UBB teachers and volunteers have played an important role in the TEBB collective, which is generously supported by a grant from the University of Washington Simpson Center for the Humanities.
In its first year (2010-2011), TEBB focused on assessing current prison-based education efforts in the region and developing local curriculum for college readiness courses. Now in its second year, TEBB aims to develop a broader coalition of prison higher education programs, create and implement educational assessment plans for University Beyond Bars, and explore the possibilities of an Inside-Out program at the University of Washington. The TEBB conference will help facilitate the process of identifying and moving towards the shared goals of stakeholders in prison higher education.
Gillian Harkins, University of Washington professor of English and volunteer instructor for UBB, heads up this initiative.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2011
4:00-9:30 pm: Site Visit toWSR Monroe Correctional Facility
5:00 pm: Screening of SEAN PICA’s ZERO PERCENT, CMU 120 (view trailer)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2011
9:00 am: Welcome & Coffee
9:30 – 11:00 am: Panel 1: PRISON PEDAGOGIES
Moderator: Vik Bahl, Green River Community College
Jenifer Drew, Boston University Prison Education Program
Carol Estes, University Beyond Bars
Nalini Nadkarni, University of Utah
Kaia Stern, Prison Studies Project, Harvard University
This panel gives us a chance to discuss teaching in the prison context. Is there anything unique about teaching inside prison? Have you found specific obstacles or opportunities teaching in this context? Are there particular strategies that you have used to create a learning environment or to reach learning objectives? Can you discuss one example of pedagogical experimentation that met with success or failure and reflect on what you learned from this experiment? How important is pedagogy in creating successful learning in this environment?
11:15 am-12:45 pm: Panel 2: PROGRAM MODELS
Moderator: Tanya Erzen, Ohio State University
Melissa Crabbe, Inside-Out
Simone Davis, Inside-Out
Kenneth Parker, St. Louis University Prison Program
Loretta Taylor, WWCC at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
This panel gives us a chance to share program models and to consider how programs are designed to meet specific needs within a range of contexts. Is there one program model that meets a wide range of needs/contexts? Or are all models necessarily different? Are there common approaches to working with the Department of Corrections, with host Universities/Colleges, and with student populations? What kinds of record keeping, admissions and enrollment processes, advising, and teacher training have you found effective? How do you use a Board of Directors, advisory committee, or other governing bodies? How much/little structure is suited to a prison higher education program? What would make a model scalable (expandable to other institutions) and is that desirable?
12:45-1:30 pm: Lunch Break
1:30 – 3:00 pm: Panel 3: ASSESSMENT TOOLS
Moderator: Carrie Mathews, University of Washington
Rebecca Ginsburg, Education Justice Project
Mary Gould, St. Louis University Prison Program
Jody Lewen, Prison University Project
Stephen Meyer, RMC Research
This panel gives us a chance to collaborate on best practices for assessment within prison higher education programs. Why is it important to document what works and what does not? For whom are we documenting our success and how can we disseminate our findings most effectively? How do we design assessment that measures success as defined by funders or a broader public? How do we design assessment that measures our own standards for success, which may be different among programs as well as between programs and funders? Are there common goals that we can assess across programs? How do we relate student learning assessment, effective teaching assessment, and overall program assessment? I’m also interested in knowing what other programs’ evaluation protocols–i.e. what are the on-the-ground logistics of their evaluation practices? Who collects data? From whom? In what form? Who evaluates it? How and with whom is data shared?
3:15 – 4:45 pm
Panel 4: PROGRAM SUSTAINABILITY
Moderator:Stuart Smithers, University of Puget Sound
Celia Chazelle, Center for Prison Outreach and Education (TCNJ)
Stephanie Haas, College and Community Fellowship (CCF)
Sean Pica, Hudson Link
Kyes Stevens, Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project
This panel gives us a chance to share ideas about program sustainability and access to higher education behind bars. How important is a well-rounded fundraising strategy to sustaining higher education programs inside prisons? What are the obstacles and opportunities presented by working with major foundations, with state contracts, and/or with private donors? Has anyone met success with grassroots or community-based support campaigns? What kind of institutional support is required to sustain programs over time: from Universities/Colleges, from the Department of Corrections, from volunteers/staff? Are grassroots, public media, and/or legislative campaigns important to sustain programs and access to higher education on the inside? What kinds of connections to broader higher education initiatives might help in this work?
5:00 pm Closing Comments: Bernie Warner, WA Department of Corrections
Simpson Center Reception, CMU 202
7:00 – 10:00 pm
University Beyond Bars Silent Auction Fundraiser
(sponsored by University Beyond Bars)
Lake City Elks Club
14540 Bothell Way NE
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2011
Roundtable Discussion: Moving Forward Moderator: Gillian Harkins, University of Washington
The first ever UBB Art Show, Non-Sufficient Funds, opened in late April to a full-house of friends, artists’ family members, intrigued gallery goers and passer-by strangers.
Hung close together, the artworks – the majority of which in bright acrylic paint – formed an eye-bashing gestalt. With 117 works on show, it was, according to gallery owner Diana Adams, the busiest exhibition ever mounted at Vermillion.
“It’s the first show I’ve ever put up,” said art teacher Pete Brook, “It took two days. All the effort was worth it. The show looks great; families are here and we’re engaging the public about a [prison] population they rarely see or learn about.”
The visual energy was at times overwhelming. But so was the bustle; over a hundred people packed the venue at the mid-evening point. It was then Brook addressed the crowd and encouraged them to consider the individual efforts of the artists on show, the wider landscape of incarceration in the U.S., and the ever-present need for meaningful education and rehabilitation programs behind bars. In closing, he said, “while we are political, we are also hopeful.” Glasses were raised to the absent artists.
Popular with the audience were the narrative works by students usually addressing in some way their families, emotions or histories.
The wall of artists’ portraits gave gallery-goers an opportunity to see the faces and read the biographies behind the art. The spotlit and high contrast portrait photographs were made by Erika Schultz as part of a special workshop in Washington State Reformatory the month prior.
Pete Brook and the students would like to acknowledge the help of the staffs at The Stranger and the Seattle Weekly for their coverage; UBB program co-ordinator Stacey Reeh; all the team at Vermillion – Diana, Raymond, Jessica, Brian & AJ; partner artists Buddy Bunting and Paul Rucker; and of course the students’ families who continue to offer their unflagging support.
The total amount of money raised was in excess of $1,500, all of which will go toward UBB art supplies and tuition fees.
Over 2.3 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States. That’s one out of every 100 adults. What is the purpose of prison? Is it simply to deny offenders their time and freedom? Is it to lock dangerous people away from society? Should rehabilitation be a goal? What happens when inmates are released from prison — has justice been served? Many states are cutting prisoner rehabilitation programs because of budget restrictions. Can non-profits fill the gap?
These were the questions KUOW’s Steve Scher put to guests Patrice Gaines, former felon and cofounder of The Brown Angel Center, a program in Charlotte, NC, that helps formerly incarcerated women become financially independent; Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of the criminal justice department at Seattle University; and our very own Carol Estes.
YES! Magazine‘s Summer 2011 issue, Beyond Prisons, includes the essay Problem Child by UBB student Arthur Longworth, about the terror of solitary confinement.
Beyond Prisons also includes an article about tertiary education for the incarcerated, by Carol Estes, executive director of University Beyond Bars. Alas, that article is only available in the print edition, so grab yourselves a copy. Only $4!
A gallery of works by photographer Taryn Simon. For The Innocents, Simon revisited crime-scenes with the individuals who were wrongfully convicted for said crimes. By toying with the fictional narratives as proposed by trial and sentence, Simon’s eerie photograhy purposefully emphasizes the unreality and unreliability that creeps into our criminal justice system.
It was the great pleasure of University Beyond Bars to invite David Barsamian, founder of Alternative Radio, to the Pacific Northwest. David delivered lectures in Everett and Seattle on consecutive nights. Ticket sales raised hundreds of dollars for UBB student tuition fees.
We will be posting the audio to the event shortly. Stay tuned!
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 28, 5-9pm. Vermillion Gallery, 1508, 11th Ave (between Pine & Pike), Seattle
Featuring Artists from Monroe Prison with Special works by Buddy Bunting and Paul Rucker. (show runs through May 14.) Special Video Presentation of When You Learn, You Don’t Return, by Gilda Sheppard at 7:30pm.
Non-Sufficient Funds brings together the work of twelve prison-artists from the University Beyond Bars program at Washington State Reformatory, Monroe, WA, with works by established artists Buddy Bunting and Paul Rucker.
This exhibition of more than 100 acrylic paintings, graphite drawings and one video installation address abstract, figurative, allegorical and spiritual concerns. Non-Sufficient Funds is the culmination of over a year’s worth of weekly studio sessions within the prison and the brainchild of Pete Brook, volunteer-teacher and board member of the University Beyond Bars.
In addition to the artwork by the inmates at Monroe, Paul Rucker will be showing his video, ‘Proliferation’, which documents the growth of the US Prison system over the past 200 years in an animated mapping of the US Prison system set to original music. Also, Buddy Bunting is presenting a 13 foot watercolor painting of the stark facade of a prison at ground level.
The title of the show, Non-Sufficient Funds, has a few meanings: First, it refers to the stretched resources of volunteer-based rehabilitation programs within prisons across America, which is what this particular exhibit is advocating for. Research indicates that inmates who maintain contact with the outside world and who engage in educational and vocational programs experience a much lower rate of recidivism.
Second, it is a commentary on the financial burden the prison-industrial complex places on US society. Due to harsher sentencing laws and the war on drugs, the prison population has quadrupled since 1980. Now, in times of economic crisis, serious questions are being asked about the amount of tax dollars spent on prisons.
Finally, it refers to the scenario when a prisoner receives a letter or package has insufficient postage, and no funds available in their prison account fund to cover the difference. “Non-sufficient funds” is stamped upon the return correspondence. Many of us are unaware firsthand of the rigid structure the penal system requires. Mail sent to inmates in violation of policies can lead to punishment. Prison libraries and other media are also highly censored for various reasons. Non-sufficient funds hopes to shed some light on the way art and education in institutions benefits society as a whole and we hope it encourages a dialogue and additional advocacy.
On April 14, 2010, University Beyond Bars was delighted to welcome renowned legal scholar Michelle Alexander to speak with the men of Washington State Reformatory about her book The New Jim Crow which discusses race, U.S. law and felon disenfranchisement.
Alexander has set forth a powerful argument that the war on drugs, the rise in the prison population and new laws that usher those convicted of crimes into permanent second-class status disproportionately punish minority groups. From her March 2010 article for Tom Dispatch, Alexander writes:
“Crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the last few decades — they are currently at historical lows — but imprisonment rates have consistently soared. Quintupled, in fact. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs. Drug offenses alone account for about two-thirds of the increase in the federal inmate population, and more than half of the increase in the state prison population.”
“The drug war has been brutal — complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers, and sweeps of entire neighborhoods — but those who live in white communities have little clue to the devastation wrought. This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates.”
Alexander spoke in the same clear terms with which she writes. After a half hour, Alexander fielded questions from the floor.
This was Alexander’s first presentation of the material in her book during her long book tour and she was eager to hear the reactions of the men, many of whom, needless to say, may well suffer in the way she describes following their release.
A longtime civil rights advocate and litigator, Michelle Alexander won a 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship and now holds a joint appointment at the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. Alexander served for several years as the director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded the national campaign against racial profiling. At the beginning of her career she served as a law clerk on the United States Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun. Michelle lives outside Columbus, Ohio.
In 2009, University Beyond Bars celebrated its first graduation ceremony. All students who received college credit in the academic year were awarded with certificates and two students, Jeff Conner and Atif Rafay were recognized for their completion of AA degrees.
The event proved to be an important moment for friends and family to show their support for the students ongoing process of transformation through education.
University Beyond Bars (UBB), formerly known the Prisoners Education Network, began from modest beginnings. In 2005, a handful of committed students, an ad hoc roster of classes and the dedication of co-founders Carol Estes and Gary Idleburg got the fledgling enterprise off the ground.
Over the past six years, UBB has grown steadily, bringing on volunteer-teachers, expanding the curriculum and delivering education to more and more students at Washington State Reformatory, Monroe, WA. UBB received non-profit 501(c)3 status in 2009.
Friends, family and faculty joined the men at the graduation ceremony to acknowledge their efforts. Students from the non-for-credit arts workshop also shared in the congratulations.
Even though the graduation is two years past, we wanted to publish a few photographs from the evening. To know where you’re going, you must remember where you came from; in the interim period, many of the students in these photographs have since completed their own AA degrees and will be recognized later in 2011 for their significant progress and achievements.
UBB student Marcus Altheimer with a supporter and teachers (top, left to right) Gilda Sheppard, Barbara Bennett and Ruth Gregory.
UBB student Felix D’Allessandro poses with his family.
Family support is widely acknowledged as the most important factor in a prisoners successful and crime free return to society. The graduation ceremony was another opportunity for students to reinforce those vital bonds.
UBB student and AA recipient, Atif Rafay, poses with his friends and family.
UBB student Jeremy Boone with proud supporter.
UBB student and AA recipient, Jeff Conner, poses with family members.
Longtime UBB students (clockwise from top left): Marcus Altheimer; Jeff Foxx; Anthony Wright; Orlando Ames; and Kimonti Carter.
Students and teacher of UBB’s very first art studio class.