In this episode of Amplified Voices, Amber and Jason speak with Melissa Tanis, a ferocious advocate for parole justice, compassionate release, and children of incarcerated parents. Melissa shares her story of having her father incarcerated when she was five years old and the impact that it had on her own life as well as the lives of her family members. She shares the emotional path she navigated to reconnect with her dad after many years of no contact. She authentically outlines her feelings and understanding of his complex journey through accountability - highlighting the harshness of a system that sees people and the sum of their crime, rather than as complex human beings with the ability to change. Melissa was able to find her father after many years through his participation in the Shakespeare Behind Bars program and the resulting documentary film. After being denied parole and compassionate release based on the nature of his crime, her father passed away in prison.
Melissa is a graduate of Columbia School of Social Work, with a concentration on policy. She is the Policy and Communications Manager for the Center for Justice at Columbia School of Social Work. She has worked for over five years in the Communications and Policy field and has dedicated her work to supporting incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and their families. She is a member and consultant for the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign, an adviser for the New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, and a volunteer with the Parole Preparation Project.