Why?

Why on earth are we doing this? This seems like a lot of effort for a feeble joke, yes?

It is a lot of effort for a feeble joke, but it's hardly any effort at all to try and get the conversation changed about mug shots--and mug shots of black people in particular! This project is a way to shed light on the media's reliance on these mugshots and how it hurts the people that are in those mugshots. 

In 2020, the Marshall Project and Poynter quoted the U.S. prison programs director for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture as saying: “Publishing mug shots can disproportionately impact people of color by feeding into negative stereotypes and undermining the presumption of innocence.”

The director, Johnny Perez, added: “It reaffirms existing biases and creates biases where none exist. People of color are already more likely to be found guilty than their white counterparts.”

We know we're not likely to change the Google search results for "black mug shots"--but maybe we can start a conversation about it. 

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

About mugshots and their effects

Following are some articles to get you started on learning about mugshots and how they affect people. 

VICE

Mugshots Keep Getting Innocent People Arrested in Brazil. Especially When They Are Black.

Between 2012 and 2020, at least 90 Brazilians were arrested after being mistakenly identified based on their mugshots alone. On average, they spent nine months in pre-trial detention. Rio’s Office of Public Defenders pooled its data in 2020 and found that 83 percent of suspects who were unjustly arrested based entirely on photo recognition were Black. 

Article: https://www.vice.com/en/article/dypdd7/mugshots-keep-getting-innocent-people-arrested-in-brazil-especially-when-they-are-black

Pew Trusts

Online, Mug Shots Are Forever. Some States Want to Change That.

In recent years, legislators in many states have debated measures that would crack down on websites that post mug shots and then charge people hundreds or thousands of dollars to remove their photos. This year, some lawmakers want to go further by barring the release of the photos not just to those sites but also to the public generally, including to law enforcement social media accounts and news outlets

Article: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2021/05/10/online-mug-shots-are-forever-some-states-want-to-change-that

NBC News

Racist police practices like mug shots normalize the criminalization of Black Americans
In a statement on the department’s website, [San Francisco Police] Chief William Scott explained, “This policy emerges from compelling research suggesting that the widespread publication of police booking photos in the news and on social media creates an illusory correlation for viewers that fosters racial bias and vastly overstates the propensity of Black and brown men to engage in criminal behavior.”

Article: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/racist-police-practices-mug-shots-normalize-criminalization-black-americans-ncna1235694

The Mighty

Releasing Police Mugshots of Black Faces Causes Racial Trauma

It is so traumatic to have your photo posted in that way when you know you are innocent or at least have not yet been found guilty. Now, all your friends, your boss and your community see you in the worst light with no recourse. 

Article: https://themighty.com/2020/08/police-mugshots-black-people-racial-trauma/

The New York Times

Mugged by a Mug Shot Online

To Mr. Birnbaum, and millions of other Americans now captured on one or more of these sites, this sounds like extortion. Mug shots are merely artifacts of an arrest, not proof of a conviction, and many people whose images are now on display were never found guilty, or the charges against them were dropped. But these pictures can cause serious reputational damage, as Mr. Birnbaum learned in his sophomore year, when he applied to be an intern for a state representative in Austin.

(Paywall) Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/business/mugged-by-a-mug-shot-online.html

The Cougar

Mugshots perpetuate criminalization of black youth

This misappropriation of photos implies a dangerous reality: one in which it is justified to kill an unarmed individual purely because their skin color is threatening to you; one in which victims of murder and assault are presented as the criminals before the story is even told.

Article: http://thedailycougar.com/2018/02/14/mugshots-criminalization-black-youth/

Washington Post

Florida police used mugshots of black men for target practice. Clergy responded: #UseMeInstead.

The idea originated on a closed Facebook group for Lutheran clergy, where pastors were discussing how North Miami Beach’s police department had been caught using mugshots of actual people for target practice. Let’s send in our own photos for target practice, the pastors decided.

Article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/01/25/florida-police-used-mugshots-of-black-men-for-target-practice-clergy-responded-usemeinstead/

G. S. Griffin

Mugshots Matter: Whites, Blacks, and the Stories We Tell

Giving the excuse of simple incompetence the benefit of the doubt, the use of a flattering photograph for this suspected and then convicted rapist raised the issue of whether white suspects and black (and brown) suspects are treated in an equitable manner in the American media.

Article: https://gsgriffin.com/2016/12/08/mugshots-matter-whites-blacks-and-the-stories-we-tell/