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Education Across the Prison Walls: Education for Everyone, Everywhere

November 17, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

  • Recent successful campaigns like “Ban the Box” (removing the “felony” box on student applications) have suggested that Higher Education could be more accessible to formerly incarcerated students. Yet access to funding, navigating technology, finding student housing or confronting new classroom dynamics in the free world is not something prison prepares students for. What can colleges and universities be doing to support students once released? What can students and educators advocate for to make our campuses a supportive space for all students, everywhere? Moderated by Sarah Ross

Join us in conversation with:

Rev. Courtney Carson is Executive Director of External Affairs for Richland Community College and co-creator of EnRich, the award-winning trauma-sensitive workforce training. An ordained Minister at Antioch M.B. Church, Rev. Carson draws on personal experience and expertise to develop strong community relationships that promote dialogue, healing, and connection.

Gregg Gaither is the co-founder and executive director of the Woodlawn Re-Entry Project Chicago (WRPC), a community-based non-profit established in 2013 in response to education reentry needs of youth and adult populations entering and exiting detention and corrections systems. After beginning a brief career as a corrections officer, Gregg later worked as a Chicago Public School social worker, developing transition programs re-engaging student enrollees re-entering local public schools from Cook County Juvenile Detention & Cook County Dept of Corrections facilities.

James Kilgore is a formerly incarcerated activist and researcher who is the Director of Advocacy and Outreach for FirstFollowers Reentry Program in Champaign and the Director of the Challenging E-carceration Project at Media Justice. He has written widely on issues of mass incarceration, including the award winning Understanding Mass Incarceration and Understanding E-Carceration which will be published by the  New Press in January 2022.

Pablo Mendoza is a proud father, community organizer and aspiring researcher. He has served 22 years in the IL Department of Corrections where he managed to educate himself despite the endless challenges to access higher education in prison. The pinnacle of his academic career was with the University of Illinois’s Education Justice Project (EJP) where he presented the concept of critical pedagogy and provided a platform with which to exercise his agency and advocate for change. Since his release he worked with Parole Illinois as a Lead Organizer and Prison + Neighborhood Art/Education Project. Pablo volunteers with EJP as an advisor on the Reentry Guide Initiative; he is a steering committee member for the Freedom to Learn Campaign and works with Illinois Reentry Alliance for Justice. He is currently a student at Northeastern Illinois University.

Colette Payne is the Director, Reclamation Project, Women’s Justice Institute. She is an organizer, leader, student, mother, and grandmother. Her passion is to educate families to build healthier communities. Colette has been the Coordinator of the Visible Voices program for CLAIM (Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers), a Program of Cabrini Green Legal Aid. Currently, she serves as the Director of the Reclamation Project for the Women’s Justice Institute. In her role, she helps engage women directly impacted by the criminal legal system to become agents of change and to create solutions to end the incarceration of women and girls. In 2015, Colette joined the delegation to assess women’s prisons in Illinois, becoming the first formerly incarcerated woman to serve in this role in the entire United States.


November 17, 2021
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
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