Rasika Writes for the Future


Photo by Hailey Tesser

Marko Barrera and Rebecca Lim

   She grips her book, admiring the red and black cover with bold white letters spelling out “CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACTIVISM”, and depicting a man being released from handcuffs. She excitedly flips through the first couple of pages until she gets to page IV. She then sees it in bold: Creative Director, and her name sitting adjacent: Rasika Sriram. The memories of the past year flood back, as she recalls where it all started. 

   The Black Lives Matter movement sent ripples through our nation that provoked either progressive social action or opposition from non-supporters. People have either risen up to support the cause or risen up to suppress the movement. Junior Rasika Sriram bravely went with the former; treating the movement as a call to action and motivated by the events of the summer, she took initiative by joining the Justice Education Project, a national, youth-led organization dedicated to raising awareness on criminal justice reform, in October of 2020. 

   After applying to join JEP through a Google form and getting interviewed by the organization’s executive director, Rasika was ready to contribute to the mission, feeling “the need to do more than just raise awareness for criminal justice” on her personal social media accounts.

   Assigned to the research team, Rasika’s first few months were nothing too crazy. “At first, they just had me research more information on criminal injustice,” she states, “As well as stay updated with current events, of course.”  It only took five months in the organization for Rasika to become the research team’s director. This same month, February 2021, she demonstrated initiative by proposing the idea for the book.

   After the idea was approved by the organization’s executive director, the team first worked on developing a table of contents, then researching and finding more specific information for each chapter, while a separate team worked on conducting interviews with exonerees and experts in the criminal justice field until June 2021. 

   Then, they worked on revising and finding keywords to make it more of an effective beginner’s guide to activism. According to Rasika, one of the hardest parts of the process were the citations: “it was just a bunch of teenagers searching for credible sources, having to paraphrase, plus make it proper”, she expressed; this part of the process definitely took the longest. It was followed by a review and revisions from multiple professors around the country. This part was vital, as they wanted the book to be easy to understand, especially by the youth. “We wanted to make sure it was readable to Gen Z ”, the intended audience, Rasika pointed out.

   To make things even more difficult, meeting in person was another major hardship. The reason was because they couldn’t meet at all. “The entire organization was essentially a group of kids from all across the nation that could only meet through Zoom”, she stated. Rasika, along with the rest of the JEP, truly believed that everything would have been easier if they all lived in the same state, at least.

   Despite all of the obstacles that Rasika, as well as the rest of the organization, had to overcome, the Justice Education Project officially published First Steps Into Criminal Justice Activism: For Youth on October 11, 2021, sponsored by Powershift Network, and credited Rasika as a Creative Director. 

   Rasika’s biggest hope for readers is that they “realize the real issues in the world and in the criminal justice system and understand that it’s up to our generation to fix them.”

   The paperback version of the book is available on Amazon for $10.45, and can also be downloaded as an ebook for $1.99. All proceeds from the book are donated, and you can also find the Justice Education Project at https://www.justiceeducationproject.org/ and @justiceeducationproject on Instagram.