Evergreen’s Justice Involved Student group began in the early part of 2018. We are made up of formerly incarcerated and justice-involved students and allies. In Washington State 1.2 million, or 1 in 5, have an arrest record, and over 70 million Americans have had their lives affected by the penal system. We are here to help support those who are trying to rebuild their lives and are a support system for all on The Evergreen State College campus and Washington State community. We are working to continue building our community and a culture on Evergreen State’s college campus which supports formerly incarcerated student’s education, bringing awareness to the discrimination and unjust policies and practices formerly incarcerated individuals face, create a coalition with community partners to work together on reducing barriers to reentry, and lobby for just and fair policies and practices on campus and at the state’s capital.
Evergreen’s Justice Involved student group was originally part of a non-profit organization called Civil Survival. The groups original name was Evergreen Game Changers and we were the first student group created as a branch of Civil Survival’s organization. We helped build other student groups in Washington State to support reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals, from prison to college is our groups focus. Over the Summer of 2018 our group moved away from Civil Survival’s organization and the name Game Changers because of a difference in our two groups overall missions. Our group believes that access to education is key for formerly incarcerated individuals. We believe a flat organizational model without a hierarchal base is the optimum way to build a movement that sustain the liberation for our community. Our presence and support for formerly incarcerated students on Evergreen State’s campus is our focus.
Last year, our student group first started by lobbying with other organizations on MLK day for “ban the box” in higher education and “LFO reform” initiatives which were later signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee. Our groups coordinators were able attended the 3RD ANNUAL CAL STATE LA CONFERENCE for the REINTEGRATION OF FORMERLY INCARCERATED POPULATIONS. There we saw the potential to bring similar organizational models to Evergreen’s campus and Washington State. Our group hopes to build a statewide network like California has done. Our group was honored to attend and present our vision and achievements at the NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON HIGHER EDUCATION IN PRISON, November of 2018 in Indianapolis. There we connected with organizations and individuals progressing the national movement around prison transformation and criminal justice change. The formerly incarcerated colleges graduates’ network is an organization our group formed a relationship with as we continue collaborating on a state and national organizational model.
The Evergreen State Campus has a tradition of supporting incarcerated individuals through organizations and programs. Our group has helped to connect the campus’s different partners by providing an on-campus resource of peer-to-peer support. Last Summer, our groups were able to collaborate and host a Summer Summit with multiple community partners and discussion on Evergreen State College becoming the first 4-year State college or university to have an educational reentry navigator. This Summer, JJ, our previous coordinator was hired as Evergreen’s reentry Navigator. Throughout the 2019 year our group’s participated in multiple Department of Corrections resource and reentry fairs. We spoke on a panel and collaborated with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) on a DOC event which focused on pathways from incarceration.
We are currently working to make the housing policy on Evergreen Campus more equitable, just, and transparent for formerly incarcerated individuals. Removing stigma’s that systems impacted individuals face from organizations and individuals is our mission. We hope to create an office on campus that has a resource adviser specifically for formerly incarcerated and systems impacted students. We have hosted community fundraisers and events to bring awareness to Evergreen students and continue to build the foundation of our movement to liberate formerly incarcerated individuals.