|Product Details |
From Publishers Weekly
A former inmate himself, Rodríguez (East Side Stories: Gang Life in East L.A.) follows a variety of teenagers, judges, public defenders, district attorneys, probation officers and social workers who make up California's juvenile court system. Framed by a searing introduction by the former editor of YO! (Youth Outlook), and by a short account of Rodríguez's own experiences in jail, it's almost impossible to approach these stark and somber photos with any other emotion besides deep sadness at how much the juvenile court system has moved from minimal rehabilitation to something much worse. In this 9½"×9¾" collection (which unfortunately lacks page numbers) of 91 duotone photographs, Rodríguez slowly focuses on particular individuals-such as Lance, who escaped being prosecuted as an adult, at age 15, only a few years before Proposition 21, or Katrina, who appears both preternaturally old in full makeup, or heart-tuggingly young while playing solitaire on her bed. The restrictiveness, deprivation and uncaring bureaucracy that these teenagers face comes through in photos of the bareness of a prison cell, words scratched into the arms and legs of a self-mutilating teen or a counselor demonstrating how to make a ridiculously thin bed on top of a wooden table. As Bernstein says, "What fuels [Rodríguez's] photographs of young people behind bars and on the street is his ability to look with them," providing exactly the kind of humanizing that the present system is fast losing. Certainly one of the most moving photographs in the book is Rodríguez's own 1968 mug shot: rumpled and defiant, he is also very, very young.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently reported that youth violence in inner cities is declining. However, even as violence declines, incarceration rates rise and prison terms lengthen. For his second powerHouse Books monograph, Juvenile, photographer Joseph Rodríguez spent several years following a dozen youths, from arrest, counseling, trial adjudication, and incarceration, to release, probation, house arrest, group homes, and the search for employment and meaning in their lives. Additionally, Rodríguez documented some of the people who work in the juvenile justice system: judges, public defenders, district attorneys, probation officers, and social workers. Many of these kids face great obstacles, including a criminal justice system with decreasing political interest in offering second chances for renewal. Through the power of his photographs, Rodríguez shows us how these kids struggle and how they fight to change their lives. “A couple of years ago my mother was cleaning out my old room when she came across some letters I had written back in the early 70s while I was incarcerated on Rikers Island. They were the usual prison letters of remorse and forgiveness. I look at these letters now and remember how I felt as a young man struggling to find my way. Coming out of prison was a daunting experience. I had been placed on probation for drug possession. There was little support for my transition back into society—the only advice my probation officer gave me was, ‘You better get a job.’ But I did get a second chance; I found photography. Eventually I moved out of the community where I had gotten into trouble, educated myself, and became a productive member of society. These experiences became my motivation for this documentary project.” —Joseph Rodríguez