Criminal Justice Awareness Week to focus on women’s issues in the criminal justice system

Hannah Koch

“When I think about criminal justice, it intersects with so many aspects of identity in American society and I think that it is very difficult to talk about issues of criminal justice,” President of NIA: Women of Purpose Fayola Fair ’19 said.

Led by Nia Burrell ’19, a Landis team will be working to bring criminal justice awareness and reform to the forefront and motivate people to “do something about it.”

Criminal Justice Reform and Awareness Week (CJRAW), presented by MOSAIC and the Landis Center for Community Engagement, will be running from Feb. 26 to March 1, in which the campus community will have opportunities to participate in discussions around criminal justice.

Burrell said that the events will have a primary focus on women’s issues in the criminal justice system because NIA is “working a lot with the Journey Home, which is a a program within Landis that works with women in Northampton County Jail.” 

In the first week of March, CJRAW events will include the screening of the film “Inside/Outside,” on Feb. 26, in Buck Hall at 7 p.m, and a lunch at Hugel Hall featuring members of Pards Against Sexual Assault (PASA) as well as Educational Equity Coordinator Jessica Brown and Assistant Dean of Students Jennifer Dize, who are the college’s Title IX coordinators.

“[Brown] has experience in the criminal justice system. She used to be a public defender so she has a perspective on how sexual assault survivors deal with the criminal justice system and how it is pretty hard to prosecute a case, especially for college students,” Burrell said, adding that Dize “also has a perspective on how the school handles these cases and how it’s different from the criminal justice system.” 

There will also be a lunch panel on March 7  featuring Film and Media Studies professor Sikand who has worked in Northampton County Prison, as well as Dr. Bonnie Winfield who works with The Journey Home at the Northampton County jail, and students involved in the program as well. 

“She’ll be on the panel as well and her student perspective volunteering for that program for the past year,” Burrell said.

There will be an art exhibition held at the Portlock Black Cultural Center (PBCC) on March 8 from at 3 p.m. The exhibition will consist of art made by women from The Journey Home, according to Burrell.

Co-sponsors of the event include Alpha Phi Omega (APO), NIA: Women of Purpose, Kaleidoscope, Amnesty International and BEACON.

“I feel like this would not be possible without their participation too. Yes, this is a Landis event, but I like to think of it as a community event,” Burrell said.

Fair said that she doesn’t feel as though people on campus have many personal experiences with families in prison or people who are in prison, adding that issues regarding prison “feel very far away and…a separate issue” from the college campus.  

Burrell said that she wants the college community to be more aware of these issues and “to be more motivated to do something about it.”

“We’ll have fact cards posted around the dining halls and around big areas during the week, and on the backs of those cards will be links to websites about what we can do to do reform, so I hope that people will want to get more involved,” she said.