For quite some time now, it has been the practice of news websites to use mugshots of people who were arrested but not yet convicted.
These mugshots were displayed on the local news website’s photo gallery to make people aware of arrested individuals in the area.
They are also released by police when they have a suspect at large that they need the public’s help to find.
However, the Houston Chronicle is the latest website that has decided to stop posting mugshot slideshows of people who have been arrested.
These people are still presumed innocent under the law.
According to its managing editor Mark Lorando, “Mugshot slideshows whose primary purpose is to generate page views will no longer appear on our websites. We’re better than that.”
The Houston Chronicles’ decision gained support on Twitter, with people hoping that other news websites will follow and stop this practice.
Other news organizations that have avoided mugshots altogether include the Marshall Project, the New Haven Independent, and Biloxi Sun Herald.
The latter even took down its daily mugshot galleries and seized reporting on many low-level arrests.
Back in 2018, the Biloxi Sun Herald removed the daily mugshot galleries and stopped reporting on many more minor arrests, fearful that reporting on so much crime presented the region as a bad area.
Johnny Perez, director of U.S. prison programs for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture supports the move to stop publishing mugshots on news websites. According to him, it disproportionately impacts minorities by feeding into negative stereotypes and undermines the presumption of innocence.
From The Marshall Project:
“Publishing mugshots can disproportionately impact people of color by feeding into negative stereotypes and undermining the presumption of innocence, said Johnny Perez, a formerly incarcerated New Yorker who is currently director of U.S. prison programs for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
“It reaffirms existing biases and creates biases where none exist,” he said.
“People of color are already more likely to be found guilty than their white counterparts.”
“It creates this situation where you’re criminalizing folks before they’re convicted of any crime,” he said, noting that the existence of mugshots on the internet, where they’re easily searchable, can make it hard for people to get jobs.””
Police in New Zealand were recently encouraged not to post mugshots online as it’s a “facilitation of bullying,” activists say.