Frederick Douglass Project for Justice: Addressing Perceptions of Criminal Justice System

Members of the public often have a misguided perception of the criminal justice system,
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Photo: Fredrick Douglass Project

Members of the public often have a misguided perception of the criminal justice system, from stereotypes of incarcerated people, assumptions about how they ended up behind bars, and an overall lack of understanding about the pitfalls of the system.

The Frederick Douglass Project for Justice is working to change all of that.

Founded in late 2019 by Marc Howard, an author and political science professor at Georgetown University, the Frederick Douglass Project for Justice is a nonprofit organization that seeks to change the public’s perception of the criminal justice system through education, relationship-building, and highlighting the stories and humanity of people who are currently (or who have been) incarcerated.

For Howard, the inspiration to get involved in criminal justice and prison reform was personal: it came after a childhood friend, Marty Tankleff, was wrongfully convicted of murder. After Tankleff’s release, he partnered with Howard to teach a course at Georgetown entitled “Making an Exoneree.”

With a vision of creating a society where every human is treated with dignity, understood, and nurtured, the Frederick Douglass Project develops programs meant to create personal connections between the incarcerated and the community at large. Although momentarily halted due to COVID-19, the Frederick Douglass Project has created plans for a multi-state Prison Visitation Program that enables community members to visit local correctional facilities and engage in open and meaningful face-to-face conversations with the incarcerated.

As it has moved closer to launching visitation program, the Douglass Project has worked to educate the public on topics such as the impact of COVID-19 in prisons through webinars and discussions with the media. It is through these kinds of programs and outreach that the program is working to create understanding, empathy, and to build systemic change.

Led by Howard and Administrative Director Alessandra Rose, a longtime criminal justice reform activist, the Frederick Douglass Project has a slate of renowned criminal justice experts on its Board of Directors helping inform and guide the organization.

Among them are Lava Records founder/CEO, Innocence Project founding Board member, and podcast host Jason Flom; Unchained Media Collective co-founder and CSO Halim Flowers; exoneree, journalist, and author Amanda Knox; consumer behavior, trend, and investment expert Faye Landes; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases* Medical Officer Dr. Carmelle Norice-Tra (*Dr. Norice-Tra serves on the Douglass Project Board in her personal capacity), award-winning Georgetown University Professor Dr. Sam Potolicchio; internationally-known anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean; and finance and accounting expert and teacher Michael G. Ryan.

About the Frederick Douglass Project for Justice Founded in 2019 and formally launched in January 2020, the Frederick Douglass Project for Justice embodies the values and legacy of the great 19th century champion of education, emancipation, equality, and justice. The Douglass Project facilitates structured meetings and respectful conversations between members of free society and prisoners, so that they can learn from each other, form powerful human connections, and transform their own lives and society at large.

For more information about the organization or to participate in a prison visit, please visit

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