‘Ethnic studies taught me about my culture — and the system I’m locked inside’
, who is incarcerated in California,
writes about her experience with attending school in juvenile detention – working from a book alone in a room with 20 other girls. Transferring to a state youth facility offered the opportunity to take college classes.
“I ended up being the smart girl who still got A’s while on drugs. I could pass a class drunk and grieving,” she writes. “The two worst years of my life happened to be during middle school and they led to right now sitting in a cell writing this. I got locked up right when the second semester of high school started. I had all these plans and then it felt like they swirled down the drain.”
“Long ago I realized if I wanted to get out of my abusive homes, I would have to put all of my energy into becoming somebody. Education is what saved me in desperate times; it gave me a purpose and now it is giving me a future outside of the system.”
‘Leave your culture and assumptions at the door’
What should educators know before walking into a prison? The landscape may look vaguely familiar, Nick Hacheney and Tomas Keen
write, but don’t be fooled. There’s a lot outsiders can’t see, and need to understand.
“It’s wrong to walk into prison and think that terms like equity, fairness, and anti-discrimination are going to mean the same thing here that they do outside,” Nick and Tomas write. “Prison educators need to identify more closely with Harriet Tubman than John Harvard. You need to read the words of Michelle Alexander and look for modern day underground railroads.”