PPPA Capstone Class: Policing and Imprisonment in the US

Winter quarter 2022, Dr. Emily Thuma taught the PPPA seminar class (TPOLS 480) on the theme of Policing and Imprisonment in the United States. The TPOLS 480 seminar class is a requirement for all majors within the Division of Politics Philosophy and Public Affairs. Students take a quarter-long seminar based on an in-depth topic and then write a final indepth research paper. In March, Dr Thuma’s students presented their research to a group of UWT faculty and students. Two notable papers were those of Andre Jimenez and Selena Caldera.

Andre Jimenez presented his research entitled, “Freedom Isn’t Free: Why Pierce County Needs to Move Beyond a Cash Bail System”. Andre explores the “Impacts of cash bail and the changes we must make to move forward as a community” Demonstrating how the cash bail system undermines our principles of “innocent until proven guilty,” Andre writes, “The cash bail system as it currently stands in Pierce County criminalizes poverty, while simultaneously exacerbating racial inequities and unnecessarily puts our community at risk. Under this current system, both community members, accused individuals and their families face extreme social and economic consequences to uphold our pretrial detention system.” Andre was awarded the Mary Gates Leadership Scholarship to pursue working with Pierce County Councilmembers and relevant community stakeholders to begin building consensus to abolish cash bail in Pierce County. 

Drawing on her experiences as a veteran and work individuals suffering from PTSD, Selena Caldera studied the traumatic effects of incarceration. In her paper, “Carceral PTSDisaster: The Disparate Impact of Policing and Imprisonment on Racially Marginalized People with Trauma-Related Disability,” she asked, “How are marginalized individuals more susceptible to trauma and subsequent disability? How are individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder more susceptible to policing? How does their disability affect the likelihood and length of their sentencing to prison? How does prison
create and exacerbate trauma-related disabilities? And to what extent can we hold the system itself accountable for these harms?” Selena is preparing for law school in the fall and hopes to use her research to raise awareness about the relationship between trauma and incarceration and how our current policing and carceral practices serve to exacerbate PTSD symptoms.

Thank you to Selena and Andre for their fantastic research, and Prof. Thuma for an engaging capstone class!