LSU students from the Tiger Prison Project lead a technology literacy class with Parole Project clients

Parole Project Teams up With LSU’s Tiger Prison Project for Client Workshops

Tiger Prison Project (TPP) is a student-led organization at Louisiana State University (LSU) dedicated to ending mass incarceration, improving the lives of those it has affected, and promoting fair and effective alternatives. Guided by its mission to promote “a fair and restorative criminal justice system through education, advocacy, and mobilization,” the organization holds bi-weekly meetings to educate members and other LSU students on the issues. The group also hosts on-campus events and offer members volunteer opportunities with its partners. At general meetings, TPP brings in guest speakers (people working in all facets of the system) to dispel inaccuracies, describe their experiences, and share stories. Students learn how advocacy based on data and fact-based solutions provide the catalyst for change that improves lives and enhances public safety. TPP has partnered with Parole Project for the past three years to create a variety of hands-on opportunities for its members. 

Through this partnership, TPP has been able to grow the organization across campus and Parole Project has provided important resources that have helped TPP members achieve their mission. The two organizations have joined together to host events on campus, in conjunction in conjunction with the LSU NAACP chapter, like last year’s Breaking the System, a series of learning opportunities that included members viewing live virtual parole hearings, working with and hearing from Parole Project clients, and discussing the work of Parole Project. The feedback was so positive that both organizations will join together to host the event again this fall.

TPP also conducts workshops that feature one-on-one mentoring with Parole Project clients. At these workshops, members can work directly to address the technological and social reintegration needs of Parole Project clients at an individual pace to achieve their goals. Kaya Lewis, TPP president, explained that “for the past few years with TPP, I’ve watched members get excited about our workshops with Parole Project and leave inspired, sometimes still talking an hour after we’ve ended. I know that inspiration goes both ways as we’ve had Parole Project clients tell us how much they appreciate the workshops and getting the chance to share their story and advice with younger people.” The first workshop of the fall 2021 semester was held in early September.

Emily Clark shares some tips with Alex Johnson on how to use the text messaging function on his smartphone. All Parole Project clients have served 20 or more years in prison and because smartphones are a ubiquitous presence in today’s world it’s imperative they become proficient with smartphone technology

Abigail Bowers, a third year member in her second year on the TPP executive board, attended the workshop. She believes it is important to “hear the stories beyond what is on paper and why they were put in prison.” TPP members look forward to the workshops feeling that they are making a difference in their community. Emily Clarke attended her first workshop in the fall of 2020, and continues coming back because she is “making meaningful connections with people.” Emily explained the importance of seeing the “human side of people outside of statistics” and said she can accomplish this through workshops with Parole Project.

Lewis calls the workshops beneficial. “By working directly with formerly incarcerated people and hearing their stories, we’re learning more than we would from just reading about the effects of mass incarceration.” TPP members are directly influenced by the work done with Parole Project.

TPP and Parole Project and are excited to continue their partnership and both organizations foresee it continuing in the years to come. 

Photo caption: LSU students from the campus organization Tiger Prison Project (standing: Aiden Arasteh, Abigail Bowers, Emily Clark and Angel Pruder) lead a technology literacy class with Parole Project clients (left to right) Josh Douglas, James Gilmore, Troy Young and Alex Johnson