Social Justice Starts at Home: Michigan Liberation Grows a Local Movement for Prison Reform

Michigan Liberation is a nonprofit organization that has about 40 volunteers who tirelessly work toward helping residents and their families dealing with incarceration.

Photo provided by Michigan Liberation


Their phone rings constantly.


Calls come into Michigan Liberation from concerned mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, friends and others — all seeking justice for someone they love who is behind bars, especially those wrongfully convicted.


“It’s amazing how people call us at all times of the hour about their relatives,” Marjon Parham, public relations manager for Michigan Liberation, said.


Michigan Liberation, a nonprofit organization, is a statewide network of people and organizations banding together to end the criminalization of Black families and communities of color in Michigan, their website stated. They “envision a state without mass incarceration or mass policing.”


Parham said something new coming forth this year with Michigan Liberation involves a participatory defense program in Wayne, Oakland and Kalamazoo counties. This particular work involves dealing with returned citizens [formerly incarcerated residents] and their families to familiarize themselves with the law.


“The whole goal of the program is if you have a loved one who is arrested what is the process especially with COVID,” Parham said. “You don’t know what happens from the time when your loved one is arrested to when they go on trial. It is helping people to understand what goes through the booking process or arresting process.”


She added that the organization has 25 staff members and a good number of them are returning citizens.


The group, formed in 2018, also envisions a state with the best public education in the nation, single-payer healthcare, and thriving Black and Brown communities, their website added. Michigan Liberation is also involved in grassroots organizing, leadership development, lobbying; and supports candidates that share their vision for Michigan.


Parham said that Michigan Liberation has made great strides in obtaining justice last year for a Michigan teenager named “Grace” (full name withheld to protect her identity) who was unjustly held at a detention center for skipping out on homework. Parham said that Michigan Liberation organized a 200-car caravan from her school to a Pontiac detention center where she was and held an event there in her honor. The event garnered major media attention.


Later, when Grace was released, Michigan Liberation hired her at the end of last summer. “[She] did such a fabulous job,” she said, adding that the organization is trying to do more community engagement to get youth involved now because of Grace.


She added that for this year they want to ensure people “who won are held accountable.”


Rev. Kevin L. Harris, senior pastor at Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, said that Nazarene is one of the most progressive churches in Detroit and is “on the front lines of community service and action.”


“The two premier works that have been established at Nazarene are criminal justice reform work and food distribution,” Harris said. Harris also worked with and helped develop Nation Outside and Michigan Liberation.


“I am the former director of Nation Outside, an organization of formerly incarcerated individuals, families, friends and supporters. Nazarene was the headquarters where it started as a small organization. Nation Outside. dedicated to ending mass incarceration, is one of the most respected criminal justice organizations in the country now,” he said, adding that he is Michigan Liberation’s chairman of the board. “I did a lot of the early development from the basement of Nazarene. Michigan Liberation is the force behind prosecutorial accountability campaigns, abolishing cash bail which disproportionately impacts poor and minority communities and the bailing out of mothers in jail on Mother’s Day campaigns.”


He added that the recent changes in laws such as the Raise the Age legislation for juvenile offenders being tried as adults from 17 to 18, abolishment of driver responsibility laws and the recent expansion of expungement eligibility all had strong connections to Nazarene Baptist Church.


“It is important to give back to the community because we are the community. If the community is not healthy, we are not healthy,” he said. “We are blessed to be in the position to be a blessing.”


Michigan Liberation is constantly looking for those interested in helping them, including:

  • Attorneys, lawyers, paralegals, returning citizens, family members of the incarcerated; and
  • Individuals and groups with a passion for social justice and equal opportunity.


Monetary donations are also accepted in lieu of volunteerism.


For more information email, call 313-451-4392 or visit



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