‘For Life’ centers around Aaron Wallace, an innocent man who falls prey to the flawed penal and legal systems of the US. He is sentenced to life imprisonment for a crime he did not commit. As his life starts to fade away in prison, he decides to take matters into his own hands and becomes a lawyer. He starts working cases for other prison inmates while devising a turnaround plan to get himself checked out of jail. The show has been lauded for its strong narrative and impactful performances by the cast. It has also been questioned whether it is based on a true story, like most crime dramas on television. Here’s everything we know about its origin.
Is For Life Based on a True Story?
‘For Life’ is based loosely on a true story. The show has been created by Hank Steinberg, and the premise is inspired by American lawyer Isaac Wright Jr.’s life. The man serves as one of the show’s executive producers, and the plot has been gleaned from the phase in his life wherein he was serving a life sentence for a wrongful conviction. But he unexpectedly turned into a lawyer and won his own case, after which he was released.
In 1989, Wright was charged with involvement in cocaine trafficking. After being convicted in 1991, he was sent to the maximum-security New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. There, he cultivated an identity as a paralegal and worked on cases for other prisoners. By his own accounts, he eventually ended up sending 20 people out of prison, a few of which even had life sentences imposed upon them. Even though his parole was due after a period of 30 years, he didn’t lose heart and was motivated to work against the unreliable and alarmingly biased criminal system in America.
The creator of ‘For Life,’ Hank Steinberg, compared the premise of the show to the actual events that happened a few decades ago and said they updated the actual story with regards to the contemporary era that the show takes place in. Aaron’s experiences run almost parallelly with real incidents except for a few deviations. Isaac was never involved in a big prison riot with 50 Cent, in contrast to the events in the show. (Executive producer 50 Cent is featured in the first season as a fellow inmate, Cassius). They also portray Aaron’s profession as a nightclub owner instead of a music producer like Isaac.
Steinberg said he intended to push the boundaries of network television by introducing a hero-underdog who would be well-liked by audiences. He intended to relay his message in front of a larger audience, including an awareness of criminal justice reform and prison reform. The show likewise touches upon the current political situation of America.
Steinberg consciously tried not to restrict the show by appealing to a niche audience through a smaller channel. Hence, every change or modification with respect to Isaac’s story was done with the intention of relating things to the masses. The creators felt a deep sense of responsibility to correctly depict social issues that have rampantly gripped the country, realizing that they’ve conceived one of the few shows that introduce such themes. After all, the recurring motif of injustice dispensed is important to the premise.
Not too long ago, people were starting to participate in discussions regarding these issues, which steadily continued until the death of George Floyd, which enraged people. Their participation consequently moved up a notch with active protests and rallies against the injustice that has blinded the American police. All these events deemed the show more politically relevant than ever. Steinberg ultimately expressed his deepest pleasure for being a part of ‘For Life,’ which gives a voice to Black males, continually subjected towards racism-related violence and persecution. Hence, ‘For Life’ is based on real-life accounts of Isaac Wright Jr. and also highlights the apparent absence of morality in the country’s political scenery.
Read More: Where Is For Life Filmed?