Justice Education Week at Penn State offers wide variety of events April 19-24

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Justice Education Week will be celebrated virtually April 19-24 at Penn State, with the aim of bringing awareness to the human impact of incarceration as well as build support for transformative educational movements in carceral settings.

Justice Education Week will be celebrated virtually April 19-24, 2021, at Penn State. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

The Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI) is a group of Penn State students, faculty, staff and community stakeholders committed to empowering and supporting system-impacted, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals through education and meaningful engagement in civic life, according to Efraín Marimon, assistant professor of education and director of the Restorative Justice Initiative as well as the Social Justice Fellowship. 

“We believe in the power of trauma-informed practice, liberatory pedagogy and transformative education, and are dedicated to leveraging Penn State’s size, scope, reach and resources to help make education accessible to all sectors of society,” Marimon said. 

“Much of our emphasis for this week will be on the need to remove structural barriers to education while preserving the human dignity of those impacted by the carceral state," added Marimon. "We hope that Justice Education Week will create awareness in our communities of the issues surrounding incarceration and the power of education.”

Divine Lipscomb, president of the Student Restorative Justice Initiative, said Justice Education Week is an effective way to demonstrate Penn State's influence and how the University can transform access to education and the impacts of the criminal justice system. “Education is not always formal, but our experiences can be either oppressive or liberating,” Lipscomb said.

A week of multiple presentations begins at 6 p.m. Monday, April 19, with keynote speaker Angela Davis, a civil rights leader, education and abolitionist activist who is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A noted author of a number of books on race, class, feminism and the United States prison system, Davis will examine carcerality, its history and relationship to systemic oppression, and the role abolitionist, liberatory pedagogy can play for educators.

She will speak from 6 to 7 p.m. and from 7 to 7:30 p.m. organizers will share ways in which people can get involved on and off campus in carceral reform and education. To register, click here.

The April 20 presentation is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and is titled “Unlocking Higher Education for Justice-Involved College Students: The Role of Student Affairs Professionals.”

Penn State assistant professor of education Royel Johnson said he believes that student affairs professionals can play significant roles in ensuring the success of justice-involved students, given their historic commitment to the holistic development of college students through programs, services and resources. Additionally, that can supplement the students’ curricular experiences, enhance learning and facilitate inclusive and equitable campus environments. To register, click here.

A film by Lynn Novick, “College Behind Bars,” will be shown from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 20 as well. A post-film discussion with Bard Prison Initiative alumni Tamika Graham, Salih Israil and Giovanni Hernandez will be conducted afterward.

Justice Education Week continues from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, with an Expungement Talk presented by the Centre County Bar Association and MidPenn Legal Services. It is designed to help participants learn whether their criminal charges may be eligible for expungement or sealing; access to forms and advice for filing expungement petitions will be offered.

This is not a live session, organizers explained, but a form for possible follow-up consultation will be provided. To register, click here.

“Abolitionism is More than a Metaphor” will be the April 22 presentation from 6 to 7 p.m. Penn State Professor of Philosophy Eduardo Mendieta will discuss keynote speaker Angela Davis’ work on prison abolition and what it entails beyond the use of the term “abolition.” Prison abolition is partly the fulfillment of the democracy promised by the abolition of slavery. To register, click here.

The April 23 topic, from 3 to 3:30 p.m., is “Social Disciplining and the Disorientations of Reentry.” Cal State Bakersfield professor Tiffany Tsantsloulas, a former Restorative Justice Initiative volunteer, will discuss the disorientations of reentry into mainstream society for all parties involved. To register, click here.

Also on April 23, a “Reentry Simulation” will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. This interactive session, organized by the Student Restorative Justice Initiative and the Restorative Justice Initiative, will ask participants to assume identities of individuals reentering society after incarceration, and to participate in activities designed to simulate the first month of an individual’s release. Participants will complete various tasks to avoid re-incarceration. To register, click here.

The week concludes April 24 and 25 with “Restorative Circles Training” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

The Student Restorative Justice Initiative is organizing a two-day training on restorative practices. Open to at least 24 members of the Penn State student, staff and faculty community from any Commonwealth Campus, the initiative will train participants to hold restorative circles and view conflict from a harm-reduction model. To register, click here.

For a complete list of community events involving Justice Education Week around Centre County and Penn State each day, click here.

The weeklong variety of offerings are presented by the College of Education, the Restorative Justice Initiative and various colleges, departments and offices within the University. They include: College of EducationOffice of Educational EquityCollege of the Liberal ArtsHistory DepartmentLatina/o StudiesRock Ethics InstituteAfrican American StudiesDepartment of Communication Arts and SciencesWomen's, Gender, and Sexuality StudiesGeorge and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center, and the Student Restorative Justice Initiative.

Last Updated June 02, 2021