“People who go to jail are usually young,” Krasner said. “People who get pulled into the criminal justice system as juveniles are young, too. One in three Black men in the U.S. will experience jail in their lifetime.”
Krasner provided opening remarks for the third annual Student-Led Mass Incarceration Symposium held Thursday afternoon at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters, 440 N. Broad St. The former civil rights attorney also answered questions from students.
High schoolers from The Workshop School, The U School, Science Leadership Academy, Science Leadership Academy at Beeber and the Franklin Learning Center directed and participated in several break-out sessions and shared projects they created that surrounded the issue.
“Across all five schools, students have been studying the issue of mass incarceration, learning about the effects that mass incarceration has on both individuals and groups of people,” said Rebecca Coven, a 10th grade teacher at The Workshop School. “They’ve been then thinking critically about what are the root causes of mass incarceration and how they can take action to end mass incarceration.”
Sixteen year-old Ma’Kayoh Goodwire-Thomas said she has been learning about ways to help improve the criminal justice system.
She and another student created a poster board outlining their goal (more money for probation programs), probation base (main supporters who were formerly incarcerated), allies (parents and citizens), targets (U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans and U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey; Krasner, Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf) and strategy (by reaching out youth on social media and marching to City Hall) for helping to improve the system.
Under the poster’s facts reads, “As of 2015, one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on some form of probation or parole were Black.”
“Sometimes I feel like it’s not right,” Ma’Kayoh said. “They do put people in jail for no reason. There are more Black people locked up.”
Nasir Hanton, 15, feels re-entry programs are important for former offenders. He said receiving an I.D., being allowed to stay in halfway houses or a shelter or being able to get a job once you’re released from prison is important.
“After you’re sentenced and get your time, you should be able to re-enter society with a different mindset,” said Nasir, a student at The Workshop School. “Anything that gives you better information for you to go back into society is important.”
Krasner shared 10 different ways the criminal justice system can be fixed, including prosecuting fewer cases, stopping cash bail and enforcing shorter sentences. He talked about rapper Meek Mill, and technical violations, explaining how other states either do not send people back to jail for technical violations or do but for short periods of time.
Lastly, Krasner urged the students to register vote and to do so in every election.
“That’s the only way you are going to be able to defend your existence, meet your goals and change the world the way you want to change it,” Krasner added. “Until you can vote, there’s plenty things you can do. You can be activists on your own. You can march, you can protest, you can sign petitions and you can volunteer for a campaign. There’s nothing about that that you cannot do before you’re 18.”