Killer Looks is the definitive story about the long-forgotten practice of providing free nose jobs, face-lifts, breast implants, and other physical alterations to prisoners, the idea being that by remodeling the face you remake the man. From the 1920s up to the mid-1990s, half a million prison inmates across America, Canada, and the U.K willingly went under the knife, their tab picked up by the government. In the beginning, this was a haphazard affair -- applied inconsistently and unfairly to inmates, but entering the 1960s, a movement to scientifically quantify the long-term effect of such programs took hold. And, strange as it may sound, the criminologists were right: recidivism rates plummeted. In 1967, a three-year cosmetic surgery program set on Rikers Island saw recidivism rates drop 36% for surgically altered offenders. The program, funded by a $240,000 grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, was led by Dr. Michael Lewin, who ran a similar program at Sing-Sing prison in 1953. Killer Looks draws on the intersectionality of socioeconomic success, racial bias, the prison industry complex and the fallacy of attractiveness to get to the heart of how appearance and societal approval creates self-worth, and uncovers deeper truths of beauty bias, inherited racism, effective recidivism programs, and inequality.
About the Author
Zara Stone (San Francisco, CA) is an award-winning journalist who covers the intersection of culture, technology, and social justice. She's published with The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Vice, Forbes, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, ABC News, the BBC, OZY Media, BuzzFeed, and has worked as an on-air reporter for Fusion, a nationally syndicated ABC News affiliate. She's part of the Medium.com in-house network, and her stories are regularly distributed to their 60 million monthly users. Stone's affiliations include the San Francisco Writers Grotto, The Authors Guild, and she's been a judge for the News & Documentary Emmy Awards for the last four years. Her awards include a Dow Jones fellowship at The Wall Street Journal, and a Mozilla-Firefox Open News Grant.