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Hallie Israel: Working to Change the System

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at OSU chapter.

This week, Her Campus OSU met with sjunior Hallie Israel, who is making quite the name for herself in an effort to make a difference at Ohio State. She is actively involved in educating the students of Ohio State about prison reform and the criminal justice system through the orginization Student Alliance for Prison Reform. Read on to see learn about her journey and how she wishes to influence the students as well as the policy surronding this issue.

Name: Hallie Israel

Rank: 3rd Year

Majors: Neuroscience (specialization: behavioral/systems) and Criminology

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Her Campus: How did you get involved with Prison Reform?

Hallie Israel: As a first year, I first developed an interest in the biological and environmental factors that influence or catalyze an individual’s asocial behavior.  After some independent reading of works like neuroscientist David Eagleman’s “Incognito: The Secret life of the Subconscious Mind” and David R. Dow’s “Autobiography of an Execution” I was confronted with the obvious incongruity between our legal and penal system, and the facts and theories of modern behavioral neuroscience and sociology.  In a retribution-focused society where nearly 5% of our citizens will have direct involvement with the criminal justice system during their lifetime, and where recidivism is at nearly 50%, I believe that it’s time to adhere to evidence-based practices of rehabilitation and create a justice system that is conducive to successful reentry of restored citizens.

As a result of this interest, I’ve gotten involved with a number of organizations including the Student Alliance for Prison Reform (SAPR).  SAPR is a grassroots national network of students on 24 campuses nationwide, supporting initiatives to bring about change in the US criminal justice system via service, education, and advocacy.  As national outreach director of our national network and the president/founder of our OSU chapter, I work with students to further prison education, raise awareness for reform issues on campus, and influence policy.  Although we do also focus on injustices within the penal system and for restored citizens including racial/ethnic disparities, inhumane conditions of confinement, collateral sanctions ,etc.  one of my greatest passions in reform lies with the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated persons.  

HC: Why is this movement so important to you and what do you hope to accomplish? 

HI: I am passionate about reform activism because of the individual lives it touches, the families it re-connects, and the communities it re-builds.  The bottom line for me is that upwards of 99% of currently incarcerated individuals will be released back into our communities, and if our current system refuses to address the underlying catalysts of criminal activity and therefore fails to reduce recidivism, our justice system is failing to do its job and is instead, doing a disservice to the members of our society.  There are so many intersectional aspects which culminate in the incarceration of an individual, and I believe that those need to be addressed for the individual to reach their greatest potential after being reintegrated into our communities. By providing access to education, psychological services, public health information, job skills, lifestyle development tools, housing options, education, cognitive-behavioral therapy to dispel antisocial habits, addiction services, recovery and relapse prevention tools, parenting instruction, and a support structure that can be utilized to succeed outside of prison walls, we can reduce recidivism stop mass incarceration.  My dream is to contribute to the creation of a system in which restored citizens are equipped with the tools to successfully contribute to society and avoid rearrest or reconviction.  As a student, working in reform is my means to help we create a justice system which is not only humane, but also economically and objectively more effective.  

HC: What have you learned about yourself while working with this cause?

HI: While working in prison reform, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself.  My experience has not gone without it’s share of challenges, but I feel lucky to work in an emerging field where I can constantly learn from new opportunities, and feel that I’m a much stronger person for facing them.  I love working on policy and education-based initiatives, but my direct experiences with populations of men and women involved in the justice system has by far been the most rewarding.  

HC: Who do you admire the most?

HI: Within the world of reform and activism, I would definitely say that Joan Petersilia and fellow Buckeye Michelle Alexander are two women whose work I truly admire.  Our incredible SAPR advisor at OSU, Dr. Edward Rhine is also a huge inspiration to me.  Dr. Rhine’s incredible knowledge, personal experience working and researching in the prison system, as well as his willingness and enthusiasm to act as a resource for our chapter are so appreciated within our group.   However, I am also continually inspired by the strength and resiliency that I have seen in many of the men and women with prior involvement in the criminal justice system.  From a grandmother who survives abuse and fights addiction so that she can be a positive influence on the lives of her grandchildren, to a young man with the resolve to finish his education after a childhood of trauma abuse and homelessness–these are the stories that inspire me the most.

HC: What is your favorite thing about being a Buckeye?

HI: I think that the best part of Ohio State is its ability to combine the of opportunities for growth fostered by an available wide range of resources and a diverse student base with the support of a close community.  As a student, I love having access to a broad scope of experiences, and also, having developed connections through my own unique through academic, extracurricular, and social involvement.  I’m a third generation Buckeye as well, so Ohio State has definitely always been a huge part of my identity.  .   

Julie is a Senior at The Ohio State University pursuing degrees in Fashion and Retail and Business. A lover of all things fashion from a young age, she loves having the chance to write the style blog for the site as well as being the chapter's President. When she is not writing, she loves singing in Ohio State's Women's Glee Club, updating her style blog, and online shopping when she should be doing homework. After graduation, Julie hopes to become a celebrity stylist or work in the fashion department of a magazine. Visit thelookinthemirror.blogspot.com for more from Julie.