In A Whole New Way: Undoing Mass Incarceration by a Path Untraveled

By George Carrano


In a Whole New Way is a photographic self-portrait by New Yorkers who are serving a term of probation. The book also lifts the veil on this “second-chance” justice intervention that has spread from its origins in 1841 Boston to most of the world today.

If all Americans serving a term of probation were gathered in one locale, they would constitute the third-largest city in the country. Yet few of us understand what the sanction involves. Nor do many Americans realize that the originally rehabilitative practice became punitive following the 1972–92 crime wave. In many jurisdictions, it still is. Probation unfortunately has become a staging area for incarceration rather than its alternative.

In a Whole New Way shows how hundreds of determined city residents on probation, along with neighborhood allies, undertook to change this. Equipped with cameras and new artistic sensibilities provided by the editors’ nonprofit Seeing for Ourselves, they set off in a whole new way to reform the sanction of probation, returning it to the rehabilitative and positive program it was originally intended to be. In the process, they found themselves transformed.

The result of their journey is this unique collection of stunning photographs, accentuated by deeply personal captions and lengthier testimonies, that reveal the reality of life in probation. The stories of these participants powerfully undercut their own—and probation’s—derogatory popular image. The true goal of this book is to reform the entire justice system toward decarceration.

In a Whole New Way is both the sequel to the editors’ Project Lives (2015), the globally acclaimed volume resulting from a similar effort with New Yorkers living in public housing—a work catapulting Seeing for Ourselves to the front tier of “participatory photography” practitioners worldwide—and the source of today’s award-winning eponymous documentary film, airing on select public television stations in 2023.