Last May, John Bunn, a wrongfully convicted New Yorker who had his case overturned in 2016 in Brooklyn, New York, launched a book drive for incarcerated individuals. He had learned to read while incarcerated for 17 years for a crime he did not commit and upon his release made a pledge to give back to others that were in the criminal justice system. Mr. Bunn named the book drive Voice 4 the Unheard and he collected over 3,000 books in just a month. As the initiative expanded, he began to receive magazines from places like The Source, the legendary music publication, Don Diva magazine and from other New Yorkers who wanted to support the program.
For years, John Bunn had dreamed of getting the books into the hands of those that were incarcerated and as he worked to do so, he simultaneously aligned with other criminal justice reform groups including The Friends of Island Academy, among others. He was asked to speak at a workshop for Friends of Island Academy and gave away literature to all the students that were present. Mr. Bunn also gave away books at Medgar Evers College Block Party, Hostos Community College and at local Brooklyn block parties. However, he was still determined to get books into the jails where many of the libraries were inadequate. By October 2017, Voice 4 the Unheard had collected over 5,000 books.
Finally, in October 2017, Voice 4 the Unheard received clearance to give books away at Rikers Island and speak to the families of incarcerated young people. It was a dream come true for Mr. Bunn and he spoke about the importance of literature and reading, which helped save his own life.
As Voice 4 the Unheard continues to collect books, Mr. Bunn will continue to work with other advocates who are working tirelessly to make the criminal justice system a more just place. He will continue speaking engagements including delivering a talk to the Children of Promise on Tuesday, February 13th.
At 14-years-old, John Bunn became an extremely young victim of police malfeasance and social injustice in Brooklyn, New York. He was treated as an adult despite his young age, and was falsely accused, arrested, and convicted of second-degree murder without any tangible evidence. Today, after spending 17-years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit, Mr. Bunn is sharing his story of adversity and relentless hope with at-risk youth to give them relatable inspiration, and a voice of compassion and encouragement.
John Bunn’s life was forever transformed on August 13, 1991, when he was charged and consequently convicted of the murder of an off-duty corrections officer. Mr. Bunn maintained his innocence throughout all of his trials and tribulations involving these charges, and he never gave up hope on his own life and continued working to make the lives of others around him brighter. Mr. Bunn was ultimately granted parole for his courageous act of intervening as a Good Samaritan, and coming to the aid of a female staff member during an attempted rape. Due to the unlawful and disgraceful police tactics employed to convict Mr. Bunn, his case was ultimately overturned in 2016, by New York State Supreme Court Judge Shawn Dya L. Simpson.
Mr. Bunn’s innocence and the sad story of his wrongful conviction has been profiled in several articles about his life, including features in the New York Times, Post, and New York Daily News to name a few. With his newfound and well-deserved freedom, Mr. Bunn has decided to focus his life on making a difference in the world around him. John Bunn developed a program to share his impactful story with the younger generation which involves interactive motivational dialogue with students, panel discussions, a short documentary film about his life, and digital media campaigns to address issues plaguing our youth today such as: peer pressure, bullying, racism, police brutality, wrongful imprisonment, conviction and more.
Follow John Bunn on Instagram at @johndwayne1367.