44 Days Event focuses on women advocating for reform in the criminal justice system.
By Ally Sullivan
The Saint Marys Community is proud to present as a part of the 44 days edition, a look into taking action with, “Women Advocating for Change in the Criminal Justice System.” The event will take place on March 3rd at 7pm, where individuals can join the conversation on the effects of incarceration in and out of prison, disenfranchised voting communities, and so much more. Join guest speaker Porche Taylor, Founder of Prison from the Inside Out, and Organizer with No Justice Under Capitalism, to learn what inspired them to take action. To get a closer look at the importance of the event Sharon Sobotta, Director of the Center for Women and Gender Equity, explained “The program is very intersectional in nature, when looking at women's history month it's also relevant to look at racial inequality.”
Sobatta believes the stories and experiences of disenfranchised, incarcerated and recently incarcerated individuals need to be amplified. Included in the program is an in-depth and relevant discussion around the lack of voting resources in specific communities. Voter disenfranchisement is embedded in American fabric, and the victim historically has been the African American community. The light has now been shown on the voter restrictions of recently incarcerated individuals. Sobotta addresses this pre-discussion, “Once they get out they might have that little asterisk that says felony which becomes a setback, the system has not come up with a way to support them.”
The event will also focus on how COVID-19 has affected the incarcerated population. Guest Speaker Courtny Morris works and meticulously focuses on more humane treatment of incarcerated individuals, the deadly effects of being incarcerated during the pandemic. All these realities will be discussed more in-depth.
The women involved in this program are actively empowering the population and working to impact policy. Specifically, to bring focus to the women impacted by these situations. Sobatta explains, “Men of color are more likely to be incarcerated, and we tend to forget the significant others and the family affected.”
“It's tough to understand this through a textbook” Sobatta said.
Sobatta reiterates the importance of having access to these stories, where you can hear the voices of people who have experienced these issues. This amplification of voices gives voice to the voiceless in hopes of changing the way we view and interact with incarcerated individuals. “This is an act to preserve their humanity, they are not second class citizens, they are second chance citizens. If we reduce someone with our language, that will impact the way we see them,” she says.
All the women included in this event are working tirelessly to see a change. Sobatta encourages members of the Saint Marys community to attend the event, claiming “We have the capacity to touch minds and hearts, and from there we can impact change.”
If interested in joining the conversation, and being a part of the change, log in through the Saint Marys library portal and register through the zoom link for the event on March 3rd at 7 p.m. I hope to see all of you there!
Authors Note: Special thanks to Sharon Sobatta for this interview, and for the women putting this together for sharing their stories with us.
Melanie Moyer '22,