As a kid growing up in Southeast Chicago, Marshan Allen enjoyed fishing, hanging with friends, and even dabbling in music.
As a young person, Marshan witnessed the physical abuse of his mother, his father’s drug addiction, and eventually, started selling drugs alongside his brother. One day, a drug pickup turned robbery spiraled into Marshan stealing a car to aid in his brother’s vengeance. Although Marshan did not pull the trigger during the robbery, he was charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder and home invasion. This led to Marshan being sentenced to two counts of mandatory life without parole at the age of 15.
While in prison, Marshan became certified as a paralegal to fight his own case, served as a teacher’s aide for computer technology courses, earned an associate’s degree, and clerked in the law library, among many other activities. Today, after two years of freedom, Marshan says he is working diligently, “trying to change the laws, trying to change the way the system views juveniles, and ultimately how they treat them.” All of the obstacles he has faced thus far have shaped how he approaches sentencing reform and the paths he has taken to produce change.
He currently serves as a Research & Policy Fellow at the nonprofit organization Fair and Just Prosecution, a board member of The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY), and a mentor in his community. When asked about how he sees himself giving back in the future, Marshan said, “I want to be an example and show that we are not the monsters or predators that they claimed we were. That given the chance, we can integrate into society and be a positive change.” Marshan graduted from Northeastern Illinois University in August 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Justice Policy and Advocacy. He now wants to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer and plans to start law school in 2022.
Marshan’s hobbies include reading, learning, fishing, and he has just recently picked up DJing.