While working to achieve his dream of becoming a lawyer, RED founder David Lee Windecher had several realizations that later fueled his vision for RED. Even as he was forced to defend his character in the face of his own criminal history, he recognized that the color of his skin contributed to his ability to acclimate back into society. He saw that this very real racial thrust to the American criminal justice system prevented African Americans and Hispanics within the system from achieving the same redemptive opportunities he himself was privy to. These observations brought with them a strong sense of injustice and a deep desire for change. He resolved to use any future successes he achieved to combat that racial thrust by providing opportunities for society’s other lost children.
While David was in law school in 2011 his interest was piqued by Governor Nathan Deal’s formation of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. The council’s mandates are to address the growth of the state’s prison population, contain corrections costs and increase efficiency and effectiveness of department of corrections management. It aims to improve public safety by reinvesting a portion of the savings into strategies that reduce crime and recidivism. The goal is to create accountability within the criminal justice system by strengthening community-based supervision, sanctions, and services. While David examined the findings and initiatives of this bipartisan, inter-branch council, he formed his own questions on what additionally could be done to redress the devastating financial burden of mass incarceration as well as the systemic racial disparity.
Through his externship at the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office and his own experiences as an adolescent in the criminal justice system, David directly experienced the mishandling of youthful nonviolent offenses through the tendency of the criminal justice system to focus on incarceration rather than rehabilitation. He clearly recognized this focus as one of the root causes of recidivism and mass incarceration. In the course of his research into possible solutions, David discovered a growing body of compelling evidence in support of restorative justice programs for nonviolent offenses. The evidence overwhelmingly supported the fact that these programs are proven to not only reduce racial disparity in law, crime and recidivism but also to increase public safety and alleviate the economic tax burden of incarceration. The blueprint for RED was born.