CCF Executive Director speaks at Incarceration in America Conference

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BENNINGTON, VT- The United States has the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world, a rate that has increased by 500 percent in the past 40 years. CCF Executive Director Vivian Nixon traveled to Bennington, VT on May 15-16 to particpate in Benninton College’s Incarceration in America initiative, in response to this crisis.

This growing initiative includes curriculum, visiting speakers, theatrical events, think tanks, and retreats to develop public policy and political action in the post-tough-on-crime era.

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The second annual conference, entitled Effecting Change took place on May 15-16, 2015. The conference focused on innovative and effective programs that contribute to reform of the current incarceration and criminal justice system in this country. The conference will take place at the College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA).

This conference is the third and culminating event of this term’s program; earlier this spring, the College was host to a performance of The Castle by the Fortune Society and to a think tank around higher education in prison.

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“The College is grateful to all those who have so generously given their time, expertise, and talents to help further the goals of the Incarceration in America Initiative,” said faculty member Annabel Davis-Goff.

Panels will be held on: Public Health/Mental Health; Collateral Consequences; Public Defense/Prisoners’ Rights; and Public Action and Messaging. Panelists will include: Cara Smith, Executive Director of the Cook County (IL) Jail; Mark Hale, Assistant District Attorney of Kings County (NY); Matt Nelson, Organizing Director of Color of Change; Glenn Martin, Founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA; JoAnne Page, Executive Director of the Fortune Society; representatives from Vermont include Suzi Wizowaty, founder of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform; attorney, mediator, and arbitrator Richard Cassidy; and Chittenden County State’s Attorney Thomas J. Donovan.

The Incarceration in America Initiative at Bennington College began in 2014 in response to the crisis of the prison and justice systems in the United States. The Initiative’s first event took place in the spring of 2014 with a guest lecture by Glenn Martin. Additional guests to campus have included Ernest Drucker (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), Robert Fullilove (Columbia University), George McDonald (The Doe Fund), and Elizabeth Gaynes (The Osborne Association). The Incarceration in America Initiative includes curriculum, visiting speakers, theatrical events, think tanks, and retreats to develop public policy and political action.

This event and other CAPA projects within the Incarceration in America Initiative have been made possible by the generous support of the Harry J. Brown, Jr. Foundation, the Davis Educational Foundation, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, and the Henry J. Leir Charitable Foundations.