February 4, 2016; Elite Daily
Humans of New York is one of those altruistic endeavors the Internet seems to agree should stick around. The blog and social media phenomenon created by Brandon Stanton has become more than just an afternoon pick-me-up from work. For the past several years, Stanton has been venturing out of New York to places all over the country and around the world to tell the very human stories of tragedy and triumph, and making some very real changes in people’s lives. After profiling brick slave laborers in Pakistan and refugees in Greece, Stanton is now spotlighting inmates in federal prisons across the Northeast in the U.S. Building on President Barack Obama’s recommended changes to the prison system two weeks ago, HONY’s new project may become a vital part of the criminal reform effort.
As with his other projects, Stanton snaps a picture of each subject and attaches a caption telling the viewer a little something about the person. Some stories are what you would expect to be involved in an inmate’s life, including repeat offenses, addiction, and abuse. However, like many stories of incarceration, they’re not black and white.
Other posts are meant to reveal a different side to incarceration and elicit an emotional response, even while affirming that the inmate should be in prison for their actions.
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In attempting to humanize the inmates, the project also touches on some of the key points of criminal justice reform that activists like President Obama have been fighting for, including eliminating mandatory sentencing for drug possession. As seen in this woman’s story, if accurate, the sentencing illustrates the issue of housing first-time, low-risk offenders for disproportionately long periods of time—25 years, in this case.
Given the current criminal reform–friendly climate, HONY’s project to highlight inmates’ stories is likely not unique. However, given his platform and incredible reach in the social media community, as the project further progresses, Stanton has the opportunity to continue to educate his readers on the realities of incarceration.—Shafaq Hasan