Friday, April 12

3:00 Pm, Registration, McCosh 10

4:30 PM, Opening Keynote, Mccosh 10

Opening keynote by Michelle Jones, a doctoral candidate in American Studies at New York University.

6:15 PM, Dinner, Campus Club

7:30 PM Documentary screening, Mccosh 10

A Screening of Free Men (2018), a documentary by activist and current Death Row incarceree of 25 years Kenneth Reams, followed by a call with Mr. Reams and a debrief featuring his wife, Isabelle Ize Reams.

Saturday, April 13

8:00 AM, Registration, Mccosh 50 (coffee & bagels provided)

8:30 am, Opening plenary, Mccosh 50

Race, Crime, and Punishment: Ten Things Everyone Should Know about Mass Incarceration and Criminal Justice Reform, by Dr. Marie Gottschalk

9:45 AM, panel, mccosh 50

Abolitionist Organizing and Violent Crime

Kelly M. Hayes, Lena Carla Palacios, Donna Hylton, moderated by Dr. Ruha Benjamin

"But what about violent crime?" This question is commonly raised as an objection to calls for radical reform, posed as a trump card to the idea that we could massively decrease prison populations and drastically reduce or eliminate criminalizing systems. Gathering leading organizers and experts on the prison abolition movement, this panel addresses this question head-on, offering an alternative framework for how to think about violence and the carceral state, and the importance of an inclusive and transformative justice movement.

11:15 AM, Panel, Mccosh 50

Gender-Based Violence and Anti-Carceral Feminism

Andrea Ritchie, Victoria Law, Ann Russo, moderated by Dr. Naomi Murakawa

Sexual assault and gender-based violence are serious sites of violence, enabled by a society characterized by toxic masculinity and heteronormativity. In response to sexual and gender-based harm, many feel that they have no choice but to turn to punishment system. This tendency to rely on systems of prisons and policing for safety from sexual violence has been called "carceral feminism," and has come under scrutiny from anti-carceral feminists and organizers. This panel asks some of the hardest questions of the conference: how can we avoid turning to a violent system to curb sexual violence? How do we take this gender-based violence seriously without expanding criminalization? How can we fight against both gendered violence and mass criminalization at the same time? Bringing together the voices of scholars and activists, this panel will begin to answer these questions.

12:45 PM, lunch, east pyne

1:45 PM, workshops, east pyne classrooms

  • Workshops facilitated by on-the-ground activists and advocates on transformative responses to violence and anti-prison organizing.

  • Workshops led by student organizers on how to start SPEAR on your campus, and toolkits for organizing concrete campaigns.

3:15 PM, Panel, Mccosh 50

Redefining Violence: The Chicago Torture Cases and the State as the Source of Violence

Cindy Eigler, Gregory Banks, Timothy Chau Rose, moderated by Dr. Laurence Ralph

How can we conceptualize violence beyond individual physical acts? This panel looks at how systems of criminalization are themselves violent, focusing on one of the most controversial cases in Chicago's civil rights history: the Jon Burge Cases. A former Chicago Police Chief, Jon Burge oversaw the torture and forced confessions of hundreds of men falsely accused of committing egregious crimes. These cases eventually spawned the first nationwide example of city-sponsored reparations, prompted by young organizers of color, and culminated in the establishment of the Chicago Torture Justice Center. Bringing together the Director of this Center, a survivor of torture, and a prominent Chicago activist, this panel explores the police-initiated violence that seeps into the fabric of communities and shifts our understanding of violence toward the structural.

4:45 PM, closing plenary, mccosh 50

Closing plenary by scholar activist James Kilgore on the spread of the carceral state and systemic violence:

Narrow reformist agendas focus on creating a false dichotomy between those convicted of "violent crimes" (read: "we are afraid of them," they are dangerous and non-deserving) and "non-violent crimes”: (read: "we are mad at them", they pose no threat and are deserving). This false division leaves us without even a numerical possibility for dismantling mass incarceration. More importantly, this approach leads us away from focusing on the most pernicious form of violence-the structural violence of poverty, inequality, racism, gender oppression, militarism and imperialism. Our imperative is to grow a movement that builds power by embracing and acting upon issues of structural violence through drawing on notions of restorative and transformative justice, international histories of reconciliation and reparations, and radical and revolutionary ideology. 

6:00 PM, Networking Mocktail hour, campus club

Networking opportunities for organizers and academics to share work, strategies, and expand the movement.

6:45 PM, Dinner, Campus Club


In progress! Check back for more info!

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Michelle Jones is a second-year doctoral student in the American Studies program New York University. She is interested in excavating the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for people and families directly impacted by mass incarceration, in addition to participating in a scholarly project challenging the narratives of the history of women’s prison with a group of incarcerated scholars. Even while incarcerated, Michelle published and presented her research findings to dispel notions of about the reach and intellectual capacity of justice-involved women. Michelle’s advocacy extends beyond the classroom through collaborations and opportunities to speak truth to power. She is chairwoman of the board of Constructing Our Future, a reentry alterative for women created by incarcerated women in Indiana and a 2017-18 Beyond the Bars fellow, a 2017-18 Research Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and a 2018-19 Ford Foundation Bearing Witness Fellow with Art for Justice. Michelle is currently under contract with The New Press to publish the history of Indiana’s carceral institutions for women with fellow incarcerated and formerly incarcerated scholars. As an artist, further, Michelle is interested in finding ways to funnel her research pursuits into theater and dance. Her original co-authored play, “The Duchess of Stringtown,” was produced in December 2017 in Indianapolis and New York City.

Kenny Reams is an artist, activist, and the founder of Who Decides, Inc., a non-profit that aims to raise awareness through the arts of the racial, ethical, and socio-economic issues intertwined with the history and practice of capital punishment in America. Mr. Reams is a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one of the most impoverished cities in America. Growing up in poverty, struggling with hunger, abuse, and a lack of opportunity, criminality became an increasingly prominent, unfortunate facet of Mr. Reams’ life. Following a botched robbery at a drive-thru ATM, where his friend shot and killed a man in the heat of the struggle, Mr. Reams was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, becoming the then-youngest inmate on Arkansas’ death row, despite not having pulled the trigger. Facing execution for a murder he did not commit, Mr. Reams refused to allow his spirit to be broken, deciding to hone his life-long artistic skills and vision in order to share his story and perspective with the world. His art has been featured in exhibits from New York to Norway, Little Rock to London, and many locations in between. Through a variety of media, including paintings, sculpture, and poetry, Mr. Reams expresses a uniquely visceral vision of the inhumane, arbitrary nature of capital punishment and the exploitative character of the prison-industrial complex.

Simultaneous with his rise in profile as an artist, Mr. Reams has become a prolific public speaker, engaging and enlightening an increasingly global audience. His past speaking engagements include talks at the International Film Festival on Human Rights in Switzerland, Bethany College, Princeton University, Columbia University, UNC Chapel Hill, St. Francis College in New York, and the University of Miami School of Law. With the release of Free Men, a documentary about Mr. Reams’ life, legal battles, and art, his story has taken on a new dimension and medium. As the film has made its way through the circuit of international film festivals, Mr. Reams has shared his thoughts about the film and the future with enraptured audiences in Beirut, France, Islamabad, Tokyo, Belgium, and Vienna. Despite the physical limitations facing Mr. Reams, having spent the past twenty-five years of his life in the solitary confines of a six-foot by nine-foot cell, Mr. Reams continues to make a lasting impact on all who hear his harrowing yet inspiring story, prompting a widening audience to evaluate their own conceptions of justice and morality.

Marie Gottschalk is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a leading expert on the carceral state and served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration. Her work has been widely cited in the media and elsewhere, including Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's landmark dissent in Utah v. Strieff. Her latest book is Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics, which won the 2016 Michael Harrington award from the American Political Science Association and the 2018 Michael J. Hindelang Award from the American Society of Criminology.

Kelly M. Hayes is Truthout’s social media manager, as well as a contributing writer. She is also a direct action trainer and a co-founder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. Kelly’s contribution to Truthout’s anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States. Her work can also be found on her blog, Transformative Spaces, in YES! MagazineBGD and the BGD anthology The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail At Showing Up For Each Other In the Fight For Freedom. Kelly is also a movement photographer whose work is featured in the “Freedom and Resistance” exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History.

Donna Hylton has been deeply involved in movements for social justice across the country. She draws upon her experience imprisoned in a women’s correctional pfacility for 27 years, with some of that time spent in solitary confinement. Now released, Donna emphasizes the importance of building communities through economic, racial, and gender justice. Donna courages systems to recognize how the trauma of sexual violence and abuse are often root causes that result in victimization and that 90% of women who have been abused are being incarcerated, especially women of color. Donna is a founding member of From Life to Life, a national initiative dedicated to dismantling the prison industrial complex. Donna is also a key member of the Correctional Association’s “Violence Against Women Committee on the Inside.” During her incarceration, Donna earned an Associate of Science degree, a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavior Sciences with a concentration in social psychology, and a Master’s of Arts degree in English Literature from Mercy College. Donna is the Senior Justice Fellow for the Women and Girls Project at Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. She is also the author of her memoir “A Little Piece of Light,” published by Hachette Books in June 2018.

Lena Carla Palacios Lena Palacios is a self-identified Chicana queer femme crip, prison abolitionist, and sexual assault survivor born in Coast Salish Territory (Vancouver, BC) but raised in Ohlone lands (San Francisco and Oakland). She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Her research and teaching focus on prison abolitionism, critical prison studies, Indigenous, Black, Chicana/Latina queer, and trans feminisms, girls’ and girlhood studies, transformative justice and community accountability, media justice, and youth-led participatory action research. Lastly, Lena is a cat mama to two avowed anarchist and abolitionist kittens name "Sonny" and "Sher".

Andrea Ritchie is a Black lesbian immigrant and police misconduct attorney and organizer who has engaged in extensive research, writing, and advocacy around criminalization of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color over the past two decades. She recently published Invisible No More: PoliceViolence Against Black Women and Women of Color. Ritchie is a nationally recognized expert and sought after commentator on policing issues. She has testified before the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Prison Rape Elimination Commission, and several United Nations Treaty Bodies. She has appeared regularly in the New York Times, as well as on MSNBC, C-Span, NBC Nightly News, NPR, Al-Jazeera, and Mother Jones. Her blogs and opinion pieces have been published in The New York Times, The Root, Colorlines, Rewire, Cassius Life, Portside, Praxis, Bilerico and TruthOUT. Ritchie is currently Researcher-in-Residence on Race, Gender, Sexuality and Criminalization at the Social Justice Institute of the Barnard Center for Research on Women. In 2014 she was awarded a Senior Soros Justice Fellowship to engage in documentation and advocacy around profiling and policing of women of color – trans and not trans, queer and not queer.

Victoria Law is an author and freelance journalist focusing on the intersections of incarceration, gender and resistance. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women and the co-editor of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities. Her upcoming book, Your Home is Your Prison, examines the ways in which popularly proposed alternatives to incarceration actually bring the prison into our homes, communities and daily lives. Her writings about prisons and other forms of confinement have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Village Voice, In These Times, Rewire News and Truthout. She is a co-founder of Books Through Bars—NYC and the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison. Now that her daughter has graduated from high school and left home to attend college, Victoria is working on a new book to dispel popularly-held myths about mass incarceration.

Ann Russo is an Associate Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies and Director of the Women’s Center at DePaul University. Her life’s work focuses on queer, antiracist, and feminist movement building. Specifically, she actively engages transformative justice theories and practices that cultivate communal healing, intervention, accountability, and transformation in response to systemic intimate, interpersonal and state violence.  She is the author of Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power (2018) that explores that praxis of transformative justice, prison abolition, and community accountability. She is also the author of Taking Back Our Lives: A Call to Action in the Feminist Movement (2001) and co-editor of Talking Back and Acting Out (2002) and Third World Women and Feminist Perspectives (1990).

Cindy Eigler is a Co-Executive Director at the Center, nationally recognized for her role in building local movements to end mass criminalization and improve the daily lives of individuals targeted by the criminal justice system. She organizes from the principle that the communities most affected by criminalization should lead the movement for change. Her leadership has produced bold, brave, and visionary efforts to rethink justice and center the inherent dignity of every person. Through her work with Generative Somatics, Cindy recognizes the many impacts of individual and systemic trauma and believes that centering peoples’ healing and transformation are integral for our movements to succeed. Cindy has organized in Boston, Chicago, New York, Texas and the United Kingdom and has focused both at the state and national level. She holds a graduate degree in Social Work and Community Organizing from the University of Chicago.

Timothy Chau Rose is a community organizer mobilizing around issues of policing and prisons in Chicago. He is an organizer with the People's Response Team (PRT), a grassroots community organization dedicated to rapidly responding to instances of police violence and offering trainings to build communities and lessen our dependence on the state for daily needs. He is a co-founder of the "Alternatives to Calling the Police During Mental Health Crises" collective. Timmy is a Project Organizer for the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), a collective of artists, lawyers, activists, and survivors who led the campaign for Reparations for Burge Torture Survivors in Chicago. He is also the Program Coordinator for the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP), a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists to men at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops, and guest lectures.

Gregory Banks is an activist with the Chicago Torture Justice Center. He experienced abuse and torture at Chicago area 2 police station in 1983 and spent 21 years in Illinois Department of Corrections due to being tortured and coerced into a false confession. Gregory is a retired drug and alcohol counselor and avid reader. He spends his time going out into the community and educating Chicago Public School students on the topics of police violence and reparations. He also serves on the Survivor and Family Advisory Council at the Chicago Torture Justice Center.

James Kilgore is an activist, writer and researcher based in Urbana, Illinois. He is the director of the Challenging E-Carceration project which focuses on developing critical responses to electronic monitoring and other carceral technologies. He is also the Co-Director of FirstFollowers Reentry Program. During his six and a half years in prison, he drafted four novels which have been published since his release in 2009. In addition, he authored Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, which won a National Book Foundation Social Justice Award in 2018. He is an anarchist-leaning Marxist/feminist abolitionist. Follow him on Twitter: @waazn1.

An Oakland native, Ashlee George’s hometown culture and legacy of social justice instilled in her a deep commitment to justice with an emphasis on healing. As the Associate Director of Impact Justice’s Restorative Justice Project, she leads the implementation of pre-charge restorative justice diversion programs across the nation. She is a thought leader in restorative justice pedagogy and practices and lent her expertise to pilot one of the first school-based restorative justice programs in Oakland, as well as one of the first survivor-oriented restorative justice diversion programs outside of California. Before joining Impact Justice, she spent 13 years facilitating restorative justice dialogues between youth who caused harm and the people impacted to create spaces of transformation and healing through accountability. She also served as a volunteer Healthcare Medic at the Berkeley Free Clinic for over four years, offering a safe space and support for people navigating the complicated healthcare system. These experiences transformed Ashlee, learning that punitive and dehumanizing approaches to addressing harm can be replaced with bringing people, communities, and institutions together in deep and healing relationships with one another. Ashlee holds a B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She is on the Advisory Council of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice and is a Board Member of OneLife Institute for Spirituality & Social Transformation. In her spare time, Ashlee embodies wellness practices as a professional dancer and dance instructor, and was San Francisco Queen of Carnival in 2012. Dance allows her to connect with her most inner and sacred self, providing her own internal medicine. She strives for others to find the same within themselves. Her philosophy is, let your light shine in life and on the dance floor!

Representatives of Save Our Streets:

Amy Ellenbogen has been the director of the Neighbors in Action since 2002, developing and implementing programs as well as overseeing day-to-day operations. Amy has run community and school-based programming on topics as diverse as violence prevention, adult and youth leadership development, family and community mediation, truancy prevention, intergroup relationship building, pregnancy prevention, and race and identity. Amy planned and directed the first New York State Cure Violence replication site, Save Our Streets Crown Heights, an anti-gun violence program that uses a public health approach. Currently, Amy is part of the planning team developing culturally competent trauma informed programming for young men of color and Save Our Streets Bed-Stuy. Prior to working at Neighbors in Action, Amy worked in a home for young women who were previously incarcerated and were mentally ill and chemically addicted. Amy is the founder of ROOTED (Respecting Ourselves and Others Through Education), a Columbia University program designed to facilitate student dialogue around issues of identity as they relate to power and privilege. Amy received both her BA in Ethnic Studies and her Masters of Science in Social Work from Columbia University. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker and a mediator. 

Shneaqua Purvis is an Outreach Worker for Neighbors in Action Bed-Stuy. She was brought to this work after her sister, Maisha Hubbard, was murdered by a stray bullet in 2002. She feels like it is her duty to make sure no family goes through the pain that her family went through and that continues to impact her family to this day. In her role as an Outreach Worker, Shneaqua mentors a group of young ladies. She is part of a team that works hard every day to help ensure that all children and grandchildren can live in a world without gun violence!