TEDxMarionCorrectional features voices of inmates, insights from the inside that need to be heard

Marion Correctional Institution is a low-security level prison in Ohio that hosted this incredible TedX series called “A Life Worth Living?” on September 16, 2013. The event’s key speakers included inmates who were brave enough to publicly share their stories, like the man featured in this video, David Butler II.

“I’ve grown to know that words are not enough to say I’m sorry, so I’ve dedicated my life to help men and kids from becoming me,” Butler explained, after opening up to the audience about the life events that landed him in prison.

David Butler II, now an inmate at Southeastern Correctional facility, is in prison for murdering his girlfriend’s father in 1998, for reasons he explains in this TEDx talk. David is now waiting to hear from the parole board about his release from prison.

Here’s my personal reason for wanting to speak out about this video: Since high school, I have traveled to multiple prisons, heard dozens of stories from inmates, and volunteered my time alongside individuals in a halfway house. This does not make me an expert on the subject by any means, but it’s why I know that David Butler’s story is a lot more typical than you may expect.

Our prisons are filled with people who have committed pretty serious crimes; but, they are also filled with people who truly want to change their lives and take a positive direction. If you heed the insights of op-eds like this one from The New York Times, you might think prisons are mostly filled with people charged with petty drug crimes–the more or less morally innocent. Sadly, that perception can have real, harmful effects on people who don’t fit that mold, but who do need our attention and support. Of course, it’s true we have a lot of issues with our current drug laws, and we need to release innocent inmates; but, when inmates with serious charges, who have been rejected their whole lives, are rejected again by our public unconsciousness to their rehabilitation, we’re still doing a disservice to our ideals of criminal justice.

We can’t give up hope on people like David, and only focus our attentions on the petty offenders and wrongfully accused. We have to learn to see past Mr. Butler’s crime, and listen to his struggle from a place of common humanity.