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Conference to focus on prison education awareness

U.S. prison statistics graphic
March 20, 2015

When one thinks about a traditional classroom, he or she might envision rows of desks, chalkboards or computers, maybe windows overlooking a school campus.

Arizona State University’s Prison Education Awareness Club invites the public to learn about a different type of classroom – one enclosed by walls, fences and prison bars.

On March 27, the club hosts the 4th Annual Prison Education Conference, where attendees will explore educational programming in U.S. prisons. The conference will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Memorial Union Turquoise Room on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Kyes Stevens, founder of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, will present the keynote address, “Building a Line, Drawing a Poem: APAEP.”

Stevens’ project has brought literature and art classes to prisons throughout Alabama, offering inmates a creative outlet. The project and similar programs not only encourage those incarcerated toward a more productive use of their time, but also nurture self-confidence and self-worth.

Studies show that education is key to preventing recidivism, or re-offending.

In addition to Stevens’ presentation, the conference will feature remarks by a representative from the Rio Salado Incarcerated Re-Entry Program. The program helps inmates develop personal and employment skills to re-enter society.

Also on the docket is a panel of educational staff from the Arizona Department of Corrections, who will shed light on the complexities of education in correctional facilities. Later, an ASU panel will focus its presentation on volunteer teaching in prisons.

The conference will end with a second keynote address by Judith Tannenbaum, a teaching poet and artist whose work highlights prisoners and prison issues. Tannenbaum’s memoir, “Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin,” has been described as “one of the more remarkable works ... about [the] American prison experience.”

The conference is free and open to the public, and a complimentary lunch will be provided. RSVP is required. In addition to the Prison Education Awareness Club, other sponsors include ASU’s Department of English and School of Social Transformation, which are academic units of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also a sponsor.

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Written by Aneka Otte

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