By Tina Kingshill
I discovered Project Orange through my Swing Left group a few months ago when it was first scheduled to kick off before Harvey came to visit Houston. I was immediately intrigued by the thought of reaching so many potential voters who were 'hidden' away and forgotten by conventional methods of voter outreach. Recently certified in Harris County I was eager to register as many voters as I could knowing that Texas has one of the worst records for voter turnout.
Then Harvey hit like a freight train and everything came to a screeching halt. I remember emailing Durrel Douglas to confirm that #ProjectOrange was dead in the water (pun intended) for the time being and got the word out to other DVR's. Fast forward a few weeks down the road and I got an email from another DVR asking if Project Orange was back on which prompted me to contact Durrel and we were off to the races. My timing was perfect--they were just ramping back up. (See how God works?)
I'd never been inside a jail before so my only reference was watching reality TV shows like 'Lock Up' that showed the stark reality of life behind bars. Hearing them tell their stories confirmed the feeling I always had--that there but for the grace of God, or my good fortune being raised in a stable home with my physical and emotional needs met, and the color of my skin (or lack thereof) go I. I'm not excusing the fact that these people made bad decisions and did some bad things, but I'm also not judging them from my lofty place of privilege. We are all just a few paychecks, physical addictions or psychological traumas away from possibly finding ourselves in those orange jumpsuits with our freedom and dignity taken from us.
There is a great need for criminal justice reform in our country and Houston's bail system (more like debtor's prison) is a good place to start. But that's for another blog. It gives me great satisfaction to assist my fellow citizens in exercising their constitutional right to cast a vote and have their voice heard.
Emerging from the corporate womb and finding my passion in criminal justice reform, Project Orange is the perfect place for me to start my journey.
Tina Kingshill is the Statewide #ProjectOrange coordinator for HoustonJustice.Org, a grass-roots, member-led organization addressing justice reform at the local and statewide level through mobilization, advocacy, and education.