In Cincinnati Ohio, we have a crime problem. Our violent crime rates are double the national average. Taking that into consideration, in 2012, 14,374 people were arrested in Cincinnati and charged only with possession of marijuana. While this was happening 91.6% of all reported burglaries and 90% of motor vehicle theft went unsolved. Cincinnati has a problem with incarceration, and the University of Cincinnati’s Young American for Liberty (YAL) chapter decided to take action.
We applied for the YAL, “Incarceration Nation” kit and the $50 stipend to build our mock prison. Our Treasurer, Chris Roark, went to the local hardware shop to pick up the materials and constructed the “prison” all by himself. Then Amanda Hale (State Chair) and myself (Michael Esch, President) put together the materials to set up our table. While tabling, many of our members helped talk with people, hand out fliers, take pictures and get signatures.
We decided that since the kit inspired our group so much we would do it twice, a Monday and Wednesday. We chose Monday because our meetings are on Mondays. We have found that when we do activism on the day of our meetings we get more new recruits then if we do on an off day. Then we choose Wednesday because it is a high traffic time on campus and people are most likely to stop and talk.
Many students were shocked by the incarceration rates in the United States. Many thought it was absurd that we were putting people in jail for non-violent crimes. Others told us that they thought it did not affect them, because they have never committed these crimes. That is when we started to explain the cost of incarcerating an American citizen in the United States. In the United States, the average cost of an inmate per year is $31,000.
When we explained that half of the people that are in prison are there because of drug-related crimes, students were happy to sign our petition to fix our system.
Students wanted to take a picture in our mock prison. Others were excited to sign our petition and wanted to know how they could get more involved. We explained our meeting times and encouraged people to come to our State Convention where we train people how to be a successful activist.
One of the highlights of this event was when the University of Cincinnati’s Vice President of Student Government came over to support us by taking a picture in the prison and signing our petition. He said, “This is something that needs to be fixed, and I am proud that you guys are making a stand.”