“Real Talk: People, Prisons, and Reentry”, a panel discussion on the realities of life after prison, took place on Sept. 21 in the Smith Student Center. All three speakers, Jamar Williams, Haylee Zinn and Dan Pustinger, work in or work with the Pennsylvania criminal justice system.
The speakers outlined their experience with the system, both personal and professional, then took questions from the audience.
Zinn is a mental health clinician for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. She described the panel as “open[ing] the eyes of what reentry looks like for real people that are coming home.
Those dads, uncles, sisters, brothers, have to reintegrate back into society,” Zinn said. “It doesn’t only affect the person coming home, but also people around them.”
For her part, Zinn’s father was incarcerated until she was nine years old.
“There are only two people I know who don’t have a criminal record in my family,” Zinn said. “I grew up in a place where my brother was coming and going from jail, my dad was coming home from jail, my mom had been to jail a few times. Other people judged them or judged me based off their experiences.
When I went to school, I realized I wanted to work with people like my family members. I felt like I had a deep connection with them.”
Zinn believes the panel was a “validating experience” for attendees who have been through experiences like hers.
“Bridging between what we’re learning and what we’ll practice [is important], as well as trying to open eyes and build empathy with other people in different professions,” she stated.
“Not everybody has experienced a family member going to jail or somebody coming home from jail. [Through this], they can think outside of their own experiences.”