Represent Justice co-produces content alongside its system-impacted Ambassadors that tells their stories, highlights key issues, and educates and engages audiences.
By centering those directly impacted by incarceration in the storytelling and production process, these pieces build narrative power for leaders and advocates in the space, and create opportunities to generate meaningful change in their communities.
Inside every adult who has been incarcerated lives a child still searching for the love, safety and care they deserved.
Like April Grayson, 90% of youth who come to be involved in the justice system have had prior traumatic experiences. April’s life virtually began in the foster care system. With her birth mother unable to care for her, April spent her formative years in households and spaces where she was abused and mistreated by those entrusted with her safety and wellbeing.
By 19, just a year after she’d been emancipated from the foster care system with no support system and few economic opportunities, April was arrested and sentenced to 20 years and 8 months in prison. She served 17 of those years. Much of that time was marked by processing and healing from the trauma she’d endured.
At so many points in April’s journey, an adult could have intervened and altered the course of her life for the better. Weaving together documentary and fiction elements, the film shows us those moments to illuminate a cinematic and ultimately magical path to transforming our youth justice system.
The short film is co-produced by Represent Justice and April Grayson. The film stars Andre Royo (“The Wire”) and James Eckhouse (“Beverly Hills, 90210”), introduces Zakaiya Purnell, and is directed by Ben Lear, who also directed the 2016 documentary THEY CALL US MONSTERS about the youth justice system in California.
The prison system isn’t set up to meet the needs of anyone, let alone women and people in the LGBTQ+ community.
A Little Piece of Light, an organization founded by Represent Justice Ambassador Donna Hylton, is one of few spaces dedicated to meeting those needs by providing reentry services to women and LGBTQ+ people in New York City.
Everyday, Donna and Betsy, Devante and AJ — her team at A Little Piece of Light — operate as a crucial resource to their community. They meet women at the prison gates on the day of their release with a hug and a ride home. They help people find stable and secure housing, and connect them with other resources that allow them to support themselves and their families. But most of all, the offices of A Little Piece of Light are one of the few spaces where system-impacted people can show up as their whole selves and be in community with people who understand their experience and trauma without explanations, a space where they are free from the heavy burdens placed on them by society post-incarceration.
The future of youth justice in California is at an inflection point. Last year, the state began plans to cease operations within the Department of Juvenile Justice with a promise to close the agency for good by June 30, 2023, in favor of alternatives to incarceration. Despite this, there has not been enough budget allocated or movement from local elected officials to make these plans a reality.
Represent Justice Ambassador Kent Mendoza is one of the thousands of young men who spent his formative years incarcerated in Los Angeles County instead of receiving the support that would have helped them move forward in a positive way. Now, he’s an advocate for system-impacted youth so they can access the resources he didn’t have.
The short film follows Kent and the youth he mentors, as they find their voices and fight for the implementation of alternatives to youth incarceration that the state of California has promised to ensure young people are allowed the opportunity to thrive.
Watch A Million Dollar Cage