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Still Doing Life
25 Years Later
by Howard Zehr
Published September 2023
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 revist 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 co-author Barb Toews.
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.