“Being In Prison Was Like Being In The Twilight Zone”

Recently, through an invitation from the non-profit criminal justice news media outlet The Marshall Project and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple, John got the opportunity to participate in a project that seamlessly weaves together visual arts, cartooning, graphics, story-telling, and media to delve into the psychological warfare that takes place in prison — games that make an already tenuous situation that much worse in ways that can literally yield life or death consequences.

The name of the project is The Zo - a term coined by one prisoner who felt that being in prison was like living in the Twilight Zone—explores how wardens and staff use arbitrary rules and retribution to control incarcerated people. When asked to tell us more about this inside look into prison life, Ruth Baldwin, Director of Communications and Strategy of The Marshall Project, stated that The Zo “depicts the disorienting world of prison, where arbitrary rules and retaliation are used to break down your grip on reality and make you a more manageable prisoner.“

All of the voiceovers are done by returning citizens — that’s one of the things John is most proud of in being a part of this video series. “There’s so much to say about having an opportunity to do a voice over for a Molly Crabapple episode of “The Zo.” This animated piece really resonated with me because it’s a story about us - people that were formerly incarcerated. Ruth literally teamed up with Lawrence Bartley Director of News Inside - a free magazine issued to people currently serving time in prison - to get this project done. I was hand picked by them both and Ruth was delighted to work with me after my unofficial interview with her.

I mention the interview respectfully because anyone that’s worked with Ruth Baldwin knows she’s very good at reading people so to speak! When she okayed me after Mr. Bartley recommended me ,I felt honored. To know that I’m featured on a Molly Crabapple Project is just an added extra.

The Zo is more than just great artistry and authentic voice overs. This body of work is set forth to educate those whose only insight into what living in prison is really like based on how mainstream media tells the story. That’s not always the most accurate version of the story.

My hope is that when you see and listen to the stories told by the women and men like myself that have endured this criminal injustice system you too will be changed for the better and become a more informed citizen who makes decisions that are compassionate and humanitarian. Prison is neither of these things. #SpeakYaTruth🗣💯

I am so proud to be a part of this project: Please watch it here! https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/02/27/welcome-to-the-zo

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