All too often the voices of underrepresented groups of people are silenced by stigma and misconception. After coming across a group of people rallying to transform America's criminal justice system and those who become victims of a failed system, I discovered the hardships many reformed individuals face upon re-entry. The media often depicts dangerous and over-sensationalized representations of individuals who have been to prison. As stigmatized views follow individuals on their journeys of re-entry they face hardships when finding housing, employment, and education opportunities. On job applications, individuals can be dismissed from consideration solely for checking a question box about having a criminal offense. Without a roof over their heads or a job to suffice basic needs, many find it difficult to triumph as contributing members of society.
After learning that 1 in 6 people in my community have a criminal record, I set out on a walk into the city to hear the stories of individuals who could attest to reality of the effects of our country's criminal justice system. The campaign that followed was inspired by a powerful individual I met by chance; Ramona Brant. Ramona was a first time nonviolent drug offender when she received a mandatory minimum sentence of life prison without the possibility off parole for conspiracy to posses and distribute cocaine. She served 20 years before her sentence was commuted by President Obama in 2015. Following her release she was finally reunited with children she was separated from when they were three and four years old. A second chance changed her life when her story was publicly shared.
#FREETHEVOICE aims to counteract misconceptions perpetuated by the media by sharing the stories of to humanize numbers on a page and remove the labels that inhibit new opportunities. A series of recorded interviews are used to open a lens into the hardships faced by a group of individuals at different points of re-entry. With hopes of encouraging audiences to give people a chance to grow with employment opportunities, video stories also amplify hope and showcase positive outcomes that are possible when a helping hand is extended. Overall, This campaign aims to create a wave of empathy and change.