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Panel Discussion with System Impacted Community Members


In “The New Jim Crow”, Michelle Alexander shows how mass incarceration is rooted in white supremacy and has become the modern method of enslaving black and brown bodies. The results of mass incarceration on the society, especially in communities of color, are extremely harmful and hurtful, and yet this issue is often invisible to those unaffected by incarceration.

May felt it was important to highlight these issues within the Master of Public Policy Program, which she is currently enrolled in at UC Berkeley, so that future policymakers can gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how the flawed criminal justice system affects people of color. It was critical for May that the individuals most affected by the system had a voice and were given an opportunity to speak for themselves. This led her to organize a panel discussion with system impacted and/or formerly incarcerated individuals, most of whom were current Berkeley students.

The panel discussion discussed the lack of awareness in and knowledge of how mass incarceration and criminal justice policies affect people of color and their daily lives, especially among the predominantly white cohort in the Master of Public Policy program at UC Berkeley. May felt that it was necessary for all students to be aware of how criminal justice policies affect people of color, especially since these students aim to eventually create large-scale policies in the US.

May’s project involved a discussion with individuals personally affected by the carceral system and gave them space to share their encounters with the criminal justice system, the challenges they have faced as a result, and their lives as a whole. May linked the discussion with past, current, and future policies.