“Going to prison saved my life.”
That is what guest, Lynard Joiner, said during this conversation with host, David Risley. It is also the subtitle of an autobiographical book written by Lynard Joiner, titled, LJ’s Cocoon.
Mr. Joiner and Mr. Risley first met on opposite sides of a federal courtroom, on opposite sides of the law. Mr. Joiner was a defendant. Mr. Risley was the prosecutor.
Mr. Joiner was convicted and served 17 years in prison. Now, he is founder and CEO of a reentry program named Shifting Into New Gear (SING) providing mentoring and resource navigation services to people returning to the Springfield, Illinois, area after release from prison. He has provided services to hundreds of returning citizens, including many who are former defendants in cases prosecuted by Mr. Risley.
Today, Mr. Risley and Mr. Joiner are friends and colleagues.
In this episode, recorded originally in 2019, Mr. Joiner describes what led him to end up in prison; his prison experience; the transformation while in prison that he describes as coming out of a cocoon; his experience after release, including being taught how to use a cell phone by a 4 year-old child; the mission of SING; and SING’s remarkable success in enabling returning citizens transition successfully to community and family life after release from prison.
When Mr. Risley shared the earlier YouTube video version of this episode with a friend who is a retired Illinois State Police Major, the friend called him the next day and said he had already watched it twice, describing it as “impactful,” something that should be watched by everyone, including police trainees.
Mr. Risley is a former career federal prosecutor and former Director of Public Safety Policy in the Illinois Governor’s Office. He founded Justice Voices after leaving the Governor’s office, convinced that the best way to change public policy regarding criminal justice issues is to change public opinion by sharing the stories of people with lived experience with crime and the criminal justice system.
Some future episodes will feature conversations with other people who served prison time in cases prosecuted by Mr. Risley. Others will feature conversations with people with subject matter expertise in criminal justice issues, including restorative justice.
Episode 2 will feature an more recent 2021 conversation with Mr. Joiner in which he shares what he sees as the five keys of successful reentry to community life after release from prison.
Stay tuned for that and many more “stories that need to be told, voices that need to be heard.”