My competitive nature comes out during trivia-like games, regardless of my ability to win. I was a little surprised at my lack of knowledge on the criminal justice system in the United States, especially when I had just been looking at stats from an assignment in another class. But I shouldn’t have been. There’s so much that I don’t know, and am curious how those things will grow in relevance to me. It’s humbling to hear Mr. Sanders’ story and of the terrible havoc incarceration wreaks on individuals and communities, especially communities of color. The lives of people in prisons matter, and we don’t get a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card as a society for the consequences of this system we created.
Even though the clip from the documentary cut down on discussion time, I did appreciate the reminder of the documentary Thirteenth. I watched the documentary sometime ago with my fiancé, and I remember being greatly grieved. I hate the racial divisions in our nation, and I hate how people have been destroyed by hate and dehumanization. As I reflect on my desire to do something, I’m reminded of what I have to focus on even in just today, and am not surprised that I haven’t done more to act. Sometimes I need to stop thinking and just act, and have come to realize that that is a major growing area for me. One way that I would be interested in taking an action step is volunteering with local inmates. I have a couple of connections with people who work directly with the justice-involved who could help me take those next steps. Another step is to take time to read more about the prison industrial complex, who it impacts, and what are viable means to diminish the harm of the institution, if not totally abolish it. I have a long list of book recommendations from many people, including the book by Angela Davis that Lawrielle recommended.
One area that was also brought to the forefront of my attention was Restorative Practice. My field placement is working to incorporate Restorative Practice into its curriculum, and have applied some of its principles throughout the school year. It’s still in the early phases of implementation, and unfortunately circles have been regarded by some students as largely punitive in nature. However, I think that as circles become more embedded at the school, more students will catch the vision for them. I believe healing circles were particularly effective in one instance at the school. There have been a few thefts at the school, and it was understood among the staff that the incidents were largely occurring in one class. One theft was particularly damaging. A flash drive of one of the teachers was stolen that had many many years of hard work saved on it, and her backup file was corrupted. She thought that all of her work was lost. A healing circle was initiated, and it was recommended that the flash drive be returned in a jar near the office, no questions asked. Whether directly or indirectly related, the flash drive was returned, renewing the teacher’s faith in students at the school. Positive relationships between students and adults at the school are deeply valued, and to foster healing in the midst of wrongdoing, especially when someone or someones are causing harm, underscores the school’s commitment to be different from the traditional education system in the U.S.
In this conversation around the criminal justice system are ideas of belonging and safety. I would be interested to understand more of how incarceration originated, the thought process behind it, and how the system is utilized. I am hesitant to abolish incarceration completely as a means to de-incentivize violent crime and wrongdoing, but reducing the number of people of color behind bars would be a huge milestone in our nation.