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About | FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison


They walk through prison gates with little more than a bus ticket and less than $100. After spending months or years counting down their sentences, they have days or hours to find food, housing, healthcare, and a job. WTTW’s FIRSTHAND: LIFE AFTER PRISON offers an intimate look at the challenges and opportunities facing people returning to society after spending time in prison, as they seek to restart their lives while carrying the stigma of a criminal record.

FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison is part of the award-winning FIRSTHAND multiplatform, multi-year initiative focusing on the firsthand perspectives of people facing critical issues in Chicago.

Community Engagement Partners

Illinois Humanities Envisioning Justice leverages the arts and humanities to envision alternatives to the enduring injustice of mass incarceration. This Illinois Humanities initiative works with communities and people impacted by mass incarceration to spark conversation and illuminate community-based strategies that address our racist and unjust criminal legal system.

Text Journalism Partners

Injustice Watch is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization that conducts in-depth research exposing institutional failures that obstruct justice and equality. Injustice Watch strives to be a diverse and inclusive organization. Our team embraces professional growth, learning, and collaboration. Our goal is to listen to and center people impacted by institutional injustices and provide them with the perspectives, information, and resources to hold powerful people and oppressive systems accountable.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs is a national youth journalism program and public media initiative that trains teenagers across the country to produce stories that highlight the achievements, challenges, and reality of today’s youth. SRL creates transformative educational experiences through video journalism that inspire students to find their voice and engage in their communities.

WTTW News drives in-depth coverage and analysis of Chicago news and public affairs across WTTW’s television and digital platforms, and in the community, including, Chicago Tonight, Week in Review, Black Voices, and Latino Voices. WTTW News is committed to providing trusted journalism, fact-based news, and authentic engagement that is inclusive and reflective of the diverse voices in the Chicago region.

Major support for FIRSTHAND was provided by

Ann and Rich Carr
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Leo Krupa Trust
(The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of Leo Krupa Trust.)
Denny and Sandy Cummings
Marc and Jeanne Malnati Family Foundation
Alexandra and John Nichols

(as of February 20, 2023)

Project Credits

Digital and Marketing

Justin Henderson
Jenny Macchione

Justin Henderson
Kevin Crowley
Mike Scipioni
Glenn Blicharz

Still Photography
Ken Carl
Liz Markel, Tipping Point Photography

Communications and Social Media
Meredith Francis
Daniel Hautzinger
Megan Lemersal
Julia Maish

SVP, Marketing & Digital
Anne Gleason

Community Engagement

Vice President of Community Engagement
Tim Russell

Senior Manager, Community Engagement
Emily Dehm

Community Engagement Specialist
Laura Wilson Fallsgraff


Mario Tharpe

Executive Producers
Dan Protess
Anne Gleason

Resita Cox
Pat Odom
Mario Tharpe
Teresa White
Donna Wilson

Directors of Photography
Edwin Diaz
Joshua Jackson
Ben Kolak
Cai Thomas

Additional Camera
Sam Rong

Ken Hall
Wayne Kumingo
Alanna Schmelter
DeShaun Simpson

Original Score
Allie n Steve Mullen

Matt Taylor

Re-Recording Mixer
Dufftone Sound

Postproduction Supervisor
Wayne Kumingo

Art Director
Linda Fox


Judith McCray

Jack Ginay

Scott Zeugner

Al Williams

Jim Mancini
Tim Boyd

Tape Operator
Mark Anderson

Charles Evans
Tim Jackson
Felix Mendez
Damon Ranger

Electronic Graphics
Stefanie Kljucaric

Floor Director
Bruce Rehberger

Tom Godar

Barbara Allen

TC Hill

Art Director
Linda Fox

Text and Visual Journalism

Jonah Newman, Managing Editor, Injustice Watch
Grace Asiegbu, Reporter, Injustice Watch
Matt Masterton, WTTW News

Discussion Guide

Julian Thompson, PhD