Correcting The Narrative
The Correcting the Narrative Campaign employs a combination of story-telling, and in-person and virtual events to promote acceptance of people with criminal records as not just, at best, taxpayers, employees, and neighbors, but rather equal citizens, employers, and potential family. The narrative has transitioned over time from one of fear and danger to often pity for people with criminal records and spectacle for what we did and who we were. While it is very true that the difficulties of our demographic leading to, during, and post-incarceration is absolutely true, over-portraying them is also detrimental to our end goal of equality. The pity and spectacle narrative, often pushed by well-meaning and even system-impacted people, actually causes society to connect who we are and who we can be more with our shadows and the stereotypes promoted in the media and uninformed communities.
Correcting the Narrative is for everyone always, but it is particularly for
1) those in the system impacted community who believe the popular, negative narrative about their value and possibilities and
2) those “outside the choir” of being impacted or empathetic to the effects of the carceral side of the criminal punishment system.
Our approach has changed over time from simply showing up in our t-shirts at events in areas that are more outside the choir to now focusing on connecting with organizations and gatekeepers in these communities to do screenings, interviews, and presentations. By engaging with these more stereotypically indifferent and antagonistic audiences, they become more supportive of or at least less opposed to reform/reentry/decarceration efforts. This will result in greater respect, opportunities, and success for the estimated 70 million adults in the U.S. with a criminal record and their larger number of loved ones, especially underage children. Those we disagree with need us and we need them to achieve a society where we invest in safety and justice more than punishment and separation.
IF the world were ideal, no one would have to prove their value and correct others’ biases. However, shoulda/woulda/coulda is not a strategy for change. Tough conversations and hard realities must be embraced and accounted for in order for sustainable solutions to take place. There is almost no greater example of this than the need to reach out to those who have shown us such disregard and say: “Look. See who we truly are. We need you to confront your misperception.”