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

The Commonwealth Times, VCU’s weekly student run newspaper, has been receiving backlash for an editorial published on Oct. 12.

The CT’s editorial, titled “Reinforcing the prison-industrial complex is not ‘philanthropy’,” challenged VCU’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority’s Jail ‘N Bail fundraiser that occurred on Oct. 7. The Jail ‘N Bail is an annual fundraiser for AGD. This year, their proceeds went to the AGD foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

According to fundraise.com, in a Jail ‘N Bail fundraiser, people volunteer to be “arrested” and are put in “jail.” A volunteer “jailbird” is in charge of raising “bail” set by the “judge” of the fundraiser. However, nowhere on their website says that a Jail ‘N Bail is a sorority exclusive event. In fact, The Observer reports that Carlyle Elementary School’s Jail ‘N Bail fundraiser was a “roaring success” when they raised over $16,000 back in 2010.

In response to AGD’s fundraiser and the photos on sorority sister’s Instagram accounts, the CT’s staff wrote a statistical heavy editorial on why the sorority is “shamefully ignorant” to the condition in the prison-industrial complex. The editorial goes on to say:

At the end of the editorial, the staff calls Greek life’s philanthropic ideas “an admirable one” and poses the suggestion that AGD should choose a different theme for their event next year and consider donating to prisons instead.

Screenshots from AGD sorority sister’s Instagram accounts explain their thoughts on the annual Jail ‘N Bail:

AGD’s international headquarters did not respond to Her Campus VCU’s efforts to get a statement.

Are the AGD members as blissfully ignorant as this editorial claims? The situation may be personal for the CT’s executive editor, Sarah King, who was arrested and charged with felony possession with intent to distribute and felony possession of a Schedule I or II drug in May of this year.

“Maybe in some ways I had a little bit more insight [on the prison-industrial complex] than other members in the staff but we are also a very diverse staff and come from all different walks of life. It wasn’t like I was just being me and being like ‘let me get back at them for talking about something that was bad.’ Collectively, we were kind of like ‘Do you know what it’s like to be in jail?’ It was meant to open up a dialogue,” King said.

King is the admin of the CT’s Facebook page and could have deleted the Facebook comments but says she’s “happy to leave things up there” to prevent having a lack of transparency.  

“One of the first girls that I met while I was incarcerated…was telling me about how she lost custody of her kids because of her addiction. She had gone through that and realized that it didn’t matter because she was still never going to be able to see her kids and that’s terrible. Really, really terrible,” King said. “Those are things that, especially as a woman, I feel like girls should be aware of because whether or not you want to have your own kids or whatever, I think that even just a small part of every female has a bit of a maternal instinct. To walk around and have the cute little cop hat on and things like that it’s just not really cute because there are people who are subject to that who are never going to see their kids again or miscarried while they were institutionalized. You can’t get pads and you can’t get tampons unless you have money and that sucks. That’s really what the piece was meant to do, generate discussion about ‘Hey, maybe step outside of this just for a second and really critically think about the conditions about other people who are literally wearing the same underwear and who can’t wash their hair.”

In the comments posted on the CT’s Facebook page, users are going so far as to say that King should be removed from her position and that the CT needs a new editor.

The editorial also prompted a few AGD alumni to respond via Facebook: 

The staff at the CT isn’t the first to be outraged by this sort of fundraiser. This time last year, a fraternity and sorority canceled their Jail ‘N Bail fundraiser after angry comments were made online. The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Northwestern University canceled their fundraiser that was intended to raise money for children’s literacy. Students at Northwestern claimed the idea of a Jail ‘N Bail was a “blatant belittling of the realities of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex.”

In light of the recent comments, King says “Something that people I don’t think realize is that I’m not offended by whatever comments you have to make. I think that if you’re going to take something…and you’re going to make it personal it says more about you than it says about me or anyone else in the staff. I don’t know why I’ve become the villainized bad guy in all of this. Like I said, it’s a staff editorial. It’s probably easier to take a shot at me in particular because I am the one that’s in charge, so if you’re going to come at someone I would rather it be me than someone on my staff.”

Read the CT’s full editorial here

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Jessica is a Theatre Major with a concentration in Costume Design. Although design is her passion, she loves writing and is so glad to be a part of Her Campus VCU. She hopes you enjoy her writing as much as she enjoys writing it.