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NASW-NC member presents problem with prison system

Tuesday, September 20, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Valerie Arendt
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From the North Carolina State University Technician Online


An NC State alumna presented in Talley Student Union on Monday evening “Why Prison is Personal and Political,” an event highlighting the impact of incarceration on women. The event was jointly hosted by the NC State Women’s Center and the Department of Social Work.


Miea Walker, who has a master’s degree in social work from NC State, detailed issues of the criminal justice system and how members of the Wolfpack community can take action.


“This is a full circle moment for me and very humbling and also very emotional, because this story is very personal to me, and something I am very passionate about,” Walker said. “And I would like to say that NC State really welcomed me, as someone who has a criminal record, someone who is seeking acceptance, someone who is really wanting the community to embrace them.”

Walker invited the audience to wrestle with the tension associated with discussing the criminal justice system.


“If we’re uncomfortable, if we’re feeling that tension, and we’re wrestling with this, then that’s a place where we can really have an honest conversation about this,” Walker said.


She emphasized how incarceration affects not only an individual, but how the impact can trickle through families and communities. 


“My mom went to school for criminal justice and then she worked a juvenile court counselor for a while, so I was always around seeing these kids who were affected by their parents that were in prison,” said Sharlene Smith, a sophomore studying management. “They got into the system, and how the rest of their lives it followed them everywhere. I thought it was important to come and support learning about it.”


Detailing the pitfalls of the criminal justice system in the United States and in North Carolina specifically, she told touching and emotional stories about herself and others. Walker emphasized the importance of learning about the criminal justice system and those who have been previously incarcerated. The talk was intended not to be depressing, but hopeful, employing education as motivation of change.


“Typically people don’t know,” Walker said. “They have an idea about incarceration, they see the things that happen in their community or they see it on the news, but they don’t necessarily know someone that’s been directly impacted by incarceration.”


After the event had ended, several students stayed behind and mingled with each other, discussing the criminal justice system, how to use their voice to make changes and the most surprising parts of the talk. Already, students were wrestling with this new knowledge.


“I really enjoyed it,” said Kat Burgert, a sophomore studying sociology. “I really liked the parts that were emotional. It hit me personally, having trouble with mental health, and that was really important.”


Walker conveyed that making positive strides toward prison reform is not impossible. She recommends to start by using language that empowers, respecting the dignity of all people and, if possible, by contacting local outreach programs that advocate for prison reform. In any case, Walker said, no step is too small when it comes to changing the narrative surrounding those impacted by incarceration.


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