Leaders of Largest Outreach to US Prisoners Applaud Doc on Racial Inequality, Incarceration

Interview Opps: Criminal Justice Expert Featured in Netflix's 13th & Prison Fellowship President and CEO

Following its Oscar nomination this week, Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th received high praise from leading voices in justice reform, including Craig DeRoche, an expert featured in the film who has testified before Congress about America's criminal justice system. 

"We applaud 13th's Oscar nomination and believe it is worthy of the Academy's highest honor," said DeRoche, Prison Fellowship senior vice president for advocacy and public policy. "The film validates Prison Fellowship's advocacy for justice that restores: if you do something wrong, you should pay your sentence in full, and then you deserve a second chance to contribute to your community. Yet in the American criminal justice system, there's absolutely zero closure when someone is released from incarceration."

For the more than 600,000 men and women released from prison each year, there is a "second prison"—more than 40,000 legal, social and other barriers that people with criminal records usually face for years after they have paid their dues.

"This film explains why Americans should be appalled and embarrassed that our nation has less than five percent of the world's population, but almost 25 percent of the world's prison population," said Prison Fellowship President and CEO James Ackerman. "It exposes the history of racial inequality in the United States and how the abysmal, undeniable overrepresentation of people of color continues to this day in our nation's prisons. Shame on us."

In an effort to address these issues, Prison Fellowship equips wardens, prison staff and more than 11,000 volunteers—including men and women serving time—to create safer, more rehabilitative prisons that prepare prisoners to return to their communities as good neighbors. More than 26,000 prisoners participate in Prison Fellowship classes each month, and the organization works in more than 1,000 prisons in all 50 states. 

Prison Fellowship is also active on Capitol Hill, urging Congress to support reforms that make communities safer, respect victims and transform lives. The organization recently launched the Faith & Justice Fellowship, a bipartisan body that includes members of Congress, governors and state legislators motivated by their various faith traditions and committed to prioritizing and advancing restorative values in criminal justice reform.

Media Opportunities:

  • DeRoche and Ackerman are available by phone or in studio to comment on:
    • The effect of crime and incarceration on communities and families
    • Current state and federal legislative initiatives for criminal justice reform
    • Building a safer, more rehabilitative prison culture
    • Successful reentry and the elimination of a "second prison" for those who have completed their sentence

Justice reform resources and statistics are available here.

Prison Fellowship was founded in 1976 by the late Charles Colson, a former aide to President Nixon who served a seven-month sentence for a Watergate-related crime. Today, the Christian nonprofit is the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform. With 40 years of experience helping restore men and women behind bars, Prison Fellowship advocates for federal and state criminal justice reforms that transform those responsible for crime, validate victims and encourage communities to play a role in creating a safe, redemptive and just society.