Inaugural Second Chance Freedom Ball
Thank you for joining the inaugural “Second Chance Freedom Ball” hosted by JustLeadershipUSA and the JustUS Coordinating Council in Washington, D.C., on Saturday April 29! Please sign up now to get on the list to be notified about next year.
Freedom Ball 2023 photos
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2023 FREEDOM DREAMERS
In 1988, Bill Underwood was arrested for a drug crime and later sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. On January 15, 2021 (Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday), after 33 years of incarceration, he received a compassionate release from federal prison.
Today, he is a Senior Fellow with The Sentencing Project’s Campaign to End Life Imprisonment where he advocates to create sustainable sentencing reform and second chances for economically marginalized communities. He is also a consultant, public speaker, advisor, entrepreneur and advocate at the Underwood Legacy Fund.
Ebony Underwood is a social entrepreneur, content creator, advocate, and ASPEN Institute Ascend Fellow. She founded WE GOT US NOW in 2017, as the first of its kind national, nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization built by, led by, and about children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration with the mission to engage, educate, elevate, and empower this historically invisible population through the use of digital narratives, safe and inclusive spaces, leadership building, and advocacy-led campaigns to ensure their voices are at the forefront of strategic initiatives, practices and policies that will help to keep families connected, create fair sentencing and end mass incarceration.
After serving 32 years in prison for a false conviction, Darrell Jones regained his freedom on June 11, 2019. As part of his hopes to educate the public about wrongful convictions, he created the “NOT IN MY NAME” campaign.
A Youth Re-entry Consultant, and lifelong activist for justice and freedom for those wrongly incarcerated, Darrell continues to speak out about his unjust sentencing and exoneration.
Jimmie Gardner is an inspirational speaker, emotional intelligence trainer, and advisor working with students, organizations, corporations, places of worship, and at risk youths. While incarcerated for a wrongful conviction, Gardner continued to pursue his education as he worked to secure his freedom and serve as a representative for others during their legal proceedings.
When his conviction was vacated in 2016 after 27 years behind bars, Gardner began sharing his story as an advocate for formerly incarcerated people attempting to reenter society.
Fox and Rob Rich
Fox and Rob Rich are a popular New Orleans-based couple who endured and survived 21 years as an incarcerated family. In 1997, Rob, a first-time offender in Louisiana, was sentenced to 61 years as a result of overzealous prosecution. Not to be denied, after her release from prison in 2002, Fox led a valiant charge to regain her husband’s freedom. In June 2018 Governor John Bel Edwards granted clemency to Rob. Ninety days later he was released. Their story is told in the acclaimed, award-winning documentary Time.
They have also written a book together about their experience. Together they have six sons and continue their advocacy for incarcerated families through the NOLA chapter of Participatory Defense Movement, an initiative of Rich Family Ministries, which they founded with the vision of “changing lives and laws through love” and dedicated to empowering families and marriages to thrive.
Tony Lewis, Sr. and Tony Lewis, Jr.
Tony Lewis Sr. has gone from being a 26-year-old entering prison for the first time to becoming a grandfather in prison and helping his family break the cycle of generational incarceration by encouraging his son, Tony Lewis Jr., to understand what he was up against and not follow in his footsteps. While incarcerated, Lewis Sr. worked with his son to impact the community he once harmed. In March 2023, he finally regained his freedom after serving 34 years.
As a community leader, workforce development specialist, re-entry expert, and champion for children with incarcerated parents, Tony Lewis, Jr. has fought relentlessly to uplift and empower men, women, and children impacted by mass incarceration. In 2015, he published Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration, a blueprint for survival and a demonstration of the power of love, sacrifice, and service.