Spotlight on CCJ Masters student Audrea Dakho
Enjoy this recent interview with Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice student Audrea Dakho
The College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters enjoys recognizing the hard work of its students. In this recent interview, get to know Audrea Dakho, who became the first Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice student to defend her thesis titled, "We Don’t Need No Education: An Analysis of Postsecondary Education within Carceral Spaces."
CASL: Although you touch on it in your thesis, can you explain a bit more why you are so passionate about incarcerated individuals receiving a fair education?
Audrea: Education is a fundamental human right. The U.N. recognizes this, but the United States has not adopted this mentality. We have the largest prison population in the world. Most of these individuals will see freedom one day. They will be our coworkers, friends, and neighbors. To deny them an education is not only doing a disservice to them, but ourselves. We owe it to our neighbors to see these individuals through and treat them with dignity and respect.
CASL: How can education help incarcerated individuals?
Audrea: Education unlocks immense possibilities and those living within correctional facilities require this need. Education is not about recidivism, but about human value. We cannot call ourselves the greatest country in the world if there are so many people shunned away from society. Statistically, we have more people incarcerated per capita than any other nation in the world. Those are millions of people that are swept to the sidelines. In no way am I trying to minimize the harm that these individuals caused, but I am deeply concerned with how little we prepare them for their release, mainly an education and path towards a successful future. There is so much idle time in prison that could be used to better these individuals and provide them with resources that, often, were not available to them when they were in the free world.
CASL: How did you conduct your research for this thesis?
Audrea: Although this is a pilot study, it speaks to the urgency to unlock, as one interviewee said "untapped potential." These are people that have the potential to make tremendous breakthroughs in fields of science, math, and literature. There are too many of them to ignore. I am a firm believer in ensuring that each and every person is provided with the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. Although, because of restrictions, I was not able to interview incarcerated individuals specifically, the instructors and administrators of these programs share a voice that need not be ignored.
CASL: Do you think your research in this area will add to this serious issue in our society?
Audrea: I am hopeful that my research will help pave the way for future academics to continue to explore this topic. We must explore the perspectives of those directly impacted by this education i.e., the incarcerated population. We must further consider the alarming lack of transparency within Departments of Corrections across the country. We are living in a unique time where we are beginning to finally acknowledge the value in marginalized lives. We can start by treating this incarcerated population as humans, first and foremost, and work alongside them to receive a proper education. I firmly believe and acknowledge that education is one of the most important factors of a person's life. It is time to stop ignoring this mass population of people.
CASL: What has this research taught you about yourself and your view on education?
Audrea: I’m a first generation Iraqi American. I’m also the first one in my family to pursue and complete a college degree. I could have easily been another statistic. Instead, education opened an avenue that I didn’t know I was previously capable of. What this research did was confirm to me that this is possible in each and every individual. Education hold unlimited possibilities and has the power in completing transforming a person’s life. This is something we cannot deny to our fellow man.
CASL: As a future attorney, what do you hope to accomplish most in that profession?
Audrea: There is a need for attorneys and policymakers that have compassion for humanity. I have worked with a number of different vulnerable populations, including victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers, refugees, and incarcerated individuals. What I noticed was a need for unwavering advocacy and dedication to these vulnerable groups of people. My calling in life is to do this through law. The law is what damaged these people and their opportunities so the law will be what ultimately has to change to regain their humanity. Once I obtain my JD, I am interested in finding a path towards fighting for prisoner rights and immigration rights. We owe it to one another and ourselves to take stock in human lives and see the value in each and every one of our neighbors.