To Shape a Mind - Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION

The Prompt

Whatever people or environments you are introduced to as a child shape who you become as an adult. 200,000 children in Illinois, roughly 1 out of every 20, have had one or more parent who has been incarcerated; in Decatur, this statistic is stark. This affects both the mental and physical state of those children’s lives. Did you grow up with a parent or family member who was incarcerated? How did that affect you? 

If you did not grow up with an incarcerated parent or family member, imagine being a child who did not have his father or mother due to a prison or jail sentence, and as a result, not feeling secure or comfortable to be yourself and imposing limitations on yourself. How would that make you feel? What other sources of guidance would you draw from outside of your family?

Whether or not you had a family member who was impacted by incarceration, what are some of the factors that shaped who you are as an adult? What role did your school play in shaping or supporting you? What could your school have done differently to guide you? 

There is a large group of youth who never get to express how they feel about having a loved one placed behind bars. They often want a way to express themselves, but their schools do not provide the supportive environment they need in order to succeed. Many communities could benefit from developing more ways for youth to express themselves and allowing the youth to create them. Do you recognize any youth in your community who are needing a way to express themselves?



Watch this video offering some perspective on the ways a lack of holistic and compassionate support structures for youth in schools affects our broader society. For the purposes of this prompt, start watching the video at the 5 minutes and 20 seconds in and watch through till 7 minutes and 25 seconds in (5:20-7:25).


Write your answers to these questions on a piece of paper:

  • What challenges did you face in school that may have impacted the way you view your life and experiences? What encouragement or resources did your school provide for you?
  • How does the lack of evolution or adjustments to our education system hinder student success? What about students with incarcerated loved ones?
  • While watching the video, could you relate to the speaker and what he was presenting regarding the education system? Explain your stance in your answer.
  • What steps can we take as a society to provide better support to students whose parent(s) or family member(s) is currently incarcerated?



Illustrate (write, draw, or paint) how you feel, using the same piece of paper, after taking the time to reflect. 



Scan or take a photo of your illustration. Upload your work using the submission form below to share your reflection with others. 

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To Shape a Mind

Envisioning Justice