Testimonios of Passages In, Through, and Out of the (In)Justice System Planting the MILPA Seed Through Ganas, Healing, and Ceremony
This study is a testimonio centered project, which honors the voices of five formerly incarcerated people who are currently employed at MILPA (Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement), an organization that originated in the city of Salinas and has expanded to Watsonville, California. Challenging the way mainstream research devalues emotion and spirit, this thesis incorporates an indigenous ceremonial informed methodology that is relationship centered. Testimonio and the voices of the participants are the central pathways of knowledge for this study. The vision is to expose the realities of the dehumanizing conditions of punitive youth facilities and adult prisons and their interconnected pipeline with early educational experiences. Through the testimonios, I demonstrate how national and local policies funnel young people through the public education system into the prison industrial complex. Through an examination of legislation and policies and doing statewide juvenile justice work, we see that the state is not a homogenous entity. What is also unveiled is that there are state actors and federal policies that have caused detrimental harm to black, indigenous, and other people of color communities in a cyclical form. MILPA, which uses healing informed, relationship-centered approaches to formerly and system impacted individuals while striving for racial justice to end mass incarceration, offers practical ways to break the recidivism rates, and reconstruct bodies that carry intergenerational trauma yet also hold the inflicted politically economic violence of being formerly incarcerated people of color. This thesis contributes to existing prison literature, such as Gilmore (2007), that aims to humanize and expose the extreme conditions and rapid growth of prisons that are tied to larger historical, political, economic power structures. This research reimagines what prisons would look like with more community-based interventions to radically change the culture of prisons and move towards ending mass incarceration.