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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

TUPIT hosts event with formerly incarcerated members of Tufts Education Reentry Network

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Hilary Binda, founding director of TUPIT, and Tufts students from the weekly Inside-Out course, are pictured.

The Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College (TUPIT) recently hosted an event that invited formerly incarcerated members of the Tufts Education Reentry Network (MyTERN) to speak about their experiences in and out of prison. The speakers, who are currently seeking education through MyTERN, discussed questions ranging from the difficulty of reentry to how important education and programs like MyTERN are to facilitate these processes. They are quoted anonymously to respect and protect their privacy. 

Hilary Binda, senior lecturer and founding director for TUPIT, explained that this event is impactful because it not only provides a platform for the formerly incarcerated to speak about their experiences, but it also offers an educational opportunity for those unfamiliar with these experiences.

“The word 'barrier' doesn’t even begin to touch the complexity [and] difficulty of living after prison, not to mention in prison," Binda said. "[For] those of us who, like myself, haven’t been incarcerated … we learn from educators [and] teachers who are people who do have this experience."

Financial stability is one of the many aspects of reentry that was touched upon. One speaker discussed the difficulty of finding a stable source of income following incarceration due to the accessibility of criminal records, such as the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). 

“It is a battle," they said. "That CORI follows you to work ... it's a major blockade to trying to move forward ... it takes one person to find out about my CORI ... and I lose that job."

Many speakers explained how they have turned toward mentorship within their communities, through anything from coaching youth football to helping restorative justice nonprofits. 

Speakers also discussed the importance of education as a means to prevent incarceration, and the value of MyTERN. 

“[If] you grow up in the suburbs, you go to school [and] you are taught to excel; as opposed to the inner city, you are taught to fail," another speaker said. "It is the school-to-prison pipeline. ... Education [puts you in a position] to go to Silicon Valley, Wall Street, wherever you want to be ... MyTERN is great because it fosters relationships … the MyTERN community gives you the support that you need.” 

A speaker further revealed that MyTERN assists formerly incarcerated individuals in adjusting to life after imprisonment by building a community of members with shared experiences. 

When you’re in prison, it has these unspoken rules and etiquette," a speaker said. "There’s this negative mindset that you learn in prison ... how [to] survive and live. And then you leave prison and you come home and you are expected to be … what society thinks is 'normal.' ... A program like [MyTERN] … where there’s a community … can almost guarantee lowering the recidivism rates because you are around people who were in prison with you, but you are also around people like the Medford students.”

Many of the speakers acknowledged that their problems take time to deal with and that seeking out the help of MyTERN, therapists, sponsors and support systems around them is the first step toward progress. 

“What gives me hope is the increased visibility … to restorative justice programs that are going on," a speaker said. "It is not like this stuff wasn’t happening, but now people are hearing about it, so that is huge.”

With a strong sense of civil responsibility, engaged members of TUPIT asked a number of questions throughout the event to spark conversations about the prison and legal system. One speaker mentioned raising the juvenile age as a way to limit young offenders.

“How can we raise the juvenile age?" a speaker said. "How can we get it up to maybe 21, and then gradually get it up to 24 … because a lot of people commit crimes between that age [and] they are not fully developed. … Let us give them a chance because usually people age out of crime … [Between 17 and 18] it is one year. Where does it stop? I cannot buy liquor but I can get a natural life sentence … I think a lot of people would love to get into that.”

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