Middlebury

Middlebury College student group hosts weekend workshop on race, class and the death penalty Nov. 16-19

November 7, 2006

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Beginning Thursday, Nov. 16, and continuing through Sunday, Nov. 19, a Middlebury College student group, Incarceration in Question, will host "Double Standards of Justice: A Weekend Workshop on Race, Class and the Death Penalty." All events are free and open to the public.

According to student organizers, the weekend workshop is designed to engage participants in thoughtful discussions about race, class, the death penalty and the United States justice system. Student organizer Liz Lyon said, "When I first set foot in the San Francisco county jail, I lost the ability to deny the reality of our racist and anti-poor criminal justice system. Non-white and working class Americans are disproportionately jailed, often for nonviolent crimes. Moreover, incarceration has become a cure-all for a variety of societal ills - poverty, lack of access to education, race-based marginalization, unemployment, substance abuse, mental illness and more. The prison industry turns these people into dollar signs that call for more prisons, more police and more profits."

The workshop begins with a film screening on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 220 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall off College Street (Route 125). The film, "The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison, USA," is an award-winning documentary that New York Times film critic Janet Maslin said "conveys the humanity of prisoners lost in an unyielding system." The film follows the lives of six inmates at Louisiana's State Penitentiary in Angola. According to Lyon, the prison location was a former slave plantation named for the African country from which many of its slaves were kidnapped.

On Friday, Nov. 17, at 12:15 p.m. in the Château Grand Salon north of College Street, Ryan King, a policy analyst with The Sentencing Project will give a lecture titled "A Structural View of Race in the Criminal Justice System." According to King, "The modern criminal justice system operations are very different than the days of Bull Connor and the Jim Crow South. The current manner in which race factors in the outcomes is more difficult to identify and prevent." His lecture will explore the development and practice of institutionalized racism and investigate how the 'tough on crime' era beginning in the 1970s has exacerbated racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Later that day, at 4:30 p.m., in the Château Grand Salon, Darby Tillis will deliver the workshop's keynote address, titled "From Death to Life: The Horrors of Death Row." Tillis spent more than nine years on death row for a crime he did not commit. He was the first man to be exonerated from Illinois' death row on Dec. 21, 1987. He will share his experiences with what he calls "the criminal injustice system." Tillis is a minister who works among the needy and oppressed, as well as ex-offenders. A talented musician and playwright, he is also a spokesperson for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

At 8 p.m. in Palana House in Carr Hall, located on College Street, student organizers will host an art show and silent auction to raise funds for the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement. All artwork has been donated by men and women who are currently on death row.

Saturday, Nov. 18, will begin with a panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. in the Château Grand Salon. The discussion is titled "When Justice isn't Blind to Race and Class" and panelists include Tillis, Gloria Rubac and Njeri Shakur of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, and Middlebury College student organizer Jen Williams.

At 12:15 p.m. in Palana House, the Prison Moratorium Project will facilitate a workshop titled "Prison-Industrial Complex 101." Participants will look at the prison-industrial complex and the privatization of the prison industry from both macro and micro perspectives. They will learn about the impact of the prison-industrial complex on inner-city and minority communities and the profit motivation behind the continuing expansion of the industry.

Also in Palana House, at 2:30 p.m., Rubac and Shakur will facilitate a workshop titled "The Legacy of Slavery: Executions," which will focus on the history of the death penalty and why it became such an integral part of life in the antebellum South.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, the workshop will continue with a discussion at 11:30 a.m. titled "Don't Mess with Texas: Plantation-Style Justice in the Lone Star State." Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement activists, including Joyce Guidry, mother of Howard Guidry, a man held unjustly on death row in Texas for more than a decade, will lead the discussion. Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in the United States, the state of Texas has executed almost 400 people, accounting for one-third of the nation's executions. The vast majority of those executed were unable to afford private legal counsel.

At 1:30 p.m., the Prison Moratorium Project will facilitate a workshop titled "A World Without." Participants will be encouraged to think critically about the functions of prisons and policing of communities in our society. Knowing that mass incarceration is a fairly modern phenomenon, participants will discuss alternatives to more prisons and more police in our communities.

To conclude the workshop, all are invited to a candlelight vigil on the Mead Chapel steps at 8 p.m. in solidarity with the men and women unjustly held behind bars throughout the world. According to Lyon, "We will take to heart the words of Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal artist and activist, who once said, 'If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.'"

For more information, contact Liz Lyon at 802-443-6674 or elyon@middlebury.edu.

To follow is a schedule of events:

"Double Standards of Justice: A Weekend Workshop on Race, Class and the Death Penalty" Nov. 16-19

Thursday, Nov. 16
7:30 p.m.
Film screening of "The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison, USA"
Winner of the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury prize and the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Documentary of 1998, "The Farm" follows the lives of six inmates in Louisiana's infamous Angola Prison.
Room 220, McCardell Bicentennial Hall on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)

Friday, Nov. 17
12:15 p.m.

Discussion: A Structural View of Race in the Criminal Justice System
This discussion will explore the development and practice of institutionalized racism and investigate how the "tough on crime" era beginning in the 1970s has exacerbated racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Château Grand Salon, located north of College Street (Route 125)

4:30 p.m.
Keynote address: "From Death to Life: The Horrors of Death Row"


Darby Tillis
Tillis spent more than nine years on death row for a crime he did not commit. He was the first man to be exonerated from Illinois' death row on Dec. 21, 1987, and will share his experiences with the criminal system.
Château Grand Salon, located north of College Street (Route 125)

8 p.m.
Art Show/Silent Auction

Proceeds to be donated to The Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.
Palana House, located in Carr Hall on College Street (Route 125)

Saturday, Nov. 18
10:30 a.m.
Panel Discussion: "When Justice Isn't Blind to Race and Class"
 
Panelists: Darby Tillis, Gloria Rubac, Njeri Shakur and Jen Williams. Moderated by Middlebury College student organizer Liz Lyon.
Château Grand Salon, located north of College Street (Route 125)

12:15 p.m.
Workshop: "Prison-Industrial Complex 101"


Facilitated by Prison Moratorium Project
Putting the pieces together, participants will see a bigger picture of the prison-industrial complex (PIC), how it affects them and their communities, and how they can help to dismantle it.
Palana House, located in Carr Hall on College Street (Route 125)

2:30 p.m.
Workshop: "The Legacy of Slavery: Executions"

Facilitated by Gloria Rubac and Njeri Shakur of Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
Participants will discuss the history of the death penalty, why it became such an integral part of life in the South, and how people can take action against it.
Palana House, located in Carr Hall on College Street (Route 125)

Sunday, Nov. 19
11:30 a.m.


Discussion: "Don't Mess With Texas: Plantation-Style Justice in the Lone Star State"

Activists from the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
A discussion with Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement activists, including Joyce Guidry, mother of Howard Guidry, who is being held unjustly on death row in Texas.
Palana House, located in Carr Hall on College Street (Route 125)

1:30 p.m.
Workshop: "A World Without"


Facilitated by the Prison Moratorium Project
Participants in this workshop will be asked to think and step outside the box as they are led through an exercise that envisions a world without prisons or police.
Palana House, located in Carr Hall on College Street (Route 125)

8 p.m.
Candlelight Vigil
In solidarity for the men and women unjustly imprisoned worldwide.
Mead Chapel
 
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact symposium organizer Liz Lyon at 802-443-6674 or elyon@middlebury.edu.