As a qualitative researcher, I have been able to learn from those with direct lived experience how youth in the juvenile justice system experience reentry/transition legislation, the school-to-prison pipeline, relationships with their mothers, toxic individualism, messages of materialism, disproportionate representation of racial minority youth with disabilities in the system, learning employability skills, and more. Further, I have learned from adults in custody about their experiences battling shame in the fight for dignity, the decisions to put them at a heightened level of risk exposure based on their perceived value of life by those in positions of power, and the true costs of prison labor.
The purpose of corrections is supposed to be rehabilitation, but is frequently the opposite. I am exploring interventions and supports that will actually offer a chance at rehabilitation to people in correctional settings, to give them the skills and resources they need to be successful when they reenter the community, and to follow their guidance on the needs we should actually be addressing for true criminal justice reform. Further, I seek to provide opportunities in correctional facilities that include education and mental health support whether or not those who benefit will ever be released.
I am continually looking at interventions within and legislation concerning juvenile and adult corrections that affect reentry and recidivism, as well as addressing social hostility toward those with justice system involvement. The stigma of criminal records prevents those who have already served their time from truly moving forward beyond the worst thing they have ever done. Knowing almost everyone inside will one day be released, it is essential the community to which they return be able to welcome and support them. Improving reentry helps to prevent reoffending and bolster public safety, but also recognizes the humanity in everyone – even those who have made significant mistakes.
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