West Virginia University will host a three-day symposium in April that will explore the criminal justice system and the need for reform measures within the Appalachian prison infrastructure.
The Educational Justice & Appalachian Prisons Symposium, which runs April 4-6, will include roundtables with imprisoned people, teachers inside prisons, corrections administrators, judges, law and humanities faculty, mediators, and members of prison book projects.
“Prisons impact all of us—whether in terms of taxpayer money or incarcerated friends and family members or those who work inside crowded, unsafe prisons,” said Katy Ryan, WVU professor of English and one of the symposium organizers.
“We have to make connections between inside and out if we are going to begin to undo mass incarceration. Education is going to be key.”
Ryan and Mark Brazaitis, both of the Department of English, received a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council to create the symposium.
The Educational Justice & Appalachian Prisons Symposium will include roundtables with imprisoned people, teachers inside prisons, corrections administrators, judges, law and humanities faculty, mediators, and members of prison book projects.
The main speakers are:
- Rebecca Ginsburg, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chicago. Ginsburg is the founder of the Education Justice Project, which aims to build a model college-in-prison program demonstrating the positive impacts of higher education on incarcerated people, their families, and the communities from which they come. She will speak at 7:30 p.m. April 4 in the Rhododendron Room of the Mountainlair.
- Kyes Stevens, professor at Auburn University. Stevens is the founder of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, which is dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to imprisoned people in Alabama. She will speak at 11:30 a.m. April 5 in room 130 of Colson Hall.
- Reginald Dwayne Betts, a poet and memoirist. Betts is the award-winning author of “A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison” and the poetry collection “Shahid Reads His Own Palm.” In April 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Other presenters at the symposium include:
- Jean Trounstine, co-director of Changing Lives Through Literature and the author of “Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison”
- Jim Rubenstein, commissioner of the WV Division of Corrections
- Larry Starcher, former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice
- Jim Nolan, WVU professor of sociology, former police and FBI officer
- Valena Beety, WVU associate law professor and chair of the WVU Innocence Project
- Anne Rice, African-American studies professor, Lehman College, and coordinator of TEDx talks inside prisons
A complete schedule and other information is available at the symposium’s website: http://educationaljusticeappalachianprisons.wordpress.com/
Contact: Katy Ryan, associate professor, WVU Department of English
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