Education encouraging the abolition of prisons and the unfair treatment of prisoners in this process – The Oracle

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This fall, the Mitchell Hamline School of Law welcomed the nation’s first incarcerated law student, Maureen Onyelobi.

Sena Ross

Education is a basic human right that, among countless other rights, is often stolen from people who are or have been incarcerated. Minneapolis-based nonprofit social enterprise All Square is fighting to change that.

The Prison to Law Pipeline – A partnership between the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and All Square, helps incarcerated lawyers earn American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law and ABA-approved paralegal degrees. The program’s first class includes five paralegal scholars and a Doctor of Laws Fellow — Maureen Onyelobi. Maureen is the first and only recipient of the Juris Doctorate program, making her the first person currently incarcerated in the United States to attend law school.

Beyond legal education, this groundbreaking initiative aims to ignite a legal revolution and “transform the legal discipline through a series of initiatives centered on racial equity, well-being and the expertise of the least people. most affected by the law,” as All Square states on their website. .

There are also plans to establish a civil rights-focused law firm that sources and employs incarcerated lawyers.

I had the opportunity to talk a bit about education, the prison industrial complex, and Maureen with Jason Marque Sole, abolitionist and community member from Hamline University.

Jason has known Maureen personally since 2017. Upon meeting, Maureen informed Jason that what she needed most was for people to know her story.

Even once Maureen secured her spot on the Prison to Law Pipeline program, that didn’t stop Shakopee’s prison hosts from trying to derail her hard work. Prior to the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), Maureen had been promised a single-occupancy cell to establish a quiet study space for herself, but another person was placed in the cell anyway. his cell. Fortunately, Maureen had a community support system to fall back on.

Upon learning of the disruption of the interference in the prison, Jason quickly made phone calls and reached out to vital allies in the movement. Within a day or two, Maureen’s quiet study space was restored.

“It’s one thing to be more community than anything else… Maureen is someone I might not talk to all the time, but when she reaches out, we get it,” Jason said. .

However, even with all of her hard work and accomplishments, Maureen is still not guaranteed a pardon. Last year, she even revoked her application out of fear, but now she’s trying to navigate the process again.

An incarcerated person should not have to be a very accomplished lawyer to be released from prison. Even though Maureen has worked hard and proven herself time and time again, she and countless others are being forcibly kept in a mass incarceration system. As Jason said, “If we keep her in a cage, how are you justified?” If Maureen isn’t good enough, who is? Who is the ideal person you are looking for to return home? »

Sena Ross

In an article for Felony Murder Law Reform, Maureen describes her case as such: “He [(her, at the time, boyfriend)] asked me to hide the murder weapon and I did. Three days later, the police took me in for questioning and I refused to say anything, so they said I must have had something to do with it. My initial charge was drug possession and in the end I was charged and convicted of first degree murder.

A human being shouldn’t need to prove they’re perfect to escape the system. Our prison industrial complex cannot be rehabilitated. It leaves no room for accountability. It simply traps, destroys and kills – systemically and individually.

Maureen is one of eight women serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at a state-run correctional facility in Shakopee, Minnesota. She is one of more than 500 women incarcerated in this establishment. Most of these women are unknown and anonymous in the news, media and popular discourse. In Jason’s mind, “We have enough energy to support all the women behind this wall, we really do. We just need more people to join us.

To learn more about prison abolition and ways to help incarcerated members of our community, check out Jason Marque Sole’s Institute for Aspiring Abolitionists.

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