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Ava ’19 tackles female incarceration issues

Ava ’19 is studying the societal adversity toward formerly-incarcerated women through the Honors Research in Social Sciences Program. Richards is examining the difficulties these women encounter finding housing, applying for welfare and regaining custody of their children, among other issues.

Dean of Student Research Dr. Catherine Atwell learned about a conference in October called “Thinking Gender 2019: Feminists Confronting the Carceral State,” where activists and scholars discussed prison reform and abolition at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. Atwell suggested Ava attend the conference, which took place on Feb. 22. 

Although the conference was designed for undergraduate and graduate students, Ava contacted the Conference Coordinator and was permitted to attend. She was too young to present her findings. 

Ava heard from many different speakers, including prominent activists Beth Richie and Romarilyn Ralston, and found African-American, female incarceration most interesting topic discussed. 

“[The conference] really brought up a lot of questions I hadn’t considered before, especially regarding the black female body and what it’s like to try to appeal to the law while also understanding that it was based on a tradition that excluded you,” Ava said. “A lot of the scholarship has to do with … seeing how slavery impacted black women in the 1800’s and how incarceration was very prevalent even then for the African-American population.”

Ava said what she learned at the conference will help her consider new perspectives in her research going forward.

“I don’t learn about this in history, I don’t learn about it in TV, I don’t learn about it ever. It’s the first time I ever thought about this, and it ended up being relevant to today,” Richards said. π