Students battle misconceptions and help former inmates

Formerly Incarcerated Students Club plans week-long seminar to bring awareness about their mission in February

There are many groups on campus that work to empower minority groups on campus, but the Formerly Incarcerated Students Club in particular is starting to bring awareness to a demographic that some individuals may not frequently consider.

On Friday, Nov. 15, the FISC gathered to discuss the club’s goals and their upcoming week-long event beginning on Feb. 3, “Reentry Forum: Let’s Talk about Mass Incarceration.”

The FISC’s main goal is to help ease the transition of those incarcerated back into society through the avenues of formal higher education. Currently, there are very limited resources available to formerly incarcerated potential students who wish to attend higher education institutions like HSU.

“We are a club for formerly incarcerated students, students who have been impacted by the criminal justice system and students who want to reverse the school to prison pipeline,’’ said Club President Tony Wallin. “We support students who have themselves been incarcerated, but also students who have incarcerated, or previously incarcerated family members or loved ones.”

With club leadership, President Wallin, Treasurer Franklin Porter and Legal Lounge Director Kimberley Nguyen, the group meetings are focused on the club’s key goals and ideologies as well as preliminary planning for their forum event being held in early February.

It is so mechanical, that I think the people in charge forget that they are dealing with real, live human beings. Not just ‘criminals.’

Franklin Porter, Treasurer for FISC

Detailing their experience, as some members are those who have been previously incarcerated, many of the group members expressed how difficult it is to set oneself up for success following release.

“When I transferred to HSU fall of 2018, I found no resources specifically for formerly incarcerated students so that’s why I started the club,” Wallin said. “We are a resource now and there are professors and people in admin positions who are willing to help, that’s been my experience, but nothing formal here in regards to resources. You have to find them yourselves, which shouldn’t be the case.”

The FISC is currently planning for the week-long event beginning Feb. 3, called the “Reentry Forum: Let’s Talk About Mass Incarceration”. As the organization plans their event, which will be held in conjunction with Student Legal Lounge and Associated Students, featuring formerly incarcerated keynote speaker Jimmy Santiago-Baca, a prison artwork exhibition, and a panel discussion, the FISC has been met with some obstacles when it comes to planning the event.

“We are met with stigma for sure,” Social Media Coordinator Rubie Gonzalez-Parra said. “Last week we were tabling to raise funds for our event in February and as soon as I’d mention that I was from the Formerly Incarcerated Student’s Club, I would be met with hostility,” said Gonzales-Parra. “Some people wouldn’t even let me finish, they’d just say ‘Nope, not interested’, just because of our club name.”

“Incarceration, the prison pipeline and justice system are essentially the processes of processing people,” Treasurer Franklin Porter said. “It is so mechanical, that I think the people in charge forget that they are dealing with real, live human beings. Not just ‘criminals.’”

FISC is also one of the only resources available to previously incarcerated potential students at HSU and College of the Redwoods.

“As of right now, we are pretty much the only support system for those wishing to transition from life incarcerated, to student life and that definitely should not be how it is,” said Wallin. “The prison industrial complex is a cycle and prisons make our communities more violent, as it only perpetuates a cycle of reincarceration because of the extreme lack of resources ex-incarcerate folks need.”

If interested in the work of FISC, students can attend meetings at the African American Center for Academic Excellence in room NHE 206 every Friday starting at 1 p.m. or contact the FISC members via email at fisc@humboldt.edu.

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