It wasn’t until Queen Adesuyi was a freshman at Georgetown University that she realized the police presence in her South Bronx neighborhood wasn’t normal. Police surveilled her neighborhood in watchtowers and on foot, walking through her building at all hours. She couldn’t go a day without interacting with a police officer, but once she got to Georgetown rarely did she encounter police.
Now a senior, Queen has become an advocate for criminal justice reform. “Mass incarceration affects young people because they are a part of the system from the school to prison pipeline, people who are children of the incarcerated.”
Queen is one of six research assistants at the newly launched Georgetown University Prisons and Justice Initiative, directed by Georgetown Prof. Marc Howard.
The Initiative “was founded to bring together leading scholars, practitioners, and students to examine the problem of mass incarceration from multiple perspectives,” according to its web site.” The Initiative has hosted faculty seminar series, documentary screenings, and discussions about false confessions.
Queen spoke to the importance of this Initiative on a college campus. “Getting younger people involved in this issue is definitely important, people on college campuses right now are the next leaders in government,” Queen said.
Enrolled in Professor Howard’s Prison Reform Project class, Queen and 14 of her peers met with 16 Jessup Correctional Institution inmates collaborating on prison reform proposals throughout the spring semester. The students were tasked with looking at what happens to individuals before, during, and after incarceration. In addition to creating a policy proposal, the students produced a five episode podcast and short documentary. Queen focused on the after process, specifically the difficulties that parolees have that often lead to re-entry into prison.
“People who have been up for parole three times, can tell you what’s messed up about the parole system rather than just reading [about] it. They were kind of selflessly using their bodies to teach us,” said Queen.
Ali Forger a sophomore from Monroe, Connecticut, focused on after prison as well. “I am a massive proponent of second chances, and being in the after group helped me to understand the ways in which our society really throws up barriers to people ever really getting those second chances,” said Forger.
Queen applauded the work of the Black Lives Matter movement and Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow” for quantifying and illustrating the issue of mass incarceration. She hopes the winner of the 2016 presidential election will put pressure on governors to support prison reform.
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