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Giving a voice to the incarcerated

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Loret Steinberg regularly photographs and writes about the overlooked. 
A strong humanitarian impulse 
drives her photography.

Fittingly, Steinberg spent much of her summer reaching out to people in distress.

“I volunteered for the Judicial Process Commission (JPC), which assists incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people as they return to our community,” says Steinberg, an associate professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. “I went through training, was assigned a mentee, and became highly engaged in this work. My mentee and I learned a great deal from each other.”

A few months ago Steinberg had begun to mentor another parolee whom she had met through JPC, but who was not assigned to her. They had planned to collaborate on a story about his experiences.

“He’s no longer working with JPC staff because he’s back in prison for a parole violation,” she says. “After his release 
in December, I’ll be documenting his re-entry—we talk by phone weekly.”

For Steinberg, this summer’s community service reconnected her in many ways with volunteer work she had done with incarcerated juveniles years ago.

“A young man I first met when he was 14 years old has been in adult prison since 1995,” recalls Steinberg. “Through the years, he’s made dramatic changes in his life; his intellect, emotional maturity and humor are remarkable for someone who’s quite literally grown up in prison. We’ve developed a strong bond and I think of him as part of my family. I visit him when I can, but we talk by phone at least weekly. He introduces me as his aunt.”

Steinberg also served as a media liaison with Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigration Justice, which works to help others see immigration issues in the 
context of human rights and to promote immigration reform. The group held a large rally and vigil outside the Federal Detention Center in Batavia in late July.

“This is just what I do,” says Steinberg.