About Us

What is now the National Lifers of America, Inc. (NLA) originated from the Legislative Committee of the Prisoners Program Association (PPA). The Legislative Committee of the PPA primarily consisted of lifers who were actively involved in advocating for improved conditions and legal support for lifers. The PPA was eventually banned by prison officials.

On October 7, 1980, the Legislative Committee, North Side Chapter, located at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, 4000 Cooper St, Jackson, MI, relocated to the Charles Egeler Correctional Facility. An Articles of Incorporation was filed with the State of Michigan, officially establishing it as a nonprofit organization named National Lifers of America, Inc.

During a prison disturbance in 1981, NLA’s records were burned, and the majority of NLA’s leadership was transferred to other prisons. However, NLA’s message of human compassion and the need for community among lifers spread widely between 1982 and 1995. NLA initiated community projects, such as Open Prison Doors, produced display boards for United Way fundraising campaigns, and collaborated with the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation of Ann Arbor to manufacture slippers for the Red Cross, distributed to hospitalized veterans.

From 1985 to 1988, NLA established two additional chapters formerly known as ‘Coalition of Inmates’ Families.’ In 1988, NLA was banned in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) as a retaliatory measure for testifying about corruption within the facility. None of the NLA chapters were allowed to operate or hold meetings. NLA was reinstated in early 1990 with a requirement to have an outside sponsor organization and to discontinue membership dues. Unfortunately, in 1992, NLA was again banned, simultaneously with the MDOC changing administrative rules, which had negative effects on prisoners, families, associates, and was reinstated in mid-1992.

In 1995, the National Board of Directors relocated to the Ryan Correctional Facility, where the principal place of business was conducted. This move facilitated direct involvement by Executive Sponsor Fr. Timothy Kane (of St. Rita Church) with National Lifers of America, Inc. NLA Chairman Reginald C. Williams Jr. was housed at the Mound Correctional Facility, 17601 Mound Rd., Detroit, MI 48212, and Vice Chairman A’Don Reed Bey at Ryan Correctional Facility, 17600 Ryan Rd., Detroit, MI 48212.

While the Ryan Correctional Facility served as the NLA’s primary place of business, NLA annually sponsored a Back to School Charitable Project with Westside Cultural and Athletic Group to purchase school supplies for children in Detroit, MI.

Throughout the years, NLA has supported and proposed a variety of bills to members of the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, such as the Felony Murder Bill, Aiding and Abetting bill, Parole Guideline Bill, Juvenile Lifer Bills, Good Time Bills, in which Representative Cushingberry, Representative P. Condino, Representative B. Johnson, Representative A.W. Smith, Representative L. Lise, Senator M. Switalski, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took interest.

On June 1, 2006, NLA made monumental changes to strengthen the organization, including incorporating incarcerated women from the women’s prison to hold seats on the National Board of Directors with full voting rights. The first Director was Michelle Bazzetta, who immediately appointed Dr. Sharon Steward as Health Administrator. Revisions to the original By-Laws were implemented.

On April 27, 2007, the NLA was instrumental in starting the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which began at Ryan Correctional Facility. Fifteen students completed applications, and 15 University of Michigan-Dearborn outside students were selected to participate in the first class that started on September 7, 2007. The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program concluded on December 6, 2007. To date, the Michigan Department of Corrections recognizes the National Lifers of America, Inc’s instrumental role in starting the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. In the same year, Dr. Lora Lampert established the Theory Workshop Group, which consisted of the first graduating class that served as an advisory committee.

In September 2012, the Ryan and Mound Correctional Facilities were closed, and transferring the majority of the National Board of Directors to other prisons eliminated the Ryan Facility as NLA’s primary place of business.

NLA partnered with the Sentencing Project to bring Second Look Legislation to Michigan. This Legislation would allow individuals sentenced to life without parole before their 25th birthday an opportunity to petition for resentencing by a judge. This legislation would reduce mass incarceration in Michigan. In October 2019, the NLA successfully sponsored its first Criminal Legal System reform rally at the State of Michigan’s Capitol in Lansing, organized and led by David Hudson Bey. The rally drew about 300 attendees as the first organized prisoner event.

Like many others, 2020 was a very difficult and sad year for the NLA. On February 16, 2021, National Board of Directors Vice Chairman and National Resource Director David K. Hudson Bey passed away after more than three decades in prison. On October 13, 2020, long-standing National Board of Directors Chairman Reginald C. Williams Jr. passed away after more than four decades in prison.

With such losses to the NLA National Board of Directors, sitting National Board members had to take on the responsibility of leading the NLA into the coming years. National Chairman Carlton Banks took the helm with then National Vice Chairman Eddie ‘Malijah’ Gee. The current National Lifers of America Sitting board includes Eddie ‘Malijah’ Gee as Chairman, Jamie Meade as Vice Chairman and National Resource Director, and Dwight Henley as Secretary.