SFC to Host Conference Exploring Prisons, Programs & Re-Entry Possibilities
By Noel Jones, Tearanny Street


An inaugural conference hosted by St. Francis College will tackle issues of prisoner treatment and reentry, during and after incarceration, on Nov. 14th-15th at 180 Remsen Street.

The Prison, Programs & Reentry Possibilities Conference, coordinated by Dr. Emily Horowitz (Sociology and Criminal Justice) and Dr. Eric Platt (Economics, History, and Political Science), co-directors of the SFC Post-Prison Program, and Dr. Michelle Gantt (Supervisor of Education, Metropolitan Detention Center), will explore how community-based organizations and colleges can invest in returning citizens to help create safer communities. SFC's Post-Prison College Program provides support to formerly incarcerated men and women while they earn college degrees. Gantt coordinates and implements education programs at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison in Brooklyn.

"While there are about 2.3 million people currently incarcerated, about 650,000 men and women return to communities each year," said Horowitz. "St. Francis College is hosting this conference to explore innovative ways community organizations and educational institutions can work together to help returning citizens rebuild their lives during and after incarceration."

The conference will also include panel discussions with those directly impacted by incarceration, including students in the SFC Post-Prison program. "Finishing a degree during the re-entry process can improve social and professional networks, and improve employment prospects," said Platt. Dr. Michelle Gantt will host a panel focusing on ways prisons can host and support educational and innovative programming to help prepare incarcerated men and women for re-entry.

Other panel topics include a forum on religious perspectives on forgiveness and redemption and helping the formerly incarcerated, in collaboration with the SFC Office of Mission, Ministry, and Interfaith Dialogue.

Theatre for Social Change

The conference will also feature a performance by the College & Community Fellowship's Theatre for Social Change, a Harlem-based group that performs at prisons and theaters across the country. All performers are alumna of CCF – a non-profit that works to reduce the barriers women face post-incarceration and help them get the support and formal education they need to turn their lives around.

Platt points out, "Returning citizens require services and support in order to decrease recidivism, and urban areas like Brooklyn and Queens have a disproportionate share of this population. Community–based organizations can hold events at colleges in order to raise awareness about integrating formerly incarcerated men and women back into communities."

The interactive exhibit, "Solitary Confinement is Torture," will simulate the reality of individuals relegated to these often-inhumane scenarios. Curated by SFC alumnus Johnny Perez, Director of U.S. Prisons Program, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the exhibit will be on display both days.

Community based organizations are hosting resource tables throughout the conference to provide viable information, available services and networking opportunities.

The conference will launch with a screening of the acclaimed documentary The Cooler Bandits by John Lucas at both St. Francis College and the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The film follows four men who have to navigate reintegration into society after serving most of their adult lives incarcerated for a series of armed robberies they committed as teenagers. A Q&A with the director and actors will follow the screening.

All conference events are free and open to the public. Register online. For more information, contact Dr. Emily Horowitz at ehorowitz@sfc.edu.