On and off campus, OSA members are fighting to end the criminalization of our communities, in particular that of black, brown, and poor young people. From the state level to the county and local levels, our folks are advocating for bail reform and progressive change to the criminal injustice system. This work is all the most critical during the pandemic, the incarcerated among the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
OSA is a leader in the fight for justice in Cleveland at the Cuyahoga County Jail, described by the US Marshal as “the worst jail in the country.” Nine people died in the jail in less than a year, even before the pandemic outbreak. Prisons and jails are a hotspot for the spread of the Coronavirus, meaning the incarcerated are especially unsafe and at-risk in today’s climate. Indeed, we’ve seen COVID-19 rates of almost 80% in prisons such as the one in Marion, Ohio. In response, we’ve held actions, press conferences, collected petition signatures, developed a digital toolkit, conducted research, and more. For instance, in May we raised over $2,000 at an online fundraiser in collaboration with the Cleveland Chapter of The Bail Project and the Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition (OSA is a member org of the Jail Coalition).
OSA members at our Cleveland State chapter launched a campaign to ban the box (aka remove the criminal record disclosure requirement) in the application process as part of a long-term vision to decriminalize education. As a result of student efforts, the college application for Cleveland State now includes, along with other major achievements, a disclaimer acknowledging that “students are more than their record.” Chapters are also working on campaigns on campus policing, considering for instance where their tuition is going, how budgets are allocated, and how students are impacted by campus police.