No Kids in Prison Receives the 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award
Evident Change is proud to announce the winner of this year’s Distinguished Achievement Award: No Kids in Prison. No Kids is an interactive, online experience that combines digital art, audio narratives, and data to illustrate how the current youth justice system affects young people and their families and, importantly, to envision a world without youth prisons.
No Kids in Prison was selected for the Distinguished Achievement Award by this year’s guest judges: Aldita Gallardo of the Fund for Trans Generations at Borealis Philanthropy; Anna Sale, host of the award-winning podcast Death, Sex, and Money and author of Let’s Talk About Hard Things; and Stanley Richards, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of The Fortune Society.
No Kids in Prison represents an incredible collaboration between many people and organizations, and as is noted on the site, credit first goes to the many youth who shared their stories for the project. (A full list of contributors is available on the site under “Credits.”) The work was led by Performing Statistics, a national cultural organizing project that uses art to model, imagine, and advocate for alternatives to incarceration; the Youth First Initiative; and the Columbia Justice Lab, with creative direction by Invisible Thread and site design and development by Oblio.
A film and a podcast rounded out the three finalists for the Distinguished Achievement Award. Evident Change congratulates the creators of For Love, written and produced by Mary Teegee and directed and produced by Matt Smiley; and “Juvenile (In)justice” from Reveal, reported by Tennessee Watson and produced by Tennessee Watson and Eda Uzunlar.
In selecting No Kids in Prison as this year’s winner, all three judges praised the youths’ work and observed that their involvement in the project made this piece extremely special. Anna Sale said, “I was so struck by the way I was called in and who was telling the story … From the very beginning it had this spirit of a joyful imagining of new futures even though it was dealing with systems. It was just exciting from a storytelling perspective in a way that felt incredibly distinctive.”
Richards agreed, saying, “No Kids told a powerful story through both animation and narration. It just captivated me. I remember in particular the young guy who had a learning disability, and that turned into a behavioral issue and started a journey of incarceration. The mother reached out to the system that she thought was going to be a resource to her and it turned out to be a traumatic experience for herself, her family, and her son, and ended with his incarceration.”
All three judges noted that while No Kids illustrates how the system can harm young people and their families, the piece doesn’t dwell on the problems. Rather, it leaves viewers with hope and optimism for the possibility of a better future.
As Gallardo put it: “[I appreciated] the beauty of the Black youth not only sharing stories of harshness but calling into the future what is possible. In the current movement about defunding police and carceral systems, there isn’t often a conversation about what we are replacing it with, what are we envisioning …They really drove home the possibilities, and that it will take all of us to create it right alongside them. I was left with wanting more, wanting to share it, and wanting to have more dialogue. This feels young and innovative and expansive. It was a pleasure and a joy to learn from these folks.”
Gallardo also noted that No Kids took a pointedly different approach in connecting its audience to its subjects: “There was a focus on joy and aliveness rather than death and violence, which is how most folks learn about queer and trans Black and brown women.”