Margaret Russell and her students participated in a session with the ACT group–a self-help group that serves people often not accepted by the San Quentin incarcerated population.

The ACT group brings incarcerated LGBTQ+ individuals together with other members of the prison population in an effort to build empathy and understanding between seemingly-disparate groups.

Russell said the trip was aimed at giving her students an understanding of criminal justice beyond just “reading legal theories and judges’ decisions.”

One law student, Kennedy M., said she believes a criminal justice system “solely focused on punishment does not offer an opportunity for healing.” She added, “Working towards accountability and how to make the victim whole is more important than simply incarcerating someone.”

Another law student, Annie B., suggested mandatory visits to San Quentin’s restorative justice programs for first-year law students at Santa Clara University. “Most students probably have no idea that the restorative justice model is holistic in its consideration of victims and communities,” said Annie.

The story was published in the San Quentin News online.