- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Tommy Redd has never served a prison sentence, but he has seen through inmates’ art and writings the effect that prison has on them and their progeny.

Redd is CEO of Unboxed, a magazine of collected life stories expressed through art, letters, poems and writings sent from prisons.

“They are starving for a way to voice their opinions,” Redd told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1lJp0Lh ).

Redd works at the Food Bank of Lincoln as a distribution center assistant, and he puts out the magazine on his own time.

The first issue of 1,500 copies came out in June 2014 and was sent to more than 1,100 penal institutions. Soon, he began to get submissions from inside and outside of prisons. A second edition was released in early 2015, and the editors hope to have a third done before Christmas. He said he pays most of the magazine costs out of his savings and sells some ads.

Redd gives inmates space for expression and lets them know what’s available to them when they get out.

“That’s the one thing that keeps popping up when I’m in conversation with someone is they don’t know what to do, don’t know where to go (when they get out),” Redd said.

Redd was arrested once, but was sentenced to community service and probation and never did any prison time. Still, he said, the arrest process altered his thinking and his life. He’d never been in this kind of trouble and didn’t know how to explain it to people who loved and trusted him.

“It was a total embarrassment from within. Once I was released, I didn’t want to go nowhere, I didn’t want to talk to nobody,” he said.

But now, he said, “I know who I am, and I’m comfortable with who I am. I made a mistake and I’ve moved on.”

His experience gave him a new perspective of people in prison. He started to read news articles and other information and wrote letters to inmates, asking to hear their stories.

With this magazine, Redd said, people can read about normal people who made mistakes.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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