The Land of the "Free"

The United States only makes up approximately ~4% of the world’s population, yet it holds 22% of the world’s incarcerated population. In fact, the United States is the 2nd most incarcerated nation on earth per capita. Yet we are considered the “Land of the Free”.

Policies instituted specifically during the war on drugs caused thousands of Americans to find themselves behind bars for long amounts of time for only minor drug offenses. When these Americans are finally released, their freedom is not true freedom. With a felony record, ex-convicts cannot vote, cannot buy a gun, are discriminated against for employment and housing, and are viewed as second-class citizens in society. Many ex-convicts, unable to find employment or housing, find themselves homeless and resorting to illegal tactics to survive. As a result, as found in the 2005 study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 76.6 percent of freed inmates were back in jail within 5 years; of those 76.6%, 56.7% of them were back in jail within only one year. The U.S. Incarceration problem is largely maintained by these atrocious recidivism rates. If ex-convicts are able to find employment, housing, and rehabilitation resources on release, they are much less likely to find themselves back behind bars.

I came to know all of this information through seminars and documentaries I attended at college, most notably the documentary 13th by Ava DuVernay; I highly recommend it. This ignited in me a passion to help ex-convicts and eventually own my own local business in which we prioritize hiring ex-convicts. While I looked forward to achieving that dream further down the road, I wanted to do something now. After researching businesses run by alumni of my college and observing business operations built around similar models (percentage of profit to a cause), I realized I could do the same. The issue of mass incarceration and the societal prejudice that ex-convicts are faced with is still a widely unknown issue. I want to use apparel and social media to push for this awareness and affect change in my nation.

A substantial portion of profits go to organizations devoted to helping formerly incarcerated men and women find jobs, housing, training, and loans/grants.

Freedom needs to truly mean freedom.

Every human deserves the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Everyone deserves forgiveness.