Thursday, April 23, 2009 - Is This Even Legal?!?

I've spent a good portion of the past month in my home state, and the more I'm here, the more I notice how things have changed in the nearly 15 years (dang! gettin' old.) since I departed the Tarheel State for The DC Metro Urreah.

Raleigh missed the boat when they built the RBC Center out near the fairgrounds, but their new and improved downtown is a nice step in the right direction. Ditto for Durham, whose downtown ballpark district, and glistening new performing arts center are bringin' the Bull City back. Greensboro is comparatively nice as always. I still don't see what all the fuss about Charlotte is, but hey, somebody likes it. When you add it all up, my home state has made some nice strides.

On the flipside, just to prove that this is still the Dirty South, you catch a remnant of the bassackwards, less progressive side of Norf Cack everyy now and then. One such example would be The Slammer Newspaper.

I hadn't noticed it before, so I'm assuming this is a relatively new thing, but if you hit Triangle area convenience stores, you'll notice a Penny Saver-sized newspaper near the register. There, staring right at you, are felons. Lots of em'. Apparently someone got the bright idea of compiling mugshots from local jailhouses, and rolling dozens of them, plus style comedic clips, into a sales circular-style fishwrap that goes for a dollar.

You can peep the PDF print version of this monstrosity if you're really curious, but peep the screenshot above, and the website (which features some of the same mugshots) in case you're curious. In addition to the photos, the paper lists the arrested person's full name, DOB, aliases, and what they've been charged with. It's almost like a yearbook for alleged felons. Except it comes out every week. And before you ask, no, I didn't buy it, but yes, I recognized a face or two (or 15) on the cover.

One simple question (okay, two): Who the hell would buy this, and why is this legal?

The website's FAQ makes it clear that mugshots are public domain, and they're obviously correct in this regard. But why glorify/profit off such a thing? Pity the poor kid whose Dad did a crime, and now finds his face prominently displayed in the local QuikMart. Even worse, if you just happen to be innocent, what's the likelihood that The Slammer would print a retraction?

Considering the fact that I've made a feature called Black, White, Or Other a staple here at, I'm well aware of my hypocrisy. I also pick fun at relatively unknown people's alleged criminal actions. No, I don't run photos, or even names for that matter, but the sentiment is the same. And I'm suddenly wondering if this just ain't right. What do ya'll think?

Question: Is The Slammer just good, clean fun, or should the publishers be ashamed of such rank exploitation of criminals? Even if it's legal, is it tasteful to put folks' fresh mugshots on the cover of a newspaper? Should I get rid of Black, White, or Other in light of this development?

The Slammer Newspaper [official website]

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