From Fear to Action: Trinity Students Take on Mass Incarceration

3 min read

By Lily Mellitz ’26

Features Editor

Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) is a Trinity student organization dedicated to confronting the deep-rooted issue of racialized mass incarceration. In a recent interview with the Tripod, SAMI’s executive board provided insights on their personal motivations for joining and driving force behind SAMI’s mission.

Elizabeth Ochoa ‘24, Chair of Political Education, shared that hailing from the west side of Chicago and being half Mexican, half Guatemalan, she grew up “hating and fearing” law enforcement because they could target her or her brothers for simply “looking like […] criminals.” At Trinity, Ochoa was compelled to take tangible action against the systemic inequities perpetuated by the criminal justice system. It was this impassioned resolve that led her to join SAMI.

Similarly, Theodora Tatsi ‘26, serving as the Direct Aid Member, echoed the sentiment of personal significance within SAMI’s mission. For Tatsi, SAMI’s work holds profound importance, not just as a student, but as a member of her community. 

SAMI’s inception traces back to Spring 2023 when SAMI president Jake Loor ‘25 and friends were delivering leftovers from Mather to a Hartford homeless shelter. Loor had the idea of forming a club dedicated to combating mass incarceration, leading to the establishment of SAMI, which has since garnered over 100 members in a student body of around 2,000 and appointed 9 students to the executive board. 

On campus, SAMI commits to campus engagement by leveraging their unique position as college students to foster social change within the Trinity community. Challenging prevailing notions and biases, SAMI confronts campus attitudes that perpetuate racialized incarceration and the unequal treatment of marginalized communities. Through a series of impactful initiatives including educational events, panel discussions featuring guest speakers, and screenings of films and documentaries, SAMI aims to initiate dialogue and awareness on campus.

“Trinity’s community implicitly endorses the practice and becomes complicit in the great injustice of mass incarceration,” said Loor ‘25. “[That] affects not only our neighbors in Hartford, but all marginalized Americans.”

Beyond campus, SAMI’s impactful efforts include collaborating with the organization Community Partners in Action to orchestrate a winter clothing drive, which generated generous donations of winter essentials and over $400 in funds. Additionally, they joined a march in New Britain protesting the death of Katherine Rodriguez, who was tragically killed by a speeding police vehicle, and hosted daughter Maribel Rodriguez from the Katal Center for a compelling talk attended by over 40 students on probation and parole in Connecticut.

SAMI has also actively engaged with the American Civil Liberties Union and Connecticut lawmakers to propose their own decarceration policies and advocate for systemic change. Their unique policy proposal, presented to Judiciary Committee Chair Steven Stafsrom and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, garnered significant interest, though it currently faces budgetary hurdles. Undeterred, SAMI remains committed to advancing policy initiatives aimed at decarceration in the upcoming Spring legislative session.

“One of the primary consequences of mass incarceration is that it silences communities, depriving them of their voice,” said Tatsi ‘26. “This is why our work, along with the work of all other groups/organizations who are fighting against mass incarceration, is very important.”

Everyone is welcome to join SAMI. Information can be found on their instagram @trincollsami.

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