Shades of Freedom

6 Episodes

By: The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

Welcome to Shades of Freedom, from The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. This podcast amplifies and uplifts promising efforts aimed at reducing mass incarceration, and examines the ecosystem of related inequalities that surrounds and perpetuates it. Fortunately, there’s a movement underway to re-imagine what the justice system could be. This podcast will feature many of the people working on changing this system, from policymakers to activists, and from returning citizens to systems leaders. Our discussions will be wide-ranging, from the school-to-confinement pipeline, to alternatives to incarceration, to policing, to sentencing, to prosecutorial reform to incarceration, to reentry and ho...

Walking Philly’s Tightrope of Youth Justice
Last Tuesday at 4:22 PM

Chekemma J. Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network, joins us to discuss the evolution of youth justice work in Philadelphia, and her own personal journey from working directly with youth and families, to running Philadelphia’s major youth-serving nonprofit.

Weaving together progress in the community, creating effective programs for youth, and the City of Philadelphia’s youth justice reforms, this episode focuses on the many different sectors and partners (including the community itself) that must work together – through good times and bad times – to create progress. While there’s a lot still to be done to cr...

Beyond Policing: Creating Safe and Just Communities

The panel discusses how, as a nation, we are witnessing increased public support for re-imagining and transforming the criminal justice system, and tackles the question of how we, and our leaders, make change happen in a way that takes into consideration historic injustices, as well as the underlying social, economic, education and health disparities in the United States.

This episode features:

Art Acevedo, Chief of Police, Houston Police Department.Roy L. Austin, Vice President of Civil Rights, Facebook.Karol Mason, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The moderator is Bill Whitaker, of CBS News and a...

Knowledge, Power and Freedom: The Past and Future of College-In-Prison

For decades, prisoners have been denied access to college educations. Recent bipartisan federal legislation will remove one key barrier, but much remains to be done. 

The Reverend Vivian D. Nixon, Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship  – an organization that helps the women and families most harmed by mass criminalization gain access to opportunity – joins our podcast to explore her own journeys through both prison and college. Reverend Nixon calls out the power of education to create change in individuals, who can then change our society and our beliefs about who is valued, and who is not.


Transforming Justice in Oregon: Racism, Protests and COVID-19

The path to justice will be different in each community. Founded in the late 1800s with a state constitution that specifically excluded Black Americans, Oregon’s current criminal justice system’s struggles are built on that legacy. 

Our guest in this episode is Bobbin Singh, founding Executive Director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center. He discusses Oregon’s past and how that history influences its current policing response to protests  and the prison system’s response to COVID-19, as well as calls on Oregon to recognize its past in order to transform its criminal legal system.

To learn...

Freedom Libraries: The Million Book Project

Dwayne Betts’ story is one of tribulation and triumph. At 16, he was tried as an adult and spent eight years in prison. He discovered a love for literature while incarcerated and decided to become a writer.

Since his release in 2005, Betts has published three books of poetry and one memoir and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in law. Most recently, Betts and acclaimed poet and essayist Elizabeth Alexander announced The Million Book Project—an initiative that will establish 1000 "Freedom Libraries" in prisons across the U.S. Listen in to hear a moving testament on the power of l...

The Criminalization of Black Girls

One piece of dismantling and rebuilding the justice system starts with our schools, which can be an onramp to the criminal justice system for Black girls, who in increasing numbers are subject to criminalization starting in our schools. How did we end up with schools that are based in fear, rather than love, and how is that leading towards the adultification and criminalization of Black girls in particular?

Dr. Monique Morris joins us to look into these questions, as well as the paths forward to a better future. Dr. Morris is an award-winning writer, social justice scholar...