In January 2022, I launched a campaign on Twitter Ireland against the abuse of power at the Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre, to which garnered nearly 13.7 K in views. I later found that Confidential Informant Techs had uploaded my mugshot and tagged it to the campaign video. It was a poor attempt to distract viewers from behavior employed to demean, wound, harm, and damage the International Protection claim of asylum-seekers. Little did they know, there is a specious case of criminal mugshot shaming in America.
My investigator and I studied the contamination strategy and discovered that it emanated from a ‘suspect close in vicinity,’ whose conscious effort was to spread misinformation about my background, arrests, and what led to my application for asylum. In their view, if they introduced the mugshots into an already existing consensus about ‘who is truly an asylum-seeker’ in a clandestine manner, I would retreat. I did not.
Exploitation Nation: The Specious Case of Criminal Mugshot Shaming in America
The number of Americans with a criminal history has risen sharply over the past three decades. Matthew Friedman, a writer for the Brennan Center for Justice, states “so many Americans have a criminal record that counting them all is nearly impossible.” Furthermore, Activists in America are commonly arrested for their political speech. In 2019, U.S. police arrested LGBT activists in front of the Supreme Court. In 2021, the U.S. targeted Black Lives Matter activists in a bid to disrupt the movement. You may be thinking, “that is activism. In your case, the U.S. implicated you in not one, but many crimes. The U.S. cannot be wrong, can it?” Yes, it can, and it often is wrong.
The World Prison Brief puts the U.S. at number one at incarcerating the most people in the world. Based on data from credible news sources, the countries with the most incarcerated are the U.S., China, Brazil, and Russia. Evidence further demonstrates these countries are likely to have the most innocent people convicted and imprisoned. On a list of 15, the U.S. came in at number one as the country with the most police brutality incidents and individuals wrongfully convicted. Indeed, a study found more than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by U.S. government misconduct. With these findings, it should come as no surprise to learn the alleged owners of Mugshots.com, one of dozens of sites that publish booking photos in the U.S. and demand payment for their removal, were arrested on charges of extortion, money laundering and identity theft in 2016. However, the U.S. has allowed these websites to remain accessible online, along with dozens of others like it, despite mugshots not being considered public records at a federal level.
Not only are the publication of mugshots a danger, as Olivia Solon points out, they are also used as a character assassination tool, given the public associates the individual portrayed in the mugshot with some criminal act. Another key point is that the negative image is easily found when vetting a candidate for a job, and thus, damages a person’s professional relationship.While the publication of a mugshot is an unwarranted invasion of privacy, the respect of one’s private life finds no explicit direct protection in the U.S. Federal Constitution. One should note here that Americans are precluded from successfully claiming infringements of our private life against private media reportings, as it relates to our contemporary or past life. To be sure, the U.S. ridiculed the European Court of Justice’s recognition of the right to be forgotten in Google Spain, holding that it remains inapplicable in the State. Nevertheless, it is settled law that even individuals with criminal convictions have a right to privacy, and the right to be left alone.
As for the suspects close in vicinity, they disliked that I owned my rite of passage by drawing public attention to the changes I made in my status and social identity. It is abundantly clear they were using me as a scapegoat for their ignorance, phobias, political ideology, biases, and frustrations. Indeed, evidence demonstrates formerly incarcerated persons are disproportionately the victims of scapegoating.
Taking into consideration that shaming American citizens not only compounds the problem, along with the fact that the U.S. continues to make mugshots public, it is not surprising that countries have started to find the U.S. not to be safe for everyone. As far as rights goes in the U.S., what will the land of the most incarcerated do next?