12/30/14

Some Obvious Thoughts about Race, Drugs and Incarceration

What I Thought I Knew About Prison


In my sophomore year of college I started attending meetings of one of my university’s many environmental student organizations. After a semester of yea-saying other people’s ideas and occasionally working shifts at bottled vs. tap water tasting table, I was looking for a way to get more  involved. One day a girl I didn’t know announced that she had put forth a proposal and obtained funding for an environmental lecture series at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) and needed someone to continue her program while she studied abroad in Brazil. 

As it turned out, she hadn’t really obtained funding or done much work on the idea at all, but by that point I had already committed, and I wasn’t a quitter. So, with the help of another student already running a similar, non-environmental program at RIDOC, I met with the Director of Rehabilitation and the Deputy Warden of men’s minimum to get approval for the lecture series, solicited eight Brown University professors to give one hour, pro-bono lectures to a classroom of 15-20 inmates, and borrowed a car twice a week to escort professors, distribute readings, and sit in on environmental lectures in prison.