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An educator asked formerly incarcerated youth what they dreamed of. This is what they said.

In the United States prison system, Black youth are more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts. But they have not lost their ability to dream.

An educator asked formerly incarcerated youth what they dreamed of. This is what they said.
Image Source: (Insert) DrSubini / Twitter (Background) Motortion / Getty Images

Dr. Subini Ancy Annamma is an educator who specializes in disability studies and critical race theory. Through her work, she's had the chance to interact with formerly incarcerated young people during an abolition lab. She used the opportunity to ask the group what they dreamed of. In a Twitter thread, she shared their responses, and, needless to say, their answers were incredibly eye-opening. While their dreams were simple, the responses were a scathing criticism of the carceral system that marginalizes thousands of people in the United States. Dr. Annamma affirmed that their responses highlighted how formerly incarcerated youth are simply "seeking basic humanity from society."


"In our abolition lab with formerly incarcerated young people, I asked what they dreamed of," she explained. "Here [are] a few responses to remind us of what we are fighting for in increasingly violent times." One young person shared, "I want to see a place where young people are invested in and listened to and shown that people love them and care about them, especially young people who have been in the system." According to the ACLU, nearly 60,000 youth under the age of 18 are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons in the United States on any given day.


"Society degrades women, demands things from them, [there are] expectations formed around them that no one can fulfill," another young person answered. "It crushes them. I would like women and people to be free to be who they want to be and not have to put [on] a front." The United States prison system can be particularly hard on women and young girls. Again, the ACLU estimates that there are currently more than 14,000 girls incarcerated in the United States, a number that has been rapidly increasing in recent decades. Most of these girls are arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses and probation violations.


The last youth responded, "We DO fall short on our young people. Especially when we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. We need to expand opportunities for young people in society and the world." The prison system also specifically disenfranchises youth of color. The Sentencing Project finds that Black youth are more than four times as likely to be detained or committed in juvenile facilities as their white peers. Around 41% of youths in placement are Black, even though Black Americans comprise only 15% of all youth across the country.


In this context, Dr. Annamma reiterated the need for radical ways to achieve liberation during these difficult times. "These answers are such a reminder that formerly incarcerated young people are seeking basic humanity from society," she affirmed. "And they refuse to take the bullsh*t they are being handed. They are already fighting to build a better world. [I] hope this contributes to radicalizing you today." If you would like to learn more about the abolition movement in the United States, you can do so by clicking the link here.


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