An Interview with John Santa and Marilyn Kendrix

REBECCA REINGOLD ’17
OPINIONS EDITOR 
On Tuesday, Sept. 27 during Common Hour on the second floor of Mather, speakers John Santa and Marilyn Kendrix will address the Trinity community about Malta’s Justice system. They will focus on how best to create a fair and equitable criminal justice system in Connecticut. Professor Stefanie Chambers, Trinity’s Charles A. Dana Associate Professor of Political Science, has organized for them to come speak and educate Trinity students. She sat down with the Tripod to discuss Santa and Hendrix’s address and initiative.
RR: Why are they coming to Trinity?
SC: They’ve been important stakeholders as Connecticut policymakers deliberate policy options to reform our criminal justice system.
They’ve helped influence the policy initiatives in the state.
They’ve written a book that details the realities of why the criminal justice system is broken: The justice imperative. Its written for a broad audience —  a college student, a policy maker, or someone who just got out of prison and is trying to understand what happened to them.
They advocate for criminal justice reform. Students at Wesleyan have been working with them. I believe Trinity students care about criminal justice reform. When I talk to students about the system, a lot of them learn that the system is really broken and they’re shocked.  They also realize the problems in the criminal justice system have huge implications for the success of our country, the ability to have a functioning democracy, and in terms of the equality at the individual level.
When I brought them into my senior seminar last year the students were really amazed by what the organization was doing, but they were seniors who planned to leave Connecticut after graduation.  I decided that if we opened this up to the entire community we might find that some of our freshmen, sophomores or juniors might  want to become involved with the Malta Justice Initiative.
Currently, the group is collecting data on employers in Connecticut and whether they would be willing to hire someone who has been incarcerated. They’re trying to help employers open their minds and create opportunities for people they might not normally hire. Since we require a lot of people on probation and parole to hold a job as a condition of their release from prison, we need to make sure employers are willing to give people a second chance.  After all, these are people who paid the price for their conviction.
I thought this would be a great opportunity for Trinity students—if they are inspired by the Common Hour event—to start a Malta Justice chapter or create an internship with this organization.   I’m happy to support anything the students would like to pursue.
RR:  If someone to start a chapter, what would be involved?
SC: I do know that students need a faculty advisor, and that’s what I am willing to do. I believe students need to go to the Student Government Association to start a new organization on campus.
RR: What can you anticipate about the speech?
SC: I think John Santa will discuss how he came to do this work, the creation the organization and the successes they’ve experienced.  I think he’ll provide a compelling case for why the criminal justice system is broken.
RR: What are you hoping students get out of this?
SC: I’m hoping those who don’t know about the problems with the criminal justice system will gain a new understanding.  I also hope that those who have a solid understanding will learn how this advocacy organizationis trying to create positive change.  For all students, I hope the event will inspire them to think about how they might try to make change.
RR: How do you think students will react to this event?
SC: I think that there are a lot of students on Trinity’s campus who care about social justice and fairness in the criminal justice system. I would like to give them an opportunity to make change and advocate for an important cause.
RR: How did you hear about the organization?
SC: I heard about them through one of my connections and I looked them up. When I connected with them last year they were so excited to come and speak to students.  I’ve had many conversations with John Santa since last year and I’m very impressed with the work of his organization.
Incidentally, since they first came to campus, I learned that there’s a Trinity alum who is very interested in connecting students with the organization.
Professor Chambers encourages students to get more involved with the issues, and is willing to advise anyone interested in starting a chapter for the Malta Justice System at Trinity College. Those who are interested or have further questions should send her an email at Stefanie.Chambers@trincoll.edu.

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