For many people, the criminal justice system is a mystery, best kept at arm’s length.
In many instances, incarcerated people are put behind bars and only missed by their families (if they are lucky).
However, there are many moving parts involved in the criminal justice system, and they extend far beyond the cell walls. The Life Inside series is one of the many endeavours by The Marshall Project which nurtures public understanding of the lives affected and broadens perspectives.
Stories from behind prison walls
The series offers weekly first-person stories written by people who live or work in America’s criminal justice system. By sharing these stories with the world, others can better understand the powerlessness of parenting from prison, the underground economy of solitary confinement, the prevalence of brain injuries in the criminal justice system, and more.
Explore some of these powerful stories here.
Fred Weatherspoon's Story of Reform
“We’d have conversations, and I’d realize their lives were one long, trauma-fueled ride — from the moment they were born, until they landed in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I spent years listening to these stories.”
These words were written by Fred Weatherspoon, a program and mentor manager for the Precious Blood Ministry Chicago.
Fred’s story of reform is inspiring. Talking to The Marshall Project, he details his journey from spending 25 years at a maximum security prison to working with vulnerable youth and their families. He found a sense of belonging in a way that he never could’ve expected - and it has changed more than just his own life.
Fred’s story highlights the power of conversation. It also sheds light on the hope that comes from following these words with action.
Read the full story on The Marshall Project Life Inside here.
Christopher Blackwell's Story
“To see change, we must support change.”
When someone releases a violent or verbal outburst, it can make others feel uncomfortable and lead them to brand the individual as troubled.
Yet there are many different factors that contribute to these outbursts, including vulnerability, lack of accountability, failing to notice details and crippling fear. Other issues, such as toxic masculinity and certain environments, further cause the suppression of these factors, in turn contributing to more dramatic outbursts.
Christopher Blackwell shares his story with The Marshall Project, and reveals how education played a pivotal role in his rehabilitation. After taking classes with University Beyond Bars, Christopher started to rebuild his confidence and find a purpose in his life.
Christopher says, “We must give individuals the opportunity to see themselves as more than the harm they’ve caused, more than what was once broken within them.”
Read Christopher’s empowering story on The Marshall Project here.