Julia Rendleman: Sisterhood of Recovery
In her remarkable photographic essay, Sisterhood of Recovery, Julia Rendleman introduces us to two sisters in a jail in central Virginia—both participants in a peer heroin addiction recovery program—and their mother on the outside, raising one of the sisters’ four children. Photographed over multiple occasions from 2017 to 2020, we get a glimpse of the toll of the opioid crisis, and how incarceration affects entire families and communities, not just the person behind bars.
Julia Rendleman is a freelance photojournalist based in Richmond, Virginia reporting on human health, poverty, resilience and the environment. Her work has been used to advocate for affordable housing reform and for harm reduction approaches to substance abuse and rehabilitation.
Her work has been supported by grant funding from the DocumentaryProjectFund, the Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Julia received hostile environment training through Reuters (2019).
A photo Julia made of two young ballerinas at the foot of the Robert E. Lee monument during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 went viral. Julia now serves on the board of @brownballerinas4change, an organization created by the ballerinas and their mothers.
Julia works for The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, National Public Radio and other national news outlets. She is a member of @womenphotograph and is available for assignment in Virginia and beyond.
Sisterhood of Recovery
“We’ve been running jails now for 200 years. What we’ve been doing is not effective. Anyone who tells you it is, is lying to themselves. We have the same people coming in and out, in and out. I just reached the point of absolute frustration with the system,” Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard said.
Sheriff Leonard started the in-jail, peer-to-peer Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (HARP) at the Chesterfield County Jail in central Virginia after he saw the need to treat heroin addiction within the criminal justice system. Stephanie and Tera Crowder are sisters who worked their way through HARP. Their mother, Deborah raised Tera’s four boys while she was incarcerated.
I followed their story for two years, in jail and then, outside of it.
After spending 18 years as a public defender, Sara Bennett turned her attention to photographing women with life sentences, both inside and outside prison. Her work has been widely exhibited and featured in such publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker Photo Booth, and Variety & Rolling Stone’s “American (In)Justice.”
Like the women she photographs, Bennett hopes her work will shed light on the pointlessness of extremely long sentences and arbitrary parole denials. To bring Life After Life in Prison, The Bedroom Project, or Looking Inside to your community, please contact her. IG: @sarabennettbrooklyn
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