Howard University
Howard University Credit: Darrow Montgomery

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Howard University College of Medicine professor Stanley Andrisse joined formerly incarcerated journalists for a thought-provoking discussion and sneak peek of a new episode of “Inside Story,” a video series from VICE News and the Marshall Project. Andrisse, who has served time in prison, was featured in the episode that pointed out the injustices in some life-without-parole sentences, two- and three-strike laws, and prison gerrymandering, a practice where prisoners count toward an area’s population but cannot vote.

A panel discussion followed the screening last Wednesday, March 15, at Howard University, which shed light on the system from the perspectives of currently and formerly incarcerated people.

“When I was incarcerated, I had no understanding of what life outside was going to be like,” says Andrisse, an endocrinologist at Howard University College of Medicine, who received a 10-year sentence. Andrisse is also the executive director of Prison to Professionals, an organization dedicated to supporting returning citizens. “This series is giving people, not only my story, but the stories of so many other people and what successful reentry looks like,” he says.

Andrisse joined Lawrence Bartley, the host and executive producer of the “Inside Story” video series, and Martin Garcia, the manager of the News Inside, a publication from the Marshall Project that is distributed in prisons. During the discussion, Andrisse shared his personal insights and experiences with the system, emphasizing the urgent need for transformative change. Bartley and Garcia added to the conversation by providing their own perspectives on the issues, including the role of the media in shaping public opinion and providing stories to those who remain behind bars. 

Bartley, who also served time in prison, says his goal with the new project is to explore issues related to criminal justice and incarceration through the eyes of people most directly impacted by the system.

“One of the biggest things that we say is that these walls don’t just keep people in, they keep information out,” Garcia said during the panel. “[We’re] equipping people in prison with information … and people don’t like them to be educated.”

This episode featured powerful narratives from three individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system, including Andrisse. Ali Siddiq, a comedian who spent six years in prison, and Dorian Mackeroy, a man who is serving a life-without-parole sentence, were also featured in the episode. Mackeroy spoke about the injustice of Florida’s legal system: “They actually have two death penalties in Florida—the electric chair and life without parole sentences.”

Mackeroy’s sentence stems from two armed robberies he committed—one as a teenager and another for stealing a woman’s necklace. Although no one was harmed in either situation, Mackeroy was classified as a “prison releasee reoffender.” Florida’s two-strike law allows prosecutors to increase a person’s sentence if they commit a new crime within three years of release, and he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars at just 22 years old. He has been incarcerated for nearly 25 years.

“I was sentenced under the three-strike law,” Andrisse said during the panel discussion. He described how the prosecutor in his case pushed for him to receive a life sentence because he had two previous charges. “I was actually fortunate to get [a 10-year sentence] instead of life,” Andrisse said.

Andrisse and his team are breaking down barriers and creating new pathways to success for people who have often faced significant challenges. The Prison-to-Professionals initiative paves the way for formerly incarcerated individuals to pursue careers in STEM fields and beyond. The organization receives grant support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

By sharing their personal experiences and insights, the panelists underscored the importance of amplifying the voices of those most directly impacted by the system. “For me, it was just really inspiring to see so many people involved in the creation of the project in the actual audience,” says Jamaica Kalika, a senior journalism major at Howard with a specific interest in video content creation and documentary. “It was really motivating to see how impactful this work can be, and I think it’s so important to tell the stories of communities that are too often overlooked.”

If you missed the event, you can watch Episode 7, and all “Inside Story” episodes, online. New episodes are released every Thursday.