The students will work to help transition female inmates from incarceration to life outside prison
Ashley Juavinett ’11 (Blackwood, N.J.) and Amanda Pisetzner ’10 (Puyallup, Wash.) have received a grant from Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace for their project to reduce recidivism among female inmates at Santa Cruz County Jail in California.
Administered through the Davis United World College Scholars Program, Projects for Peace gives $10,000 awards to 100 student-designed grassroots projects from organizations at any of the 100 American colleges and universities who are members of the program’s network.
Juavinett, a neuroscience major, and Pisetzner, a double major in English and a self-created major called equality and social justice, will be spending two months this summer working with inmates at Santa Cruz. They will provide educational programs and other resources to help the inmates transition from incarceration to life outside prison. The goal of the project is to decrease the rate of re-offense and re-incarceration among released prisoners.
The project is based on “The Journey Home,” a program developed by Bonnie Winfield, director of the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center, which has been used at Northampton County’s prison. Pisetzner has worked with Winfield over the past year to help train volunteers for the program.
“This has been a hugely rewarding experience,” says Pisetzner, who is currently studying the Dutch prison system during her semester abroad in Holland and is considering attending law school after Lafayette.
Juavinett and Pisetzner will conduct workshop discussions with the inmates to ascertain their needs, both in jail and when they are released. They will use the information to develop classes for the inmates. They will also compile a resource guide which will include important community contacts, the names of local employers willing to hire ex-inmates, shelters, hotlines, clothing banks, bus routes, and other information to help the women establish a life outside of jail.
The students are well aware that the success of the program will depend on continuity, so they plan to recruit and train student volunteers from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) to continue running it. In addition, Winfield, who is advising the students on this project, will continue to oversee it for three years.
The grant money will be used to purchase supplies to conduct the program and will also cover living expenses for Juavinett and Pisetzner during their stay in Santa Cruz.
As part of the project, the inmates will also be asked to participate in an art project in which they design anonymous postcards that depict their hopes, dreams, fears, and secrets. The completed cards will be displayed in exhibits at Lafayette and UCSC. “Our goal is to have students participate as well so that when assembled, the distinctions between prisoners’ and students’ words are indistinguishable, highlighting our similarities to one another,” Pisetzner says.