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Are there alternatives to incarceration?

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Walidah ImarishaWhat is the function of the criminal justice system? Should rehabilitation or retribution be the goal? Are there viable alternatives to incarceration?

These are just a few of the questions that may be sparked by Walidah Imarisha’s “Beyond Bars: Re-envisioning the Prison System” discussion coming to the Flora Room of the Estacada Public Library at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 21.

Imarisha teaches women, gender and sexuality studies at Oregon State University. She has taught in the black studies department at Portland State University, helped found the Human Rights Coalition, has conducted writing workshops in correctional facilities and public schools, was a founding editor of AWOL Magazine, and is part of the Left Turn editorial collective.

She’s been involved with prison issues through scholarly work and community organizing for many years.

About five years ago, she began looking at alternatives to incarceration such as conflict resolution and community mediation that focused on healing and rehabilitation rather than retribution.

“Honestly, I think anything about alternatives to incarceration is new or surprising to the average person in the U.S. because we don’t hear about it,” Imarisha said.

She noted that while many people may see problems with the prison system, they aren’t inclined to do something about it as they haven’t heard anything about viable alternatives.

Media coverage of the criminal justice system is part of the problem. Many peoples’ knowledge of the prison system comes entirely from the media: movies, television and visual or print news.

“Media coverage, often times, is not representative of what actually happens in communities around criminal justice issues,” she said.

Imarisha noted that the violent crime rate has been declining for years and that “the majority of people (in prison) are there for non-violent crimes.”

Imarisha plans to explore the “realities of the criminal justice system” during the “Beyond Bars” conversation at the Estacada Public Library.

The conversation will cover alternatives to incarceration being practiced in the U.S. and internationally and a criminal justice response “framed around safety and healing rather than punishment and retribution.”

Those planning to attend should come prepared to comment and actively engage in a discussion. This will not be a lecture.

“The goal is to be very interactive,” she said.

Imarisha’s conversation comes to Estacada as part of Oregon Humanites’ Conversation Project. Through the Conversation Project, prominent scholars and thinkers discuss challenging issues in public settings.

The Estacada Area Arts Commission and the Estacada Public Library have teamed up to sponsor three Conversation Project speakers to come to Estacada.

City Planner Nan Laurence spoke on “A City’s Center: Rethinking Downtown” on May 7.

Abraham Lincoln expert Richard Etulain discussed “Lessons From Lincoln: Is Political Bipartisanship Possible?” on May 14.



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  • 20 Oct 2014

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