Men and women have come together at Texas Southern University to help reform the criminal justice system.
Seven men and women have been selected to participate in the Anthony Graves Smart Justice Speakers Bureau to learn how to speak in front of lawmakers, the press, and TV Shows.
“We have to go back to our winning attitude, our winning nature,” said Dino Sandifer, a college professor, as he encouraged the scholars.
Once the course is completed the second chance citizens will go to Austin in January 2019 to address the Texas Legislation and tell their experiences with the criminal justice system.
The Anthony Graves Smart Justice Speakers Bureau is the brainchild of Anthony Graves, a man wrongfully convicted for a crime he did not commit and spent 18 years in prison, 12 of which he was on death row.
Graves partnered with the ACLU and TSU’s Urban Research and Resource Center to create the speaker’s bureau with the goal to reduce mass incarceration by 50% and recidivism.
“I should not be the exception, I should be the rule,” said Reggie Smith, a policy analyst, “you are a human, you are a citizen of this country, you are a citizen of this world, you deserve to reach your full potential.”
The students will be using their personal experiences to impact different aspects of the criminal justice system.
“Coming out I thought I would come out to an embracing society,” said Sybil Sybille, a student for the Anthony Graves Smart Justice Speakers Bureau, “after 23 years I have been out, but I still carry that brand.”
Sybille is a role model citizen who speaks in the prisons, is a community health worker, veteran, and peer support specialist who disqualifies for work because of her actions 23 years ago.
The class has so far focused on writing elevator pitches for when encountering law makers in the capital, building up confidence and self-love, and journaling.
Professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker and Professor Marcia Johnson have created the curriculum that will last for 12 weeks.
With the assistance of the TSU debate coach, Wendell King, and other guest speakers the second chance citizens will receive guidance and positive advice on how to better their speech, writing, and presentation.
“I’m grateful to be here and be a part of this because I think the legislation needs to understand the impact of over sentencing people and the effect it has on the family,” said Steven Holloway, a scholar in the Anthony Graves Smart Justice Speakers Bureau.
In a short amount of time the students have showed progression and will continue to grow as January approaches in order to be a voice for those lost in the system.