On July 6th, 1999, The American Criminal Justice System took away Leon Benson’s right to live as a free man. Despite the preponderance of evidence on his side and the jury’s inability to come to a conclusive decision, Leon was sentenced to sixty years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
It is a story that is all too familiar in America. A young black man is targeted by law enforcement, presumed guilty, and put in the impossible position of having to defend himself with incredibly limited resources. For Leon, this event was taken to the extreme. For the past twenty three years, he has been spending the prime years of his life in Federal Prison in Indiana. Fortunately, his case has attracted a national outpouring of support, as many dedicated community leaders have vowed to never rest until this great injustice is undone. Leon’s strength in the face of this tragic fate has been inspiring many, and he hopes to continue to be an inspiration as he fights for his freedom. As he said in one of the many poems he has written in prison, “The truth never dies, it is only rediscovered.”
For what it’s worth, Leon has not let his time spent wrongfully imprisoned go to waste. Though his body has been locked up, his mind has been free to roam, as he has dedicated himself to writing powerful poetry and music, as well as helping to create motivational and educational programs to benefit his fellow prisoners. He has also worked closely with community activists to push for statewide prison reform to build a system that truly treats every citizen equally.
Leon has been a key part of forming and running several programs in prison meant to create a better system for everyone. He was chosen to be a mentor for the staff created program “Band Of Brothers,” which taught realistic views of masculinity and helped individuals to become better members of their families and communities. He was tasked with facilitating group discussions and using his unique perspective to make sure that everyone got the most out of the program. He was also chosen to be a Counsel, Praise Team Leader, and Sermon Group Leader for the Congregation Yah-Yachin, a Hebrew Israelite spiritual & cultural community. In the face of innumerable challenges to his faith, Leon’s commitment to spiritual betterment has won him the praise and respect of his peers.
Leon became an in demand educator, developing a course called “The Streets Don’t Love You Back,’ where he educated hundreds of participants about the perils of street life, and how to escape and find your higher purpose. He became a gifted public speaker, delivering over three hundred speeches that could be inspirational, comical, tragic, and uplifting at the same time.
Always artistically inclined, prison allowed Leon to raise his creativity to new heights. He studied theatre, Shakespeare in particular, and took part in several productions. He also developed a program called “Poetic Justice,” in which he helped his fellow inmates to express themselves in words while learning about poem structure, style, and performance. Several of the poems went on to be published and were even acclaimed by academics and critics. He has collaborated with artists on the outside to turn his words into rap songs that challenge the status quo and inspire everyday people to take up the fight against injustice.
While Leon’s fate is still undetermined, he has reason to believe that exoneration may be just around the corner. Public support is at an all time high and local media have taken notice, gradually pressuring the courts to do the right thing. Leon has already endured unimaginable trauma, but somehow he has persevered through it all and become stronger and more determined to fight for his freedom than ever before. He is living proof of one man’s ability to change the world.
"The truth never dies…it is only re-discovered!" ~Leon Benson
Our Mission is clear.... Free Leon Benson. It is moraly wrong and cruel to sentence a man to serve a life sentence for a crime that he not only did not commit but also for a crime that was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, we will not stop fighting for Leon's freedom until he is home!
We want this injustice overturned. We want to see Leon Benson as a free man