Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family

Isadora Kosofsky

2012 - Ongoing

New Mexico, United States

“I want to go home. I’m not with my mom or my family. I love my older brother more than anybody in the world. I want to spend the night on the moon.” Vinny, just 13, shares his thoughts sitting in a juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Vinny confides, “When my mom was being beat up, I was so scared. I wanted to defend my mom. I’m tired of seeing my mom get hurt.” While in juvenile detention, Vinny’s older brother, David, age 19, is incarcerated in an adult facility. David, who was introduced to drug dealing at age 10, has been in and out of juvenile and adult correctional systems. After his father went to prison, David spent time in and out of the foster care; eventually, at 14, David's mother, Eve, was given custody. Shortly after Vinny’s release, the court ordered that live with his aunt, three hours from his family in Albuquerque. Just as Vinny’s absence impacts the family, David’s incarcerations leave the family in a culture of loss. When one member is incarcerated, the whole family is too. Powerless to intervene, Eve and David’s girlfriend wait hours for his phone calls, aching for legal decisions and release, sometimes with an unknown date. Incarceration is a solitary and collective experience that leaves profound psychological effects, as it has on Vinny and David’s development. David struggles as he attempts to abandon dealing drugs, wishing to give Felicia, and daughters, Lily and Mary Jane, “everything [he] always wanted…[and end] the whole cycle” Yet, change may, at this point, seem more daunting than remaining in a comfortable chaos. Eventually, after meeting his girlfriend, Krystle, Vinny left his aunt’s home and moved in with David. For the past five years, I have documented the relationship among youth, families and incarceration, focusing on lost intimacy and love as a locus to investigate humanistic elements of the criminal justice system. Vinny and David have grown up in an environment of loss and, yet yearn for love and a restored family. In the midst of turmoil, Vinny and David try to embrace their youth. Vinny describes David as a father figure, and David views Vinny as the only person who appreciates him.

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  • Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.

  • Eve, Vinny’s mom, visits him during visitation at the Juvenile Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Mom, just get me out. Just get me out, Mom," cries Vinny, age 13.

  • Eve cries after learning that the court will not allow Vinny to live with her and has ordered that he live with his paternal aunt. “I died when I lost my son. I have lost Vinny forever,” says Eve.

  • Vinny, age 13, punches trash bins behind his new aunt’s home. Vinny finds ways to vent his anger about the pain of his past experiences. He finds it hard to escape the “empty feeling” he gets when he thinks or dreams about juvenile detention.

  • Eve holds Michael in the pool. Michael’s greatest wish is to receive “ a hug. I want a hundred hugs a day.”

  • David shaves his father, Dave's, head before David's trial. At the trial, David was proven innocent on his charges.

  • Vinny, now 15, and David, now 21, lie down at night after spending the day together. "Vinny broke into my heart,” says David when asked about their bond.

  • Vinny, age 15, holds a pigeon for David during target practice with a BB gun.

  • Vinny lays with his mother, Eve, on a blanket on the lawn of his aunt's home during the first family visit with his mother and siblings since his release from juvenile detention.

  • Michael punches Elycia’s cheek.

  • Eve places her head on David’s back, while he draws a picture of a clown in his notebook.

  • Felicia, David's girlfriend, and their 10-month-old daughter, Lily, visit him through video visitation at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • David, age 19, sits on the floor of the recreation area with his shirt off at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • David embraces Felicia as she holds his torso between her legs on the bed in the motel room that David rented after his release from county jail.

  • Vinny and his sister, Elycia, watch the sun set behind Highway-40 or Route 66.

  • Vinny, age 15, and David tease each other as Vinny showers.

  • Elycia grips her mom’s leg and won’t let go. After Vinny was held at juvenile detention and subsequently sent to live with his aunt in a town three hours away, Elycia cries often, screaming, “ I want my Beano back.” Vinny cared for his siblings, Elycia and Michael, while their mother was working at Wendy's.

  • David comforts Vinny, age 16, who is embraced by Krystle outside the apartment they shares with his brother after Vinny finds the object he made for his girlfriend accidently broken in two in his room.

  • Vinny, age 16, looks at his girlfriend, Krystle, as they recline on a bed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • Vinny, age 16, tickles his younger brother Michael as Vinny’s girlfriend Krystle rests her head on his back during a temporary visit with his siblings at the motel where they live with their father. Eve, Vinny’s mother, and Elycia, Vinny’s sister, lean against each other as they watch a cartoon program (right). “I feel happy when I’m with my mom, little siblings, and my older brother. I make the best of what I have,” says Vinny.


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