By Treanna Brown
Many people play a role in the continuing cycle of the criminal justice system from those who are being incarcerated to those who fight for a change. This story examines three individuals with differing roles in the criminal justice system.
“People at church looked down at my family because my mom had to work—we wouldn’t have had food if she didn’t,” Williams said. “But they told us that made her a bad mother. Even as a small child, this really bothered me.”
Williams said she now appreciates that experience.
“It made me notice inequality and injustice from childhood,” she said. “I grew up with a very strong sense of justice. My parents will tell you that I would argue about everything if I saw it was unfair. If I saw someone getting bullied, I’d step in and use my sarcastic mouth to scare them off.”
Williams has always had a sense of doing what she felt was right instead of what’s in style. With the ability to relate to those in the Criminal Justice, Williams explained her views that if numerous people in the same position are coming out of, say, prison, with the same outcome, a problem exists within the system.
Mia Williams of Clark Atlanta University, is from Oakland, California.
“Although I was raised in a place that encouraged young black kids to strive and be great, but sold the dream of one day you’ll be behind bars,” Mia Williams said. “I choose to take a different road and aspire to change the stigmas that kids from Oakland are not just criminals and dangerous people.”
Throughout her childhood, Mia Williams has seen how her peers who were connected, acted and were treated by people. She was raised in a single parent household with her older brother, and her mother worked enough to be able to provide for her children, all while raising them “properly” giving them the correct guidance. As a young women representing her city, Mia Williams makes sure that she moves cautiously because as a young black woman she feels that she has a target on her back. She strives to build herself up so she never has to come across the authorities.
Antoinette Saddler, is a 23-year-old also from Oakland, California. Saddler was one of those girls who ran alongside the boys that were outside. She was deep into the streets throughout her teenage years when it seemed like life couldn’t get any better. Things changed when she started losing her friends and relatives to the criminal justice system and death from gang violence. As a teenager, Saddler wasn’t aware of problems with the criminal justice system, but considered the problem to be the community.
Growing older and wiser, Saddler began shifting her attention from the problems of streets to the authorities and institutions who seemed to exacerbate problems.
“I do not believe in (any benefits from) the criminal justice system because it was designed for us as people of color especially black people,” Saddler said. “The laws which are set in place have targeted our people time and time again. For example, crack and cocaine are the same drug yet crack hold a higher sentencing time than its pure form. Well, when looking at the demographics of the drug use its predominantly black folk using crack and white folk using cocaine. So to think that this system was ever created for us is a foolish mindset that we must shake.”
During her transfer year at USUN, Saddler experienced a death in the family. Her older brother was shot dead by a Vallejo Police Officer, while her brother was unarmed. This started a new branch in Saddler’s life, she began holding rallies about police brutality as well as organizing events to help bring awareness to this cause.