‘Education, Not Incarceration’

City’s Bring Education and Activist Togegther Club, M.E.C.H.A. and Visionary Feminists presented “Education, Not Incarceration,” a program examining the relationship between education and the prison industrial complex at the Seville Theatre On Feb. 25.

City students and one City advisor spoke out with contempt on the vast injustices they feel that our government perpetrates that “wastes money and cheats thousands of lives from reaching their full potential.”

Subjects were from a range of troubled backgrounds, including students that served jail time and returning veterans. The program focused on the reintegration problems faced by students in such circumstances.

Maurice Martin, a prison ministry coordinator, spoke out most passionately against the lies and promises given to na’ve high school students by Army recruiters, a demographic that he feels would be better served going straight on to higher education.

“This is about promises made and promises not kept,” said Martin.

Martin himself is a veteran, having served in the Army in the 82nd Airborne Division. “Military service is not a job program or a travel agency.it is a war machine,” said Martin.

Upon returning and facing problems with drug addiction and depression, Martin came to realize that veterans aren’t exactly treated as they are promised. Of the 10,000 homeless in San Diego, one-third are veterans. Hardly the compensation promised by recruiters.

The speakers presented their information in a linear order that nonetheless convalesced to paint a larger picture of the problems facing today’s youth and pursuing higher education.

BEAT member and former City Times staff writer Brennan MacLean spoke out about the hypocrisies surrounding the recent budget cuts. Brennan is bothered that the state spends more on incarceration than education, and he doesn’t want to be quiet about it.
“One way or another, everybody is affected by this subject, MacLean said. “20,000 (students) are waitlisted this semester. Why has higher education taken such a huge hit? Prison.”

MacLean went expounded on the subject of prison, stating that not only is the educational budget taking a hit, but so is healthcare and transportation.

MacLean feels that there are three giant factors contributing to the cutbacks in education; California’s “3 strikes” law, drug addiction and the California Correctional Police Officers Association.

MacLean feels strongly that the severity of punishments that non-violent offenders are sentenced with is simply outrageous. When someone is sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent offense, not only is this unnecessarily taking state funding away from education and funneling it into the prison system, it is ruining a person’s potential.

“Make the time fit the crime, that’s justice,” said MacLean. “Certainty of punishment is a much greater (deterrent) than the severity of punishment.”

To further prove his point that the prison system is a vicious cycle that doesn’t help but hinder, MacLean was followed by Patrick Namwembe and Alberto Vasquez, both students at City that have served time for drug related, non-violent offenses.

Namwembe acted out a typical day for any prisoner, embellishing some aspects, but also mentioning that the healthcare system for prisoners is much greater than on the outside.

Both Namwembe and Vasquez have learned from their mistakes and agree n that the prison system is vastly mishandled.
Vasquez is now on the Dean’s List and working on his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. Namwembe said he is running for Vice President of AS during spring elections.
These exemplary accomplishments just further prove their point that prison is not an end all be all, and that people need to be given opportunity and not punishment if they are to flourish.

The overall message presented by the speakers was that there is no reason or excuse to give up on your goals.

“See what’s available to you.take advantage.you’re not the only one to have gone through this,” said Vasquez.

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‘Education, Not Incarceration’