Students Against Incarceration returns, aims to “ban the box”


DePaulia Staff

DePaul faculty went two years without receiving a raise between Jan 2020 and Jan 2022.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that DePaul housing and financial aid forms included a criminal history box. The DePaulia has since learned that these forms do not include this box. The story has been corrected to remove the inaccuracy. 

Students Against Incarceration (SAI) held a general body meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19.  

SAI is focused on renewing past activism. The largest of which is the ban the box initiative, a nationwide call to remove the past criminal record question from employment and higher education applications. SAI has effectively paused their work on this cause since 2019. 

[We’re] trying to just do good within the community overall, and specifically with the ban the box initiative, [which] gives people who were incarcerated the same opportunities that they deserve, to be educated,” Co-President Sydney Hofstra said.  

DePaul removed the question from their general application. SAI has advocated for the complete removal of the question at DePaul since before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

SAI argues that there is no greater safety in college institutions that inquire about criminal history. As well as the fact that obtaining a college degree is the most effective way to stop recidivism. 

“The higher the degree, the lower the recidivism rate is: 14% for those who obtain an associate degree, 5.6% for those who obtain a bachelor’s degree, and 0% for those who obtain a master’s degree.” via Northwestern

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization got approval from  faculty council, staff council and DePaul SGA to remove the question of criminal history from DePaul applications. Their effort was halted by then interim provost Salma Ghanem. 

Ghanem responded to their work, noting the strides DePaul has made in the movement, but citing why they are not able to completely “ban the box.” 

“In the last couple of years alone, DePaul has considered and conditionally admitted applicants with self-disclosed backgrounds including possession and distribution of drugs, DUI/DWI, and theft,” Ghanem said to the members of SAI in 2019. “On the other hand, DePaul has also considered and denied applicants with backgrounds involving murder, pedophilia, kidnapping, and rape.”

The club’s advocacy has also included organizations to end cash bail, book club with incarcerated people, incarcerated penpals and other activism regarding incarceration and voter mobilization. 

The work SAI has done with their incarcerated book club brought people out to see what the organization had to offer. 

“I saw that they did book clubs with incarcerated teenagers,” sophomore Chev’anique Edwards said, “I want to be part of that, so I came to the meeting. I’m enjoying myself so far.”

For Co-President Nana Ampofo and other students– their call to join was the opportunity to help others. 

“I’m just very passionate about this work,” Ampofo said “It made my passion deeper to help other people whether through art or any kind of service that I can do. So I feel like this club was like the best club for me because it allows me the space to create actual initiatives”.  

The organization made waves to help the DePaul community by mobilizing via social media in support of Chartwells dining employees, negotiating with DePaul for higher wages and healthcare coverage. 

This year they are poised to renew their efforts to ban the box. In addition, they hope to continue their other activism including book club and other abolition and get-out-the-vote efforts. 

Their mission is centered in creating a community where people interested in fighting issues concerned with the criminal justice system can be educated and take action. In addition, the members hope to mobilize DePaul students and hold DePaul accountable for its role in the prison industrial complex. 

Leadership calls for more students to try out the organization. 

“Just come to one meeting,” Hofstra said. “Just come to one and see if it’s something that you are interested in or care about or just something you want to be participating in.”  

Students who came to the meeting felt like there was a lot to gain from the organization. 

“[I got a] better understanding of where DePaul University can improve and how they can, you know, positively impact the movement that students against incarceration is trying to convey,” Edwards said. 

Students who would like to attend future SAI meetings can find the organization on Instagram at @saidepaul.