Transforming Justice: Gregory Sale
In collaboration with individuals honing their ability to succeed after incarceration, Gregory Sale developed Future IDs at Alcatraz, a socially engaged art project, exhibition, and community program series about justice reform and second chances at the iconic prison-turned-national park in San Francisco Bay. Sale is a 2018 A Blade of Grass-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellow in Criminal Justice.
Sale: The United States incarcerates more people
per capita than any other country.
We have 5% of the world's population,
but 25% of the incarcerated individuals.
If you look at everybody who has a record,
it's about a third of the population.
What we were investigating
was how could we translate advocacy
and reform efforts into a visual language?
And if we knew the power of one individual story,
what would it be like to look at 40, 50, 100 individual stories?
"Future IDs at Alcatraz" is an exhibition created
by individuals with conviction histories
as they visualize their future selves.
So many people in this room merit acknowledgment
for the contributions you've made to this project.
I kept noticing how California was really leading
reform efforts nationally.
I built a relationship with this organization
in Los Angeles called the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Over five years, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition
members and I have been meeting and planning
and running workshops.
My commitment was to investigate
that difficult space of reentering society
after periods of incarceration.
The project has grown to partnerships
with over 20 community organizations.
The exhibition is in a container
for a series of community programs.
"Future IDs at Alcatraz" Release Party
is one of 26 programs that we've had to date
in the exhibition space.
Alcatraz has been designated
as an international sites of conscience.
The National Park Service invited our program
because it could further that platform.
Kishi: Alcatraz is a very historic site.
We get around 2 million visitors a year.
People come out here wanting to learn about prisons.
Unfortunately, people tend to come out here
with very narrow visions of who or what a prisoner is.
And so the unique part of this exhibit
is that it shows a lot of the multifaceted identities
that make up a lot of people who are
or have been incarcerated.
Kim: I am a former juvenile lifer.
At the age of 16, I was tried as an adult and convicted,
sentenced to 25 years to life in prison,
and I was released after 20 years.
Parole departments had no idea
what to do with us as young lifers
because most lifers who were released
were in their 60s or 70s.
Here I was, 36 years old,
wanting to build a life and get a job.
I'm here today with some of the core project collaborators.
We are working to try to change some of the laws.
Dominique Bell told this amazing story
at one of our meetings
about meeting with a very busy senator.
Let's be honest.
Politicians have a lot of concerns voting
on behalf of a bill that may release a group of people
that have been deemed dangerous to society.
I told the senator, like, "You don't have a lot of time
to sit here and entertain my story.
I'll just show you something."
Sale: Dominique pulled out his old inmate ID,
and then he pulled out his university student ID,
and he said that's the difference.
And we decided there was something there
Each artist in this exhibition did a lot of individual
soul searching to identify some of their future goals
And then they translated that into an identification card.
Kim: I was the bogeyman in the Korean community.
I was the doctor's kid who got into trouble,
and I could see why people were so uncomfortable around me.
You know, I was the person
that they were striving not to be.
You had people whose family would tell them,
"Look, you didn't tell anyone where you were for a long time.
Just say you left the country. Just say you were"...
I was told by many people
that I should just forget about my past
and try to move on with my life.
But how can you not talk about something
that, at the time, was really the majority of my life?
I'm not supposed to talk about the fact
that I spent 20 years in prison?
This should not be a factor of shame to hide.
My past does not define who I am today.
And I brought my mom here, and I want to ask her
what it was like for her.
Reid: I spent most of my adult life in and out of prison.
When someone is sentenced to prison,
they do their sentence
and most the time, are rehabilitated
and deserve a chance,
like everybody else, to pursue their dreams.
My own piece is about being on the board
that the district attorney of San Francisco
has for formerly incarcerated individuals.
I was prosecuted by this office
two dozen times in my life, and never in a million years
would I think I'd be on the board
of the same prosecuting office.
Garcia: When I applied to Loyola Marymount,
I wanted to be seen in that well-rounded package
and not because I had went to jail and prison
or had dealt with substance abuse addiction issues.
I didn't want that to be leading my story.
University of Resilience popped into my head.
Essentially, it was how I looked to my future.
I was, like, so constrained to put it actually on there.
And Greg was like, "Just put it on, put it on."
From the art perspective, it was like,
"Use your imagination."
A lot of formerly incarcerated people, like,
have lost their imagination.
It's important to create a future ID
because it gives the participant
the ability to use their imagination.
I think that's a certain permission
or allowance that society affords
artist and artistic production.
It becomes an invitation, an invitation to engage ideas,
concepts that might otherwise be challenging for people
[ Indistinct conversations ]
[ Laughter ]
I just want to touch because this is my family.
You are my family.
Sale: Many people I love and care about
and have been affected by this system,
but because I've never been convicted,
it's very important that people with this lived experience
are central to the direction and messaging of this work.
1, 2, 3.
I do that every morning.
It represents the past, the present, and the future.
I came to prison when I was 19 years old,
got out when I was 60.
To have a job, to pay rent,
to get up and fix your own meals every day,
this is freedom.
My ID reflects what I wanted in my life.
I have an opportunity to connect with people through motherhood.
for helping create this space.
[ Sighs ]
The freedom that I get to live today in my life.
through choices I've made over the course of the past
almost 15 years
has continually given me another chance.
That's the message I'd like to convey to people
that cross my path in the life that I live today.
Kim: So much of your life is identified
by the card you carry --
your license, your certifications,
your business card.
For those who are systems impacted,
your life for a long time was identified
by your prison ID.
Power to the people.
Kim: So rather than ask,
"What do you want your life to have been?"
We ask people to project into the future.
"What would you like your life to be?"
[ Birds calling ]
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