Still Doing Life

22 Lifers, 25 Years Later

Side-by-side, time-lapse photos and interviews, separated by twenty-five years, of people serving life sentences in prison, by the bestselling author of The Little Book of Restorative Justice

“Shows the remarkable resilience of people sentenced to die in prison and raises profound questions about a system of punishment that has no means of recognizing the potential of people to change.” —Marc Mauer, senior adviser, The Sentencing Project, and co-author (with Ashley Nellis) of The Meaning of Life

“Life without parole is a death sentence without an execution date.” —Aaron Fox (lifer) from Still Doing Life

In 1996, Howard Zehr, a criminal justice activist and photographer, published Doing Life, a book of photo portraits of individuals serving life sentences without the possibility of parole at a prison in Pennsylvania. Twenty-five years later, Zehr revisited many of the same individuals and photographed them in the same poses. In Still Doing Life, Zehr and co-author Barb Toews present the two photos of each individual side by side, along with interviews conducted at the two different photo sessions, creating a deeply disturbing tableaux of people who literally have not moved for the past quarter century.

In the tradition of other compelling photo books including Milton Rogovin’s Triptychs and Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters, Still Doing Life offers a riveting longitudinal look at a group of people over an extended period of time—in this case with devastating implications for the American criminal justice system. Each night in the United States, more than 200,000 men and women incarcerated in state and federal prisons will go to sleep facing the reality that they may die without ever returning home. There could be no more compelling book to challenge readers to think seriously about the consequences of life sentences.

Praise

“As our country reckons with the devastating consequence of mass incarceration—the broken lives, families, and communities that result—this moving collection couldn’t be more timely.”
—Chesa Boudin, San Francisco district attorney
“Important and powerful. The U.S. calls itself a country of second chances, but too many individuals, mostly Black and Brown, are locked away for life and left to rot. A must-read for anyone interested in ending mass incarceration.”
—Marilyn Mosby, state’s attorney for Baltimore, Maryland
“A poignant look at the humanity behind the more than 200,000 individuals imprisoned for life, which should inspire us all to reform a sentencing landscape that has left our nation second to none in our rate and length of incarceration.”
—Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution
“A rare, compassionate, and bracing view into the personal meaning of life sentences for the people serving them. Few books have a temporal range that even begins to approach the length of the sentences they speak about. Still Doing Life invites us to consider deeply and differently the effect of long sentences and, I hope, to imagine what else might be possible.”
—Danielle Sered, executive director of Common Justice and author of Until We Reckon
“Moving beyond words. These photos and interviews confront our utter societal failure with the triumph of the human spirit, and call out to our shared humanity: When will the U.S. join the international community in respecting the ‘right to hope’ that would eradicate such life sentences?”
—Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Sevill Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia University, and author of Critique & Praxis

Goodreads Reviews