Session #1: Key Takeaways

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    Please share your key takeaways / insights / “Aha” moments based on the three reading materials provided in the this thread by clicking the “Reply” button on the top right corner. Please feel free to use bullet points. Finally, please be sure to check “Notify me of follow-up replies via email” so that you can stay in the loop in this discussion topic.

    For reference, here are the three reading materials for Session #1: Intro to JPN:
    1. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020
    2. Hope is a Discipline: Mariame Kaba on Dismantling the Carceral State
    3. How to Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples)

    Norma (she/hers)

    My key takeaways from this week’s readings:

    – I did not realize that the largest population in jail has yet to be sentenced & they are held in jail because they cannot afford bail money. This particular reality hit too close to home.

    – I had always heard that private prisons drove policy and were the main reason prison reform was impossible – they are too wealthy and powerful. Upon reading the Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020 article, it is clear that they hold a sliver of the piece, and mass incarceration is driven by government spending & policy.

    – I had an “aha” moment while reading the Hope is a Discipline article specifically when MK was speaking about her politics being centered “at the source of people suffering.” She mentioned how mutual aid was a key proponent of her work and organizing “because we have to actually help people to survive if we’re going to get to the point where we can be fighting together.” It made me realize that early in my career through my Peace Corps work and jobs leading up to my current position – at the core, it was always about serving and helping people/families fulfill their immediate needs before engaging them for any type of community organizing. In the last 6 years, my work has slowly but surely steered away from this practice and it struck a chord.


    – As I was reading the “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020” article, I was struck by the fact that individuals charged with misdemeanors are pressured to plead guilty in order to avoid jail time. As the article explains, “This means that innocent people routinely plead guilty.” The act of pleading guilty has long-term consequences. This is just one example of how the “justice” in the phrase “criminal justice system” is often absent.

    – Another fact that struck me from the “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020” article was the fact that 1,700 youth are incarcerated for “status” offenses, meaning “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.” Instead of analyzing and addressing the root causes of why youth may be running away or engaging in truancy, the system criminalizes them instead of helping them.

    – As I was reading the transcript from “Hope is a Discipline: Mariame Kaba on Dismantling the Carceral State,” I was inspired by Kaba’s saying, “Hope is a discipline.” I believe that, especially with social justice work, one can sometimes feel disheartened by the lack of change that is occurring. However, as Kaba reminds us, “you have to hold fast to having a vision.” Reading this served as a valuable reminder for me.


    Mass Incarceration – The Whole Pie 2020
    Whew. This one was really informative. I really loved all the statistics being in one place. There were a few things that surprised me. I always thought that non-violent drug charges made up the majority of the charges/convictions for people who are incarcerated in both jails and prisons. I’m glad I now know that this isn’t necessarily the case. I also found that there are way more people locked up for murder than I had thought. Then again, just because a person is in prison for a particular crime, doesn’t mean they committed that particular crime. Also, there are so many different circumstances in which murder can happen, that maybe the term is just too broad. The article definitely addressed some of these issues, as did the second article. I was also really horrified to find out how many children and immigrants are locked up. There’s just no excuse for it. It makes me think of some of my former clients and just fills me with rage and disgust at how we as a country treat people.

    Hope is a Discipline
    There are two ideas that really challenged my thinking in this one. First, is the need for personal vengeance vs systemic and structural change. I understand my personal want to see Chauvin suffer personal consequences for his actions. But I also recognize that without major change, the same thing will just keep happening. I find that my rage is a great tool for action. But maybe directing that rage towards a system as opposed to an individual is a better idea.
    I also really liked the idea of re-thinking what it is that our government is supposed to do. They are spending our money and they are supposed to be representing us. The idea of holding government officials accountable is so new to me. But I like it quite a bit. Like Norma, I liked the idea of mutual aid too. It reminded me of how the Black Panthers had a program to feed kids before school. Stuff like that is still happening, and I’d like to be more vocally supportive of it.


    Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020

    After reading this informative article, a few key points stood out to me and offered a new perspective on the role of certain policies in place as well as how they contribute to a cycle of mass incarceration.

    – One fact that really stood out to me was the statistic that those convicted of sexual or violent offenses are less likely to be rearrested if you look at recidivism from a different standpoint. Recidivism estimated from risk assessments have played a huge role in determining the outcome of whether or not an individual stays incarcerated and yet, recidivism is measured by arrest rather than an actual conviction which in return enables the system to continue mass incarceration as a result of policies focusing on locking individuals up due to potential recidivism that may not be in the same offense category.
    – Another key takeaway was regarding the categorization of offenses in which in cases of multiple offenses, only the most serious offense is reported and subsequently, the minimization makes it harder to grasp the complexity of crimes. After reading about this policy in place, I realized how much of an impact it has on rehabilitation as well. By downplaying a crime to its most serious offense without taking into account other mitigating factors, such as drug possession that could equate to substance use disorder, the rehabilitation aspect of incarceration is unfortunately taking a hit as well because data is not portraying factors that played a role into an individual committing a crime.

    Mariame Kaba on Dismantling the Carceral State

    – I definitely had an “aha” moment when Mariame explained how defunding the police does not equate to merely stopping the flow of money going towards law enforcement but also dismantling the ingrained ideology that we needed policing in communities. To quote Mariame, “policing is derivative of a broader social injustice” and she does an excellent job of explaining how reforms for policing will never be enough because training will never acknowledge the years of systematic racism rooted in policing.


    Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie

    I never actually understood how offenses are broken down. I knew that individuals were charged in different categories however, I never knew that only the most serious offense was reported. The article gives an example of a drug offense. A person may have committed a violent crime, but the drugs will not be included as a role in the violent crime. This means that the person will automatically get the max amount of time in most situations especially if they do not take the plea deal. Taking a case to trial is almost always risky because most of the time the individual will lose. That was “aha” moment for me it is just a reminder that the system is a constant cycle with tactics that will always keep the individual incarcerated.

    Another take away I took from this article, was to include state psychiatric facilities into incarceration rates. I have worked in a psychiatric facility before, and it is very much like prison. Because many of these people are conserved, the government keeps them in these lock facilities with no rights or decisions on their own lives. Although there are mental health services within these facilities, I question is the goal really to stabilize these individuals or keep them locked in forever?


    The “aha” moment I had with this article was when MK said that we actually need to limit contact the police have citizens. The police are here to protect, yet we need the most protecting from them. I have heard so many different ways to reform the police besides limit their contact. Body cams, changing reports, have police go out and get to know people in their communities etc. but never limit their contact. I wonder how we as a country would go about doing this. It is ironic that we would limit something that is supposed to protect, but it’s more than necessary.


    -The US relies on incarceration to “solve” problems created by political actors and failed policies. We keep people trapped in an endless cycle of harm, punishment, incarceration, and wasteful spending on corrections.

    -Communities are devoid of the services and resources that actually keep people healthy and safe.

    -The pic is strewn with myths and misconceptions. Perhaps one of the most pervasive misconceptions is that society needs policing/incarceration to maintain public safety. The data shows time and again that we can dramatically decarcerate/defund and increase public safety at the same time.

    -Statistical data as presented in “Mass Incarceration The Whole Pie” is a powerful tool to reveal and understand trends, patterns, and disparities in mass incarceration. A high altitude view is critical, yet I want to keep in focus that behind statistics are actual human beings, actual lives. As I begin to learn about justice policy, I wish to keep aligned with Kaba’s perspective–that the voices of those most impacted should be front and center in policy shifts and reforms.

    -California has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world; LA County has one of the largest jail systems on earth. Our state has A LOT of work to do to catch up with its “progressive” reputation, but it is an exciting and important time in California history.

    -Gov. Newson has pledged to close two state-owned prisons by 2022, the recent Humphrey decision should dramatically reduce pretrial detention in our state, and Measure J in LA county is groundbreaking legislation calling for the city to close Men’s Central Jail in LA and to prioritize county funds for community based alternatives to incarceration. It is an exciting time for policy in California 🙂


    Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie

    Honestly there wasn’t anything surprising here. If you’ve been involved at any level of social/criminal justice reform these are some of the things that we fight for as a collective. Mass incarceration is something that is only going to get worse. It’s important that we really understand that everyone involved in a particular case will be charged the exact same charges whether or not they committed the actual crime. That’s why I believe we see more people in county jail fighting cases as the chart shows. We also see that in the prison system and that attributes to the over population. It was really sad to read that critical data is available but not shared with organizations fighting for prison reform. This information is crucial for many people yet it is kept secret. This is one of the things that keeps the Prison Industrial Complex afloat. When the public isn’t aware of the scare tactics used by politicians and law enforcement, they feed into “lock them all up” ideology. When in fact, if they showed the recidivism rates and how much lower they are than what is told they would have a different outlook.

    Hope is a Discipline:

    I believe the “aha” moment for me in this article was when Mariame stated that you can bring an officer to trial but it does nothing to shift, change, or uproot the systems and structures that are responsible for the killings and harassments. That struck me hard even though I know this happens on a daily basis. She talked about how this whole process can be daunting and how will they actually shift and change these issues. It’s sad to know that the killings will continue in communities with people of color and that it’s ok for that to happen because the state will do nothing to ensure it won’t. Funding these police departments to hire more people and buy more weapons of destruction is not the way. We need that money to go into those very communities that are being affected. I absolutely agree with Mariame when she said, “we need to reduce the contact that cops have with people. That’s the only way to reduce the violence of policing.”

    Andrew Garcia

    Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020

    As I was reading this article, it really was astonishing to see just how many correctional institutions we have in America. We also hear about how we incarcerate more people per capita than any other country, but having the statistics really was an eye opener. Furthermore, knowing that our current criminal justice is not sufficient, we often hear about using community supervision in lieu of traditional incarceration. This article, however, shows that even community supervision needs to be reformed. This was a key takeaway for me because it shows that there is multiple structural issues that must be addressed. When 168,000 people are arrested for technical violations, with no new crimes, and over 555,000 people incarcerated in local jails, it becomes apparent that we still have plenty to do in terms of reform.

    Hope is a Discipline: Mariame Kaba on Dismantling the Carceral State

    This article really painted a picture about how politics, law, and society all interact. For instance, I found it profound that this past summer was one of the biggest protest movements in American history. In the midst of a pandemic, we saw a new wave of individuals take an active approach to try and change policies that exist. However, we also saw how politics play a role as well. For instance, when Mariame Kaba points out the “cruel irony” that George Floyd would not even be protected by the act that was passed in his name, truly shocked me. It had me questioning whether or not the politicians even read the facts before passing a bill that basically did nothing to make people feel safer. Another key takeaway from me is when Kaba points out the difference between an individual notion of justice and a societal/collective notion of justice. We often focus on the individual aspect of justice, which is through obtaining vengeance, but we often neglect what it means to have justice in a societal sense. I found this to be so profound, and it leaves me optimistic that we can achieve societal justice through policy changes.

    Andreya she/hers

    The article Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020, was my favorite read. I am a fan of Peter Wagner, and his work. This article was very informative, and powerfully gives the disturbingly realistic deeper dive behind the scenes look at the data of mass incarceration, and some of the controlling factors that overdrive US mass incarceration. I am very aware of these left out of the conversation key topics. Many of my “WOW” moments, are the same that I advocate and bring awareness to such as;
    • Mass incarceration is driven by the ever growing population of people held in pretrial custody.

    • Individuals held in pretrial detention, are legally innocent, and have NOT been convicted.

    • The PIC financially benefits from the warehousing of people, the commissary vendors and phone service providers continue to profit off the mass incarceration of individuals.

    • In order to start reducing the prison population, we must look at a larger solution aside from ending the war on drugs, such as changing tough on crime laws through legislation like removing enhancements, ending felony murder rule, the overcriminilization of crimes under the Federal sentencing guidelines.

    • Minor “technical violations” of people on probation and parole, and the “no bail holds” placed upon them, which offers no alternatives to being jailed. Probation/parole violations could be as minimal as not reporting, or not passing a drug test.

    If we want to drastically reduce our jails, prisons, detention centers, and other forms of carceral settings, we must not only take into account this reporting, we must also take action and think beyond low level non violent crimes, violent and other crimes must be included in this conversation.

    Hope is a Discipline, left me with the raw truth; police do not make our communities safer! Police cause harm, including murder behind qualified immunity. The bottom line for me here, is simply to DEFUND THE POLICE. It is possible, it’s being done in other states, and here in Los Angeles too!

    How to Give an Elevator Pitch was very resourceful. What I identified with most, is that the art of elevator pitching, is also another form of marketing, whether you are seeking employment, or looking for a project to collaborate on, promote yourself! You are your own brand… the possibilities are around us, just a quick pitch away.


    Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020
    I learned so much in the details of the data laid out here. So much. It’s overwhelming how much is hidden in plain sight.

    – “Forcing people to work for low or no pay and no benefits allows prisons to shift the costs of incarceration to incarcerated people — hiding the true cost of running prisons from most Americans.” This is the level of inhumane detail that shapes an understanding of the rot in the criminal legal system.

    – “Probation, in particular, leads to unnecessary incarceration. Until it is reformed to support and reward success rather than detect mistakes, it is not a reliable “alternative.” This is why media narratives can be so dangerous in our understanding of the truth.

    – “When a person is in prison for multiple offenses, only the most serious offense is reported. This makes it hard to grasp the complexity of criminal events, such as the role drugs may have played in violent or property offenses.” Never ever have even considered this once.

    – “The criminal justice system punishes poverty. The median felony bail bond amount ($10,000) is the equivalent of 8 months’ income for the typical detained defendant. Poverty is not only a predictor of incarceration; it is also frequently the outcome, as a criminal record and time spent in prison destroys wealth, creates debt, and decimates job opportunities.” It is a feedback loop to keep people in jail.

    – “We should be wary of proposed reforms that seem promising but will have only minimal effect, because they simply transfer people from one slice of the correctional “pie” to another. Keeping the big picture in mind is critical if we hope to develop strategies that actually shrink the “whole pie.”

    Hope is a Discipline: Mariame Kaba x The Intercept
    – “It’s the difference between an individual notion of justice and a societal and collective notion of justice. For me, in terms of a societal collective notion of justice, the criminal punishment system isn’t it. And cannot be it.”

    “While an individual police officer might be brought to trial, and even less likely might end up being incarcerated, this really does nothing at all to shift, change, uproot the systems and structures that are actually responsible for the killings and the harassment and the injury done to particular populations by the institution of policing.”

    ^ This is why abolitionist language and activism is important. It gets us to think in ways that flip everything we thought we knew on its head.

    – ““These are procedural reforms and they’re more than insufficient. Chokeholds were banned in New York City when police officers choked Eric Garner to death on video. The NYPD had spent $35 million dollars on training their cops to stop using chokeholds and they still choked him to death.” Was George Floyd killed because he was choked to death? No. There are a thousand ways that the cops can kill people.”

    ^ The system will not reform itself. We cannot expect it to no matter how much money you invest. There are no bad apples. The entire farm system of policing is built on rot.

    – “Defund is just one demand and one strategy. For me, it’s defund to abolish. It’s not in and of itself an end. Defund is more than just taking money away, it’s also shrinking the legitimacy, it’s shrinking the ideological footprint within our communities. It’s really about taking power away as much as anything from these institutions.”

    – “As an individual person by yourself, you’re not going to be able to do much. You have to find other people who will work with you to get to whatever the goal is that you’re trying to pursue. Not all those people are going to be people you agree with on everything. And more than that, in fact, most likely, you’re going to have lots of political disagreement. But you could still come together around something that you want to work on together. And nothing that we do in the world is about us as individual people.” #JPN2021


    The Whole Pie

    I really liked how this piece was constructed because of its focus on dismantling myths about the key issues rooted in the criminal justice system. When first becoming very interested in this field, I also was focused on things such as minimizing private prisons and the injustices of prison labor. However, the more I learned about mass incarceration over time, I realized these are just issues used to distract advocates from changing the root issues. Overall most of the information presented in this piece was not surprising. The one point that stood out to me was the issue of bench warrants. It caused me to reflect on how the individuals have probably been subjected to more bench warrants due to COVID-19. The pandemic has caused everything to shift to an online platform which could make it even more difficult for individuals to “go to” court. This just underscores the point that the criminal justice system does not take into account systemic injustices that may arise. Not only does the system not take these into account, it is designed to punish those who are disadvantaged in some way. For example, if an individual does not have access to stable wifi or even a computer, how are they supposed to show up for virtual court?

    Hope is a discipline
    I really appreciated the core of this piece because it successfully illustrated the feelings within the abolitionist movement. Especially in regard to Chauvin, I loved how Kaba explained that “justice” as viewed by the majority of people will not really change anything systemically. We have been conditioned to believe that punishing police officers will reduce the large issue of police brutality. As Kaba said, it is easier to place blame on an individual because it absolves the system from taking responsibility and enacting true change. Kaba is right, a guilty verdict for Chauvin will not do much in the effort to mitigate police brutality. Individual police officers are responsible for their actions, but the policing system as a whole are the creators and perpetrators of the problem.

    Also I liked how she expanded on what “defund” means in the context of the abolitionist movement. I knew defunding was more than simply minimizing spending on the police. However I hadn’t thought about it as a means to take away power. I really like this point because police abolition needs to be rooted in taking away the legitimacy of the police as an actor in our society. The police have been able to get itself into a dominant position in society in part because of money and mass amounts of financing. However, they are able to maintain their position of dominance through their overall power.


    – One of the key takeaways I got from the “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020” was how rampant our criminal justice system is with drug related enforcement, arrests, and incarcerations. It was shocking to learn that one in five incarcerated people are locked up for a drug offense. This is emblematic of a police state where over-policed communities will find any means necessary to interrogate and harass Black and Latino communities. It was very informative to learn about the myths often associated with mass incarceration, especially how community supervision programs are set up to almost ensure failure through constant surveillance, burdensome requirements and other infractions.
    – In the article “Hope is a Discipline: Mariame Kaba on Dismantling the Carceral State,” it was interesting hearing Mariame Kaba talk about social movements and her experience with social advocacy.
    – In the article, “How to Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples),” making a genuine connection was something important I took away. It is important to connect with people on a more intimate level before introducing things you may need or want to ask them. The four steps to an elevator pitch was also a very important reminder on how to confidently convey your interests and desires with other folks.

    Hope is a Discipline: Mariame Kaba on Dismantling the Carceral State
    -	Communities are educating themselves more and more, and I think because there are more demands from community members justice is slowly becoming more transparent
    -	“Aha” moment: incarceration of individuals/enacting vengeance on those who create harm does not promote system change, society needs to focus on changing the root causes of injustice
    -	Defunding police units as a consequence for causing harm to communities does not feel sufficient to some community members - instead punitive punishment/suffering is sought out. 
    -	Procedural reforms are insufficient- there needs to be reduced contact between police and community members to ensure safety 
    o	Not just taking money away- it’s taking power and legitimacy away
    The Whole Pie 2020
    -	I knew that many people who are not able to make bail are stuck imprisoned until their court date, but I had no idea it was on such a large scale, this was very shocking to me. 
    -	A main point made when it comes to ending mass incarceration is that it requires the public to rethink the myths and sense of false safety that the prison system offers- I think this is the most challenging hurdle to overcome. 
    -	It is shocking to know that our youth are being incarcerated or left with criminal records for behavioral issues, such as truancy or run away
    -	“Aha moment”:
    o	The worst crime that a person commits will be their offense category, there is no holistic approach so that the public looking at these statistics can understand what other factors might have led to the person committing this offense. 
    o	Probation is an even bigger piece of the “pie”

    I am happy I listened to the podcast after the Derek Chavin verdict. I think Mariame Kaba had a very good outlook on criminal justice and the way in which our society has been dealing or not dealing with the execution of Black bodies. I found myself feeling blank after the verdict. I did not feel relief but instead exhausted when thinking about how systemic racism is. I started to think is this performative? Where do we go from here?, because my lived experience in being Black in America has not changed. Kaba’s discussion touched a lot on this and the importance of community voice in many of the policies and initiatives that have come up.

    When reading the mass incarceration article, brought me into a space of thinking of my privilege and access compared to many of the people I grew up with and even my family members. I have been thinking a lot about access and what that means or looks like in terms of money, profession. and zip code. I appreciated the way the charts broke down the demographics of those who are currently system impacted. I would also like to uplift the myth section the article touched on and the importance of debunking false narratives within our justice system.

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