Photo Essay “Life After Life in Prison” by Sara Bennett

Tracy waiting for counselor, Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Tracy, who served 24 years, waiting for a meeting with her counselor. Brooklyn, NY (2014).
“I have to go to three state-mandated programs. I like my individual counselor but all those programs is a lot of time. I feel most of it is a waste.”

“Life After Life in Prison” by Sara Bennett examines the lives of four women — Tracy, Evelyn, Carol, and Keila — as they return to society after serving anywhere from 17 to 35 years in New York State’s maximum security prison for women. While each of their stories is unique, they illuminate many of the problems inherent in today’s criminal justice system.

Bennett has been a public defender specializing in battered women and the wrongly convicted, a book author (“The Case Against Homework”), and anti-homework advocate (founding the non-profit Stop Homework).

The 32 large format prints are available as a traveling exhibition. Bennett conducts panel conversations with her four subjects, who talk about their experiences re-entering society after decades behind bars.

Coming up: “Life After Life in Prison: The Bedroom Project” is one of the solo exhibitions at Photoville in DUMBO underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, the largest free photography exhibition in the world. Photoville runs Thursday to Sunday, September 13 to September 23.

Tracy waiting for counselor, Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Tracy six months after her release. East Harlem, NY (2014).
“This is my third home in six months. I was at Providence House [a halfway house]. But my time was up after four months and I ended up at a three-quarter house. It was horrible. Then the uncle of my grandchildren, not related to me, took me in.”
Evelyn at home. Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Evelyn at home. Flushing, NY (2015).
“I share this house with six other women. I’m in a good room. I can look out my window and I’m at peace. But I’m looking forward to the day when I have my own apartment and I’m saving as much as I can.”
Keila living her cousin's home. Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Keila living in her cousin’s home after her release from prison. Long Island, New York (2014).
“My dad bought me this softball glove when I joined the prison team. He died while I was in there. Two officers transported me to the funeral home. I was in cuffs for 20 hours. He was the man I loved the most in this whole world. It just went all wrong. They made it worse.”
Keila and her girlfriend, Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Keila and her girlfriend, Tiffany, at their home. Long Island City, NY (2015).
Carol in her bedroom. Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Carol in her bedroom. Long Island City, NY (2015).
“I don’t know why they finally gave me parole on my sixth try. I had a good record. Maybe it’s because I’d had two heart attacks and I was expensive. You can’t make up for 35 years. The world is different; I’m different. I wasn’t going to do a ‘catch-up.’ How do you catch up for 35 years?”
Carol with her friends. Sara Bennett, Life after life in prison
Carol with her friends Kelly (left) and Tina, after being admitted for treatment for heart disease. Mount Sinai Hospital, Long Island City, NY (2015).
“My last three years in prison I spent on the RMU [Regional Medical Unit]. It’s like a mini hospital, but it’s really isolating. It’s worse than solitary. No one can visit you because everyone’s in their programs during scheduled visiting hours.”

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