The Power of Voices; The Power of Choices
We envision a society where credible messengers enhance positive social change based on lived experience, group therapy, peer-to-peer impact, and policy reform.
We align hope with impact in prisons and underprivileged communities by redefining what it means to pay a debt to society through the power of CHOICES (Choosing Healthier Options In Confronting Every Situation).
Voices From Within is a nonprofit initiative born behind the walls of Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, by eleven incarcerated men who wanted to make a difference in the lives of underserved adolescents while cultivating a culture of contagious growth of positive influence within the prison.
The founders of Voices From Within have experienced life in New York’s most vicious community: the prison system. Despite the anguish, desolation, violence and despair living behind bars, Voices From Within has managed to cultivate a positive paradigm shift at Sing Sing, effectively transforming a correctional institution of punishment into a correctional institution of higher learning and moral commitment.
Launched in 2013, our first short film GUNS (Growing Up with No Shots), addressed gun violence and garnered more than 10 million views worldwide. This led to strategic partnerships with the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in New York City and the New York City Department of Juvenile Probation. Voices From Within bridges an essential gap between the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in New York State and the fractured communities left in the wake of crime and its consequences.
As a result of the program’s success, during the fall of 2023 leading into 2024 and beyond, Voices From Within peer counseling and mentoring programs will be implemented in correctional facilities across the state of New York. Our goal is to take our model to prisons and communities across the country.
We employ the following initiatives to counter criminogenic behavior, to stimulate critical thinking skills, and to foster positive attitudes with efforts to breed a new culture that seeks to minimize the criminal mentality in prisons and criminal activity in underserved communities:
Þ Peer-Counseling Program - to cultivate positive attitudes in prisons through a series of workshops rooted in self-awareness, personal accountability, and respect for civil values.
Þ CHOICES Events - to help underserved youth realize the significance of Choosing Healthier Options In Confronting Every Situation.
Þ Culture Tours - to facilitate public proximity in prisons and underprivileged communities to raise awareness through open, honest, conversations about human dignity and shared humanity.
Þ Media Literacy - to compile content from credible messengers to inform youth and the public about the harsh realities associated with choices and consequences.
Þ Community Preparation - to encourage proper planning, community outreach, and resource development, as well as to provide parole preparation, resume development, and job readiness.
Þ Credible Messengers - to provide group therapy, one-on-one counseling, mentorships, and internships to deter negative cultures and criminal activity.
Þ Special Events - to inform, educate, promote and celebrate healthier communities among returning citizens, the public, and underserved youth.
Þ Clemency Collective - to create viable pathways for justice that are guided by lived experience, practical advice, and systemic solutions by executive clemency recipients.
Þ Civic Engagement - to educate incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals about voter eligibility and its power to impact public policy and quality of life.
Our advantage is distinctive. The most effective way to deter crime is to understand the criminal mentality. By combining the power of voices with the power of choices, we are the most credible messengers to help deter crime. Adolescents who share an affinity for the criminal culture are more likely to listen, respect, and trust others who share the wisdom of personal experience. We understand where life went wrong, why life went wrong, and how life went wrong. This privilege of hindsight empowers us with the insight to identify what it takes to make life go right.
Through our interactive events with exercises designed to foster awareness based on open dialogue between the incarcerated and underserved youth, we share a unique perspective to accurately assess the needs of underserved adolescents. We specialize in anticipating outcomes by applying scenario planning to identify alternatives that facilitate successful transitions into adulthood.
We measure our effectiveness based on how well we meet the needs of the people we serve. Accordingly, we are committed to developing life plans that align the challenges of underserved people with viable alternatives to promote successful futures. Our capacity to anticipate threats and consequences associated with poverty and crime maximize our leverage to succeed and deploy meaningful resources to cultivate positive change.
Our intent is to become a reliable resource for crime prevention and youth empowerment.
1. Prevention - We understand the challenges underserved communities encounter, and how important it is to prevent youth from engaging in crime. Accordingly, the goals of our current activities are:
A. To change adolescents’ perception of self-value by switching the frame of reference they view society through.
B. To reinforce the significance of making positive choices and developing winning attitudes.
C. To improve relationships between our youth and our communities.
D. To establish trust between our youth and our strategic partners.
2. Empowerment - We also understand the effects of poverty and how the lure of crime is viewed as a means of obtaining economic survival. Accordingly, we counter these views by achieving the following goals:
A. To increase our catalog of media literacy and refine our brand to establish a broader audience.
B. To expand our potential by enhancing our network of partners and increasing the educational and employment opportunities we offer formerly incarcerated people and our youth.
C. To employ “Credible Messengers/Living Proof Ambassadors” in selected communities and school districts to follow up on our media literacy with impactful curriculums.
D. To create “safe spaces” where our youth are afforded viable opportunities to learn, interact, and participate in positive activities outside of school.
Voices From Within is both unique and transformative. Our curriculums change the hearts and minds of people disenfranchised by crime and poverty. By employing our innovative and proven initiatives, we seek to transform the life course of incarcerated and underserved people through programs based on positive social interaction, mentorship, education, awareness, and employment—essential elements necessary to heal communities and end mass incarceration in America.
In sum, a culture of punishment breeds additional punishment: the punishment of victims, families, and society—not just the offender. We seek to minimize this vicious cycle by incorporating a restorative structure heavily based in community relations, which seeks wholeness and healing through reconciliation, redemption, and human repair. Through an enhanced paradigm of human dignity, we can make a strategic investment to restore the core characteristics of community: care, concern, collaboration, and collective contributions.