FacultyFaculty/Author Profile

Toni Bunton

Criminal Justice Advocate

Trenton, MI, USA


In 1991, at the age of seventeen, Toni Bunton was convicted of second degree murder for her role as the driver in a marijuana deal that ended in a shooting. She was sentenced to twenty-five to fifty years in prison and would live the next seventeen years of her life as inmate #221034 at Michigan’s Scott Correctional Facility.

While in prison, Toni focused on improving herself through education and social work, earning numerous degree, certificates, and awards including a master’s degree in business, a paralegal certification, certificates in HIV-AIDS peer education, personal training, computer-aided design, and many others. She also became a published author with her poem “A Garden of Hope” appearing in the 2005 poetry anthology A Crack in the Concrete, her stories “Visiting Jesus” and “Colors of Abuse,” published in the anthology Lyceum in 2005 and 2007, and her short piece “Bruised Vagina Walls,” performed by Rosario Dawson, Shirley Knight, Rosie O’Donnell, and Phylicia Rashad in the play Anyone of Us: Words from Prison.

In January of 2008 she was the lead witness in a landmark sexual assault lawsuit brought by over five hundred female inmates against the Michigan Department of Corrections. The inmates won their case and Toni was awarded $3.45 million in damages, the case was later appealed and finally settled with over 1,200 plaintiffs and 100 million dollar settlement.

Toni served more than sixteen years of her sentence before it was commuted by Governor Jennifer Granholm. On September 6, 2008, Toni was released from prison.

After her release, Toni began her work with the Mercy Education Project, an organization in Southwest Detroit that supports the education of low-income girls and women. She went on to earn a master’s degree in liberal studies from University of Michigan-Dearborn, receiving the 2011 Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program Award for her thesis, entitled “A Tree Grows in Prison.”

Toni currently volunteers for the State Appellant Defender’s Office as a community outreach advocate seeking resources for newly released inmates. She sits on the board for prisoner reform at the American Friends Service Committee, continues to work with Mercy Education Project as a volunteer, and is a sought-after speaker for youth programs and universities around the Detroit area. Toni has a life partner and is the mother of a baby girl. She lives in Michigan.
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