“People who are incarcerated have a greater outcome when they’re released if they have greater support and contact with family,” says Avila, media justice organizer with the Media Literacy Project. It’s a strategy that can lower the number of offenders who return to prison. But even though the plan is simple, it isn’t always easy. Phone rates for prison calls are often inflated, and “in some places, it can be $17 or $15 minimum for a call,” says Avila.
This is one of the issues Avila and her organization hope to bring attention to on Saturday, Aug. 4, with a parade, theatrical performances, film, live music and poetry. From School House to Jail House was borne out of a partnership with Roadside Theater, a Kentucky-based troupe that travels around the country helping groups build productions with an altruistic message. The Media Literacy Project also collaborated on this project with nearly a dozen other organizations, including the Native Health Initiative, Encuentro Latino, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, Zuni Pueblo, Wings Ministry, the Gordon Bernell Charter School and the Metropolitan Detention Center. Rap groups Sons of the Most High and the Rockmore Foundation also came on board, as did record label A.S.I. Records. The product of these collaborations has been three months in the making. And in the hopes of getting as many people as possible to the event, it’s also free.
Avila says that after months of work, she’s eager to see the final product. Avila is also the co-director of the South Valley’s Día de los Muertos parade, and she describes coordinating this effort as an entirely different experience. “It’s an organic process, and the way it’s come together has been pretty amazing.”