Photojournalist/grad student Sara Naomi Lewkowicz set her sights on a pretty sobering subject last fall: the experience of being an ex-convict in American society. She was following the experience of Shane, a 31-year-old who had "spent much of his life incarcerated," and his girlfriend of one month, 19-year-old mother of two Maggie Mae, whose name he had tattooed across his neck in bold, drippy-looking letters. Lewkowicz had intended to follow the struggles he faced, but the project took a turn for the harrowing after a night at a karaoke bar.
As Lewkowicz explains, Maggie felt another woman was flirting with Shane; a fight ensued, and things turned physical at home, with Shane choking Maggie in front of her 2-year-old daughter. "Suddenly, an incident of domestic violence unexpectedly became my business," Lewkowicz writes. After verifying that someone in the home had called the police, she "continued to document the abuse—my instincts as a photojournalist began kicking in. If Maggie couldn’t leave, neither could I." The result: a painful story told in 39 images for Time. Click to view the photos.