Prison Focus Week, which started on Monday, March 31, 2008, culminates in the Vassar-Green Haven Reunion on Saturday, April 5, 2008 in the AULA building on the Vassar campus. This ninth annual reunion will bring current and former Vassar students involved in the Green Haven Prison Program together to discuss a number of issues regarding prison policy and reform.
Professor Larry Mamiya started the Green Haven Prison Program in 1979 and opened a second program five years ago at the Otisville medium security prison. These programs enable Vassar students to participate in dialogue groups with incarcerated men. Over the years, the groups have discussed a variety of topics including: domestic violence, fatherhood, family, communication skills, victim awareness, current events awareness, housing and jobs in the outside community, and community reentry. One of the main goals of the program is to prepare incarcerated men to reenter the outside community.
Vassar students learn about conditions in prison and the criminal justice system while the incarcerated men learn about changes in the outside world. The men appreciate the knowledge Vassar students have shared with them during their visits. And, for a number of students, the experience has transformed their lives and and altered their career paths.
With a prison population of 2.3 million, the United States has become the “incarceration nation,” leading the world with the highest percentage of its population in prisons.
About Prison Focus Week
Monday, March 31
7:00pm in the AULA
Opening of the Prison Art Exhibit. Calvin Frett, who works on the Peter Black Prison Art Collective, will set up his work in the AULA. Come to our opening, or just stop by the AULA during the week.
Tuesday, April 1
5:30pm in Taylor Hall, Room 203
Mary-Beth Pfeiffer will speak about her book Crazy in America: The hidden tragedy of our criminalized mentally ill. A former editor of The Poughkeepsie Journal, Pfeiffer did a series of investigative articles exposing the treatment and problems of the mentally ill in New York State Prisons.
Thursday, April 3
5:30pm in the ALANA Center
Karla Brundage, an English major at Vassar (class of 1989) will be doing a poetry reading from her first published poetry collection, Swallowing Watermelons. She tracks her life experiences as a biracial young woman, a single mother, and an artist activist. She has participated in Poetic Protests, and teaches poetry to youth in the penal system, as well as men and women in maximum-security prisons.
Saturday, April 5
Begins at 10:00am for program participants in the AULA
Open to the public 1:00pm to 5:00 pm in the AULA
Green Haven Reunion! This annual event brings together formerly incarcerated men from Green Haven and Otisville prisons, formerly incarcerated women, Vassar alums who worked with them, community activists on prison issues, and current students, faculty, and administrators in a day-long focus on prison issues. We will have workshops in the afternoon, which people are more then welcome to participate in. The workshops will be: “College Prison Program at Vassar”, where we will discuss efforts to get Vassar to teach classes in prisons, “Women in Prison”, where we will discuss the experiences of women in the criminal justice system, and a workshop with people from Drop the Rock (the coordinator and other Vassar alums involved in the program are coming to Vassar), who work on repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws.