J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium Awards Prize

Apr 4, 2014

The J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium awarded this year's Social Justice Award to Lecroy Rhyanes for his work to share the stories of young men and women in prison. The ceremony happened Thursday at the Center for the Arts at NMSU.

To share their voices, Rhyanes created the non-profit, Voices Behind Walls.

"It's about , you know, providing a platform for our young people to have the opportunity to be a part of the conversation of all kinds of justice issues," said Rhyanes.

He gave composition books to teens in area prisons and encouraged them to write down their thoughts. The things they talked about ranged from the everyday to the extraordinary.

"Whether it has to do with what's going on with their own personal lives…family, fatherhood….experience of being incarcerated as a young adult," said Rhyanes.

The recording process didn't end with the books. He brought a portable recording studio into the juvenile detention center and recorded their experiences.

"I don't edit them…I don't expect them to come to the workshop with something that we want them to say…support them with posting them online," said Rhyanes.

The recordings are posted online at

Rhyanes says since the teens are so young, their release date is the one thing on most of their minds -- and what they will do once they get out.

"In terms of how to they connect with their families? How do they reconnect with their community? A lot of messages have to do with speaking to their families…brothers that they can't talk to…somebody they feel they may have wronged," said Rhyanes.