We understand education to be a human right. The United States has a history of denying education to non-whites, which is rooted in systems of racism, classism, and xenophobia. Certainly we see that these practices are still embedded in our culture today, including within the justice and educational systems. People of color, disabled people and queer people are disproportionately more likely to be impacted by the justice system as well as disciplinary actions in schools.
This means that most of the people who are forced to check "the box" on college applications are black, brown, disabled, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or queer. The box has codified and sanctioned university discrimination against minorities in the name of "reducing risk" on campus, but statistics show that there is no correlation between campus safety and the box. Instead, it has contributed to the systematic denial of access to education for those who have experienced lengthy histories of educational, social, and economic discrimination.
We believe that creating access to education for currently and formerly incarcerated people will not only help to reduce recidivism rates and increase chances at employment, it will also greatly benefit our campus communities and learning environments. We all have much to learn from one another, and creating barriers like the box deter us from connection, community, and friendship. Everyone deserves access to education, and it is our responsibility to create more inclusive, diverse, open, and loving environments in which everyone can learn freely.
To learn more and get involved with SPA and Abolish the Box, please visit this page! From there, you'll be directed to the national Abolish the Box campaign website.
Sally Kaplan, SPA National Coordinator