New photo essay: Coming home from prison

Jul 30, 2018

What happens to people after they are released from prison? That is the challenge featured in a photo essay at Buffalo's CEPA Gallery called, "Coming Home: Reentry After Incarceration."

The plight of formerly incarcerated people who are trying to re-enter society is not something we often see firsthand. Many are discriminated against simply for having served time in prison.

"You know, I thought people go to prison and, for the most part, the vast majority of people, they'll serve their time or whatever, they'll come out and they'll get involved in crime again and go back to prison," said local social documentary photographer Errol Daniels. "And I thought that's the way it was for everybody - most everybody goes back to prison. But these are people that didn't happen to them."

Daniels, along with writer Katherine Russell, created the exhibition running through Aug. 31 at CEPA. It delves into the lives of 22 people who are making the adjustment from prison back to their neighborhoods. Not one has returned to prison after their release.

Daniels said his views dramatically changed during the almost two-year period following his subjects.

"They each talked somewhat about their story, how they came to crime and how they decided, either in prison or out of prison or whatever, that they're not going to do this anymore, they're just not," he said. "They're not going to be an inmate. They're not going to be a wrongdoer."

The 22 people came from Western New York, Washington, D.C., and New York City and he found the majority of people who go back to prison do so because of parole violations. One of the goals of the photo-essay is to change people's minds about former inmates.

"I had met people who have been redeemed, really redeemed. Redemption is a reality," Daniels said. "And you hear about it, you talk about it, but to really meet someone who has done that, who has served 20-25 years in prison for killing a couple of people then coming out and being a model citizen afterward."