Freedom Ain't Free is a captivating stage Production adaptation of Lisa's gripping personal testimony revealed in her book, FREE? After a successful debut in Atlanta, Lisa has decided to use this production to help the youth of the women in her organization to redirect their frustration through the Arts. We will teach them how to Produce, Direct and work all aspects of a Stage Production. And we will also give them each acting lessons so they can audition for roles in the Production. After completing the training, they will be awarded a Certificate of completion and a letter of recommendation.
Not everyone who endures the trauma of incarceration has important lessons to share, Lisa Bush does. In her first book, FREE?, she gives voice to millions of offenders, ex-offenders, and their families, whose stories are vital. It takes a lot of courage to look in the mirror. Too often people fear what they might see reflected. But Lisa— who was 19 when we first met in the late-1980s—takes an honest inventory of her life and her mistakes, and she has a compelling story for anyone interested in the journey of a young woman who has endured America's criminal justice system and lived to tell about it.
Since her exit from the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Shakopee, Lisa has invested in her family, her faith, and herself. Today, Lisa is a success. But, in many ways, she is no different from so many others who have experienced incarceration. She was kept away from her loved ones, had her privacy stripped away, and suffered isolation. After Orange is the New Black gained popularity, the public became enamored with how a Smith College graduate, from a white middle class family, might experience incarceration. But Lisa's face is far more representative of incarcerated women in America today. When she went to prison, she was a young black mother from the post-industrial part of the west side of Chicago, whose family moved to Minneapolis in search of a better life. They found, in Minneapolis, much of what they left in Chicago because every American city has its other-side-of-town. In neighborhoods where joblessness is more common than a steady paycheck and where the best employers are drug dealers, the lure of the underground economy is powerful, especially for girls like Lisa. Lisa's story is vital to an America where over 2.2 million people are incarcerated. Our country, dedicated to the idea of liberty and justice for all, locks up more than any country in the world, including China or Russia.
Women face unique burdens when they go to prison. Women are usually the primary caregivers of their children. The female prison population in the United States continues to rise. From 2000 to 2009, the number of women incarcerated in state or federal prisons increased by 21%, compared to just a 15% increase for men. Thousands of young moms, like Lisa, occupy our jails and prisons, and children feel their absence across our nation. For too many kids, mom’s not there to pack lunches, to wipe away tears, to kiss skinned knees. They’re not there for big games, recitals, triumphs or failures. For so many American kids, mom’s incarceration is lived over the phone, in a prison visiting room, through thick glass. Lisa’s separation from her son, who was only a child when she went away, was brutal for both of them.
While Lisa doesn’t make excuses for herself in FREE?, the social and economic neglect of Black neighborhoods all over America is palpable when you stand in our streets. Whether it's north Minneapolis, the west side of Chicago, Ferguson, Baltimore, Detroit or Cleveland, opportunity in too many communities is so limited that most people either take drugs or sell them, and all will be criminalized because of it. Why is it that America incarcerates such a high percentage of its population? Can't the richest nation in the history of the world make opportunities for black girls from Chicago? Why does America incarcerate such a large percentage of its Black population? Could it be that America, as a society, never decided to absorb newly freed Africans, as far back as 1865, into its mainstream? Are prisons the modern solution to how we resolve the problem of castaway populations, like the progeny of the enslaved? Lisa's story must be understood if we will ever live up to our values.
Lisa has made a good life since leaving Shakopee. But, one can only imagine what she might have become with a different set of opportunities. What kind of entrepreneur, teacher, doctor, social worker, or political leader might Lisa have become if girls like her lived in a society that valued them? She’s out now and she’s here to tell her story. If we’re smart, we’ll listen.
Attorney General Keith Ellison