The Educational Justice & Appalachian Prisons Symposium, April 4th-6th

Contact: Professor Katy Ryan 304.293.9729

WVU Will Host Symposium on Educational Justice and Appalachian Prisons

A three-day symposium on Appalachian prisons, the importance of education, and restorative justice will take place at West Virginia University April 4-6. The Educational Justice & Appalachian Prisons Symposium will include roundtables with imprisoned people, teachers inside prisons, corrections administrators, judges, law and humanities faculty, mediators, and members of prison book projects.

The main speakers are:

Rebecca Ginsburg.


A professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chicago, Dr. Ginsburg is the founder of the Education Justice Project, whose aim is to build a model college-in-prison program that demonstrates the positive impacts of higher education on incarcerated people, their families, and the communities from which they come. She will speak April 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhododendron Room of the Mountainlair.

Kyes Stevens.


A professor at Auburn University, Dr. Stevens is the founder of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, which is dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to imprisoned people in Alabama. She will speak April 5 at 11:30 a.m. in room 130 of Colson Hall.

Reginald Dwayne Betts.


A poet and memoirist, Betts is the award-winning author of A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison and the poetry collection Shahid Reads His Own Palm. In April of 2012, President Obama appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Other presenters at the symposium include:

  • Jean Trounstine, Co-Director of Changing Lives Through Literature and the author of Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison.
  • Jim Rubenstein, Commissioner of the WV Division of Corrections.
  • Larry Starcher, former WV Supreme Court Justice.
  • Jim Nolan, WVU professor of Sociology, former police and FBI officer.
  • Valena Beety, WVU Assoc. Law Professor and Chair of the WVU InnocenceProject.
  • Anne Rice, African American Studies Professor, Lehman College, and Member of the Planning Committee for TEDx talks at Sing Sing prison.

A complete schedule and other information is available at the symposium’s Web site: 

Professors Katy Ryan and Mark Brazaitis, both of the WVU Department of English, received a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council to create the symposium.

Professor Ryan explained,

“Planning for the symposium has already brought wonderful people into conversation about restorative justice, alternative sentences, and how to create greater justice in our region. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We are eager to learn from one another and see what we can put into place.”

She hopes that everyone with an interest in educational justice and the criminal justice system will attend.

“Prisons impact all of us—whether in terms of taxpayer money or incarcerated friends and family members or those who work inside crowded, unsafe prisons. We have to make connections between inside and out if we are going to begin to undo mass incarceration. Education is going to be key.”

Image credits: photo of Rebecca Ginsburg from University of Illinois College of Education site,, accessed 22 March 2014; photo of Kyes Stevens from the The Quilts of Gee’s Bend project site,, accessed 22 March 2014; photo of Reginald Dwayne Betts by Gesi Schilling via the Poetry Foundation site,, accessed 22 March 2014.

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