At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette this semester, the Student Action and Organizing Committee (SAOC) has taken it upon themselves to spread awareness about prison regulations.
Mark Mallory, a graduate student in history at UL Lafayette and co-founder of SAOC, explained what they are doing in their campaign and their goals.
“The purpose of this campaign is not to provide a crystal clear alternative, and, quite frankly, I think it’s a little bit disingenuous to ask for a perfect alternative from people who simply wish to criticize the status quo,” Mallory said. “This information campaign is about creating a conversation about creating starting points that take into account the humanity of incarcerated people.”
Mallory then added what the campaign is doing to achieve the goal of “creating a conversation” among students and faculty at UL Lafayette.
“We’re trying to be pretty thorough in our coverage,” he continued. “That’s part of the strategy of this campaign, having multiple successive waves. You know, we’re going to put up more flyers. We have a pamphlet in the works that we’re going to be distributing.”
Although the campaign has clear goals and plans for how to achieve them, it is still facing problems from students, like the taking down of their flyers.
“One of the big problems we face is people deciding to take (the flyers) down,” Mallory said. “Some messages are dissonant to certain students taught (certain) ideologically and worldview.
“There are a lot of entrenched economic interests, especially in rural communities in Louisiana, of large and medium-sized prisons, so there’s a lot of family members and relatives, I’m sure, that are prison guards. So when we say, ‘social workers, not prison guards,’ that might be dissonant to some people, for sure.”
Not all students on UL Lafayette’s campus have a problem with the message that SAOC has been spreading.
“I think that prisoners are experiencing too much hostility, and I think that’s one thing to take away, like strip somebody of their basic rights once they break the law, but it’s another to completely dehumanize them. I think our prison systems have dehumanized a lot of prisoners,” Meridan O’Neill, a UL Lafayette junior, said.
O’Neill then explained how she felt about the message, “we need social workers, not prison guards,” seen on some of the flyers that SAOC has put up.
“I think that’s definitely in line with how I feel with like my views,” she said. “I feel like recreation is definitely a better way to change people than negative reinforcement and giving them no way out.”
Alex Detibeaux, a civil engineering student at UL Lafayette, explained what he thinks the main issue with prisons is and what he’s seen around campus in terms of SAOC.
“There’s a lot of claims where there’s quotas set; businesses are making money off the prison systems, so basically they’re having to keep so many people in these prisons, like a percentile, so that causes a lot of people to stay in jail longer, to keep them packed,” Detibeaux said. “I have seen (SAOC’s flyers), and I’ve seen some stuff about solitary confinement and that being unjust.”