After several days of planning (and gathering supplies) YAL at Western Kentucky University finally began the process of putting together our fake prison bars. After speaking with YAL representatives, we decided that we would use our protest to specifically bring attention to mandatory minimums. These laws are a scourge in Kentucky, where the prison population is skyrocketing, partly because judges don’t have discretion in their sentencing.
The fake prison came out looking fantastic, thanks mostly to Wesley the incoming President of WKU’s YAL. It was an eye-catching prop that had many students and teachers coming over to see what we were about.
The petition was a success. We had 70 students sign on to the petition. We will also contact these students for our upcoming event that will show a documentary on the consequences of mandatory minimums. WKU’s YAL is currently in the process of securing a speaker for our official event on mandatory minimums from the ACLU or local lawyers who push back against mandatory minimums.
Not everyone was on-board. We had to figure out the most persuasive way of getting through to students. There were some that were not interested in signing the petition after I had explained that it harmed those that engaged in non-violent offenses, such as drug crimes. My guess is that they are personally against using these substances.
It is up to us to figure out how to completely point out the conflation between being personally against something, and the justification to give egregious sentences for doing it. We attempted to do so, and it wasn’t always successful. One student said marijuana leads to rape and accused us of supporting drug dealers. We politely said we disagreed and then he left.
Nevetheless, getting through to this kind of mindset will require many more of these kinds of events that feature real-life stories of individuals whose lives were ruined as a result of mandatory minimums.