Shakespeare in Prisons Conference, Nov. 15-16, 2013

Razor Wire Women

Shakespeare at Notre Dame is pleased to announce the Shakespeare in Prisons Conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame on Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16, 2013.

Featuring keynote addresses and film screenings by Curt Tofteland (founding director of Shakespeare Behind Bars) and Tom Magill (founder of the Educational Shakespeare Center and director of the Irish film Mickey B ), the conference aims to bring together artists and educators engaged in transformational arts programs using Shakespeare in prisons across the USA (and the world) for an exploration and study of the effects such programming has on prison populations. The goal is to promote a collaborative learning forum where participants will be exposed to a diverse array of programs that all strive for a common result: the habilitation of the inmate’s mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Departing from the traditional academic conference structure, the Shakespeare in Prisons conference will focus on the craft and experiences of the…

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Upcoming Webinar – Street Smart: Urban Fiction in Public Libraries

picI am so excited! Vanessa Irvin Morris will be presenting a Public Library Association webinar on Urban Fiction called Street Smart: Urban Fiction in Public Libraries! Register for the May 15, 2013 webinar here.

Participants will leave the webinar with the ability to:

*Understand the evolution of street lit as we know it today

*Articulate the difference between urban fiction and street lit

*Refer to established resources for the purpose of collection development and readers advisory

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During this 1 hour long webinar, Vanessa will be:

highlighting the popular literary genre, street lit, also known as urban fiction. Morris will not only explore the historical context for the genre as well as the characteristics and sub-genres, she’ll also provide concrete ideas for collection development, readers’ advisory and programming.

Vanessa is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Street Literature, which I highly recommend!

She also has a great website: www.streetliterature.com.

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Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, Vol. 5

Razor Wire Women

 

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Every year for the last five years students at the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) have volunteered to undertake the incredibly unwieldy task of soliciting, receiving, reviewing, and responding to creative writing submissions from hundreds of prisoners throughout the state of Michigan.  Every single person who submits writing receives personalized feedback on his or her work; PCAP sends no form rejection letters.  The result is a remarkable collection of writing called the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, published annually in conjunction with the PCAP Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners.  This year’s review is a particularly good one, and I highly recommend it to those of you might be looking for prisoner writing to teach in your courses next year and to those of you who just want something great to read.

To order this year’s review or one from a previous…

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National Conference on Higher Education in Prison – Collaboration Beyond Campus: Building Connections Between the Prison and Univesity

Nalini Nadkarni with Sustainability in Prisons Project at Evergreen State College

Nalini created a science lecture series and lab to produce sustainable operations, education, scientific research, and conservation. This includes organic gardens, bee keeping, water catching, composting, recycling, raising butterflies, prairie plant restoration, etc.

This program allows students to develop science skills, collaboration skills, and critical thinking.

She also took views of nature to supermax prisons by creating large installations.

Below is her TED Talk.

George Lombardi with Missouri Department of Corrections

George is the director of MDOC. Prison, he said, is like a small city and has the same operational needs. He reminded us that when bringing interns into the prison that every major has a role in the facility.

He also suggested that staff are offered the same opportunities, for he sees staff struggling with their own education or their children’s education.

George has observed that having colleges and educational programs in MDOC change the environment in a positive way.

He is an advocate for an dog training program to save dogs that face euthanization.  This program connects the city to the prison which makes the community see prisoners as something other than what is on tv. It also shows that the people in this program can give something back to the community. Many of the staff and community members later adopt the trained dogs. Participants in this program keep a journal of their experience that is then transferred to the adoptive parents to be able to know their dog better.

A unique aspect of George’s program policies is that all prisoners have access to programming. He believes that limiting programming based on the length of the sentence does not treat the person.

Jody Lewen with Prison University Project

Jody joins correctional officer organizations and goes to their conventions to incorporate their worldview into their program’s training to better describe officers and how to work well within the prison environment.

She stated that officers are often vilified and demonized by outside volunteers. We need to listen and hear their concerns; provide eye contact, be aware of your body language, say hello, and reach out to staff as individuals and their professional organizations. Have conversations about education in prison with them.

Sean Pica with Hudson Link for Higher Education, Inc. 

I wasn’t able to take notes during Sean’s presentation, but check out their program! You can also watch some videos about their work on their vimeo channel.

National Conference on Higher Education in Prison – Creating the Prison Classroom: From Policy to Practice

Below are my note from the session on Creating the Prison Classroom: From Policy to Practice. Some of my notes here are not as in depth, because this panel was so interesting to listen to! Take the time to check out their programs!

Brenda Dann-Messier, United States Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education

Brenda, being in a government, spoke to the audience as a government official, similar to a stump speech. While I could be more critical of what she had to offer, she did offer information about what the U.S. Education Department was doing for prison education. I would refer many people to check out their website and see what is available; especially the following:

Rebecca Ginsburg with Education Justice Project

Rebecca’s talk focused on creating a more humane learning environment in prison classrooms.

The biggest challenge we face in higher education in prisons is us; what we, outsiders going inside prisons, bring into our programs such as our attitudes and biases. Some of the ways to address these are to be aware of the following items:

  1. Micro-aggressions: These are subtle, demeaning insults against specific people that are verbal and often non-intentional. For example, if someone states “You are taking that too personally.”

  2. Cultural humility: This term is when one adopts a courious attitude with a humble approach to learn about others. This takes emphasis off of our own experiences. An example of lacking cultural humility is when you are speaking to a group of black men and you are telling them about what black men think.

No one works with a prison education program to hurt others feelings, but the question is: Can we come as we are? This is especially important if our privilege has never been challenged.

Suggestions to improve the learning environment is to create safe spaces where people can voice struggles and feelings, support difficult dialogues and the skills to talk about oppression, provide space to have such conversations, and build cultural humility.

Rob Scott with Productive Prison Landscapes Program of the Education Justice Project

Rob began his talk by introducing us to the higher education in prison list serve. He also made the clarification that though the conference had been using the term correctional center/institution we really mean prison, for our system is one that is clearly punishment focused and not one that has programs and services that really try to rehabilitate/correct those behind bars.

Rob introduced to many and encouraged to all the use of critical pedagogy in our work.

He also suggested that we reject and challenge sectarianism; Party A cannot liberate party B without party B’s involvement. We need to stop doing things to others but with others.

As we work together we need to reject positism. We can take a stance that it is not only recidivism that we focus on, because we also need to stress the importance of knowledge.

Keyes Stevens with Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project

Keyes project focuses on giving educational opportunities that giving educational opportunities that give students the insights to see that they are learners and that they can succeed in learning. See pictures from the project here (photos by Ann Hermes).

She stressed that we need to be just as compassionate to correctional staff as much as we are with our students.

With her program in Alabama, the DOC  as of a partner to her program as higher education institutions are to the point that they advocate for her program and have asked for it’s expansion.