Nation of Second Chances is a photo and video storytelling series about the people granted clemency by President Obama. In total, 1,715 people had their sentences commuted and almost all were nonviolent drug offenders given mandatory minimum sentences of decades or life in prison — even for first offenses.
Though Congress would change some of these sentencing guidelines, particularly the 100:1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine, the changes weren’t retroactive and many people who were sentenced under those laws remained in prison. During my time as Campaigns Director at Change.org, I helped dozens of families create online petitions to tell the stories about the sentences their mom, dad, son, or daughter received, and the impact this had on all of their lives.
Many petitions received hundreds of thousands of supporters, totaling over 2 million signatures, and brought hope to those in prison — their voices were finally being heard. I developed friendships with both the clemency recipients and their families, and, inspired by their resiliency and President Obama’s historic initiative, decided to start Nation of Second Chances to help them tell their stories.
Through beautiful photos and powerful words, Nation of Second Chances seeks to humanize those who spent decades in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, many first time, low level offenders charged with conspiracy, whose only chance of freedom was mercy from the president.
My hope is that these stories will change minds and hearts by demonstrating the needless hardships these people and their families endured, and the wonderful things they’re accomplishing with new found freedom. These are good people and President Obama made the right decision by giving them a second chance at life.
Jon Perri, Creative Director