The inner workings of the United States prison system are not always spoken about and often downplayed, even on college campuses that emphasize social justice. In light of this, a group of students with the goal for “educating the student and Waltham community about the realities and impacts of the carceral system” take a stand for justice. Today, the spotlight is on a small club with a big purpose: Brandeis’ Carceral Awareness Reform and Education (CARE). The Hoot spoke with Aparna Packer ’26, the club’s event coordinator and interim president.
CARE’s mission is to educate and spread awareness to the Brandeis community on the carceral system both in and beyond Waltham. “The carceral system refers to anything that has to do with the prison system in the US,” Packer explains. This could mean the prison experience of an individual or how the prison system can affect the economy of daily lives of citizens. “It is much more ingrained in society than you would think,” says Packer. To do this, CARE curates educational posts to share on their social media feed once a week, some of which include the school to prison pipeline, LGBTQ experiences in prison and Indigenous peoples’ history with the carceral system.
One of the biggest troubles CARE has faced thus far is the lack of a chartered club status, making it increasingly difficult to obtain funding and spread awareness on campus. Despite this, the club has had little issue working together and brainstorming alternative ways to fundraise and spread their message. “We work really well together as a team … Whenever we meet, we have a lot of ideas generated and it’s very efficient.”
This efficiency and effort extend into CARE’s general meetings as well. A typical meeting usually consists of discussion around upcoming event logistics following a detailed checklist. This list outlines everything the club needs to do to ensure events run smoothly. “If it’s a week where we have an event, we’re there for a while,” Packer states. The members also participate in an open, educational brainstorm about the creation of their weekly social media post.
CARE’s committed membership has already planned quite a few exciting events for the community. “This semester, we had one event just to [re]introduce the club … it was a tote bag painting event as well as an informational session on what CARE is.” Later in the semester, the club plans to hold an interactive event titled “Deconstructing Prison Media.” Packer describes it as a time “to look at different media and popular culture surrounding prisons and understand how it reflects or doesn’t reflect.” What’s more, CARE hopes to introduce a guest speaker that was formerly incarcerated so that “he can talk about his own experiences in prison and … how the media is perpetuating certain images of his experience” in a Q&A format.
Packer’s favorite part about being in CARE is simply the passionate people she is surrounded by. “I love the people I work with,” she says, “they really are wonderful. And this is a topic I have cared about for years … there’s not exactly much at Brandeis that works specifically with this topic, so when students come and they show they’re really interested … it’s really exciting to see.”
Packer assures us that CARE will keep doing what they are currently doing and hold themselves to the highest standard even after they attain an official chartered status. CARE also aims to host more events such as movie nights, connectors with faculty members and even possibly offer volunteer programs through the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative working with individuals on different levels of the carceral system. Above all else, Packer hopes to continue to spread the word about her club so more and more students can discover it. “When I talk to people one on one, people are really interested in it, it’s just hard to get the word out!”
So, if you are looking to become part of an initiative for carceral reform, or simply have a passion for justice, join CARE Mondays 9-10 p.m. at the Shapiro Campus Center Atrium. Packer also states that the club is in search of new e-board members for the following semester for interested students. Additionally, the group will be holding their “Deconstructing Prison Media” event on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. in Pearlman 113, and a potential movie night with Carceral Studies Professor Anya Wallace on Dec. 8!