Photos by Alan Pogue



It is our belief that Detroit is just one city where police misconduct resulting in targeting of poor, young African American males has led to convictions and Life sentences. The practice occurs all over the country and it is a direct result of the War on Drugs. Furthermore, as the use of the death penalty is defeated in some states and diminished in others, the trade-off is and will continue to be more and more Life Without Parole Sentences. Prosecutors have learned that it is far cheaper to seek and obtain a Life sentence and there will not be the ensuing appeals that can go on for decades. In most cases, once a person is sentenced to Life he has little if any access to a lawyer unless he can hire one, which is unlikely. No one is listening to his pleas for help in proving either innocence or the failures of the justice system that led to conviction.

Documentary Photographer, Alan Pogue, Director of the Texas Center for Documentary Photography, and Claudia Whitman, NDRAN Director and Investigator, will interview the five juveniles and selected others from this group of 20 to get their stories: the history of their cases, the long journey they have been on to get attention to the injustices in their cases, and if they are claiming innocence, the details of each case and how they feel they could prove innocence. Family members will also be interviewed and others involved in their cases. Initially, each person was going to be recorded and photographed at the prison, but Michigan has a policy since 2000 that no cameras or recording devices can be brought into prisons and all interviews will be conducted in the visiting room. With Department of Corrections mug shots, family photos, and official prison visit photos and personal interviews, the prisoners and their stories will come alive, despite these restrictions.

Many of these cases have been presented to the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic for acceptance. Other lawyers are also being interviewed so the basic goal of the project is always to achieve legal representation for each individual. But the big picture is that poor people of color in all parts of the country have been swept up in the War on Drugs net, convicted of crimes they may not have committed, and sentenced to spend their lives in prison as a result of overly zealous police who were often willing to achieve conviction by any means necessary. They remain faceless numbers in some Department of Corrections facility whether they came from Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, or some smaller city. Until they become real people with real stories and real families, they will just be the faceless convicts that make up the 140,000 plus who comprise the Lifer population, of which 2/3 are Black or Latino.


NDRAN of CURE has spent the last year and a half looking at old Michigan (mainly Detroit) cases involving police misconduct. Of the 20 cases currently included in the inquiry, 5 were juveniles at the time of arrest. Most of the others were in their teens or early 20’s. All but one person claims actual innocence, meaning that they say they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted. All are African American. Most are serving Life Without Parole or such long sentences that they are effectively incarcerated for Life.

Most have exhausted all legal remedies and are without lawyers or any access to the Courts despite their claims of innocence. Ten cases involve the misconduct of one former Detroit homicide detective where he beat and threatened defendants, threatened and paid witnesses, violated Miranda rights, locked defendants in a “closet” with no light or access to toilet facilities until he could get a confession. The other 10 cases include the use of informants, ballistics fraud, erroneous eyewitness identification, coercion of witnesses, perjury as well as ineffective assistance of counsel. Because these are not death penalty cases, there is little interest in their stories or their search for justice.

  Once interviews and photographs are edited and the project is ready
     for distribution, Alan and Claudia will pursue the following:

    Traveling exhibit at universities, photography centers, Cannon House
        Rotunda, etc.

    Major magazine for publication: Atlantic, Harpers, The American
        Prospect, Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, etc.

    Audio: Democracy Now, This American Life, Community Radio and
        TV stations, Prison Radio
   Arrange Interviews with Prisons, Families,                                                Feb - March 2012

   Trip to Detroit visit, photograph and interview prisoners and families        Late March 2012
   Edit & Develop work product                                                                    April 2012

   Contact  Newspapers, Magazines, Radio and TV                                         Feb - April 2012
   Dissemination of Product                                                                           May-June 2012