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Robert Boos
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Media invited to forum on Understanding and Responding to Mass Incarceration, addressing Women in the System

The sixth 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 12, at the Saint Paul Campus, Founders Hall, 700 East 7thStreet. For those not in attendance, the event will also be live streamed at https://www.youtube.com/c/MetropolitanStateLive/live.

This year’s forum, with the theme Women in the System, examines the specific challenges faced by women and girls across the spectrum of mass incarceration, from the school-to-prison pipeline to the many post-incarceration barriers they face, and will include speakers who are advocates for incarcerated women, as well as those who work in some capacity to maintain or reform the criminal justice system. 

The forum will open with a welcome from Metropolitan State University President Virginia “Ginny” Arthur, who will introduce alumna and Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins to deliver a morning address. The morning keynote speaker is Stephanie Autumn, an advocate and policy leader for Native Americans and human rights, whose talk is titled, “Standing Strong Against the Wind: Reclaiming Our Relatives from the Prison Systems.” The keynote will be followed by morning breakout session sessions to cover specific areas of mass incarceration and the role racism, and felony disenfranchisement in perpetuating it, and connect participants to leaders and networks that are acting to create lasting change.

Lunch speaker Amanda K. Weber, of the Shakopee Women’s Prison Voices of Hope choir, will talk about the work of Voices of Hope and lead a performance. Afternoon breakout sessions will focus on solutions to the injustices of mass incarceration, racism, oppression of women, girls and transpeople and felony disenfranchisement. These sessions include time to discuss current activism, future organizing and commitment to action.

In addition, there will be a pre-conference event with the screening and discussion of the award-winning documentary, MILWAUKEE 53206, which chronicles the lives of those affected by incarceration in America's most incarcerated ZIP code. The screening will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 11 at the Auditorium at Metropolitan State, 700 7thStreet E., Saint Paul. This event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a discussion facilitated by Dr. Raj Sethuraju. The film trailer can be viewed at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHbqGWnNGA8

In previous years, the Understanding and Responding to Mass Incarceration forumhas 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) or Therissa Libby (therissa.libby@metrostate.edu, 651-793-1501).

Metropolitan State University, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, is the Twin Cities’ public, urban, comprehensive state university providing lifelong learning, and competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.