Students Against Incarceration addresses prison injustice at Student Involvement Fair


Alexa Banuelos

The SAI booth offered snacks and encouraged new students to ask about the organization at the Involvement Fair.

The DePaul Lincoln Park Student Center was bustling with a lively environment Thursday, Jan. 5. 

DePaul holds involvement fairs every academic quarter. As students return from the holiday break, the fair allows students to interact with several of the university’s student organizations. 

With over a dozen student organizations at the event, the groups ranged from a fishing club to business fraternities. However, Students Against Incarceration (SAI) was one of the few social justice-oriented organizations focused on making tangible action more accessible to students.

With an easily accessible space to welcome students, Students Against Incarceration members were keen on making their club known at the Involvement Fair. 

“Our biggest issue was gaining members, and the Involvement Fair is the best way to gain members,” Depaul junior and SAI co-president, Nana Ampofor, said.

SAI has been an active DePaul student organization working to address injustices within the criminal justice system for seven years now. SAI often works in collaboration with other organizations such as the Women’s Center or the Byrne Center to host events and initiatives that work towards the abolition and divestment of the prison industrial complex. Some of the events include teach-ins, campaigns, book clubs and solidarity letters.

The organization focuses on the prison industrial complex which concentrates on the relationship between the political systems and private corporations that benefit from institutionalized incarceration. The prison industrial complex is a driving factor for the mass incarceration in the United States, whereas private prisons and private corporations profit from exploiting incarcerated individuals through prison labor.

Members of SAI said they recognize the moral implications and strive to address the issue through tangible action. 

Co-president and graduate student Grace Siegelman mentioned that SAI incorporates “a good combination of theory and discussion in combination with tangible action” to bring about “things we can be doing every single day to work towards abolition and work towards better life sustaining resources for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals.”  

Because SAI is service-oriented, the pandemic halted their service projects and initiatives.

“A lot of our projects are very hands-on with inmates in facilities, and because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we weren’t allowed to go inside and host our book clubs or holiday parties,” Ampofo said. 

Nonetheless, the Involvement Fair presented SAI with the opportunity to inform more students at DePaul about the issue and how they can help work towards bettering them.

Ampofo said they encourage others to take tangible action.

“We’re really looking for our members to be collaborative and in what we are dedicating our projects,” Ampofo said. 

Jillian Muncaster, sophomore and vice president of Hygiene Operation Inmates, said she can attest to how working in collaboration with SAI members served as a stepping stone to creating her own organization. 

After working in collaboration with members of SAI to set up a drive for women experiencing homelessness, she began to work to collect hygiene products for individuals in juvenile detention. 

“That kind of prompted us to create our own student organization,” Muncaster said.

Siegelman said she decided to work with SAI after the Ban the Box Campaign. Ban the Box is an initiative to stop universities from discriminating against college applicants on the basis of previous convictions. 

“I felt that every other club I had gotten in touch with was a lot more inaccessible, but SAI really opened the door,” Siegelman said.

Ampofo said she shares a similar outlook.

“I feel like this has given me the most mission and the most purpose at DePaul,” Ampofo said.

Whether it be becoming a pen pal with an inmate or educating yourself on the incarceration rates in America, SAI has offered students a sense of purpose. 

“It is important to inform and educate people on incarceration in America and how anyone can have the opportunity to make a big change in a little way,” Ampofo said.