From Skeptical Judge to Peace Circles

Janine Geske / Photo courtesy of icle.orgBy Dianne Frazee-Walker

While attending a restorative justice conference in 2006, they sat down to eat lunch in the cafeteria at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. A friendly blond woman sat next to them with her tray. She introduced herself as Janine. The group carried on a conversation about restorative justice, which is a principle used most commonly within the justice system that brings victims and offenders together in a circle with a facilitator and other affected members of the community. The main objective of restorative justice is for the offender to be accountable for the harm caused by his/her actions, the victim to express the impact the crime had on them, and to have a voice as to how the harm should be repaired.

Later that day, they attended a presentation within the conference about a unique peace circle that takes place at maximum security prisons. The program brings convicted murderers and family members of murder victims together in a three day process that transforms not only the offenders, but reconciles the pain for the diseased victim’s family members as well.   

They were surprised to see the woman they met at lunch earlier facilitating the lecture. Janine Geske, former justice and judge of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and professor at Marquette University Law School was speaking about her experience facilitating peace circles with convicted killers and family members of murdered victims inside prison walls.

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Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring Series (Part 6)

This is the sixth blog post in the ‘Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring Series.’ This series is based upon eight ‘Obvious Truths’ presented by Alfie Kohn in his “Ten Obvious Truths That We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring” published in the September 2011 issue of The Education Digest.

“Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.”

For those who have passed through some level of higher education this statement can be attributed to common sense. Unfortunately, education in general – and prison education specifically – tends to forget about this.

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Home For Wayward Girls

Her name was Janie Porter.  She was born just as the American Civil War came to a close.  Growing up in Macon, Georgia, Janie was an exemplary student, eventually graduating with honors from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.  Janie took her teaching degree seriously, accepting a position in rural Georgia.  Five years later, she met and married Harris Barnett, a Virginia businessman.

Disturbed by the plight of African American children, who grew up in squalid conditions, often ending up in jail at the age of 7 or 8, Janie determined to do something about the problem, which she viewed as a moral crisis.  She began a fund-raising campaign throughout the state of Virginia.  The money was used to build what was then called “a home for wayward girls” – the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls.  In today’s world, it would be referred to as a juvenile detention facility.

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Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring Series (Part 4)

This is the fourth blog post in the ‘Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring Series.’ This series is based upon eight ‘Obvious Truths’ presented by Alfie Kohn in his “Ten Obvious Truths That We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring” published in the September 2011 issue of The Education Digest.

“Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do and more enthusiastic when they have some say.”

As discussed in the third post in this series, incarcerated students have very diverse interests. I also noted that students retain more of the information presented when they are interested in the topic than not. Now it’s time to build upon the idea of student interest with the option of student choice.

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Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring Series (Part 3)

This is the third blog post in the ‘Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring Series.’ This series is based upon eight ‘Obvious Truths’ presented by Alfie Kohn in his “Ten Obvious Truths That We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring” published in the September 2011 issue of The Education Digest.

“Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.”

The truth of the matter is that people are individuals and have personal likes and dislikes. As such, different persons will have different interests and desires. The trouble is finding ways to incorporate students’ diverse interests into a standardized curriculum or standardized testing method (e.g. GED, High School Diploma, ESL, ABE, etc.).

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Providing College To Prison Inmates Series (Part 7)

This is the seventh and final blog post in the ‘Providing College To Prison Inmates Series.’ This series is based upon seven “Recommendations for Policy and Practice” presented by Contardo on pages 154 through 156 of her text Providing College To Prison Inmates.

“Articulate the benefits of college for prison inmates so that outsiders can understand.” –Contardo (pg. 156)

While the above quote refers to securing support for correctional education, I feel that this is not the correct way to solicit outside support of these programs. This is because the American people don’t want to know how much more they can spend to help a prisoner – someone who broke the law – or how spending this money will help the prisoner. If anything, the American people want to know how correctional education benefits them. They want to know why they should mentally buy-in to the idea of educating prisoners. As such, this blog post is based upon the benefits of prison education to the American people. Though, the benefit of the American people coincides with the benefit of the incarcerated student, too. It’s a win-win situation.

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Prison Education: Class Update (6-20-2011)

Class started out rough this week. It wasn’t that the students were rough, they were great – all 17 of them. Rather, the Education Department dropped the ball. They failed to issue me the copies for this week’s class. So I went in blind. Instead of covering the basics of writing as I had planned, I opted to cover the author platform: how to become visible to your target readership. I landed upon this topic because it is a very important one for any professional writer. Plus, I’m currently in the middle of reading several books on the topic (“The Facebook Era” and “Twitter Power 2.0“).

I think that the students were a bit disappointed with the topic that I chose. They seemed like they really wanted to have a solid writing day. Heck, I wanted to give it to them. But without the packets I felt that I would be remiss by only giving them half of what I had. I also didn’t want to load them up with tons and tons of homework for the following week. So the author platform it was.

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