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March 23, 2022

SFC To Host Second Annual Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference

Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardson, one of the "Exonerated Five," will deliver the conference's keynote address.

On Thursday and Friday, March 31 and April 1, St. Francis College (SFC) will host its second annual Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference. The two-day event will bring together academics, activists, public officials and formerly incarcerated individuals to address the realities of punishment-while-incarcerated as well as the challenges of life after prison. Additionally, the conference will offer justice-impacted individuals the possibility to learn about educational and other opportunities.

“St. Francis College established the Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference as a forum to share developments and innovations in the criminal justice arena and to explore alternative approaches in working with justice-impacted individuals,” explained Dr. Emily Horowitz, professor and chair of sociology and criminal justice at SFC and co-director of the College’s Justice Initiative. “Rather than having the approaches be driven by punishment and retribution, we are committed to ones centered on prevention and education.”

The Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference officially kicks off at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, with a film screening of “The Central Park Five” (2012). This Peabody Award–winning documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles the story of the five men who were wrongly convicted of the 1989 rape of a female jogger in Central Park. All were ultimately exonerated, in 2002. The film explores the racial politics and carceral culture that led to their wrongful conviction. Immediately following the screening, Kevin Richardson — one of the Exonerated Five, as the men have come to be known — will deliver the conference’s keynote address. A motivational speaker, Richardson works with the Innocence Project, traveling the country to raise awareness of the imbalances in the justice system and the historical biases that continue to impact people of color.

Two panel discussions figure in the conference schedule. The first one, “Education During Re-Entry: The Prison-to-College Pipeline,” will highlight the importance of access to college for justice-involved populations and how academic support helps in the overall re-entry process. Among the panelists will be individuals who provide educational re-entry support and those who have received it, including graduates and current students in SFC’s Post-Prison Program as well as representatives from other re-entry programs. “Innovative Approaches to Reducing Gun and Community Violence,” featuring the founders of Guns for Grants, will address solutions to gun violence, including increasing educational opportunities for justice-involved youths. The moderator of both panels will be Johnny Perez, a 2018 SFC graduate and current SFC Franciscan Service Fellow who directs the U.S. prisons program at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Rounding out the programming is "Order My Steps," a live performance and discussion. The play tells the story of an incarcerated woman who reaches out to her daughter after 20 years of silence. It will be followed by a discussion with formerly incarcerated women about mending relationships post-incarceration.

Other components of the conference include a job fair, tabling opportunities with New York–based re-entry organizations, an open mic/performance session featuring individuals directly impacted by the criminal justice system and an interactive, walkthrough exhibition by Project Witness detailing the stories of six individuals who were incarcerated as children.

The inaugural Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference was held at SFC in the fall of 2018. A second conference was originally scheduled for the subsequent academic year, in the spring of 2020, but had to be postponed until now because of COVID-19. “The main emphasis of the Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference is on strengthening partnerships among key players in the justice system,” underscored Eric Platt, associate professor and chair of economics, history and political science at SFC and co-director of the Justice Initiative. “Through panel discussions, special programming, a job fair and more, the conference will offer a broad range of educational and networking experiences for attendees.”

All programming related to the 2022 Criminal Justice Reform and Re-Entry Conference will take place at St. Francis College (180 Remsen Street, in Brooklyn Heights). The event is free and open to the public. For the complete schedule or to register, please visit the event page on the SFC website or Eventbrite. Any other questions may be directed to [email protected].

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