New student org partners with the Calvin Prison Initiative

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One of Calvin’s newest student organizations, Christians for Justice Leadership Initiative (CJLI), is a group of students that gathers to learn and practice how to become involved in different areas concerning justice as well as to acquire and develop leadership skills. Their aim is to understand the needs of Christian leaders as well as to provide the tools necessary to participate in activism on campus and within their communities.

Currently, CJLI is working on a partnership with the Calvin Prison Initiative. The Calvin Prison Initiative is a program that allows inmates at Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich. to obtain a liberal arts education and earn a bachelor of arts degree from Calvin College in five years.

Joanna Jaimes, action chair leader for CJLI, said students from Calvin’s campus and the Handlon campus would gather together on a monthly basis to discuss issues, particularly criminal justice. This partnership would allow students from each campus to “collaborate on projects surrounding the criminal justice system.”

“Students at the Handlon campus are proactive and we have so much to learn from them,” said Jaimes. She also mentioned that one of the Handlon students organized an award-winning conference on restorative justice earlier this year.

“We hope to share ideas and bring more people into the restorative justice conversation,” she said. “These discussions would allow students to become more knowledgeable about criminal justice issues and for students from Calvin’s campus to meet with their fellow peers at Handlon’s campus.”

While the partnership is still being molded and shaped, Jaimes described how members of CJLI are excited to see what this partnership brings as well as what the prospects and future endeavors of the organization will be.

“My hope is that we continue to participate in much needed conversations about justice on [each] campus, and that the conversation/action is not short-lived. In the short time that we have been around, we have been intentional about creating impact on campus,” Jaimes stated. “I’m thankful that we have the space to share ideas and create a group that hopes to reflect the teachings and activism of Jesus.”

The CJLI and Calvin Prison Initiative partnership is open to any student who wishes to be involved. Students wanting to become involved in the organization or partnership can email Jaimes at [email protected]

CJLI meets monthly to discuss a different justice theme, such as criminal, environmental or social justice. These discussions include how students can better advocate for those affected by inequalities in justice, practice leadership development and become more aware of various community events surrounding the topics of justice.

Already this year, CJLI hosted a social issues information fair on campus. Booths hosted by students detailed information about various justice topics such as religious persecution and LGBTQ+ issues. The organization also runs a history of activism discussion group where students can share and learn about various experiences with activism and learn from each other and the works of great leaders.