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Getting to the heart of justice and transformation

ASU Prison Education Conference to foster conversation on role of education in prison reform

Razor wire heart / Photo by Corri Wells

Photo by Corri Wells

January 30, 2017

The sixth annual ASU Prison Education Conference will bring together a broad coalition of experts and community members to discuss criminal justice and the transformative power of education. Organized by Arizona State University's Prison Education Awareness Club and sponsored by the Department of English and the School of Social Transformation, the conference is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in the Turquoise Room of the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Two keynote speakers will headline the event: Judge Lilia Alvarez, former Guadalupe Municipal Court presiding judge and founder of the Guadalupe Teen Court, and Gigi Blanchard, a “delinquent-turned-activist,” writer and juvenile justice advocate.

Other conference sessions feature two Arizona Department of Corrections educators and a panel of ASU volunteer prison teachers who will share their perspectives on the challenges and triumphs of prison education initiatives. A discussion on re-entry programs is to be led by Kristin Eidenbach, founder of the Arizona Transformative Law and Social Justice Center.

As stated in its charter, ASU prides itself on innovation and accessibility and measures its impact “not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed.” The university’s annual Prison Education Conference explores and celebrates the value of educational inclusivity.

“The conference is a great opportunity to learn about what the ASU community is doing to promote education in all populations,” said Brigitte Nicoletti, ASU history major and president of the Prison Education Awareness Club. Nicoletti teaches a weekly class in law and community at the Florence State Prison.

Beyond this annual conference, the Department of English sponsors the Prison Education Programming (PEP) initiative, which stems from “the belief that education is a right that inheres within our humanity.”

PEP coordinates the Pen Project, a class that gives students the opportunity to remotely edit writing submitted by inmates in New Mexico and Arizona prisons. PEP also organizes a cohort of volunteer teachers from ASU that instruct courses in subjects from Chinese to biology in the Florence and Eyman state prisons in Arizona.

In addition, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program gives ASU students the opportunity to enroll side-by-side with incarcerated students in a course taught within the Florence prison. ASU associate professor Kevin Wright, who helps direct the program, will speak at the conference.

The Prison Education Conference is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested. To register, visit

The Department of English and the School of Social Transformation are academic units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

Written by Mia Armstrong

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