Uniting people doing prison-related projects

Uniting people doing prison-related projects

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Sept. 6 'Incarcerated in Iowa' symposium aims to create, develop wide array of connections between university, carceral communities

While it’s great that dozens of professionals, volunteers, scholars, and students will convene Sept. 6 at the “Incarcerated in Iowa” symposium on the University of Iowa campus, the event organizers are even more excited about what the collective will do going forward.

incarcerated in iowa poster image, featuring inmate portrait

“We’ve got a great opportunity here to connect people who want to do prison-related academic and volunteer work with partners in the Department of Corrections and the university,” says Gemma Goodale-Sussen, a Ph.D. candidate in the UI Department of English in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and one of the symposium organizers. “This symposium is just the start of the conversation.”

Seizing on the recent academic movement toward publicly engaged scholarship and a growing interest within the UI in our state’s prison system, “Incarcerated in Iowa” will feature a day of lectures and discussions linking the university community with the carceral community. The goal: to create, develop, and reinforce the wide array of connections between these not-so-disparate communities.

“Incarcerated in Iowa: University of Iowa Prison Projects Symposium”

Saturday, Sept. 6
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
University Capitol Centre conference center, second floor
Registration (seating now limited to overflow area): Register here.

Participants range from seasoned prison volunteers to scholars working within the justice system to former inmate-students. Among the featured speakers:

  • John Baldwin, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, who will discuss Iowa prisons, prison programs, and the Iowa DOC's connection to the University of Iowa.
  • Carolyn Colvin, a faculty member in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program in the UI College of Education, who will address the significance of public engagement within the academy and other learning communities.
  • Linda Snetselaar, associate provost of outreach and engagement at the UI, who will provide opening remarks and outline the symposium goals.

“Incarcerated in Iowa” provides a meeting ground for all prison-related projects at the University of Iowa, at whatever stage they may be—whether a long-established prison choir or the first stirrings of a research idea. A panel of UI faculty, staff, students, and community volunteers will give brief project overviews; more details can be found on the symposium website.

As mentioned above, the symposium offers an opportunity to chart a path forward as partners. One such way is through the UI Prison Projects Coalition. The coalition includes courses, programs, and projects contributing to vital, sustainable public goods that improve the lives of Iowa’s incarcerated; it also enlarges the academic range of scholarship, engagement, and service between the UI, the Iowa Department of Corrections, and the community at large.

Partners in the coalition will craft a mission statement at the symposium that defines the coalition’s shared goals.

“The UI Prison Projects Coalition provides a platform for the University of Iowa and its neighboring communities to recognize what is being done, and where the gaps are in providing support, expertise, and hope to Iowa's incarcerated and underserved populations,”says Kathrina Litchfield, Ph.D. candidate in language, literacy, and culture in the UI College of Education and another organizer of the “Incarcerated in Iowa” symposium. “We partner with the Iowa Department of Corrections in supporting successful reentry as our top priority.”

Film screening kickoff event

A screening of Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall will precede the symposium. The Oscar-nominated documentary breaks through the walls of one of America's oldest maximum-security prisons to tell the story of the final months in the life of a terminally ill prisoner, Jack Hall and the hospice volunteers—they themselves prisoners—who care for him.

Prison Terminal will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, in Room 101 of Becker Communication Studies Building. A question-and-answer session with director Edgar Barens will follow the film, with a reception in the BCSB lobby wrapping up the event.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to attend this symposium, contact the symposium organizers in advance at incarceratediniowa@gmail.com


Gemma Goodale-Sussen, Department of English, 847-644-8388
Kathrina Litchfield, College of Education, 319-321-4997
Mark Fullenkamp, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 319-471-1519


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