Justice Project – StoryCorps
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Five Mualimm-ak and Omar Mualimmak

StoryCorps gives people the chance to sit down together and have a conversation they’ve never had before. Five Mualimm-ak did just that with his son, Omar, who was five years old when his father was first incarcerated.

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By the time Five Mualimm-ak was finished serving his sentence for weapons charges, he had been in prison for nearly a dozen years, many of those spent in solitary confinement. When he was released in 2012, Omar was a senior in high school. The two have had difficulty connecting since then. They came to StoryCorps together to talk about their relationship for the first time.

Originally aired July 7, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Tyree Hicks and Jamel Massey

Jamel Massey (below right) and Tyree Hicks (below left) met at the Institute for Transformative Mentoring at The New School. They were both first arrested when they were teenagers, and they now mentor people from their own neighborhoods, including those who were formerly incarcerated. While serving a sentence for manslaughter, Jamel met a mentor who he credits with helping change the direction of his life.

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Jamel and Tyree’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with the Institute for Transformative Mentoring, a professional training program focused on the development of Credible Messengers working in the social services fields throughout New York City.

Released May 11, 2017.

Terry Banies and Darryl Cooke

Terry Banies (below left), a violence prevention counselor, met Darryl Cooke (below right), a radio host and advocate, when they were students at Governor’s State University in the Chicago region. As they pursued their education, they bonded over a shared commitment to healing and their past experiences with incarceration.

Terry and Darryl came to StoryCorps to reflect on their understanding of historical trauma and discuss how their brotherhood has supported them through the challenges of re-entry.

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Terry and Darryl’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark FoundationThis conversation was recorded through our community partnership with JustLeadershipUSA, an organization and training program that empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. It was produced in partnership with WBEZ 91.FM Chicago.

Released May May 10, 2017.

Miguel Delgado and Jack Russell

While Jack Russell (below left) was growing up in New York City, he went in and out of foster care and spent time in jail and prison for attempted robbery. He came to StoryCorps with his friend Miguel Delgado (below right) to talk about his childhood and what led to his incarceration. Jack is now 29 years old and a stay-at-home dad.

DelgadoJack and Miguel’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives.

Released May 9, 2017.

Asad Kerr-Giles and April Kerr

In 2012, Asad Kerr-Giles was a college-bound high school senior when he was wrongfully imprisoned. After going to a school fundraiser party, Asad heard gunshots. The next day, he was picked up by police and charged with the shooting. He spent the next 28 months on Rikers Island before being acquitted. At StoryCorps, he spoke with his mom April Kerr about his time in jail.

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Asad and April’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with Friends of the Island Academy,  a non-profit that supports and brings opportunity to youth during and after their time in New York City jails.

Released May 5, 2017.

Jayne Fuentes and Luis Fuentes

Jayne Fuentes has been working to rebuild her life after spending more than 15 years in and out of jail on drug and theft charges. After her last jail sentence ended in 2013, she found that she owed tens of thousands of dollars in court fines and fees. At StoryCorps in Richland, Washington, she sat down with her son, Luis, to talk about the impact of these fines on both of their lives.

Fuentes16x9Jayne and Luis’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Released May 4, 2017.

Fred Davie and Robert Sanchez

Robert Sanchez is a social worker who helps people coming out of prison find work and get the support they need. He has a unique understanding of his clients’ struggles because in 2001, Robert was released from New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility after serving 15 years for a nonviolent drug offense.

Robert has also recorded StoryCorps interviews with those who have helped him over the years. In March 2010, his conversation with Felix Aponte was broadcast on NPR. More recently, he sat down with Fred Davie, a long-time mentor and friend, to thank him for the spiritual support he has provided.

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A Presbyterian minister who heads the Union Theological Seminary, Fred met Robert in 1998 when he was visiting Sing Sing and Robert was working towards his master’s degree in Theology. They struck up a conversation and made an instant connection, and after Robert’s release, Fred helped him navigate the difficult process of navigating work, interpersonal relationships, and fatherhood.

Both men have remained outspoken about the importance of providing guidance and support to individuals following their incarceration, and together they developed the Ready4Work reentry program, which provides mentoring and job counseling to former prisoners to help with their transition and avoid reincarceration.

At StoryCorps, Robert and Fred remember their first meeting, and discuss how their relationship has grown since.

Robert and Fred’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Originally aired December 2, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Savannah Phelan and Kellie Phelan

Last year, Savannah Phelan was on the internet looking up the organization where her mother, Kellie, works as an advocate and mentor when she came across a video of Kellie talking about giving birth to Savannah while she was in jail. Kellie was seven months pregnant in 2007 when she was arrested on a misdemeanor drug possession charge and sent to New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex. Two weeks before her release, Savannah was born in a nearby hospital.

At StoryCorps, Kellie recalled the joy of spending time with Savannah alongside the parents of other newborn babies in the hospital’s nursery, as well as the shame she felt at being shackled and wearing an orange Department of Corrections jumpsuit. Kellie was returned to jail while Savannah remained in the hospital a few additional days. Soon after, they were reunited and spent Kellie’s final weeks in custody together at the Rose M. Singer Center — a women’s jail on Rikers Island also known as “Rosie’s” — that includes a small nursery where mothers can stay with their children until they are up to a year old.

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After her release, Kellie and Savannah moved into Hour Children, a Queens-based nonprofit that provides supportive programs and transitional housing for women and mothers that have been incarcerated. Today, she works there as a program coordinator, mentoring youth whose parents are formerly or currently incarcerated, and often speaks openly about her own experiences.

At StoryCorps, Savannah, 8, and Kellie sat down for one of the first times to talk about Savannah’s birth, and how she feels after learning that her mother had been in jail at the time.

Savannah and Kellie’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Originally aired August 5, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo: Kellie Phelan and her daughter Savannah in front of a 77-foot mural they helped paint that reflects the experiences of children and teenagers affected by incarceration.

Born Blackwell and Jamal Faison

In February of 2012, Jamal Faison was a 20-year-old college sophomore home on school break in New York City when he, along with two others, were arrested for attempting to steal mobile devices from a subway rider. Transit police arrested Jamal and he spent the next eight months on Rikers Island — New York City’s massive main jail complex that can house as many as 15,000 people at one time.

While incarcerated, Jamal struggled with the difficult conditions on Rikers and turned to his uncle, Born Blackwell, for support. Throughout his teens, Jamal had been close with Born, and during those eight months, almost weekly, Born made the arduous trip from his home in Brooklyn to visit his nephew.

His uncle’s support, telling him to “keep his head” and reminding him, “just because they treat you like an animal doesn’t mean you have to act like one,” soothed Jamal and helped him maintain a sense of worth while knowing that one day he would again be free.

faison1In September 2012, Jamal pleaded guilty to grand larceny and attempted robbery charges and a month later was released from custody. Dropped off in Queens around 2:00 AM, he immediately understood the challenges that would await him outside jail knowing that his conviction would haunt him and his opportunities would be limited.

One year after his re-entry, Jamal became a father and is now raising his son as a single parent, and he hopes to someday return to college and resume his studies. He works at The Osborne Association — a New York-based nonprofit that helps people who have been in conflict with the law change their lives — mentoring youth and helping people who have been incarcerated find employment.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.55.12 PMJamal came to StoryCorps with Born to remember the night he was released from Rikers, and to discuss how their relationship supported Jamal through the conditions of his incarceration.

Watch “On the Record,” the animated short based on Jamal and Born’s original StoryCorps interview.

Jamal and Born’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Originally aired June 3, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo of Jamal and his son courtesy of Jamal Faison.