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Student Work

Searching for Justice in Literature
by Gloria Russell, English major


Common Experience Paper: Catching the Chain
by Kaitlyn West, freshman

For my second common experience, I decided to go to the event called Catching the Chain: Life and Death in Texas Prisons 1845-2017 on the first-floor exhibit area of the Alkek Library. I attended this event on November 28th, 2017, and right when I walked down the steps leading to the exhibit area, I noticed the dim lighting. When I got up close to the exhibit area and read the introduction to the exhibit, the dim lighting helped by making the exhibit look important. The only things being lit were the descriptions about life and death in Texas prisons throughout the years. This ultimately showed me that what I'm about to see is serious and important information to know about how the judicial system has been like throughout the years. The exhibit showed me how differently Texas prisons were from 1845-2017, and what I got from it was that we need to stop changing the justice system and start from scratch. Yes, learn from past experiences, but whoever deals with how the justice system works need to sit down in a room and not leave until they figure out a better way to go about the justice system. Maybe they need to not only have themselves in this room, but people who have thoroughly studied this topic. Anyways, before I get completely off topic, I really liked the examples of what prisoners did in jail. For example, they made playing cards out of a Frosted Flakes box. I think the cards were so interesting and it shows how creative these inmates can be. Also, I saw a DIY (do-it-yourself) banjo an inmate did, and it blew me away because I wouldn't know where to start when making one myself. Those examples showed me that yes, prison can be hard, but there are prisoners who think outside the box and create something that is hopeful towards the outside world.

I selected this event to attend because I don't know anything about how prison life has been like from 1845-2017 in Texas prisons, and I felt like if I want there to be a change, I need to be educated about it. I learned that prison life has been very different throughout the years. Overall, from reading all the descriptions about Texas prisons from 1845-2017, the justice system has yet to treat prisons as a place of rehabilitation. Prisons still have a lot of changing to do and in order to do this, people need to know about what has been going on through the years so they can vote for those who want to make a fair justice system. I would recommend this event to a friend because it's very enlightening, and everyone needs to have some sort of knowledge on the justice system. Just because you don't know someone in prison, doesn’t mean you shouldn't be worried about how the justice system works. People need to understand how these prisoners are being treated and what they go through.