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Media invited to forum on Understanding and Responding to Mass Incarceration, addressing Removing Barriers to Education

April 3, 2018

Saint Paul, Minn.—The fifth forum on Understanding and Responding to Mass Incarceration will feature discussions on providing and facilitating opportunities for education to those who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. This annual forum, hosted by Metropolitan State University, explores the phenomenon of mass incarceration, and provides opportunities for organizing, activism and advocacy with regards to the criminal justice system.

Metropolitan State invites and encourages media to attend this event, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, April 13, at the Saint Paul Campus, New Main, 700 East 7th Street. For those not in attendance, the event will also be live streamed and can be viewed by visiting https://www.facebook.com/URMIatMetroState/ and clicking the appropriate link.

This year’s forum, with the theme Removing Barriers to Education, will include panelists who are formerly incarcerated individuals, as well as those who work in some capacity to maintain or reform the criminal justice system. Breakout sessions will cover specific areas of mass incarceration and connect participants to leaders and networks taking action to create lasting change.

The forum will open with a welcome from Metropolitan State University Provost Amy Gort, who will introduce Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III to deliver a morning address. The morning keynote speaker is Dr. James Burnett, a self-described “convict criminologist” and author of “Hood II Hood: Helping Prisoners Transition to Freedom.” Burnett is one of a small, tightly-knit group of ex-convict professors who are shaking up the criminal justice field by challenging some of the academic establishment's assumptions about prisons and inmates. At a time when researchers have great difficulty getting access to prisons, Burnett used his time in prison for close interaction, gaining trust with prisoners and conducting ethnography, which served as a foundation for his book.

Lunch speakers are Luis Brown-Peña and Lolita Davis Carter. Brown-Peña administers the Global Career Development Facilitator Special Projects Unit for the Department of Employment and Economic Development and has more than 20 years of experience assessing ex-offenders’ skills and interests for career development and placement services. Davis Carter facilitates pre-release employment classroom sessions and workshops for job seekers who must address a criminal and corrections background. She was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Advisory Group and serves on the Minnesota Corrections Association Board on the Juvenile Justice Committee.

In previous years, this forum has addressed numerous topics surrounding the effects of incarceration, such as trauma and mental health, access to prevention, intervention and re-entry services, racism and implicit bias in the judicial/corrections systems, sentencing guidelines, youth incarceration, and the restoration of civil rights for those who have completed their sentences.

The annual forum began in response to practicum students from Alcohol and Drug Counseling and Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice majors reading of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Metropolitan State University hosted its inaugural Understanding and Responding to Mass Incarceration forum on April 17, 2014. The discussion between students, educators, legislators, lobbyists, corrections officials, law enforcement, and community activists has grown from its inaugural attendance of 80 to an expected attendance of more than 300 this year. For more information, contact Raj Sethuraju (raj.sethuraju@metrostate.edu, 763-657-3750), Therissa Libby (therissa.libby@metrostate.edu) or Clyde Thrower (clyde.thrower@metrostate.edu).