Most people know John Legend as a 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter with a smooth, soulful delivery of R&B ballads with thoughtful lyrics and a timeless sound. But for men and women who are trapped in a cycle of crime and incarceration, Legend is more than just a musician—he is an advocate, supporter, and ally in working for change in the criminal justice system.
In September, high schools are once again brimming with teenagers, looking through college brochures, figuring out who to ask to the homecoming dance, and worrying about exams and report cards. But that’s not the case for every young person on the edge of adulthood; too many embark on a course that leads them to prison.
I’ve only ever been a member of one prison gang. Some time ago I was made an honorary member of “God’s Gang for Change,” the faith-based dorm at a correctional facility in Alabama.
On a recent visit I had the privilege of celebrating a worship service with my fellow “gang members.” I challenged them with a message about the life of Moses.
It was like a prison from a Hollywood film set: thick limestone walls pocked with small windows; dark, oppressive cells; and narrow corridors full of musty, unmoving air …
As I passed through many layers of security and entered the cell block, I could feel the oppression of hopelessness surrounding me.
What do concepts like “freedom” and “liberty” mean to those behind bars? In this Black History Month edition of the Frontlines video series, hear answers to these questions directly from prisoners. Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske reflects on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., and asks, “What does it mean for us to truly pursue freedom and liberty – righteousness for all?”
Sandow Birk is an artist specializing in 19th Century landscapes, particularly of his native California. For a recent exhibition, however, Birk has turned his attention from bucolic vineyards and peaceful coastlines to a somewhat unexpected subject – the landscapes of the state’s prisons.