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Aubin Pictures’ short film Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices From a Plantation Prison documented a day when a voice of hope for those within the system was silenced. That's why the team behind that documentary, including Voices of Experience (VOTE) are working with simplyput to create a series of books, media and programming that will  ensure the voices of the men, women and families caught in the carceral system are heard and their experiences documented in ways that help others inside and outside the system make real change.
 

 

Now What? (Working Title)

A series of comprehensive books, media and programming exploring what to expect from the criminal justice system, created with and for  those who’ve walked this path and are eager to share what they’ve learned.  Each project in the Now What: Criminal Justice Series will include books, media and programming.  The planned titles are: 

  1. Now What?  He’s Been Arrested for family members- beginning with first learning of a loved one’s arrest, to the trial/sentencing and through their incarceration.

  2. Now What: Girlfriend? for women (especially mothers) who have been arrested, from the trial, through sentencing and incarceration.

  3. Now What? The Way Out  for incarcerated men & women as they plan for their upcoming release/parole and through their first year outside.

  4. Now What? My Child: for parents who must advocate for their child within the Juvenile Justice system, from arrest and throughout the process. 

Our Project Partners

While there are several memoirs published about incarceration with tips or advice; and helpful online local resources from legal organizations, most of these books are outdated, out-of-print, didactic, or directed to “white collar criminals.”   Like most “self-help” they are meant to teach the individual how-to change, in order to fit in and get-out.   Not surprisingly, most books that see beyond "self-help" to look at the injustice and racism at the heart of mass incarceration system through a historical, economic or political lens are written by academics and activists for an audience of peers likely to purchase and read a book on the topic.   

There will be nothing else like The Now What? Series.  The book, written with warmth, compassion, (and yes, even humor) and the program tools will all be created with incarcerated people (CIP), formerly incarcerated (FIP), or those who love an incarcerated person (LIP.)  across the country in partnership with grassroots organizations. It is their wisdom, experiences, talents and desire to create "the tools and support they wish they'd had when they needed it" that will guide the entire series of books and programs.   Each book will combine comprehensive information, first person narrative, actionable advice and engaging illustrations to answer the question "Now What?"  But it will also transcend the self-help genre's simple acceptance of the American culture of personal responsibility to connect the dots between our actions and larger historical, political and systemic influences and decisions.   We will also develop tools, training and strategies with our partners, so the book and other existing or newly created media can be integrated into supportive (evaluated & replicable) group or individual  programming that engage peers in  conversation, learning and even organizing. "Now What?" will be a trusted guide, offered by a trustworthy ally for those navigating  through the complex legal systems and the arcane rules and regulations of incarceration, not to maintain compliance, but to offer comfort, share wisdom and inspire change.

  

The Now What? Series, like everything simplyput creates, will be:

 

Simple, yet not simplistic, with explanations of how each of the “systems” work (from bail through the trial through a sentence served in a federal or state prison etc.), including a complete explanation of key terms, acronyms, job titles, and a frank explanation of the “why” and “how” behind some of the more onerous rules and regulations, etc.

Easy to read when paged through like a traditional book, but graphically organized and fully illustrated, so readers can quickly find information they want when they need it.

Engaging and compassionate, with authentic, first-person narrative from family members, prisoners and others that shed light on experiences and the effects of incarceration from multiple perspectives, encouraging contemplation and empathy- across concrete as well as systemic barriers.  

Eye-opening, with graphic explanations or “deep dives” on key, at times controversial topics, such as the history of US incarceration, bail, the politics and economics of prisons, etc.

Useful and clear, with actionable advice from peers who have shared these experiences and compassionate allies and professionals who are working to change these systems.

Comprehensive, anticipating and when possible offering advice to address the economic, legal, and emotional challenges the prisoner, their partner and their family may face.  

Written, illustrated and designed by people who have been personally affected by the carceral system.  

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