Activist leads criminal-justice reform festival

Justice or just us?
By ARIEL WERNER  |  May 8, 2008

When Bruce Reilly was released from the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) in 2005, after having served nearly 12 years for the murder of a CCRI professor, he had serious plans for how he intended to make up for lost time. Reilly — who spent his time in prison working as a paralegal for friends’ cases, corresponding with intellectuals like Alan Dershowitz, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky, and writing extensively — governs himself by one principle rule: dream big.

Since leaving the ACI, Reilly has functioned as somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades. He worked tirelessly as the volunteer coordinator of the RI Right to Vote Campaign, a 2006 ballot initiative that restored voting rights to more than 15,000 individuals on parole and probation. He founded his own production company, 1000 lbs. Guerilla, and staged performances at seven venues of Voice of the Voiceless, a play compiled from letters be-tween inmates and their loved ones, and House of Death, which he wrote himself.

His screenplay, Everybody Hurts, garnered one of four 2007 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Merit Awards. Since dropping out of Rhode Island College in 2007, he has been an amateur tattoo artist, a prolific writer, and a full-time employee of Power Posse Productions, a company that provides lighting, sound, and set design for functions from Boston to New York.

“Justice or Just Us?,” which Reilly describes as a “series of events designed to make us question the state of justice in our society” marks the realization of many of his dreams. Taking place from May 12 to 18 at Perishable Theatre and AS220 (95 and 115 Empire St., Providence), the festival offers 26 events, ranging from music, comedy, and slam poetry to film, theater, and a free discussion series sponsored by the RI Coun-cil for the Humanities.

Over the past several years, a complex debate on criminal-justice reform has been pushed to the surface by community-based organizations (the Family Life Center and Direct Action for Rights & Equality); legisla-tors (Providence Democratic Representatives David Segal and Joseph Almeida, and Senator Harold Metts), and activists such as Reilly. “Justice or Just Us?” offers an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to take part in advancing this dialogue.

The featured activists and speakers will include former prisoner and current Drug Policy Alliance fellow Tony Papa; former narcotics officer John Tommasi of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP); Brown University Professor Glenn Loury, Department of Corrections Director A.T. Wall; Segal, Almeida, and Metts; and filmmakers Dylan Avery and Korey Rowe, who will present their film Loose Change: Final Cut, a critique of the official narrative of the War on Terror.

Poets Jimmy Baca (Albuquerque) and Lemon (Def Poetry, NYC) will perform, as will the sketch comics of In House Freestyle. On the mic will be local artists Who Dem?, Fedd Hill, Chachi, the Low Anthem, and the What Cheer? Brigade, as well as the nationally celebrated Saigon (as seen on HBO’s hit show Entourage) and Immortal Technique. Theret will also be performances of the off-Broadway sensation The Exonerated, directed by Reilly and 1000 lbs Guerilla.

The full schedule of events, and ticket information, are available at

  Topics: This Just In , Elections and Voting, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Joseph Almeida,  More more >
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