From School House to Jail House was a yearlong project that addressed issues surrounding the criminal justice system in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sponsored by the Media Literacy Project (MLP), Encuentro de el Centro, Las Placitas, Sons of the Most High, Las Gardenias, and the Native Health Initiative, the project addressed the joys and concerns of the Meso-American communities of Albuquerque’s Southwest Valley.
Through Roadside Theater CCD workshops, a performance, From School House to Jail House, was conceived, produced, and performed by members and clients of the sponsoring organizations. The August 4, 2012 presentation combined storytelling, music, and media to address local criminal justice issues.
On performance night, the theater’s lobby was filled with local artisan vendors and tables where community activists displayed their information. The event drew a full house and concluded with audience members telling their own stories about their connection to the criminal justice system.
Attending was the new Director of the County Detention Center, who opened the discussion with the following statement, "I am a career professional, who has seen the criminal justice system change drastically. I began as a corrections officer in the 1970's, when most prisoners I guarded were violent offenders -- murderers, rapists, burglars. But over the past 20 years that has changed. Now, as a result of the drug laws, the vast majority of prisoners are there for relatively minor drug-related crimes. And, they often have longer sentences than the murderers and rapists."
At the final evaluation, Albuquerque residency partners agreed that their goal, of working together across organizational dividing lines to achieve something together that they could not do alone, had been reached. And, they agreed that public presentation of a community’s stories was an effective organizing tool that would be continued in multiple ways.