Incarceration Nation Spring 2015

Incarceration Nation was a fun activism project. Since we started our YAL chapter so late in the semester we were short on people. It was basically myself and one of my members, Jeremy, working on this event. I reserved a table at Northern Illinois University’s Dusable Hall in advance for a Tuesday from 9 AM to 4 PM. The weekend before the event I used YAL’s activism grant to go to Lowe’s and retrieve the materials for the mock jail. Then Jeremy and I built the mock jail. We brainstormed a few ideas.

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We decided an awesome idea would be to do a Non-Violent Offense Checklist. In this checklist we had a list of 10 offenses that people walking by the table could checkmark if they had violated any or all of those offenses in their lifetime. The results were:

1. Jaywalking- 23 votes
2. Littering- 18 votes
3/4. Feeding the Homeless 17 votes
3/4. Underage Drinking- 17 votes
5. Noise Violations- 16 votes
6. Fireworks- 14 votes
7/8. Broken headlights/tail lights- 12 votes
7/8. Marijuana 12 votes
9. Collecting Rainwater- 7 votes
10. Selling Raw Milk- 2 votes

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I also decided as I was tabling to add another poll. “Should Marijuana Be Legal?” Out of 23 votes 17 people said to legalize it, 4 people said to decriminalize it, 2 people said only medical, and zero said to keep it illegal in all forms. I thought both of these activities along with having the mock jail with us were great ways to get students to participate. The one thing I wish we had done better was the postcards. Only a few students filled them out.

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Then on Tuesday evening we had our follow-up meeting, there were 4 of us which, believe it or not, is progress compared to the beginning of the semester struggle. I showed the students that attended the Weldon Angelos Documentary then we discussed the video and topics around it.

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After that we discussed what we can do to help the NIU YAL chapter grow next year and various activism projects we can do. Unfortunately I will not be able to be a big part of the NIU YAL chapter next year since I am graduating. However I feel as if the chapter is in good hands.

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I hope to remain in contact whether I stay in the area and take a few trips to NIU or whether I am somewhere else and hold a Skype conference with these guys. I feel like Incarceration Nation might be the beginning of seeing a baby YAL chapter take its first steps into growth.

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