Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Downey, California

By Richard Ross


Juvenile In Justice is a project to document the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them.

The project includes images of over 1,000 juveniles and administrators over 200 facilities in 31 states in the U.S, plus extensive information collected from interviews. The hope is that by seeing these images, people will have a better understanding of the conditions that exist. Children’s identities are always protected and faces are never shown.


Richard Ross’ statement:

About Juvenile in Justice

Juvenile In Justice documents the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them.

To date, I have interviewed and photographed over 1,000 juveniles and administrators at 300+ facilities in 23 states in the U.S including the District of Columbia, Oregon, Utah, California, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Delaware, Colorado, North Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Alaska, Florida and Arizona. I have made sure to keep the children’s identities unknown, by either photographing them from behind or obscuring their faces.

To date, I have photographed group homes, foster homes, ICE juvenile holding, behavioral corrections camps, police departments, youth correctional facilities, sexual assault exam and interview rooms for sexually abused children, juvenile courtrooms, high schools, shelters for runaway children, Montessori classrooms, CPS interview rooms, half-way houses, reform schools, maximum security lock-down and non-lock-down shelters, to name a few. I have primarily focused on minors that become part of the system because they have failed, or their families have failed them, or their society has failed them. Earl Dunlap, the Director of Cooke County Detention Center, welcomed me to his facility with the words: “Welcome to the gates of hell.”

In the past I have photographed for major magazines, newspapers and institutions. At this phase in my career I am turning my lens towards the juvenile justice system and using what I have learned in 40+ years of photography to create a database of compelling images to instigate policy reform. My major medium is a conscience, my products are unbiased photographic and textual evidence of a system that houses more than 100,000 kids every day.

My last major shoot to gather evidence for this project drives home the moral imperative of the work. In Miami, one juvenile is held pre-adjudicated for 32 months. Another is held in a cell 59 degrees with no blanket, no mattress, no window, no TV, no cards, no books. And finally, there is a wall in the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center that is papered with 45 8.5×11 papers, printed mug shots and names with the word “EXPIRED” handwritten across each one. Experiences such as these make me feel my work has a purpose and a mission.

This body of work will culminate in an online book, visual database, traditional book, lecture and collection of essays to be published this year, with the goal of promoting progress and policy change in the juvenile justice system. This current body of work was done with partial support from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

By Mighty Mike McGee

I am a poet and a humorist. I have many siblings, niblings and giblets. I enjoy Scrabble and coercing people to think and laugh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s