The Visiting Room Project lets people see and hear from prisoners doing life without parole
This Thursday, Virginians will get the chance to meet men who were once serving life without parole at Louisiana’s Angola penitentiary. They’ll be at UVA’s law school to tell their stories and describe the circumstances that led to terrible crimes.
“Every one of the men talks about serious and tragic things that were going on in their life and lack of resources," says Professor Kelly Orians. "Some people were teenagers when this happened.”
She helped organize the Visiting Room Project so the stories of more than a hundred inmates at Angola could be recorded and shared online.
“The goal of the project is to highlight extreme sentencing that exists within the country – particularly sentences that give people no meaningful chance for a review at any time in their life," Orians explains.
What began in Louisiana may soon come to Virginia where more than 16-hundred people are doing life without parole. Deirdre Enright, who heads UVA’s Center for Criminal Justice, says the keynote speaker on April 6th is a convicted car thief sent to prison here at 16. Today, she contends Reginald Dwayne Betts is living proof of why people should get a second chance.
“He’s now gone to Yale Law School, clerked for a federal court, written books and won a MacArthur Genius Award," Enright says.
The program at UVA’s law school will run from 5:30 to 7:30. Admission, parking and refreshments are free.