Are Online Mugshot Galleries Appropriate?

Barbara Schwarz
February 27, 2020 - 6:14 am
Stack of Newspapers



The Houston Chronicle has stopped publishing those click through galleries, say 15 or 20 images of people who were arrested for DWI. 

Keri Blakinger, now with the Marshall project, covered criminal justice matters for the Chronicle for three and a half years.  She says "it creates traffic which creates ad revenue for news sites.  These mugshot galleries have been something that a lot of news organization have relied on as sort of low-hanging fruit to bring up their numbers in tough times."

She says often papers don't follow have the means to follow up on stories after mug shots are published.  Take for example, a person arrested for burglary.

"Maybe either the case is entirely dismissed or maybe they're only ultimately convicted of a much lesser offense like misdemeanor trespassing, then your image and your name are out there,things live forever on the internet in connection with this felony burglary accusation."

She adds publishing these usually unflattering pictures have a disproportionate effect on minorities.  "Because black and brown communities tend to be more heavily policed, so when you using mugshots and mugshot galleries you end up perpetuating these stereotypes about black and brown people that I think are really problematic."

She would know about how a mugshot can affect a person.  Years ago, Blakinger was busted for drugs while in college in new York. Her mugshot made the rounds with the headline, 'Ivy league student arrested with heroin.'  She says online comments she read about the photo were brutal.  "I didn't realize how widely disseminated until after I got out.  I was 21 months sober at that point and I walk out of prison and on the first day I realize this image of me on my worst day is just everywhere.   It's a very stigmatizing image, I look like a drug addict. If this is what people will say when they think no one is watching, because it's anonymous on the internet, surely this is what potential employers would thing, this is what potential landlords will think. It really gives a window into the problems that arise when you put someone's mug shot out there and effectively create an additional collateral consequence."