“It is essential to use your voice to assist, uplift, and empower.” – Lillie Branch-Kennedy

Lillie Branch-Kennedy has been an advocate for prison reform since 2002 when her son Donald was charged as an accessory to robbery and sentenced to 28 years in prison. A top high school student who had a scholarship to attend Virginia State, Donald was sent to a “super max” security facility far from his home in Richmond.

Shocked by the horrific prison conditions, her son’s unfair sentence, and the lack of support for families, Ms. Kennedy began her campaign for criminal justice reform and founded the non-profit organization, Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD). Ms. Kennedy said, “My son became an advocate before I did. He inspired me. He started seeing things in prison that he didn’t understand.”

Over the past 17 years, Ms. Kennedy has become a powerful voice advocating reform of the racially driven system of mass incarceration in Virginia. RIHD started by helping a few families who needed transportation to visit loved ones in prison and today the all-volunteer organization has transported more than 2,000 families, holds monthly support meetings, and advocates at the General Assembly for prison reform.

In 2013, Ms. Kennedy founded the Mobile Justice Tour, a bus that travels to disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities to educate and empower people. The tour provides on-site applications for restoration of rights and fair employment, and information about fair sentencing and tools. Ms. Kennedy says, “We all have a duty to advocate to reduce crime, reduce mass incarceration, and grow a healthier community.”

Reverend Rodney Hunter, Co-Director of VICPP says, “Ms. Kennedy shows how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. She saw a major problem in our society and vowed work toward a solution. She has played a tremendous role advocating criminal justice reform, providing support and inspiration for the families of incarcerated people, and counseling inmates. VICPP is honored to recognize Ms. Kennedy’s tremendous contribution to our community.”

Join us on September 26, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is honoring Ms. Kennedy with the “Criminal Justice Advocacy Award” at our Annual Celebration and Awards Event from 6-9:30PM at the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond, VA. Order tickets here

For more information on Lillie Branch Kennedy and Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD), visit https://rihd.org/

  • Photo courtesy of richmondjustice.org