• UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    MVB: Gauchos snap 7 match losing streak with emphatic sweep of UCSD on Friday night. RECAP >>>… https://t.co/Cee1KbeXOh
    9 hours 44 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Women's Tennis: UC Santa Barb. 2, Oregon 5 (Final)
    12 hours 12 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    WBB: Gauchos Face First-Place UC Davis Looking to End Two-Game Skid https://t.co/wRGTYxtxDC
    13 hours 13 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Called “tama” or “tamashii,” the belief in spirits of deceased ancestors goes back centuries. https://t.co/KUJg2oGc7k
    13 hours 38 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Muno (2 H, 2 R), Corey (3-4, 2 R), Davis (7 IP, 2 ER, 10 K) lead @UCSB_Baseball to 7-4 win in home opener! RECAP >>… https://t.co/I32qmDSuZB
    14 hours 5 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    Fascinating! #Sapiens + #HomoDeus author #YuvalNoahHarari predicts humankind’s future: https://t.co/5P25xtpyRQ via… https://t.co/TIAzFchgfI
    14 hours 38 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    RT @AshleyyySb: Only on Twitter to continue to absorb all insight and research from @DrSidMukherjee || Stoked to attend his lecture @Artsan
    14 hours 53 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Does location affect how pines react to climate change? Bren PhD student Ian McCullough shares answer #BrenPhDTalks https://t.co/6zVyQetm2t
    14 hours 58 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Softball: Fifth-Inning Dooms Gauchos in 6-4 Loss to Purdue https://t.co/XWYKVl9UPx
    15 hours 13 sec ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    Register for 2017 Graduate Division Commencement before May 5! https://t.co/IDP1WGLGik #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    15 hours 6 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Bren PhD student Jessica Perkins' research answers: "What Makes an #LCA Study Influential?" https://t.co/HatfwVTKV4 #BrenPhDTalks
    15 hours 8 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Runsheng Song shares strategies to estimate chemicals' life cycle inventories with little data #BrenPhDTalks https://t.co/gUsRney8nC #LCI
    15 hours 18 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    #BrenPhDTalks: Bren PhD student Ying Wang looks at nanomaterial accumulation in soybeans & nitrogen-fixing bacteria https://t.co/85xiy6EmAY
    15 hours 28 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Bren PhD student Yuwei Qin uses US potato production to show how to model marginal production in #LCA https://t.co/jDyW0Fkzbx #BrenPhDTalks
    15 hours 38 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Bren PhD student Chris Heckman's research shows how soil water storage eases #climate change effects https://t.co/cflpEuiAmV #BrenPhDTalks
    15 hours 48 min ago

A Question of Justice

In his new book, UCSB’s Richard Ross explores the conditions and contexts of girls remanded to detention centers
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 16:45
Santa Barbara, CA

Front cover-cropped.jpg

Girls in Justice

Photo Credit: 

Richard Ross

A 13-year-old girl sits on her bed. It consists of little more than a black metal frame and a thin mattress covered in blue cloth. The walls around her are grimy and bare. Her back is to the camera. “I have two more months in here,” she says. “I’m in for VOP (violation of parole). My mom visits, but my dad is locked up at Sing Sing.”

 If pictures speak louder than words, award-winning photographer Richard Ross’ images of adolescent and teenage girls ensnared in the country’s juvenile justice systems are nothing softer than a roar.

In his new book, “Girls In Justice,” Ross, a professor of art at UC Santa Barbara, shows the stark reality of girls confined to detention centers. They range in age from 11 to 18, and most are there for low-level crimes — simple assaults; public order, property, drug or status offenses; or technical violations.

And most — nearly 75 percent — are victims of physical and sexual violence. As compared to boys, Ross noted, girls in custody report nearly twice the rate of past physical abuse, twice the rate of past suicide attempts and four times the rate of prior sex abuse.

“A lot of them are here because there’s no place else for them to go,” said Ross. “Much of the judicial system feels handcuffed by the lack of proper facilities in the community for girls, and many feel they have no recourse but detention.”

And that, he added, simply “kicks the can down the road” by failing to address the circumstances that landed the girls in detention in the first place.

“When a judge says to a girl, ‘I have to put you in detention,’ I think, ‘Whatever the length of time, at the end of it, where are you going to put her that’s different from where she is today?’” Ross noted. “And I really wonder, is it the role of a judge to keep a kid safe, or is it the role of a judge to enforce the law? I don’t know.”         

Ross has become a de facto expert on the subject of girls in detention, having visited over 300 sites across the country and interviewed more than 1,000 kids. “It’s a story that has to be told, and I seem to be the one who’s able to act as a conduit for these very fragile voices from these families that have no resources, from communities that have no power,” he said.

All projects have their DNA in something else, and “Girls In Justice” is ultimately rooted in Ross’ project “Architecture of Authority,” which looks at architectural spaces that exert power over the individuals — oftentimes children — within them. That in turn led to “Juvenile In Justice,” which documents the placement and treatment of juveniles in facilities that are meant to assist, confine and/or punish them. “Girls In Justice” redirects the spotlight to girls in the system.

Overall, arrest rates for juveniles have decreased across the country, but the percentage of girls in the system is increasing, Ross noted. “So it was natural for me to say I had to focus on girls,” he said. “And they’re much more victimized. I’m doing this to make people aware of what’s going on.”

Ross’ ultimate goal is to change legislation and, by extension, change the outcomes for children in detention. “And I want to do that by talking to the kids themselves,” he said. “My home institution of training is art, and maybe I’m able to make a difference for only one-half of one percent, but it’s unbelievably gratifying as an artist to be able to do it.”

With that in mind, Ross provides images free of charge to any organization championing the rights and treatment of youth. “I’m offering them to nonprofits for use in making their data and statistics more apparent that lives are in the balance,” he said.

The work requires a blend of artistic vision, sensitivity and a high degree of emotional intelligence, Ross added. “I sit on the floor of the cells and I listen to the kids. You have to know how to ask questions and you have to know how to listen,” he said. “And if a kid doesn’t want to talk to you, be patient. Because you know their day is a lot worse than yours.”

More information about “Girls In Justice” and “Juvenile In Justice” can be found at http://www.richardross.net/juvenile-in-justice.

A series of Ross’ images are currently on display at the UCSB Library in conjunction with UCSB Reads, an annual event that engages the campus and community in discussions about a key topic while reading the same book. This year’s selection is Piper Kerman’s “Orange Is the New Black.” The exhibition continues through May 29.

Contact Info: 

Andrea Estrada
(805) 893-4620