Hunter College Senior Wins Top Award For Paper on Prison Problems

February 10, 2011 | Hunter College

Janet Garcia, a senior in the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter, has won the 2010 Undergraduate Student Paper Award from the nation’s leading criminology organization. The paper, “Alternative-to-Incarceration Programs: Addressing the Shortcomings of Correctional Services,” deals with a question that is especially contentious in New York and other states now: Is maintaining a large, costly prison system the best way to deal with crime, or are less expensive, more effective alternatives available?

The award, which was presented by the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Critical Criminology, is especially timely. One of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposals for cutting the state budget is closing several upstate prisons. While Garcia’s paper does not deal directly with the closure issue, it does criticize what she calls “the prison industrial complex” and explores the question of whether community-based non-incarceration programs are better at reducing crime than sending large numbers of people to prison.

Garcia, 21, describes herself as “from Harlem with a Honduran background.” Besides being in Macaulay, she is an undergraduate fellow in the McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Her interest in criminal justice was spurred by visits to three Dominican Republic prisons during a study abroad program. She has worked with several New York organizations that deal with criminal justice issues, including the Fortune Society, Legal Aid Society and Correctional Association of New York.