The prison visit really touched me because it is the first time that I ever visited a prison or ever met inmates. This is a stigmatized community and it has never come to my mind prior to our visits. Thus, I was quite shocked to learn that there are over ten thousand people imprisoned in Salinas Valley and is a huge employer in the local region. I’m always aware that the mass incarceration problems in the U.S. yet, it is only now that I get to understand the structural violence that prison imposes on inmates and see the daily struggles that inmates experience both prior to, during and after serving their terms in prison.

Hearing from prisoners highlighted how the current justice system based on “punishment” has failed. As Julie said in her session, punishment does not equate justice. We see the repetitive patterns of inmates keep going back to prison and it becomes a non-stop cycle. If anything, our visits showed that. More importantly, it is generational. There is a high percentage of inmate who grew up without two parents because they were also imprisoned. Thus, many of them were put at disadvantage since they were born. It really made me reflect on many things that I always take for granted as simple as having parents who care about my education and friends who share similar aspiration from an early age.

As one of our group members pointed out, our society is not ready for them. Many of these people, having spent years in prison, will have a different time adjusting to the life outside of prison. Yet, the strong stigma associated with the prisoner identity and a lack of social recognition will make their life harder. It makes me sad to think that many of them, who look forward to starting a new life outside of prison, will so easily be dragged back to their old ways of life if there aren’t enough support given to them.