A central Ohio woman is planning a benefit concert next month to raise money for programs to help incarcerated people get their lives back on track.
For much of her youth, Amy Wickes lived a seemingly privileged life. She attended The Wellington School, a private school in Upper Arlington, participated in cheerleading and enjoyed social popularity.
She said that all changed after high school, when alcohol, drugs and a misdiagnosed mental illness contributed to a series of reckless behaviors that ultimately landed her in the Ohio Reformatory for Women.
After serving four years in prison for aggravated burglary and felonious assault – crimes she said she didn’t commit – Wickes said she developed a new outlook on life.
“I found my purpose when I went to prison,” said Wickes, who now lives on Columbus’ South Side. “I want to help people.”
Oct. 4, Wickes will spread her message of hope and attempt to chip away at the causes of criminal recidivism through “In the Name of Justice Benefit 2013,” a concert she’s organized at Riverfront Amphitheatre in Genoa Park, 303 W. Broad St., Columbus. Gates will open at 4 p.m. and music will start at 5 p.m.
The concert will feature more than 10 local bands, with Willie Phoenix and the Blues Hippy Soul Underground serving as the headline act. Additional event and ticket information can be obtained at inthenameofjustice.com.
Tickets cost $10 if purchased in advance and $13 at the gate. Children 12 years old and younger will be admitted free.
Proceeds will go to the Columbus Jewish Foundation, which provides grants to both Jewish and non-secular nonprofit organizations that serve social, cultural, health and education needs.
At Wickes’ direction, funds from the concert will be distributed to education programs inside and outside of jail, halfway houses for mothers and children who wind up homeless when a father or loved one is incarcerated, and to accounts that allow children to visit online with parents who are in prison.
“One in 28 children in America has one or both parents in prison,” Wickes said. “This has to stop.
“When I was in prison, I noticed after prisoners got a visit from their children, their behaviors changed immediately for the better.”
By holding the concert and writing about her experiences, Wickes said she wants to shine light on injustices she said occur in Ohio’s jails and prisons, and bring attention to programs and services which could rehabilitate offenders – rather than merely punish them.
She also meets regularly with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien to discuss those issues, and with Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown, who appointed Wickes to the Franklin County Homeland Re-entry Coalition.
That coalition was established in 2009 to address criminal recidivism.
Recently, she’s taken to Facebook to share her story and to promote the concert. She said these are small steps toward making significant strides in improving lives in Franklin County and the Buckeye State, and to stop the cycle of criminal lifestyles often are passed down from parents to children.
“Facebook is my God tool,” Wickes said. “It reaches all the way around the world.
“While I was in prison, I took every single program I could and I sucked it up like a sponge because I knew I was going to do this. Gratitude and God are my keys, and I hope people show up to hear our message and dance with us.”