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Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice: Black and Brown Lives Do Matter

A Year of Campus-Community Dialogue

In the context of #BlackLivesMatter, the CWU community is examining one of the most striking instances of racial inequality in American society—the phenomenon of mass incarceration. With more than two million individuals behind bars, the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation. This number is staggering. With less than five percent of the world population, the United States accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. The burden of incarceration disproportionately falls on persons of color. According to the 2010 census, African Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated as whites, and Latinos are twice as likely to be incarcerated. Many scholars and researchers have argued that these statistics are largely due to unequal, race-based prosecution and sentencing practices associated with the “War on Drugs.”

During this year of dialogue, students, faculty, staff and community members will gather together to understand the causes and ramifications of these patterns, as well as potential solutions to the incarceration crisis. We will examine:

  • How histories of slavery, Jim Crow, and race-based politics have influenced the criminal justice system, including prosecution and sentencing dynamics.
  • How the "War on Drugs" has played out in terms of the race, ethnicity, and class of prosecuted and imprisoned populations.
  • The impact of mass incarceration on families and children, especially in low income communities and communities of color.
  • How the rise of private prisons has affected incarceration trends and the rights of prisoners.
  • How failures in our educational system contribute to high imprisonment rates.
  • Successful models for educating and empowering at-risk youth.
  • The impact that the growing detention of undocumented immigrants has on individuals and communities.
  • Credible alternatives to mass incarceration, including restorative justice programs.
  • How literature and art illuminate the causes, experiences, and ramifications of incarceration.

These and many other themes will be explored in classes and public programs over the course of the 2015-16 academic year. Some courses and student clubs and organizations may choose to pursue service-learning projects and others may conduct research on the causes and impact of imprisonment in our region.

All members of the campus and the surrounding community are invited to participate in this challenging year of dialogue, as we ponder some of the most difficult and sensitive issues in modern American society. We are committed to the spirit of free and open inquiry, governed by careful listening and a profound respect for opposing views. Please join us in this year of learning and exploration!

For more information on participating:

Dr. Stacey Robertson  (Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities)  <>

Dr. Keith Champagne (Associate Dean for Student Development)

Dr. Bobby Cummings (English; Africana and Black Studies)  <>

Dr. Charles Reasons (Law and Justice)  Chuck Reasons <>

Dr.  Mark Auslander (Anthropology and Museum Studies)   <>

Media Inquiries:  Ms. Valerie Chapman-Stockwell <>

David Fathi's talk on Mass Incarceration, Oct. 26th 2015. 

Norm Stamper's talk on Mass Incarceration, Apr. 5th 2016.

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