Diversity Spotlight: Kaelyn Sanders

February 4, 2021

What are your research interests?

Photo of Kaelyn Sanders

My research interests are in justice-involved women and their life stories as well as how race, gender, and class intersect with the criminal justice system. My interest in studying justice-involved women was sparked when I participated in the Inside-Out Program in undergrad. When I did it, we went to the women’s prison in Ohio, and I was really moved by that experience. I met some great women during that class and hearing about their experiences before and during incarceration really stuck with me, especially since some of them were around my age. My other interest comes from me just simply seeing how unjust the criminal justice system really is toward certain populations.


How do you hope your research will impact people and the Criminal Justice system going forth?

First and foremost, I hope my research will give a voice to a group of people that are constantly being ignored and silenced. Incarcerated individuals are some of the most intelligent, kindest, and innovative people yet that is rarely the side that ever gets displayed, and I hope that I can help change that narrative and give them their voices back. In terms of the criminal justice system, I hope that my work helps influence the abolition of the system as we know it and spark the creation of a new justice system that is not only fair but truly focused on rehabilitation and restoration for all involved.


When you hear “Black History Month” what do you think of?

I think of so many different things all at once, but one of the main things that I think about is how amazing it is that Black people have done and accomplished everything we’ve done. I forget who said this quote, but it has always stuck with me. “Black people were never meant to be more than slaves.” So, when I think about that quote, I really sit back and think wow. I can’t believe all I’ve accomplished, all my family has accomplished, and everything that Black people as a community have accomplished because we were never supposed to be anything more than slaves. We’ve surpassed that by a long shot now, but of course, there’s still a ways to go. So, Black History Month really just helps me sit back and reflect on all the crazy things we’ve surmounted and just our resilience.


How important is diversity in academia to you?

Diversity in academia is extremely important to me because it helps students and younger people see that this is something you can do too. There’s people that look like you and think like you in these spaces, and these spaces are made for you even if that’s not what is always presented. It helps you become more comfortable and confident. Being able to see people who looked like me in academia was extremely helpful for me personally because I have individuals who can relate to my life experiences. I think with diversity though there also needs to be inclusion and equity.