Why It Matters

"​​The real-life experiences of John Bunn highlight the immense power of reading. "

The real-life experiences of John Bunn highlight the immense power of reading. Through books, he was able to elevate his mind to places he never thought possible. His story has inspired many, and we believe it is crucial for his message to be heard by as many people as possible, potentially inspiring others who feel their voice is unheard. By providing books to prisoners and other individuals cut off from educational opportunities, A Voice 4 The Unheard seeks to inspire self-improvement and continue the dialogue on the nation’s prison problem, focusing more on a positive future than the realities of our troubled and shameful past.

COMBATTING OUR PRISON CRISIS

John as a kid, before he was taken into the hands of the law for a crime he never committed.

The Bigger Problem: In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world's population, it houses around 22 percent of the world's prisoners. Furthermore, our citizens face longer prison sentences and probation periods than those in other countries. These 'tough on crime' strategies have not made struggling communities safer or more stable. Instead, they remove essential members from families and communities, opening up positions for criminal activity. This displacement and disruption destabilize rather than improve towns, neighborhoods, and lives.

The Harsh Reality of Prisons
Far too many Americans have spent far too many years in prisons that are underfunded, overcrowded, and often ignored. Prisons should be encouraging, positive environments where inmates can find value in themselves and work toward a more positive future. Instead, we often incarcerate young men and confine them to environments more crime-ridden and negative than the streets they came from, making rehabilitation nearly impossible. These facilities are bursting at the seams with violence, sexual assault, corruption, fear, and negativity. We essentially tell prisoners that society has given up on them, forcing them to fend for themselves for the duration of their sentence and then reintegrate into society after living in a cage, constantly worrying for their safety.

Empowering the Voiceless
Voice 4 The Unheard serves both young citizens and the incarcerated. Many people in our urban, neglected, and abused communities have been in dire need of attention for decades. Prisons destroy the beauties of human life and prohibit individuals from becoming their best selves. Rather than nurturing change and promoting inner growth, prisons encourage negativity and the very crimes they are meant to eradicate. Any creativity or individuality a prisoner has upon entering is quickly overcome by the quest for survival. They feel abandoned and abused in a terrifying place. There is little room for self-reflection and hope when survival is the only concern. People often emerge from prison as worse versions of themselves, becoming living contradictions of prison’s intended function once they re-enter society.

Behind these walls exist misguided, but sometimes innocent citizens, who, with each passing day in prison, feel their life slipping through their fingers, along with their hope. These individuals deserve support, and this voiceless population needs empowerment. Prisoners need to better understand themselves and their circumstances if we hope to fix the issues that led them into the unforgiving American criminal justice system.

The Path Forward
These communities need education and understanding to pull themselves out of the deep hole America has discarded them into. They need to become more learned than ever before if they hope to create better lives for themselves, whether as ex-convicts or members of at-risk communities.

By refurbishing prison libraries and emphasizing the empowering nature of literature, prisoners can nurture often neglected aspects of their being or discover new facets of themselves. When we confine prisoners physically, we also trap them mentally within systems of corruption, violence, and mistrust. By providing access to books and educational materials, we aim to break these mental chains and foster environments where prisoners can engage in self-reflection, personal growth, and positive change.

A Voice 4 The Unheard believes in the transformative power of education and the written word. We are committed to supporting prisoners and at-risk youth, helping them find their voices and realize their potential. Our efforts are not just about addressing the present issues but about building a future where rehabilitation and education are at the forefront of our justice system. Together, we can work towards a society where every individual has the opportunity to grow, learn, and thrive, regardless of their past circumstances.