Finding My Peace Through a Struggle for Justice: Steven Pacheco Part 1

Janasia Walker
July 5, 2016

Steve PEach year, 600,000 people are released from prison. Between 60 and 75 percent of them remain unemployed up to a year after their release. Not having anything productive to participate in can lead to negative behavior and possible recidivism. Steady employment makes a person far less likely to end back up in prison, according to the National Employment Law Project.Those who have opportunities after incarceration can be great assets to the world. This is especially the case when someone is young and has their whole life to look forward to.

Steven Pacheco is one example of this. Steven is a first-generation college student who grew up in a single-parent household. He spent a year in prison due to his involvement in the drug trade. Today Steven is a fellow at Vera Institute of Justice, and a sophomore at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

I interviewed Steven about his work with the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice and the experiences that make him passionate about justice and fairness for every young person.

What kind of work do you do at Vera?

As of now, I have submerged myself into research on various levels. Much of my research has a focus on the reentry process of youth who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. The project I am currently assigned to involves analyzing the efficiency of reentry programs so that there is some clarity around which practices are more effective and worthwhile, and what can be done to strengthen all efforts moving forward.

A newer role I have been filling is that of a public figure, to some degree. I have done some public speaking and appeared on a few panels, and I am confident those opportunities will continue to present themselves to me, so long as I continue on the path that I am on. I do my best to bring awareness to a lot of the issues and complexities of this world to my everyday associates and friends through honest, open dialogue. I think it is really important for “chance conversations” to be had on the more difficult subject matters in our world, especially among people who don’t have a similar background or upbringing.

What is the most valuable thing you've learned on your journey?

The most valuable thing I have learned on my journey is that patience, discipline and timing are triplets that work best when they are all connected with one another. There are not many things that cannot be accomplished when you have patience and discipline and the timing is “right.” At this point in my life, I feel like I have no choice but to believe it is “my time to shine.” In the same breath, I would have to give a lot of credit to the patience and discipline I have more recently learned how to exhibit. Those two attributes count for a lot, in my opinion.

How is your life different now than it was five years ago?

Five years ago, most of my work history was based in customer service and retail. My primary focus was on being a music artist and pursuing a career in the music business. I still have dreams of being involved in the music business, although not necessarily as a music artist; however, my primary focus is seeking justice and equity for all. I always wanted things to be fair for everyone, but I would not say that I was 100 percent invested in the fight for justice. I used to lead life merely questioning what it was that I wanted out of life and how I could get the most out of the world. While those two things are still very true, a newer concept of mine is that I want to serve others and make sure that people as a whole are able to have access to the best quality of life as possible, no matter who that person is or where that person comes from. Through this work of service, I will receive what I want out of life and I will receive the most out of the world. I have found my peace through this struggle for justice.

What has your educational journey been like?

My educational journey has had a lot of bumps in the road. I was left behind in 2ndgrade. By 4thgrade, I was in advanced math and English courses all the way through my academic career. However, I took a six-year break from college due to complications surrounding my living situation. After my first semester, I wound up on academic probation. Now, three semesters later, I am finally going to have a GPA above a 2.0. As a rising sophomore, I feel like I am in a prime position. Sure, I am much older than a traditional sophomore in college, but there are perks to being an undergraduate at my age. Most importantly, I have a greater hold on what it is I want to do.

Photo credit: David Hanbury.

Next week: part two of our interview with Steven.


janaisa walker

Janaisa Walker, the SparkAction Journalism and Advocacy Fellow Spring-Summer 2016, is a student at Syracuse University.