LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – “Gone but never forgotten.”
It’s a phrase typically associated with loved ones who have died, but one movement in Arkansas uses it to remember those who have spent most of their lives in prison.
For the past two years, the “Gone But Never Forgotten” prison reform movement’s rally has been on a Monday at the state capitol to show the sacrifice it took to get there.
Many have had to take off work to get to the capital city, while some have even been incarcerated themselves.
“You can talk to him about anything,” said Kamon Raynor.
The ten year old’s favorite topic of conversation with her uncle is sports.
“If we won any games, if we lost any games,” Kamon said.
However, her uncle has never been able to watch her play.
“I visit him at least two Sundays a month,” Kamon said.
DeMarco Raynor, 39, has been locked up her whole life.
“For 18 years, two months and as of today, 22 days,” Vera Davis, Raynor’s mother, said during the rally.
Raynor’s mom, family and friends traveled from across the state to fight for his freedom.
“I did 14 years,” Kurt Muhammad, the movement’s founder, told the crowd. “I could have became worse, but as you can see, I became better.”
Muhammad, along with other former inmates and families of current ones, argue their loved ones have become role models behind bars and deserve a second chance at life.
“Twenty years later, who are they punishing?,” Muhammad asked. “A new man.”
But they also cannot forget nearly 20 years prior. According to court documents, Raynor, then 21 years old, was sentenced to life for the murder of Reginald Parks.
“He’s a completely different 39 year old today,” Davis said.
Raynor was temporarily released almost ten years ago for the funeral of his baby sister, Kamon’s mom. After her loss, Kamon hopes the next time her uncle is home will be for good.
“So he can cheer me on,” she said.
St. Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to vote in November and make their voices heard to the state’s other 34 senators and 100 representatives.
Sen. Elliott also invited them to speak at a legislative hearing at the capitol June 14 at 10 a.m., where members of the Arkansas Department of Correction board will be present.