Summer Centered: Bukky Olugbeko ’25 Is Advocating to End Mass Incarceration
Sitting in a Philadelphia court day after day, watching as former prisoners defend themselves against claims that they violated parole, Bukky Olugbeko ’25 has witnessed up close the injustice of the criminal legal system. As a summer intern working with the Abolitionist Law Center’s probation and parole campaign, she’s seen a parade of defendants—mostly Black men, mostly with limited education, often dealing with addiction—threatened with a return to the life they are trying so hard to avoid.
The notes Olugbeko takes at these hearings to address potential parole violations will contribute to a report identifying some of the unjust trends and patterns present in the legal system, including class- and race-based inequities. At the Abolitionist Law Center, which works toward abolishing mass incarceration and protecting the rights of incarcerated individuals, she has also been part of campaigns focused on ending the use of solitary confinement and life sentences—also known as “death by incarceration.” Her internship is funded by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship.
In her freshman year at Haverford, Olugbeko, who hopes to go on to law school, took a course on the history, theory and practice of abolition, in which she learned about the prison system and prison abolition strategies used throughout history. The following year, she pushed further on the issue with a class titled “Break Every Yoke,” taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Richard Kent Evans, which examined the establishment of the American prison system and how its inequalities are perpetuated. Inspired by Evans, she and her classmates re-established Haverford’s connection with the Petey Greene Program, a tutoring program that supports the academic goals of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Tutoring students in math gave Olugbeko a chance to learn about their lives through conversations about capitalism, religion, and even abolition. It also reinforced her sense that many people who end up in prison have been set up to fail by the world around them.
“Hearing some of their stories showed me how a mistake came to define the rest of their lives and how the circumstances surrounding some of these mistakes reveal real systemic issues rooted in oppressive structures,” she said.
As a political science major with a concentration in peace, justice and human rights, Olugbeko wants to develop her lobbying skills this summer through correspondence with elected officials so she can help work on addressing those systemic issues in the future.
“I hope to learn more about the ways that we can disrupt this system through legislative and advocacy efforts,” Olugbeko said.