A Glimpse of Unheard Voices
The Unheard Voices Project has just released a four-minute trailer of testimonies from
prisoners and ex-offenders, family members, and notable experts on the
far-ranging consequences of the American criminal justice system.
Written, produced and edited by openDemocracy Editor and RS contributor, Charles Shaw, Unheard Voices was inspired by Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation Institute, another documentary archive project that gathered video testimonies from survivors and other witnesses to the Holocaust. In many respects, the American criminal justice system, and the drug war that has driven its explosion, has resulted in a cultural holocaust. So many people are in prison, so many families and communities have been destroyed, and so many generations have been lost, that those who do succeed us will need a living record of the devastating impact these policies had on American society.
The United States has 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's prisoners. At 2.5 million, the US has more prisoners than China. Not more prisoners per capita, more prisoners. And there are an additional 5 million under what's known as "Correctional Supervision" (probation, parole, and court monitoring). On top of that, the security and livelihood of millions more has forever been altered by an arrest or conviction record.
This so-called "Land of the Free" punishes more of its citizens than the rest of the world, prompting even the conservative Economist to declare that "never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little." The testimonies of The Unheard Voices Project testimonies will help put a human face on a critical social issue that has been overwhelmed by fear, politics, racial prejudice, and intolerance, in an era where the public attitude has been, "out of sight, out of mind."
When the stories hit home, the policies begin to change.
On October 1, 2010 Charles Shaw begins a two-month, 30 city tour of the US and UK. Along the way he will interview nearly 60 people for the first phase of the project. In January of 2011 Unheard Voices will release a 20-minute short film and the first ten interviews for the archive. Each interview will be made available in both a long "unedited" format and in a 10-minute summary.