I learned a lot during the four-month, four day a week Alliance for CHANGE social justice course. Before attending the class I was ignorant of the fact that there were that many different types of justice, such as procedural justice, distributive justice, retributive justice, restorative justice, transitional justice, transformative justice, and last but my favorite, community justice. The curriculum and exercises were so rigorous and intense that my by nature a shy and laid-back type of person found myself raising my hand and speaking without even being conscious about it. I learned a lot from the curriculum, but the interaction with the other participants was just as enlightening. Now, not to take anything away from the class, but rather show my gratitude throughout this course me and my mother became close. I used to speak with my mom about this class all of the time, now her seeing the growth in my allowed her to share some past abuse that she endured as a child, but was unable to tell anyone until now, and I’m glad it was me she confided in. The reason I say that is because our relationship was far from perfect, but her disclosing that information not only brought clarity and understanding, it brought us closer together. To me that’s what the class is all about, bringing people together and this class did just that, so again I would like to express my gratitude and my appreciation to everyone involved in the Alliance for CHANGE network.
The Alliance for CHANGE curriculum was like an improv theatrical social justice production. I learned as much about acting as I did about justice. It was like finding that illusive wormhole. Passing through justice slices of time and living my experience with the wisdom of today. Our experience with justice is as unique as our relationship with time. If you don’t have to think about it, then it passes by unnoticed. The Alliance curriculum not only offers information about this social phenomenon, it allows you to experience every nuance of justice – from gender to class – then you can arrive at your own understanding of its meaning and potential.
My understanding of the justice system was limited to personal experience. Those experiences shaped my view of the system. After being exposed to Alliance for CHANGE members, they began to ask me what I thought justice was. I believed justice was equivalent to punishment. They encouraged me to sign up for Alliance for CHANGE and go through the curriculum. The commitment would be long term, but how could I deny myself the opportunity to grow as a person and gain knowledge about the system that affected me so much. If what they told me was correct, then everything I experienced was some form of justice. During the workshops, I discovered many forms of justice, not just retributive. That astonished me. I never considered other forms of justice.
What an eye opening experience the first week as and every week after that. The instructors exposed me to theories I had never considered. My view of the world had been limited to what was in front of me, but now this light was going off, and I couldn’t get enough. We started with procedural justice. Next we explored distributive justice, from there moving on to retributive justice, each step of the way gaining a better understanding of the system as a whole. We discovered the healing qualities that restorative justice brings to victims, moving next to community justice and asking what role the community plays in our society, finally ending with transitional justice. I was stunned. Why are not teaching this to everyone? This should be in our high schools; we should be holding seminars to help people everywhere understand the true meaning of justice.
I remember the first week I wanted to quit the Alliance, but I stayed with the class. Sometimes it gets hard for me, so I said to myself that I would work hard at it. I learned some things that I didn’t know. I have to say that my brother Malik Harris did a fabulous job in his teaching. When I didn’t know something and I asked him, he explained it to us. In this class we had some fun and sometimes the class was cut short because of recall in the prison. Overall I learned a lot of things about myself and now I am working at it. I know my life will be a help to my family and friends and the people that I come in contact with. We had to do a mock trial and I did not know how the court system works. If I knew then what I know now I would have spoke up in my trial. Also I learned about restorative justice, something that restores, and distributive justice, of or relating to distribution. If you had asked me before this class about these questions I would not have known and I also learned about equity, equality, and need. Now I could speak on it. Praise God this class was an experience for me that I will never forget. All I want to do is help someone that is in need of help and teach them the things that I learn. I will encourage everyone that that wants to take the class that it is a good class. The Alliance for CHANGE.
|Let me start by saying everyday that I walk the yard and North Block at San Quentin I see guys in groups as well as jobs, who present themselves as one thing, but live their lives in another. What at first didn’t affect me, but as the years passed and my need for change in my own life grew stronger I realized that this was a real injustice being done. So I started looking for groups whose members didn’t just talk the talk, but also walked the walk and I heard about the Alliance for CHANGE and saw that everyone involved in forming the group was a person that I admired and had respect for because they talked the talk and walked the walk. So I signed up for the first class they had to offer, which was the social justice course and to be honest at this point in my life I had never though about justice in a social concept and I can remember sitting there thinking what have I gotten myself into. But little did I know that was only the first of so very many questions that this course had my asking myself. From day one the class made me think, which is one of the things I like most, next to the rule change day. For me that was when the light came on for me because that day was when I really got it. Everything that Malik had been saying previously all played out right in front of my eyes in a way that took me on a mental and emotional rollercoaster that lasted for 15 weeks. For me to see how procedures used in a social setting could effect people in so many different ways really got my attention because I had to see things from another persons view as well as my own. At the beginning of this course I thought of justice as the court system on when I felt I was treated unfairly but now I look at how my thoughts and actions can affect my family, neighborhood, and community. This course has made me see how people do either one of two things when they feel an injustice has been committed against them: they either get angry and do nothing to fix it or they become motivated to do something to make a change. The class has not only made me look at myself to make changes, but also my community, the court system, as well as the government.Anonymous student|
May 2011 Graduate