Photography  

Life On The Outside

by Joseph Rodriguez

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Joseph Rodriguez is a Brooklyn-based photographer whose work has been exhibited in Germany, the U.S., and Sweden. His photo on this month’s cover is of a former inmate and recovering addict named Marcos who works in the bakery at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. “I’m a two-striker,” he says. “Because of my criminal record, [if I reoffend] I automatically get twenty-five to life with no possibility of parole. I’m trying to walk a straight line.”

Photographer Joseph Rodriguez grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and as a boy he watched the men in his family go in and out of prison. There were very few support programs for ex-felons at the time, and Rodriguez witnessed the difficulty his relatives had adjusting to life on the outside.

With approximately 2.2 million people currently behind bars in the United States and more than twice that many out on parole, the need to help former inmates reenter society has only grown. Several years ago, wanting to humanize the statistics, Rodriguez photographed the residents and clients of Walden House in Los Angeles. Founded in 1969 as a shelter for homeless adolescents, Walden House currently offers a wide array of services in LA and San Francisco, including programs for parolees and people with mental-health and substance-abuse disorders. For more information, visit healthright360.org.

This isn’t Rodriguez’s only experience documenting individuals caught up in the criminal-justice system. We published his photographs of incarcerated juveniles in our May 2004 issue. (The photographer himself was sentenced to Riker’s Island as a teen.) While taking these photographs at Walden House, Rodriguez says he saw how the program helped people recover and change their lives. Other images from the series can be viewed at josephrodriguezphotography.com.

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