Interview with Tarsha Jackson


Tarsha Jackson is a community activist for incarcerated juveniles and their families, stemming from her experience as the mother of a mentally ill son who was incarcerated in the Texas juvenile justice system from ages eleven to sixteen for minor offenses. In Tape 1, Jackson discusses her early life and raising children as a young single mother; how her elder son first became involved in the juvenile justice system; describes challenges seeking access to mental health care within the system; details a violent altercation between her son and detention guards; and explains how her advocacy began with education reform for the juvenile justice system. In Tape 2, Jackson discusses her son’s release from the Texas Youth Commission (TYC); explains her strategies for keeping her younger son out of the system; how the juvenile justice system impacts families; how policing and the education system create a school-to-prison pipeline; details her work with the Black-Brown organization and the Texas Reconciliation project. In Tape 3, Jackson elaborates on issues of overcrowding in Texas prisons and the importance of family visits for the incarcerated; describes how she discovered and managed her son’s mental illness; and how her son’s incarceration impacted her personally. This interview took place on May 19, 2011 in Houston, Harris County, Texas.