Susan Madden Lankford has published, through Human Exposure Publishing, LLC, the third volume of a trilogy that provides a real look at some of society’s most unpleasant circumstances. Lankford is a photojournalist. Her piecing photographs lead the reader through a graphic and compelling journey inside the walls of juvenile hall.
Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall is a series of photographs and recorded conversations compiled during visits to juvenile facilities in San Diego and Alpine, California.
Lankford first wrote about woman in prison in Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Woman Doing Time. Then she explored homelessness in downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless. In the third installment, Born, Not Raised, Lankford used photographs to initiate, and elaborate on, conversations with young residents of juvenile hall. Each juvenile’s hand written explanation of Lankford’s photographs provide a unique insight into the world of broken families and non-existent parents.
In what appears to be a remake of an old photograph depicting a well dressed husband, wife and two infant children in a stroller, Lankford illicted the fallowing caption: “John and Mary are arguing…John personally dont (sic) like Marys (sic) mom.” The caption, by a 15-year-old female, concludes, “He didn’t (sic) get any dinner and ended up sleeping up (sic) on the couch for 2 nights”
A photograph of a boy kicking a soccer ball with an adult male videotaping the boy generated, from a 15-year-old male, the following, “It look (sic) like a boy who is playing with his dad. That lucky mother fu---r.”
A photograph of a grey haired woman sitting at an outdoor table with a younger woman got this response from a 15-year-old female, “I think she took tis (sic) picture because thats (sic) her family (sic) and I wish I was in that picture.”
Lankford spends a year interacting with judges, psychiatrists and most importantly residents of juvenile hall. She provides a powerful, yet painful, look at damaged young people who are caught up in the system as they struggle with individual emotional turmoil. The book can be, at times, difficult to read.
Lankford concludes that, “[I]nstitutions like juvenile hall are not a good substitute for a family.” Psychiatrist Diane Campbell said, “The youth in the hall don’t need miracle workers; they simply need some who is “just good enough.”
Lankford makes it clear that “good enough” consists of a reliable, loving and nurturing figure that will help mold a child. She uses her skills as a writer and photographer to make sure her readers understand the plight of troubled young people and how to turn “at-risk” youths into “at-promise” youths.