For Randall Horton, music and poetry are some of the most important parts of his life, but it’s the meaning behind his love for the arts that has encouraged him to share it with others.

“I wanted to do something that contributed to the discourse of the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex…and from an artistic point of view,” said Horton, co-leader of Radical Reversal.

Two things Horton knows a lot about.

“In terms of myself, I am system impacted,” he said. “I spent almost five years on the inside and I’m actually the only professor in the United States with seven felony convictions.”

After his time in prison, Horton went on to receive multiple degrees including a PhD in English and Creative Writing from SUNY Albany. He is now a professor at the University of New Haven and the co-leader of Radical Reversal, a movement focused on amplifying the dialogue concerning incarceration and showcasing rehabilitation equity through creative outlets.

“People make mistakes, but people actually come back from those mistakes if you give them chances,” he said. “And I don’t think I’m here without those series of chances, and so that’s something I want to amplify as well.”

The band itself is part of a larger effort to spread the message, not only in colleges and universities, but also in detention centers and correctional facilities across the nation. The organization works with interested centers to install creative spaces directly inside the facility to provide seminars, workshops and performances that keep individuals engaged. 

“So, at Radical Reversal, we believe that two things [are] possible at the same time,” said Horton. “We can grow as artists, but we can have impact and we can make social change too.”

Change Horton can see in himself and he hopes to see in his audience. 

“I never thought I would teach. And being able to influence young minds. But it’s been a wonderful experience,” he said. “Sort of dream the impossible. Like the thing that you could never that would happen and you can make it happen.”