What year are you?
I’m a Junior after this semester – I actually just transferred here this semester.
Oh! Where’d you transfer from?
I transferred from Tidewater Community College in the Norfolk campus.
So what made you want to come to William & Mary?
I’m planning on double majoring in Sociology, with a concentration in Criminology, and International Relations.
Did you always know you wanted to study that, or was it something you discovered along the way?
International Relations was along the way, but I’ve been wanting to do Criminology from when I entered college.
What made you interested in Criminology?
It was a culmination of my experiences of growing up watching way too many crime shows, and starting to have questions of, why did someone do this? Or, why would someone go towards this? And then, the semester before I transferred here, I got really deep in looking into private prisons, recidivism rates, and things along those lines. I looked into the program here, and I was like, wow, this is the place for me.
How has your interest in this subject affected the way you see things today?
I feel like, yes, sometimes people do bad things or seem irredeemable, but our system is very punitive, we punish them after-the-fact, rather than helping someone beforehand who could have lived a completely different life if someone had just reached a hand out. There are some things that need to be changed, like the way we go about our juvenile system. We don’t help them, we say “you did something horrible, you’re going to prison,” and those people that go to prison end up doing the same things when they come out. It’s just a cycle. There’s the mindset of once a criminal, always a criminal – once you do one bad thing.
If you could change one thing about that today, what would it be?
I would say there needs to be more outreach programs for youth, especially, those who are in lower-income schools and neighborhoods, because those are the children that are most likely to be affected by crime and to go down the path of crime. And the one way, surely, to change someone’s life is to give them the opportunities they don’t currently have. The more opportunities you present to them, the less likely they will go down that path and perpetuate the cycle.
Have you had any personal experiences or knew of anyone who was affected by this?
One person I just barely knew; he was just some guy in my Government class in high school, and things had always gone wrong for him. The school said that as long as he attended classes he’d be fine, but he had to come to school wearing an ankle bracelet every day. Something happened one day where the fire alarm was pulled during lunch – we all had to go outside and it started turning into a riot. The person who got blamed for it turning into a riot, was him. I didn’t know him that well, but I knew that it wasn’t him. They blamed it on him because he was wearing the ankle bracelet.
Do you know what happened to him after that?
I don’t know, but I wish I could say I wish him the best, but from the way our system is, once you’re in it, it’s really hard to escape it. The school-to-prison pipeline is, you go in as a kid, you stay as an adult, you leave as an adult, you come back as an adult. The truth is, if you’re been in a prison for more than 2-5 years, that’s a good chunk of your life. If you go in as a 15/16 year old, you’re missing out on your development and your childhood. Yes, if you’re doing something really wrong, you deserve to be punished and reprimanded for it, but if we can prevent this beforehand, then what’s the point of punishing people, sending them to jail, and perpetuating the cycle?
What do you hope to accomplish, then, with your education here in Criminology? I know it’s a big question, so you can definitely think about it.
I’ve actually thought about that a lot. One of the things I want to do is delve even deeper into private prisons and how they perpetuate the cycle of recidivism and deepening their pockets. I know there’s already been a lot of research and studies on it, but I want to look into it further. There are plenty of other countries that do have their own private prisons that work without funneling a population over and over again. I want to use my International Relations major to go around the world and study how different prison systems work. I think it’s either Denmark or Norway, but they have a system of non-violent criminals living together in a condominium apartment, nicer than the home I grew up, while also having a lower recidivism rate. I want to use my Sociology major for the numbers, seeing the groups that go to prison, who is funneling them into prison, and ultimately, find a way to lower it.
That’s awesome that you know what you want to do and are so passionate about it, but how has it been pursuing that at William & Mary? Was it hard to adjust?
It was kind of hard adjusting at first, because I live off-campus. I don’t commute so I take the bus. I really love the Trolley Line, but I have an 8 am and it doesn’t start running until 9 am, so I have to make sure to catch the Red bus. One time I missed two buses, and a lady, all bundled up in layers, pulled up near me and asked if I needed a ride. I was suspicious and half-okay, but I didn’t know her. I personally have a philosophy of not getting into anyone’s car unless you know them or called for that car, because Virginia, especially Norfolk where I’m from, is the midway point between New York and Florida. There’s a lot of human-trafficking in Norfolk, because it’s the midway point, has ports, and it has military bases.
How did you find out about that?
One of my friends from TCC started talking about [human-trafficking], and the more I listened to her, I looked into it. They even had a FBI special agent come to our school and talk about. I’ve had so many people try to pick me up in Norfolk. Also, that’s why I’m sketched out by public transportation because I had to take public transportation when I was in Norfolk, and I had some stories about that. Have you ever been on a public transportation bus and have your bus drive by a drive-by shooting? That’s one that I can cross off. I used to think that the stuff that I experienced in Norfolk was the norm, but once I started talking to the people and OAs here, I realized Norfolk was pretty bad.
Wow! That’s crazy!