SUNY Oneonta’s Incarceration Nation

Hello ladies, gentlemen, and NSA Agents illegally monitoring all of our communications!


My name is Aaron Hass, I’m the YAL President for SUNY Oneonta. This past semester, as many other chapters around the country, we put on an event called “Incarceration Nation” to teach our campus about our great nation’s not so great justice system.



The goal of incarceration nation was to bring information to the public about our criminal justice system. YAL national cut us a check and gave us a basic outline of how to get it done. Their basic plan: Build a small little fake jail that people can hold up to take pictures protesting the over-criminalization of America. We’d walk up to people and ask if they were a criminal, get them to admit they were a criminal, snap a picture behind the jail, then give them some info. The idea was to try to get them to come to a movie YAL had sent us later that day.


We talked to our awesome regional director, Cliff, who told us to not worry too much about what the official paperwork said and to make it as awesome as we wanted. Fortunately Needless to say, we decided to, in the words of Henry Kissinger, go for broke.


Our Vice President, Dustin, convinced our school (through what he calls charm but I assume to be luck) to match the money YAL had given us for the cell. We now had twice as much money to spend on the event.


We immediately decided that the little YAL design was now to be called “Plan B” and decided we were going to build a full blown 3’x4’x7′ cell. Unfortunately, this plan fell apart the minute we realized we didn’t have a compressor for the nail gun we borrowed. (Actually we did have a compressor, but letting my friends play with a nail gun is just insane).


We also decided that the movie wasn’t quite what we wanted. Dustin was able to book a room and get a group of lawyers to come in to teach the students their basic rights and how to handle the police in a way that protected the individual rights. Working with our PR Wizard, Fallon, they called this the “Know Your Rights Seminar.”


So we started working and hanging out and not working and hanging out and what not and somehow we made some bars, shoved them in the car, and went to campus.


YAL’s original plan called for going up to people and saying “Are you a criminal?” but we realized people can just say no. Instead, after some trial and error, we went with “You’re under arrest.”


This would be followed up by someone indignantly asking why. If two dudes walk up to you and try to arrest you, you’d do the same. We then asked if they ever drank underage or smoked weed or stolen something or downloaded music illegally. If they said yes, we’d take them to jail. Below are a bunch of our friends in jail, and one particular girl making a pretty miserable face. We’re with you, jail seems rough. You go, Glen CoCo.


The Seminar also went well. Over a hundred students showed up.





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