A few years ago, Babita was driving through upstate New York on the way to photograph inside a prison with her client. They started talking about the arc of his life. Despite being a self-proclaimed liberal with no prior connection to the criminal justice system – up to that moment – Babita believed in capital punishment.
On that drive, Babita's client told her if New York State still had the death penalty at the time of his crime, he would have been eligible for it. Everything stopped for Babita. She realized if this man had gotten the death penalty, he never would have gone to school while serving his sentence, reprioritized his values, come home, met his wife and have the family he has with her. Nor would he be running an organization that has already changed the lives of hundreds of incarcerated women and men in New York, thousands of their family members, and hundreds of thousands of citizens in the communities they come from, all while saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
Babita's views on capital punishment flipped simply because she met someone and heard his story. She realized she was not the only person who could benefit from such an experience: challenging preconceived notions about someone by looking him in the eye and hearing his story.
That is when Babita decided to write and photograph her first book.
© 2021 by Babita Patel
Poor schools. Violent neighborhoods. Easy drugs. No jobs. No support. No options. In the disadvantaged communities of urban America, the cradle-to-prison pipeline locks young men out of opportunity long before it locks them up.
Meet 15 men doing something about it. Men who got an education inside Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and used it to break out of the cycle. Today, they are role models for young men in their communities. And they are here to put a human face on effective solutions to ending the epidemic of mass incarceration in America today.