The Strong Returns Storybank

Millennial movements grow through viral storytelling. We want to help young people turn their direct encounters with the prison system — with the formerly incarcerated, with prison and prison reform groups, with criminal justice scholars — into stories worth sharing. The centerpiece of this effort is the Strong Returns Storybank, the first-ever Millennial-driven Youtube storybank of encounters with the prison system. For more information about the storybank, click here.

The Strong Returns Storybank
What’s a storybank? Story banks are sharable collections of experiences surrounding an issue. They are effective tools often utilized by issue campaigns to move media and legislators. Examples include Dignity in Schools’ “School Pushout Storybank,” Family Values @ Work’s “Working Families Storybank” and, innovatively, the LGBT movement’s “It Gets Better” campaign.
What’s the Strong Returns storybank? The Strong Returns storybank is the first ever Millennial-driven storybank of encounters with the prison system. Each story is submitted by a Millennial and presented with a Millennial audience in mind. We house the story bank here on this site as well as on our various social media channels. Portraits in The Strong Returns Storybank are going to be easily browsable, sharable and include ways to contact each entry’s original storyteller.
What types of encounters with the prison system? We are starting with stories stemming from four categories of encounter:

1. Direct encounters with the Prison System: Millennials who are incarcerated, have been incarcerated or are close relatives with someone incarcerated can use their submission to the storybank as a way of “coming out” as a prison activist.

2. The formerly incarcerated and their supporters: Millennials who have met with an incarcerated person, a formerly incarcerated person, the family of an incarcerated person, a worker in the prison system, or a group that does direct service to prisoners and recent re-entrants can use the storybank to amplify the voices of those who know what happens behind the wall.

3. Information: It is key to see how stories from the prison system fit within larger trends. That’s why we are even including stories in the storybank that depict new, engaging ways to share data, trends, and policies.

4. Leaders and organizations building solutions: Millennials aren’t just moved to action by evermore stories of what’s going wrong: we also are inspired by what’s going right. Millennials who are building solutions, or have encountered someone building solutions — be it a politician, an activist or an organization — should spotlight these bearers of hope in the storybank.

How are stories in the storybank structured? Stories can be text, photos, audio or video. Each story in the storybank is organized in the same way as this entire conversation: start with an authentic encounter, turn it into a story worth sharing, and out of that look towards helping build a Millennial prison reform agenda. Each story should be organized as follows:

1. Encounter: Tell a little about yourself and how you encountered part of the prison system.

2. Story: Tell the story of your encounter. As shown above, this can range from the son of incarcerated person talking about what it’s like to grow up with a parent in prison, a college student amplifying the story of a formerly incarcerated person she met, a really great explanation of how sentencing works, or an edited recording of an interview with a warden promoting a reform program.

3. Agenda: Each story should end by being tied to a proposal for what reforms should be in the Millennial Freedom Agenda.

How will stories in the storybank be promoted? Stories are promoted in three ways:

1. Strong Returns audience: We promote every new storybank entry on our site’s homepage, over our Strong Returns channels on social media, and in our weekly newsletter.

2. Social networks: We want those featured in the storybank — whether as a storyteller or the subject of a piece — to treat their entry into the Strong Returns storybank as an excuse to promote their support for prison reform over their campus and social networks. As each entrant tunes their social network into prison reform, more and more Millennials see more and more prison reform stories.

3. Publicity: In addition to posting stories to our Strong Returns network, we will also promote stories to appropriate journalists, politicians and advocates.

As the Storybank helps Millennials share prison system and prison reform stories with our audience and with each other, the foundation of a Millennial Prison Reform Agenda is laid.

Tell a Story

If you have a story to share about the prison system — be it you or your own family’s experience with incarceration, a video interview you conducted with a formerly incarcerated person about reentry, a spotlight on a prison reform group building alternatives — you can submit it to the Storybank! We will help you promote it to your social or campus network as we promote it to the national Strong Returns network.

If you are interested in submitting to the Storybank — even if you just want to get in touch to talk through an idea — contact us at or through the form below:

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