This year over spring break, I participated in one of Whitman’s Service Trips. Each year during spring break, Whitman has a service trip centered around a topic. The service trip that I participated in was called “Incarcerated Identities.” When I applied for this trip, the topic felt especially relevant to me considering that very near the town of Walla Walla, surrounded by wheatfields, lies the Washington State Penitentiary. I did not know very much about the justice system, so this trip was a perfect opportunity to learn more about something that I did not have much knowledge about but felt was very important.
The trip itself was packed full of information and interesting experiences. Over the space of a week, we visited three prisons, including the penitentiary, as well as the local courthouse, the police department and the Juvenile Justice Center. While at these facilities, we were able to meet with a variety of individuals and hear about their experiences. We also met with organizations that aid incarcerated individuals with reentry into society, such as the local Star Project. The members of our group came from a variety of majors, economics, philosophy, and psychology. It was fascinating to see how each members’ different classes, majors, and past experience could help broaden our group’s understanding of the topics we were learning about.
I am so glad that Whitman allows us the opportunities to explore relevant topics that may otherwise be difficult to explore. While this trip was extremely engaging, many members of our group have decided to further our knowledge of what we learned. The subject of incarceration is something that we want to continue to deepen our understanding of and we discovered that there are a variety of opportunities to continue building on our knowledge of what we learned over the course of the trip, whether through interning with local law enforcement or volunteering with the local organizations that aid those who are struggling to readjust after being released. On campus, there is the option of taking courses related to the subject of incarceration, or joining Whitman’s Prison Research Group, which meets once a month to discuss criminal justice issues.
For anyone who is interested in social justice or community service, I would definitely recommend taking a Spring Break Service Trip. It is a wonderful opportunity to apply what is learned in the classroom to real life situations, and to learn more about the different issues that our society struggles with.