Empowering lives for 90 years!

Fashion Merchandising and Management Major Provides Different Perspective on Social Justice

Audrey Carioti is a first-year Honors student pursuing a degree in Fashion Merchandising and Management. She serves as President of the Fashion Club and Vice President of the Student Government Association at Berkeley College in Woodbridge, NJ. In August, she visited Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ, with students taking introductory courses in criminology and justice studies.

I was nervous but excited to see what a tour of the Northern State Prison would entail. From the moment I boarded the van, the butterflies in my stomach were fluttering.

As a Fashion Merchandising and Management major, I was less familiar with the sentencing process than a student pursuing a degree in Justice Studies. But after hearing from the prisoners, I was left with a very different perspective than before I entered the prison.

During the tour, I had the opportunity to see where the prisoners in different units resided. I was astonished by what a prison cell looked like. I had no idea that the cells were so small. I saw the “mattresses” these prisoners sleep on and was shocked by how rough and uncomfortable they looked. I was surprised to see how tight and close together everything was. I wondered how two grown men could fit comfortably into a single cell.

I spoke with a few prisoners who were education tutors at the prison, as well as those who had decided to pursue college degrees. Their stories truly resonated with me.

A few of the prisoners are serving life sentences – many because of one poor decision. I could not imagine being in a concrete cell for the rest of my life and not being able to accomplish my goals and aspirations.

I was really impressed by these prisoners and the changes they had made to their lives while serving their sentences. These men are spending their time behind bars helping others earn degrees and pursue careers once they have served their time.

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Audrey Carioti and Berkeley College students visit Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ.

One prisoner, John, told us, “If you don’t change your way of thinking when you are here, you are fooling yourself. The point of this place is for you to find yourself and decide if you will change your ways or stay the same.” I was inspired because this person is rebuilding his life and has taken responsibility for his actions. His remarks made me appreciate all of the little things in life that may be taken for granted.

Meeting with the prisoners was one of my highlights of the trip that I will always remember.

Empowering lives for 90 years!