Thursday, September 27, 2018

OSCAR Student Bryce Kushmerick-Mccune Researches Living & Working in Restricted Housing Units in Pennsylvania State Prisons

I am part of the Change the Hole Mind team. Essentially, we’re researching what it’s like to live and work in Restricted Housing Units in Pennsylvania State prisons. Over the course of the summer and into the upcoming fall term, our team is traveling to four different institutions, and at these institutions we interview the inmates and corrections officers living and working in these units. There are three teams, and each team chose a topic to research. My team chose to research how inmates cope while living in RHUs, and how they go about accessing this support. I became interested in the CTHM project because I’ve always wanted to do something in the Criminal Justice field, and the use of RHUs (solitary confinement) has been something that really interested me since I visited Alcatraz prison when I was 13. Working on this project sets me up on the path towards working as a researcher in the Criminal Justice field, and I hope to apply this research to prison reform in the States. The workload of this project really picks up once we’ve visited the institutions, so in the week following the visits we transcribe all of the field notes we’ve taken, analyze/code all of the data, and then query the results. During this term, I’ve had to re-define solitary confinement. Whenever I thought of solitary confinement in the past, I pictured inmates alone in small cells with little to no light and limited social interaction. In the prisons that we’ve visited, however, most of the inmates are doubled bunked (meaning they share a room with another person), and they can easily talk to the inmates in the other cells. Although the initial view that I had of solitary does exist in America, it hasn’t been present in the institutions that I’ve visited, so I’ve had to rethink my definition of the word. Overall, I’m just really excited to be getting the chance to research what I’m interested in so early in my college career, and I can’t wait to continue this type of research in the future!