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For us visual learners

HSBurke's picture

Each of our texts this week provides powerful anecdotes and statistics regarding the history of women in the American justice system. I was particularly taken by the story of Alice Clifton, the slave tried for murder of her own child. To connect her story back to the similar story of Regina McKnight presented in “Prisoners of a Hard Life (The Real Cost of Prison Project)” was particularly heartbreaking. How long has this injustice been going on? How long will it continue? 

However, what I really want to take time to do in this post is to display my appreciation for our text "Prisoners of a Hard Life (The Real Cost of Prison Project)". A comic strip/ illustrated pamphlet wasn't what I was expecting when I went to open the link, but when I saw it, I was immediately excited. This is a new format that I haven't worked with yet in an academic setting and I think that they inclusion of graphics along with text was a great way to engage readers and make the information presented more accessible and memorable. I read this particular piece while in the Writing Center with some friends and I found myself stopping and showing them some of the statistics presented in the piece, typically with the prelude of "Isn't this crazy?" The first statistic (1 out of every 109 women in the America is incarcerated, on parole or probation) is one that I found particularly haunting. I think many of us struggle to think of those in prison as "average people". This statistic hits home on that point. Every story in this piece gives insight into the very personal struggles that women who are incarcerated grapple with, including drugs, sexual abuse, HIV, and separation from their families. Of course now I am thinking about those women that we are going to meet. Could they be facing the same issues? Surely. My natural inclination is to want to help or be comforting in some way, which, in this setting, is not an option. In the end, I am left with many more questions now about the topics our class discussion in the FDC will breach. I don’t imagine such topics being something that the women will feel comfortable sharing.  But, if not, will we (the 360ers and incarcerated women) even get to know each other at all? 



Michaela's picture

I felt similarly to both of

I felt similarly to both of you about this piece--I loved that The Real Cost of Prison Project strayed from the norm of academic writing to show something that was grittier and more visceral, but also something that proposed more real solutions. I am appalled by the treatment of black women in the anecdotes shared through "Colored Amazons", but I find myself much more drawn to sympathize and feel a call to arms at the comic (what do you call it when the topics of a graphic strip are anything but funny?). Perhaps it is because these are women who are alive today, or because the statistics are more relevant to the problems that we face in our current prison system. I don't mean to suggest that a history of violent racism and demeaning of black women are not wholly and inextricably linked to the issues in the criminal justice system today, but seeing the very real consequences for several relatable, visualized women makes the need to implement the suggested programs from The Real Cost of Prison Project all the more urgent. 

I feel that the graphic strip is a more palatable way of reading than a dense (although very intriguing) book like "Colored Amazons", and is perhaps a way that we can work to disseminate the crucial, heartbreaking facts presented here, so that there won't be as many expressions like "isn't this crazy?' but more that express understanding and resolve to act for a better future in the justice system. I think that perhaps an effective end project for this 360 would be for us to create visual resources like these, that are not only informative, but also provocative and thoughtful--now I just need to find someone to work with who can draw!

Uninhibited's picture

I felt the same way about the

I felt the same way about the comic strip. I was shocked about the statistics, and found myself saying "isn't it crazy" plenty of times. I think that the comic strip really illustrates how people are affected and gives a good visual of how we’re all affected, especially in regards to taxes. I found the story about the woman who was late on her car payment and had to go to jail especially interesting. In thinking about the amount of tax money that goes into putting her to jail, wouldn’t it be better for her, her children, and even tax payers, to just give her time to pay it back? Why do we have such tough sentences for petty crimes and/or drugs?

I also really enjoyed the visual and the personal stories attached to it. I think that too many times, with criminal justice discourse, there's not enough background information to understand why or how people go to jail. I thought the comic strip clearly illustrated mix of necessity and/or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, as a possible cause of incarceration.

I definitely began to understand crime differently, especially when connected with Colored Amazons which I think explained very clearly who the criminal justice system is one that targets black and brown bodies. The comic strip gave current specific stories to what seems to be a criminal justice system created to perpetuate the injustices of slavery and Jim Crow.