The Redemption Project grew out of a collaboration between Kempis “Ghani” Songster, John Pace and Aaron “Abdul Lateef” Phillips, three remarkable men serving life-without-parole sentences in Pennsylvania for crimes that they were convicted of as children, and Mike Lyons, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Saint Joseph’s University.
The project’s mission is to research, document and share the stories of child lifers to increase public awareness and prompt a revisiting of mandatory life-without-parole sentences. Pennsylvania is one of many states that required children as young as 13 convicted of first- or second-degree murder to serve life sentences without the chance for parole. Pennsylvania, where our work is focused for now, has by far the most child lifers of any state with some 500.
Our work combines oral history and advocacy journalism to provide a platform for child lifers, their families and advocates a chance to tell their own stories. We do this through audio and video interviews, documents and photographs.
In no way do we intend to mitigate the pain and suffering of the families of victims of homicide. As Kempis Songster says in one interview:
“When I think about Anjo [Anjo Pryce, the victim in his case] it ties my kite to the ground. It grounds me and it keeps me from thinking with any sense of entitlement. I’ll never be able to live that down. And it’s not even what the system convicted me to, it’s what I convict myself to, which is a lifetime of sacrifice and service.”