Get out of jail free card

Ellen Kirtner

The members of the organization also want students to get information about their rights when encountering the police.

Members of the organization built the cell for the demonstration. They have a table with literature on legal rights and prison statistics for students to pick up.

Shaw was locked up Monday afternoon. He said he hopes the demonstration will help students connect the information and the statistics to their own lives. He said being inside the cell has given him an idea of the isolation of being in prison.

“Your mind automatically goes to what if,” Shaw said. “What if this happened for real? If I was locked up in a cell, say in Portage County Jail, I couldn’t even see these people.”

Many passers-by just glanced at the student in the cell and kept walking, but Brenda Bitzer decided to stop to talk to Jamila Okantah, who was in the cell at the time.

“It’s kind of embarrassing, but at the same time, it’s for a good cause,” said Okantah, a freshman early childhood education and Pan-African Studies major. “We’re promoting awareness so that these young people don’t end up behind real bars. We can get out of that – that’s the difference.”

Bitzer donated to release Okantah and volunteered her husband, 1969 Kent State alumnus Art Bitzer, to take her place.

She said the cell immediately caught her attention, and she was glad to see an organization on campus helping students get information on legal issues.

Jones said the group will continue the demonstration weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. until Oct. 28. He said all students are welcome to donate time in the jail cell.

The month-long event will close with an informational program at 7 p.m. on Oct. 28 in Room 133 of Bowman Hall.

Contact Ellen Kirtner at [email protected].