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Wrongfully Convicted Man Now an Advocate for Literacy in Prisons

Published on Fri, 11/16/2018 - 12:00pm

No matter where you are, or what life’s circumstances might be, reading is a powerful tool for enrichment and strength.

John Bunn’s life changed forever at 14 years old when he was wrongfully accused and convicted of murder. Apprehended in his home, Bunn was taken in for questioning, put in a lineup, and identified as one of two suspects who shot two police officers in their car. John was tried as an adult despite his young age, and his trial was hurried through the court system. His was one of many cases that ex-detective Louis Scarcella quickly pushed through illegally. Scarcella has since been disgraced for faking evidence in a number of murder cases, with the convictions now overturned.

Although John Bunn maintained his innocence throughout the next decades, he was not fully exonerated until 2016. Barely literate at the time of his conviction, Bunn taught himself to read and write in prison in order to better communicate with his family.

The ensuing years would prove to be a harrowing story of his attempts to clear his name with little help―only family support. He discovered that through reading, he could empower himself and ultimately escape the prison of his mind. Now, he wants to turn a negative into a positive by empowering others and fostering an environment of encouragement and true rehabilitation within prisons. He received his GED while in prison and founded a pro-literacy nonprofit just one year after his exoneration.

What started as a book drive is now an initiative called AVoice4TheUnheard, an organization for the empowerment of prisoners through access, materials, and dialogue. You can read more about John Bunn and his organization through the above link.

For a great fiction book about a similar story, check out:

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos

John Bunn’s story is just one example of how we can transcend life’s challenges through literacy.

How have reading and libraries changed your life?

Michelle C.
Library-By-Mail Readers’ Advisor

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