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To Fund Prison Reform, Artists Heno and Andre Oshea Turned to NFTs

BY Langston Thomas

October 28, 2022

The United States is home to less than five percent of the world’s population, but houses nearly 25 percent of the world’s total prison population. Chances are you’ve encountered this shocking statistic in some form within the past decade. Dictated most notably by Hillary Clinton during a speech on criminal justice in 2015, this unfortunate fact has since been verified by scholars and news outlets with the prestige of The Washington Post.

Yet, while these figures, by some estimates, have dropped to roughly four and 16 percent within the last few years, respectively, recidivism rates have continued to create a dismal outlook for the United States Legal System. In fact, in 2021, the U.S. had one of the highest recidivism rates in the world, meaning roughly 76 percent of the country’s prisoners are rearrested within five years after release, according to a report from Harvard Politics Review.

Of course, no single effort is going to change the U.S. Legal System overnight. After years of action, even the most prominent endeavors fighting to end mass incarceration have found it difficult to enact real change. But that hasn’t stopped musician and crypto-artist Heno from trying. In collaboration with prominent artist and NFT community member Andre Oshea, Heno has taken up the task of funding prison reform efforts via NFTs and Web3 technology.

Here’s how he’s doing it.

‘In The Meantime’

In Heno’s latest NFT project, titled “In The Meantime,” he and Oshea are collaborating on the release of 111 editions of 3D animations, each paired with one of four songs from Heno’s forthcoming EP of the same name. Set to drop on November 1 at 3:00 p.m. ET via Sound.xyz, the collection will mark the start of a much bigger endeavor from the Web3 artist.

“This EP is a couple of things. It’s the start of this vehicle that leads to the album that I’m putting out next year. It’s also the start of me really establishing and showing this visual cinematic world that I’ve been building toward for a while,” Heno said in an interview with nft now. “The release of this EP is also going to be the start of a restorative justice initiative that I’m bringing to Web3.”

Aside from growing his catalog and leaving a mark on the Web3 music space, Heno hopes that with his new Restorative Justice Initiative, he can help aid in the fight for prison reform. Immediately, 50 percent of the proceeds from Heno and Oshea’s “In The Meantime” sale will go towards the Restorative Justice Initiative, with Heno also pledging five percent of all of his 2023 Web3 primary sales to organizations, including The Bail Project, Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, Baltimore Action Legal Team, and others that combat recidivism rates and aid with bail assistance for non-violent crimes.

To Heno and Oshea, this mission will enhance the philanthropic sector of the NFT space — which has remained concerned with ventures like funding Ukraine’s war relief efforts, the fight for reproductive rights, and more. But the two also imbue the project with personal significance.

The mission behind the music

“I’m from Takoma Park, Maryland, an area that, at the time of my growing up, had one of the highest levels of incarceration in the state for young black men ages 18 to 25. While this was very normalized for me, it was not the case in other places,” Heno said. “It took traveling and a different perspective to learn that there are real issues needing to be tackled back home for me. People who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated… People with records have an inability to find work in order to lead decent lives.”

There’s much to be said about the bountiful ethical and organizational issues that persist within the U.S. Legal System. But instead of simply quoting percentages and other figures often deployed to communicate a need for change at the judicial level, Heno and Oshea hope to communicate the humanitarian aspect of prison reform, offering insight into the people behind the statistics.

“When we think about prison reform, an important thing that we need to realize is that we need to humanize people,” Oshea added. “People are humans, they’re not numbers, right? I think that part of what [In The Meantime] does, the visuals, in particular, is it almost humanizes the 3D objects featured in the project.”

Oshea went on to note that, with the visuals he created for “In The Meantime,” he hopes to coerce collectors into examining the entirety of the virtual objects presented in tandem with Heno’s music “I think that that’s a very solid through-line,” Oshea said on the significance of the visuals to speak to his and Heno’s motivation behind the project. “When it comes to prison reform, justice reform: taking something that we’re used to looking at, like an object, and humanizing it, gives it a bit more weight. It allows us to see it from all angles.”

In addition to the Sound.xyz NFT drop, Heno and Oshea will also release a three-part short film to coincide with the musical experience created through “In The Meantime.” But as previously mentioned, this collaborative venture is only the beginning of the social impact the two artists hope to make in Web3.

“If you break down the production, the lyrics, the short film, I think a lot of our goals will be evidently clear,” Oshea said. “With that being said, I think with this project, our job right now is to lay the breadcrumbs and to sort of lead people into a world where we are going to be a little bit more serious and on the nose about the intention behind a lot of the work.”

“People who are interested in this type of work, and are interested in using their music to do something more than to just put it out music – I want them to see that it is doable,” Heno added. “There are so many directions that we can go to use our music to make an impact.”

To learn more about “In The Meantime” and what Heno’s Restorative Justice Initiative might add to the sector of Web3 philanthropy, visit his official site leading up to the drop.

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