Through a night of music, prayer, art and speeches put on by the Christian Community Development Association, or CCDA, students learned about mass incarceration and the effects of it in the U.S. today. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, PLNU hosted the Locked in Solidarity event to open this space for students, as well as to give them an opportunity to write letters to the Girl’s Rehabilitation Facility in San Diego.
The event, organized by Dana Hojsack, PLNU director of community ministries and Dr. Jimiliz Valiente-Neighbours, assistant professor of sociology, social work and family sciences, was aimed at educating students about mass incarceration and “breaking down the us vs. them boundaries,” between students and those who are or have been incarcerated, according to Valiente-Neighbors
“This is amazing, having this space for us to learn about this and pray, but the crux is, how can we get close to them and how can they get close to us, so we feel like we’re not unlike each other. We’re still bound to each other,” said Valiente-Neighbours, who worked with prison ministries for seven years.
For junior nursing major Irene Yaung, Locked in Solidarity was the first she had learned about the reality of mass incarceration, and she was deeply affected by the statistics presented during the night.
“I have thought of prisoners as bad, like thank God they’re away from our society, but I think learning that there are people who are wrongfully in jail because of their race or their background, there should be justice for that,” Yaung said.
This event was part of an annual nationwide week of Locked in Solidarity that the CCDA, whose mission is to “ to bear witness to the Kingdom of God by reclaiming and restoring under-resourced communities,” according to their website. This is the second year that PLNU has hosted an event as part of this week of awareness, according to Hojsack, who brought it to the school after attending the annual CCDA conference.
“My hope is that [students] would educate themselves and learn more about the issues, and be willing to step in as advocates,” Hojsack said.
According to Valiente-Neighbours, she has suggested starting a prison ministry on campus, but many require participants to be over 21, thus limiting many student’s ability to serve. However, she recommends looking to join church prison ministries and being sure to vote on issues that help combat mass incarceration.