In 2016, StoryCorps launched the Justice Project, an initiative to collect, preserve, and amplify the stories of people whose lives have been impacted by mass incarceration and the justice system nationwide. Our exploration, featured in part through stories released this month, focuses on people who have been incarcerated or detained in local jails.
The personal conversations recorded through this initiative reveal the complexities of how the justice system plays out in peoples’ lives. The impacts of mass incarceration on individuals, families, and communities are often long term, and can be invisible or misunderstood by those who have not lived these experiences directly. Through first-person narratives, the stories collected by the StoryCorps Justice Project illuminate the structural forces that shape who is disproportionately exposed to mass incarceration and what that can mean.
- Jayne Fuentes shares a story that shows how the economic burden of court fees affect families, even long after a loved one is released.
- As a teenager, Asad Kerr-Giles spent 28 months at Rikers Island in New York City, a jail designed for adults, before he was acquitted because he could not afford bail
- Even after serving time, people who have been incarcerated, like Jamal Faison, must navigate a culture rife with discrimination, barriers, and collateral consequences.
How does StoryCorps approach such a vast and complex issue? Our community engagement work and collaboration with local partner organizations is critical to our ability to record, share, and preserve the most comprehensive and inclusive collection of stories possible.
For nearly a year, we’ve collaborated with wide-ranging community-based organizations in Chicago/Cook County, IL; New Orleans; New York City; Connecticut; Ferguson/St. Louis County, MO; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; San Francisco; and Philadelphia.
Among the partner organizations with whom we’ve been actively engaged are: Mass Story Lab, The Osborne Association, Friends of the Island Academy, Bed Stuy and Crown Heights SOS, and Community Connections for Youth. The stories you hear as part of this initiative are possible because of these partners. Here is a full list of them.
Tanya Linn Albrigtsen-Frable, who came to StoryCorps in 2016 to manage the Justice Project, draws on her own practice as a public artist and community organizer, as well as her personal experience of navigating the justice system with her family, to seek out and work in partnership with organizations and individuals whose lives have been impacted by mass incarceration.
Tanya says, “I’m of the opinion that everybody is impacted by mass incarceration. We’re all complicit, and we’re all affected by this larger structural and systemic problem.
“The most interesting thing to listen to is the way people talk about the folks that they love, and their hopes and dreams for the future,” Tanya says. For listeners to these stories, Tanya hopes they “make a connection between their own lived experience and these structures in a way that they hadn’t before.”
The StoryCorps Justice Project is made possible with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.