Mendal Polish

My summer research has proven to be much harder than I imagined it would be.  I set out to find answers to questions that are still so new, but the quest has made me stronger and provided more information and drive to create necessary alternatives to prisons within our communities.

Though restorative justice practices have been used in indigenous communities for longer then we know, transformative justice movements are still so new in their implementation.  The theories and accountability processes are still being refined as they are put to practice in community interventions.  I learned that this research for me is still young, even though I have hit the ground running with over 15 interviews in the past few months.

A really incredible interview I captured was in Seattle with writer and historian Dan Berger, who co-founded Decarcerate PA.  He was able to powerfully articulate how critical it is that we stop funding prison expansion and instead pour that money into community resources that create healthier societies and ultimately break the school to prison pipeline.  Instead of profiting off of locking people up Decarcerate PA states,

“We believe that public money should instead be spent on quality public schools, jobs and job training, community-based reentry services, health care and food access, drug and alcohol treatment programs, stable housing, restorative forms of justice and non-punitive programs that address the root cause of violence in our communities. Such steps are necessary to secure socially responsible, personally secure, and economically viable communities in our state.”

It is critical to rethink how prisons function in our communities and create deficits in other critical resources that are imperative to a healthy society.  I am far from finishing this project, and I learned that this research is going to take a lot longer than I imagined, but I am grateful for this starting point.