Released with Conviction is back! CEO and the Bronx Library Center are proud to announce Released with Conviction multimedia exhibit. The project offers a rarely seen perspective of those returning home from prison or jail through photography and interviews.
We’re busy installing today and the exhibit opens tomorrow! Stop by during the library’s normal hours from November 9-December 17.
The official opening night with panel discussion and film screening is November 16 at 6pm. Click here to RSVP if you would like to attend. The Bronx Library Center is located at 310 East Kingsbridge Road.
The Center for Employment Opportunities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing immediate, effective and comprehensive employment services to men and women with recent criminal convictions.
Jeyhoun Allebaugh is one of our photographers for Released with Conviction. He photographed Julio Panchon, Revond Cox and Vanessa Lugo.
When we started this project, one of the key ideas behind “Released” was to show that when the formerly incarcerated come back home, it is often not to the “clean slate” that many of us imagine it to be. We wanted to show that there are new and different obstacles these people must face and I believe the project highlighted these well, showing some of the areas where the aid of an organization like CEO is imperative.
I believe what ended up being great about the project, however, was that more than the differences, the similarities between what the subjects and normal people go through on a day to day basis was what was most evident. In fact, I think the 9 people we documented over 3 months are some of the best examples of the human spirit I have come across. Seeing Revond buy his son ice cream, Vanessa’s amazement at seeing the Stock Exchange in person and Julio grilling chicken for his girlfriend are simple moments, but really stand out in the context of their lives.
These are absolutely amazing people and I hope you will spend a couple minutes getting to know them by watching the short videos on the site.
I have very much enjoyed staying in touch with these great people since the project. Listening to them talk about the continual triumphs and struggles of this great life we are given has truly been a gift and is a great inspiration to me.
Read more about how Jeyhoun got involved and his experience with the project at Pete Brook’s Prison Photography blog here.
Lewis Epps is currently a client at CEO. He took some time out of his day to answer a few questions about his experience coming home from prison and living in a shelter.
Lewis participated in the Released with Conviction project by taking his own photos with disposable cameras CEO had given out. These photos offer a glimpse of his daily life and the communities he lives in. View the photos here.
What was going on in your life when you took the photos?
I was happy that I was doing it and engaging in a project that would reflect my life. You know how you want to leave a legacy? I want people to say, “Yeah, Lewis he’s a good guy.” You know, I was doing something good to help me, and to help others, and also to be thankful to CEO for the opportunity.
What is it like to live in a shelter?
It’s hard to say because the shelter system is helping me out in that they provide me with a bed, but I’ve got to take care of myself. I feel like I am ashamed to be in a shelter, I have never been in one my entire life. I had no place to live, so they released me to the shelter. They told me to go to a shelter and from there the [Parole Office] will help me find somewhere to live. They helped me get to CEO and told me other doors will open up.
Everybody in the shelter system is in a similar situation as mine. I’ve never met anyone who is striving for more like I am, I communicate with others but I am determined to stay positive and not let anyone bring me down. I come into CEO every day early, going to programs, meetings, interviews. I love it here at CEO.
What do you like about CEO?
There are so many reasons. CEO has helped me with everything. Every employee here is good at what they do, and getting help from all sorts of people is helping me succeed. They’ve helped me land job interviews and helped me prepare for them. They even helped me get my first tie. I was going on an interview and I didn’t have any clothes. Victor Ellis, Team Director, had extra ties and gave me one. It just really brightened my day.
CEO helped me with my resume, to best articulate my qualifications. Marc pushes me, “Come on you can do better than that.” He tells me to strive for much better, which I really appreciate. Jessica C got on my case about being punctual to job interviews and appointments. There are just so many stories.
What is your ideal job?
I’d like to have a construction job or maintenance job. I just received my driver’s license. CEO helped me achieve OSHA and forklift certificates. I’m looking for outside training as well. I’ve never had a steady job before, and now I feel I am too old for a lot of opportunities. I want to relax and enjoy life when I get older. I’ve got to build up my money and get a job where I can climb ladders quickly; and crane and bulldozers work can do that for me.
Has your family been supportive through this process?
I have a tight, helpful family and we’re all very close. When I lived in the Bronx, that’s where my criminal activities came from. My mother is elderly and I don’t want to bring that back to her, so that is why I chose to live in the shelter upon my release. My family is very supportive. I go every Saturday to my mother’s to do painting, backyard, do work for her. Sundays I go to church.
Tell us about the day you were released. What was the most important thing on your mind?
The day I was released, I was in a facility in Maryland. Two months before my release they told me I’d be released the day after my birthday and kept pressuring me for an address. Then I decided I’d go into the shelter system after talking with my PO. They moved me to the halfway house in the Bronx and I stayed there for 4 months. I was there to work my way back into society, take small steps. Then I requested to come to CEO. The transition was rough and emotional for me. I didn’t know what was what. I didn’t know to expect, but I was determined to turn life around.
Editor’s Note: Ramayana Jones is a participant of CEO currently seeking full-time employment.
I came to CEO with the hopes that it would be a springboard for me to transition back into the work world. Employment was always a main issue in my mind before I came home. I anticipated the rejection that would come with the knowledge of having a criminal record. This is the most frustrating thing I have yet to deal with. I have been on a few job interviews and because of my felony I was turned down. Now that I have been home for three months, I realize that the only tool to being a success is to be diligent and focused. It’s the only thing besides going back to prison, and that is not an option.
I do not concern myself with prison, I keep that up front in my head. I know I cannot do what other people do, nor do I wish to do so. I have thousands of doors slammed in my face, but all I need is just one door to open. That one opportunity is all I need. I stay on the lookout for my opportunities. I have met some staff at CEO that are from where I am from. I have learned from the men and women here at CEO that it’s okay to wear a suit and still be yourself. This is all a process, but it will pay off.
Some of the CEO staff know where I’m coming from. My Job Developer is a good guy. He gives me leads for jobs that are 40 hours a week. If I don’t come in he pressures me to come in. He tries to introduce me to prospects but so far no responses. I am sent on labor jobs but I am a creative person and there are not enough of the creative jobs. I want to do entry-level marketing. There should be some concessions for companies to hire people with convictions in this field. I would love to work in an office and utilize my creative abilities. I know Microsoft Office and other computer skills and I don’t want them to go to waste.
I am going to school in September to study sound engineering, which includes music, movies and plays. They always need someone to make the sounds in studios. I am also a spoken word artist; I do these things for free so I can tell my story in a creative way and inform people. I need to help others by telling my story.
When I think of some CEO employees who were once participants, I realize my story is not unique. This person went through what I went through. This means I cannot give up, since they didn’t. They hit a hard spot and they toughened it out. When these guys talk about how they were in prison, every story is different but the trail is the same.
Last week, we had a great opening of Released with Conviction: The Exhibit at CultureFix in the Lower East Side. The exhibit is closing tomorrow, but it truly was a great way to have the NYC community be able to see our photographs. Here are some photos of a few of our opening events where the phtographers, staff, participants and community members joined us at CultureFix.
The exhibit’s last day is tomorrow so make sure to stop by and check it out! If you can’t make it, watch the multimedia shows and read more about the project at www.ceoworks.org/released.
(Photographer: Ian Mahathey)
When CEO first came out with Released with Conviction, we wanted to reach people who are normally unaware of individual’s circumstances when they come home from incarceration. The project has given us an opportunity to give a voice to the people we serve every day and also educate a broader audience on reentry. Thus, we were pleased when Arcade44, a multi-platform online magazine, wanted to cover the project and were able to give CEO and the photographers a chance to talk about Released with Conviction to an art oriented audience. Visit Arcade 44 and read the article here.
Arcade44 is a multi-platform online magazine consisting exclusively of video content. Arcade44’s video editorials feature the people shaping music, fashion, art, and culture with a uniquely personal viewpoint. As a “channelzine”, Arcade44 represents the merging of the magazine and television worlds to create a new platform for artists. Since launching in March 2010, our content has already been viewed in six continents around the globe. We’ve been featured on media outlets including Jezebel, Idolator, The Fader, Refinery29, and GQ, among others including VEVO and several channels all over YouTube and Vimeo.
When individuals return home from incarceration, they rarely return back to lives they left behind. In 2011, nine individuals recently released from prison or jail in New York City began to tell CEO their stories. Documenting their lives, three photographers followed these individuals through the struggles and joys of life after being released from incarceration. These stories are about second chances to create a new future and becoming released from one’s past.
CEO is proud to present Released, a project created to provide a rarely seen perspective of men and women returning home from prison or jail. All individuals who have participated in the project came to CEO to receive help in finding employment and are at different stages of the program. The project began following the first participant in March of 2011 and CEO intends to continue telling their stories as they continue with the reentry process.
CEO also allowed seven other participants to take their own photos using a disposable camera. These photos provide a glimpse into these individual’s every day lives and the communities they live in.
The multimedia shows and photography can be seen online at www.ceoworks.org/released. There will be curated photography from the project on display at CultureFIX in the Lower East Side from June 14th – June 25th.