Beyond the Statistics joins formerly incarcerated, system-impacted individuals
Members of the student group Beyond the Statistics as well as friends and allies joined in Hart Hall on Thursday, Jan. 31 to hear from contributors to the club’s newly-released zine. Attendees also met members and discussed ways to help systematically combat stigmas that surround formerly-incarcerated individuals.
Beyond the Statistics is a student organization on campus for formerly-incarcerated and system-impacted students who have found solidarity in one another and a platform to tell their stories. Organized by group leaders, speakers from across the region joined to release the club’s second zine and perform spoken word to break down social barriers dividing students.
Zines — short for “magazine” — have largely served as a platform for counterculture and social justice organizations to spread self-published work, including art, poems, personal narratives and news.
The organization is just over a year old and was acknowledged as an official campus organization this year.
Co-founders Daniel Mendoza, a fourth-year sociology major and Tina Curiel-Allen, a fourth-year Chicano/a studies major, met after being paired together for a project in class and discovered that they both are formerly-incarcerated students. From there, Beyond the Statistics was born.
Mendoza discussed his time at UC Davis compared to his experience being incarcerated.
“I went from one institution that was meant to keep me in to one that’s meant to keep me out,” Mendoza said. “Transferring was very hard, trying to navigate this big system. I found myself in tough situations my first year, at risk of dropping out and doing dumb stuff.”
Along with building a sense of community and understanding among members, Beyond the Statistics has collaborated with individuals and organizations across the state faced with similar systematic oppression and exclusion from institutions like universities.
Along with contributors to the zine from fellow students at UC Davis, individuals from across the region made the commute to stand with fellow formerly-incarcerated individuals.
Andrew Winn, the director of Project Rebound at Sacramento State University, spoke about Project Rebound’s mission before sharing a personal narrative of his time behind bars. As a formerly-incarcerated individual, Winn is uniquely qualified to act as a counselor and guide for students working to overcome their experiences in an educational setting.
“Part of what we do is provide round-the-clock services to students on campus and students that were formerly incarcerated,” Winn said. “I myself am formerly-incarcerated as of two prison terms, and I have been to every county jail in this region.”
Mendoza spoke about his initial attempts to try to find people he could confide in and relate to when he began his academic career at UC Davis.
“There are good people out here with good intentions,” Mendoza said. “But every time I tried to talk to someone, I felt like I had to lie about who I was and change my story so they would feel comfortable.”
Beyond representing formerly-incarcerated students, Beyond the Statistics also works to acknowledge those who are system-impacted and have been marginalized in society.
Mendoza spoke about how difficult it is for students without a base of support to navigate life at university.
“This system is not built to keep us on this path,” said Mendoza. “It’s easy to fall.”
Members said they hope to reach a broader audience with their recently-published zine. Beyond the Statistics’ zine is filled with poems, personal statements and interviews from members and allies of the movement.
Curiel-Allen, who first and foremost identifies herself as a poet, spoke more about what she hoped to deliver with the organization’s second zine.
“This is what the zine was for us, to strategically get out our narratives,” Curiel-Allen said. “Some of our goals are obviously advocacy for formerly incarcerated students on campus and system-impacted and visibility [and] eventually to find resources. Also, to have a say in the narrative.”
At the zine release party, Curiel-Allen told attendees about a seminar that Beyond the Statistics will be facilitating in the spring about education as a freedom to further combat stigmas and break down divisions among students.
Mendoza discussed being in classes at UC Davis and hearing professors speak about criminology and crime rates from an imperial and detached perspective and realizing they were discussing individuals like himself.
“I was never given the opportunity to show what those numbers really look like,” Mendoza said.
In Spring Quarter, members of Beyond the Statistics will have the opportunity to expand their reach with a seminar class about education as a freedom.
Written by: Ally Russell — firstname.lastname@example.org