The series “follows the lives of six black men and women as they leave prison to restart their lives and reconnect with family, friends and society.” According to The Huff Post, “it shows both the happiness these individuals feel upon leaving prison while also capturing their challenges and emotional plight in re-entering a world that feels so foreign. It is in this display of authentic and emotional storytelling where the show’s real power rests.”
Winfrey was joined onstage during the panel by former prisoner, activist and author Shaka Senghor, who Oprah has described as “one of the best interviews of my life.”
Winfrey interviewed Senghor for a March 2016 episode of OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday.”
“I’m a firm believer that most of us have some type of faith, and a cornerstone of faith, to me, is redemption is possible,” Senghor said during the panel.
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Senghor and Winfrey teamed for the series to “showcase stories of redemption through the lens of those who have been incarcerated.”
Senghor, who previously spent 19 years in prison for second-degree murder, served as a consulting producer on the series.
“I’ll never forget back in 1997 when my judge sentenced me. I felt like my life was over,” he says in the premiere episode. “Now, I’m coming into a new world that I’m foreign too because so many things have changed. I feel like I’m at a disadvantage.”
Currently, there are 2.3 million Americans in corrections facilities across the country and 39% are black Americans.
“I think narratives [can allow for] prison reform … I mean, if you think about how we landed in this mess in the first place, it was based on the stories that were told about inner city kids being super predators and irredeemable,” Senghor said in a previous interview with Huff Post.
“So, if those negative narratives can shape policy in a way that’s harmful, then it only leads me to believe that the more positive narratives we have ― the more honest, transparent [and] open human narratives that we’re sharing ― the more likely we are to shape policy that honors people’s humanity.”
“Released” airs at 10/9c Saturdays on OWN.