A student-run group, Mass Incarceration: Missing in America (MIA), is going to hold its first event on Tuesday to educate students on the wide-ranging, negative effects of mass incarceration on the significant number of Americans spending time in prison, on probation, and on parole. The first meeting of the group will be a slam poetry performance in Eagle’s Nest. Long-term plans for the group include establishing a permanent Students Against Mass Incarceration group on campus, and continuing programming that enlightens undergraduates to the disproportional effects that the prison system has on, primarily, both black men and the homeless.
For a University with such a large focus on social justice, Boston College has only a limited amount of programming addressing the topic of mass incarceration. Individuals on campus who seek out opportunities with service learning classes, like PULSE, and extracurricular volunteering organizations, like 4Boston, have an opportunity to come in contact with the prison system while serving at Suffolk County House of Corrections—a prison where students can tutor inmates in a one-on-one setting. But, the number of students who actually get the chance to travel out to the prison are minimal compared to the size of the undergraduate population. MIA provides an open and centrally located environment, creating a new, macro-level platform for discussing policy and reform within the U.S. prison system.
The 19 individuals that started MIA—all sophomore Presidential Scholars—took a necessary step in pushing the BC community toward collective action. Hopefully MIA will act as a catalyst for other policy-level programming on the topic of mass incarceration. Recent administrative efforts—namely, the weeklong event Our Common Home, which looked to educate students on issues of climate change—brought prominent speakers to campus and a myriad of events for people to attend throughout the day. Putting in similar effort issues related to mass incarceration would allow for speakers and students to engage in substantial discourse on this topic.
Tuesday’s slam poetry event is a perfect start to MIA’s campaign to educate and mobilize students on mass incarceration. In conjunction with existing initiatives—including the University’s partnerships with Haley House and Suffolk County House of Corrections—MIA can empower students to stand up against mass incarceration and push for policy to end the disparate dealings of the U.S. prison system.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphics