Capstone Sheds Light on Families Impacted by Incarceration

As part of their Senior Capstone Project, four students challenged their classmates and the greater community to make a change for families impacted by incarceration.

The group of Diana Ekezie, Siana Jenkins, Kelli Rutlin and Alyssa Whatley were invested in this topic even before they were seniors.

“Kelli was very passionate about the subject and brought it up last year,” Whatley said. “We decided to pursue it especially since it has an effect severely on the African American community to which we represent, but as well as other people of color and those who fall under the categories of minorities.”

As part of the group’s implementation of their project, they conducted interviews for a podcast which can be found on the CJ website under the senior capstone featured stories section.

On the podcast, the group talked with guests who were personally impacted by incarceration.

In her reflections of her capstone project, Ekezie said, “By doing this Capstone, I was able to attain knowledge about an issue that is not widely talked about. I wanted to be a part of this project to gain insight into significant issues that aren’t expressed and help be an advocate for the underrepresented community and by doing this I feel I’ve taken a step toward this.”

Jenkins added, “This Capstone has provided me with the information necessary for me to spread awareness of the impact of the prison system on the dignity, self-improvement, families, and community of a prisoner. I’ve also learned about how important prison reform programs are for the blossoming of the incarcerated.”

“This Capstone has given me insights about an issue that I am somewhat familiarized with,” Rutlin shared. “I found that everything is not black and white in the justice system, yet it is an intricate system that often causes injustice when that is not its intention. Incarceration and the family dynamic are heavily influenced on each other especially in the black community where there is a high percentage of single parent households due to the incarceration of parents.”

The group also wrote letters to U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman urging the two to work on a bill for families affected by incarceration.

“Fundamentally, it would give these families a bridge of access to job fairs and centers to aid them in finding work and/or careers that they find passion in and providing services to the children by enabling them to locate tutors, mentors and counseling if needed,” the letter stated. “They wouldn’t have to worry about requisitions in order to receive this help; the families would automatically qualify and this hypothetical system would reach out to them using a database that analyzes the milieu of every incoming inmate so that their family would not have to suffer from the mistakes that their love ones chose to make with their own free will.”

The group also asked members of the CJ community to sign in support of their letter.

Written in collaboration with Kerry Kadel '21

Posted April 9, 2019