Today almost a year after we started this special JJIE Virtual World Journalism Project, we published the centerpiece of our student labors, the story and the machinima mini-documentary video: Christopher: A Child Abandoned, Deprived & Imprisoned. It was published on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE.org) and simultaneously by The Crime Report housed at the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Both publications have a national reach to both general audience and those most interested in youth justice issues.
The finished story and machinima speak to the truly amazing work of the 11 students at Kennesaw State University, who did all the digging through thousands of pages of documents and traveling the state of Georgia for key interviews. All with the hope that Christopher Thomas’ story could be told widely to prevent him from being hidden from public view in Georgia prisons, which too often act as our country’s Gulags for young men of color.
You can hear a synopsis of the story at Georgia Public Radio’s (GPB) Second Thoughts program, where host Celeste Headlee interviews Kennesaw State University professor Leonard Witt, who oversaw the project, and project student Anastaciah Ondieki.
Christopher committed a crime at age 14, there is no doubt about that, but professor Witt says, “Really the story the students uncovered shows in great detail the failure of all of us in our society to find a way support our most neglected children. If we treated these kids differently, with compassion rather constant punishments, their outcomes might be much different.”
Christopher Thomas still has one more chance for the Georgia courts to amend his 40-year sentence thanks to the work of Stephen Reba, director of the Barton Law Center’s Appeal for Youth Clinic at Emory University. Reba has been trying to find justice for Thomas for years. Of course, we will keep everyone posted on that outcome.
Until then, thanks so much for watching this project unfold and special thanks again to Gwenette Writer Sinclair, who oversaw the virtual world sections of the project and to the Kennesaw State University students, including: Claire Bohrer, Kassidy Callahan, Kevin Enners, Ariel Greenaway, Cristina Guerra, Jourdan McGhee, Camille Moore, Anastaciah Ondieki and Jackson Walsh.