The past year has been simultaneously challenging and inspiring as we navigated a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, police violence, mass protest, and a highly contentious political environment. In the midst of it all, I witnessed our communities come together in an encouraging way, and it makes me proud to be a part of it. We succeeded like never before to accomplish so much. As I think about a question that was asked of me from a brother behind the walls, “What will EXPO look like in the next three to five years”? Good question.
My thoughts: we are all sacred people, and every person, young and old, is a gift who deserves to overcome fear and behold wonder. But too many are silenced and disempowered by the impacts of the criminal, immigration, law enforcement, foster care, and education systems. We work for transformation and liberation through a combination of individual and collective healing, creating shifts in policy. Our vision is to transform the criminal injustice system and embark on a campaign to develop holistic community-based solutions to incarceration and create diversion and restorative justice opportunities. Our lived experience and knowledge will directly influence research, innovate, and transform flawed systems into the solutions that will meet our community’s needs. As formerly incarcerated people who are working to end mass criminalization. We must amplify the political consciousness, political power, leadership, and professional development of formerly incarcerated people.
Throughout 2021, we have continued to fulfill our mission to reimagine all systems that support mass incarceration and excessive supervision and build safe communities and healthy families.
EXPO has had over 40 virtual events during the past year. Utilizing these webinars, town halls, and pieces of training to educate directly impacted people and family members on advocating for their loved ones. We continue to be the voices of change in Wisconsin. I want to shout out to Ramiah Whiteside and Kevin Cook for their efforts to bring attention to the state legislature’s efforts not to vaccinate incarcerated people with their “Running For Their Lives” event. They ran from Milwaukee to Madison (State Capital) over 80 miles run in inclement weather. We continue to lead the “Restoring Our Communities” campaign with our partner’s WISDOM and its affiliates. EXPO offers support and specialized leadership training and engages those impacted by incarceration to reform our criminal legal system and restore our communities.
FREE, founded by women members of EXPO, has grown tremendously during these uncertain times as we build our base and embrace EXPO/FREE. We are developing networks of directly impacted women around the state. Sharing their personal experiences around the issues that impact incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women has enlightened our communities on women’s issues.
EXPO/FREE leaders have met with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary and Administrative staff and have been instrumental in creating changes to reform how corrections operate in our state. We have been on four of the Governor’s task forces to bring the lived experience to these conversations. We continue to push the message that not only do we need to be seated at the table, but we also need to set the agenda and center our voices in the work to be done.
Nothing about us without us! The future for EXPO/FREE is limitless!