2014, the terrorist group, Boko

Haram, abducted 276 girls from

their secondary school’s dormitory in the

town of Chibok, in northeast Nigeria.

Over the following days, 57 girls managed

to escape. For two years, 219

girls remained missing.

During the last four months of 2015,

in the heat of the worst of the insurgency,

Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, the CEO

of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation

(MMF) in Nigeria, embarked on a project

to interview, photograph, and document

the accounts of the parents of these missing

girls. The MMF’s team met with and

interviewed the relatives of 201 of them.

For the families of the girls, and for

the Chibok community, the trauma of this

experience remains a daily reality. The

Stolen Daughters of Chibok is a collection

of supplemental essays by acclaimed

experts and interviews and photographs

of 152 of the 210 Chibok families. This

book is a tribute to the girls and aims to

capture the truth of their lives before the

abduction and how their families have

struggled to cope since.

Above: Maryamu Dauda

Following spread: Rebecca Samuel


By Thurstan Redding

Thames & Hudson, 2023

144 pages | $50

Cosplay is a global phenomenon

where people express the power

of individuality and diversity

by dressing up as a character from a

movie, book, or video game.

After attending a cosplay convention

in 2017, photographer Thurstan Redding

became captivated by cosplay as a subject

matter and embarked on a three-year

photographic project to portray cosplay

in a When way my sister died, I was it beside had myself with never grief. She had been IT WAS HER seen DECISION before.

left behind three daughters whose father did not seem inclined

to raise them all by himself. I looked at the situation, those poor NOT TO MARRY

Brought children, and told myself to there life was only one through thing to do. the presentation of

I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. I had gone

Mary Peter

to grieve with the husband of my sister, leaving my own two

70 cosplayers unassuming locations,

girls at home, and I had returned with three more, including


Rifkatu, who was then barely ten years old and still in primary

school. What else could I have done? I have no doubt that if

Kids of Cosplay highlights how creativity

I had died first, my sister would have done the same for me.

Who else was going to look after the children? It’s the way

things are. Families look after each other. I accepted them

can thrive in most mundane realities:

with two hands, with my full mind.

That was years ago, and since then I have tried to bring up all

Spider the children like Man my own. It was not is so hard illuminated to love my sister’s by the open

children anyway. They are good kids. We lived well. Rifkatu,

especially, is a very gentle girl, well behaved and diligent. She

fridge quickly became in the leader a of kitchen, the children. three Alices wait at

Shortly after her primary school ended, I enrolled her a bus the Government stop Girls College, in Chibok. a Whenever desolate she came Wonderland, a

home from school, she took charge of the cooking, cleaning

and washing of clothes—all the domestic work, as befits a

Resistance girl who clean and doesn’t Pilot like dirt. She also plays farmed and dead on the gravel

knitted and sewed, using ankara fabrics to make clothes. She

was wearing one of her hand-made dresses on the day the

driveway terrorists took her away. of a suburban





She was given to so that I would look after her and she

would get married from my house. Who knows what will SENDING HER TO SCHOOL

Supplemented by commentary from

happen now? The fact is, Rifkatu did not want to get married.

She wanted to finish her education first. For her, that meant

more than simply earning her secondary school certificate.

Maryamu Dauda

the cosplayers themselves, together with

So most of the boys came and left, their dreams deferred.


Only one guy stuck around. They had a special friendship

and he really wanted to marry her but she kept saying she

behind-the-scenes pages from Thurstan’s

was not ready.

Just last night I dreamt of Victoria again. Among my ten

Ironically, his name is Yakubu, the same name as Rifkatu’s children, she is the second-born and the hardest worker.

personal father. When he heard diary, she had been abducted Kids from school, of She Cosplay would have become a better “celebrates

never have again. the unique community Sometimes I think that if Victoria spirit had gotten married that instead,

mother than I am. I feel

he was completely devastated. He called all the time, guilty sometimes, because I sent her to school. Sometimes I

sometimes just to cry. He said he had lost somebody he can think that if I hadn’t, Victoria would not have been kidnapped.

now I would be going to visit my daughter at her husband’s

He does not call anymore, though, and whether that means

house. Her best friend, Hajara, is married and she visits me

exists he has moved within on, I cannot say. I suspect this he angry charming―and, with the

from her husband’s house. the more

people who took her and the pain is too much for him. Calling

would bring memories.

My heart started to beat faster when they told me that my

daughter had been kidnapped. Victoria was afraid of Boko

you look, surprisingly moving―parallel universe

of glorious, generous been going to school, pageantry.”

and neither have the others. The


She was particularly close to her brother Joel. He has not

schools have been closed since the kidnapping.


64 65

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 69


Barbara Ayotte is the editor of ZEKE

magazine and the Communications Director

of the Social Documentary Network. She

has served as a senior strategic communications

strategist, writer and activist for leading

global health, human rights and media

nonprofit organizations, including the Nobel

Peace Prize- winning Physicians for Human

Rights and International Campaign to Ban


After 18 years as a public defender,

Sara Bennett turned her attention

to photographing women with life

sentences, inside and outside prison. Her

work has been widely exhibited in solo

shows including at the Blue Sky Gallery

in Portland, OR, and in group shows,

including the Blanton Museum of Art’s Day

Jobs, and featured in publications such as

The New York Times, Variety and Rolling

Stone’s “American (In)Justice,” and others.

Christopher Blackwell is an awardwinning

journalist currently incarcerated

at the Washington Corrections Center,

Shelton, WA. He is serving a 45-year

prison sentence for taking another human’s

life during a drug robbery—something

he takes full accountability for. He was

raised in a mixed Native American/White

family in the Hilltop Area of Tacoma,

Washington, one of the roughest places

to live in the country– ravaged by overpolicing,

gangs, violence, and drugs.

Daniela Cohen is a freelance journalist

and non-fiction writer of South African

origin based in Vancouver, Canada.

Her work has been published in New

Canadian Media, Canadian Immigrant,

eJewish Philanthropy, The Source

Newspaper, and Living Hyphen. Daniela’s

work focuses on themes of displacement

and belonging, justice, equity, diversity

and inclusion. She is also the co-founder of

Identity Pages, a youth writing mentorship


Antoine Davis is a licensed minister

at Freedom Church of Seattle currently

incarcerated at Washington Correction

Center, serving a 63-year sentence.

His writing has been published in

Counterpunch, The Appeal, Your Teen

Magazine, and many other outlets. Follow

Antoine on Twitter at @AntoineEDavis.

Marissa Fiorucci is a freelance photographer

in Boston, MA. She is former studio

manager for photographer Mark Ostow

and worked on projects including portraits

of the Obama Cabinet for Politico. She

specializes in corporate portraits and

events, but remains passionate about


A San Francisco native, Brian Frank

has created social documentary projects

across the Americas focusing on cultural

identity, social inequality, violence,

workers rights and the environment. A

Professor of Journalism and Catchlight

Global-Fellow, Frank has led visual

storytelling workshops for professional

educators and journalists across the USA

and children and teens in the U.S. and

Mexico and lectured on visuals-based

curriculum at universities nationwide. His

work has been recognized with numerous

awards and featured in many publications.

April Harris is an author who is

incarcerated at the California Institution

for Women in Chino, California. Her

experiences are a powerful insight to

advocate for incarcerated people and

the betterment of their environment. She

has been interviewed by LA Weekly,

The Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle,

Washington Post, and Solitary Watch,

among many other outlets.

Katherin Hervey is an artist and awardwinning

filmmaker interested in what is

hiding in the dark crevices of the American

landscape and collective psyches, believing

truth is found in the dark before it shines in

the light. Her first feature film, The Prison

Within, won eight awards. A thought

leader in criminal justice reform, Katherin

has been featured in various media

publications. Her mixed media artworks

and creative fiction have been showcased

in galleries and literary journals.

When not traveling, Lou Jones

exhibits at schools, museums, galleries,

libraries, and institutions around the

world. Throughout his career, Jones has

undertaken personal long-term projects,

such as Japan, tall ships, jazz, pregnancy

and photographing people on fourteen

death rows in the USA, resulting in two

books and many exhibitions. In recent

years, Jones has been documenting all 54

countries in contemporary Africa, trying

to change the narrative from stereotypical

negative topics of poverty, pestilence, and

conflict: www.panAFRICAproject.org.

Peter Merts’s photography spans

documentary, portrait, and fine art forms

and has been published in the New

York Times, the Washington Post, and

others. In 2015, Peter and Dr. Larry

Brewster published Paths of Discovery—

Art Practice and Its Impact in California

State Prisons (second edition.) In Spring

2022, Peter published a monograph of his

photographs as Ex Crucible: The Passion

of Incarcerated Artists. An archive of his

prison arts photographs can be found on


Ryan M. Moser is a formerly

incarcerated journalist and award-winning

writer from Philadelphia. His work can be

found on muckrack.com/ryan-moser.

Howard Zehr is Distinguished Professor

of Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite

University, VA. He is internationally

recognized as one of the founders and

leaders of restorative justice and has been

active as a professional photographer

throughout his career. His publications

include six photo books, including one on

children whose parents are incarcerated,

one highlighting Virginians and their

pickup trucks, and The Little Book of

Contemporary Photography, which

presents a meditative approach.

Michele Zousmer is a humanitarian

fine art photographer who uses her

camera as an instrument to amplify the

voices of marginalized individuals and

communities, conveying curiosity, love,

and the enduring hope within humanity.

Through cultivating genuine connections,

the soul of her images emerges — a

poignant reflection of shared humanity.

She aims to offer solace, empowerment,

and a dignified healing process by

exposing the innate strength and resilience

of the human spirit within each person she


70 / ZEKE FALL 2023

ZEKE FALL 2023/ 71




Call for Entries

FALL 2023 VOL.9/NO.2

$15 US



Published by Social Documentary Network

ZEKE is published by Social Documentary Network (SDN), a

nonprofit organization promoting visual storytelling about global

themes. Started as a website in 2008, today SDN works with thousands

of photographers around the world to tell important stories

through the visual medium of photography. Since 2008, SDN has

featured more than 4,000 exhibits on its website and has had

gallery exhibitions in major cities around the world.


Executive Editor: Glenn Ruga

Editor: Barbara Ayotte

Guest Editor: Christopher Blackwell

SDN and ZEKE magazine

are projects of Reportage

International, Inc., a nonprofit

organization founded in 2020.

Reportage International,

Inc. Board of Directors

Glenn Ruga, President

Eric Luden, Treasurer

Barbara Ayotte, Secretary

Dudley Brooks

Lisa DuBois

John Heffernan

Maggie Soladay

2023 ZEKE Award winners on display at Photoville, June 2023.

We will be giving two separate awards:

• ZEKE Award for Systemic Change

• ZEKE Award for Documentary Photography

Each awardee will receive $2,500,

featured in ZEKE magazine, & exhibition

Begin accepting submissions: Nov. 1, 2023

Deadline for submissions: January 12, 2024

Entry Fee: $30. Scholarships available.

Jurors to be announced.

Complete information available at:


72 / ZEKE FALL 2023

To Subscribe:


ZEKE does not accept unsolicited

submissions. To be considered for

publication in ZEKE, submit your

work to the SDN website either as

a standard exhibit or a submission

to a Call for Entries.

61 Potter Street

Concord, MA 01742 USA









Documentary Advisory


Bill Aguado, Bronx, NY

Catherine Edelman, Chicago, IL

Jill Foley, Silver Springs, MD

Lori Grinker, New York, NY

Michael Itkoff, Bronx, NY

Lou Jones, Boston, MA

Ed Kashi, Montclair, NJ

Lekgetho Makola, Johanesburg

Mary Beth Meehan, Providence, RI

Marie Monteleone, New York, NY

Molly Roberts, Washington, DC

Joseph Rodriguez, Brooklyn, NY

Jamel Shabazz, Hempstead, NY

Nichole Sobecki, Kenya

Jamey Stillings, Sante Fe, NM

Steve Walker, Danbury, CT

Frank Ward, Williamsburg, MA

Amy Yenkin, New York, NY

ZEKE is published twice a year by

Social Documentary Network, a

project of Reportage International,


Copyright © 2023

Social Documentary Network

ISSN 2381-1390


Michele Zousmer

Changing the Perception of

Women Prisoners

By Daniela Cohen

Michele Zousmer learned how to

use the camera by photographing

her son’s professional basketball

games, leading her to become the

school’s sports photographer. After her

son left for college, she participated in a

photo tour to Peru with a photojournalist.

There, she developed a love for using

her camera to tell a story. When Zousmer

returned home to San Diego, she decided

to volunteer her time photographing for

organizations close to her heart.

While photographing at a foster care

agency, she met Sheriff Bill Gore, who

told her about a new reentry program at

the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry

Facility. He asked her to help change the

perception of the female convicts through

her lens. Although she had no idea what

she would encounter, Zousmer was

always ready to embrace a creative challenge

and immediately agreed.

Aware of the stigma the women in

Photographer Michele Zousmer visits with an elderly

Romanian woman preparing for the harsh winter

while foraging for mushrooms.

the re-entry program faced because of

incarceration as well as the shame they

felt, she aimed to capture “their vulnerability,

their spirit, their beauty.” She

said people who saw the images were

surprised, commenting, “They look just

like you and me.”

Over the four years she spent photographing

at Las Colinas, Zousmer built

many relationships with the women she

met. She discovered that, before entering

Las Colinas, these women been through

very difficult experiences without much

support. “All of them were broken in

some way,” Zousmer said. “Some as

young people and some as teens and it

just continued into their adult life.” Her

own experience of being a young widow

helped Zousmer empathize with the

women’s pain and the unexpected turns

life could take.

“I really was so amazed that they let

me in, and they trusted me because they

said I showed up, I was there,” she said.

“Sometimes I’d come two or three times

a week. I would go at night, and it was

like we were having a pajama party.”

On one of these visits, Zousmer was

interrogated by the deputy sheriff about

photographing in the prison, and her

cameras were locked up. During this

experience, she felt firsthand the treatment

the women experienced on a daily

basis. “They just made me feel like nothing.

It was the most demeaning thing,”

she said. After reading April Harris’s

article in this issue of ZEKE magazine,

Zousmer realized nothing has changed.

Through her photographs at Las

Colinas, Zousmer aims to raise awareness

of the punitive nature of the women’s

prison system. “I feel very strongly about

restorative justice,” she said. “I believe

many of these women didn’t belong in

jail at all. I feel that these women deserve

a second chance.” In her view, the

Future Achievers In Reentry program

at Las Colinas is an important avenue

towards that.





61 Potter Street

Concord, MA 01742


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