By Nadia Groce and Amisha T. Groce

Welcome to Clyde’s Sandwich Shop.  We follow a community of folks who have all served time. They understand each other and the struggles of returning to their lives outside of prison. Together, they cling to a lackluster and abusive job because they know no one else would have them. Clyde’s staff is more than used to the treatment inflicted upon them because Clyde constantly reminds them that they know what they’ve done.  Her physical and verbal abuse is probably reminiscent of how they may have been treated while in prison.  Evertold they are felons.  They ain’t never going to be nothing and don’t deserve nothing.  

America, land of the free, is the country with the largest prison population worldwide.  The loophole of the 13th amendment, which permitted free, forced labor as part of the sentencing of those convicted of a crime just after slavery was abolished, lead to convict leasing and gave rise to the lucrative business of mass incarceration.  


Today, 8% of our nation’s citizens hold a felony charge equating to over twenty million who are in affect, second-class citizens as their right to vote has been stripped away.  In addition to revoked voting rights and scarce employment opportunities, ex-convicts also endure housing restrictions, salary caps, travel bans and discrimination in court custody cases. These pending realities were, and still are, disproportionately true for people of color; it is no accident that Jason is the only white employee at Clyde’s. 

While there are circumstances that warrant these parameters be put in place to keep others safe, as with violent or sexual offences, more often than not, those neglectful punishments make it harder to rebuild a sense of everyday life after prison. With all of these difficulties thrust upon them, many return to addiction like Rafael; leave their children with substandard caregivers like Letitia or live on the streets like Jason. These barriers take away human rights, which can cause anyone to question the existence of their own humanity. Bleak.   

The Dream? Here’s our sandwich. We abolish the prison system machine by changing our perspective on those who serve, revamp rehabilitation and support outlets reducing the rate of recidivism. We educate ourselves and volunteer time or money to organizations fighting to end felon disenfranchisement. Right now, we use Clyde’s as an opportunity to walk in a pair of shoes that aren’t our own and consider why each character might keep a job where they are treated so poorly while clinging to hope. Yes, they have all done something, as Letitia shares. But this, America, is the land of second chances, is it not? 

“Second CHances” RESOURCES

The Law Dictionary: 

What Rights do Convicted Felons Lose? 

How to Apply for a Governor’s Pardon

National Conference of State Legislatures: Brief Felon Voting Right

ACLU Felony Disenfranchisement Map

US Department of Justice: Office of the Pardon Attorney (FRRC is an organization committed to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions.)



13th Netflix Documentary by Ava DuVernay

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.



The Sum Us Podcast by Heather McGhee: Episode 3 The Land of Second Chances

In this episode, friendship was one of the secret weapons in a broad multiracial, cross-partisan coalition that unleashed one of largest expansions of voting rights in US history.

Join us for Clyde’s at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre from January 19th – 28th, 2024. CLICK HERE for tickets; each and every performance is Pay What You Want. Looking for additional programming and resources? Visit to learn about accessible programming and related events.