Go To Jail: Confronting a System of Oppression

We’re pleased to announce the publication of an impressive new book, Go To Jail, edited by Students at the Center (SAC), an independent English and Social Studies program working within public schools in New Orleans.

For this project, SAC staff & teachers—including IICSI researcher Dr. George Lipsitz—invited young people to examine the prison system in their own community of New Orleans. This city puts more people in jail than any other city in the United States, a country which puts more people in jail than any other country in the world. This project resulted in young people reflecting upon the criminal justice system from an intimate, first-hand perspective.

Go To Jail is a volume of student writings about the impact of the criminal justice system on their lives, authored by young people who have participated in the improvisation pedagogy classes conducted by Students at the Center in McDonogh #35 and McMain high schools in New Orleans. It is a volume in which, to quote Dr. Lipsitz, “young people and their adult allies tell stories about the ways in which they use improvisation and imagination to refuse the unlivable destinies meted out to them by predatory policing and mass incarceration.”

What emerges from this work is a cry for change and a mighty assertion that these stories matter, that this system impacts all of us, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. As SAC teacher Kalamu Ya Salaam exclaims in the introduction: “Let’s holler loudly about the criminal justice system and how it affects our lives. Let’s tell how each of us are affected, not just inmates but also family and friends. Let’s hear all the voices. Let’s look at the total picture. Let’s work together to find a solution to our problems of poverty.”

Read the full text of Go To Jail here.

The front cover image featured here is “Go To Jail,” a piece by Michael “Cali” Long.