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Published: Monday, 4/8/2013

Awareness week puts prisons in perspective

Events at UT attempt to break stereotypes


Too many people have no idea that at the end of Central Avenue in North Toledo, there is a state prison, said Cynthia Ingham, a University of Toledo professor.

To increase awareness of the prison and the overall system, Ms. Ingham and others from the Toledoans for Prison Awareness Coalition organized Prison Awareness Week, which kicks off today.

“You say ‘prison,’ and people think of television, images from stereotypes from television and movies,” Ms. Ingham said.

“In order to get people thinking about it as a problem that affects them, you have to break through stereotypes.”

People who might not believe prisons matter to them are nonetheless affected, Ms. Ingham said, because the prison population has increased. It’s an “incarceration crisis,” she said.

From 2000 to 2011, the number of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons increased by 15 percent to 1.5 million, according to the Bureau of Justice.

Prison inmates are most commonly male (93 percent) and black (38 percent), and nearly half the nationwide prison population — 47 percent — is incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

Prison Awareness Week officially starts at 9 a.m. with information tables that will be set up at the University of Toledo Student Union until 4 p.m.

The first event, a screening of The Great Incarcerator, Part 1: Dark Little Secret, starts at 4:30 p.m. and follows with a preview of filmmaker Derrick Jones’ second project, Part 2: The Shadow of Lucasville. He is an assistant director at the Arts Village Living Learning Community at Bowling Green State University. He is to be present.

A full schedule of events is available online at http://www.toledoprisonawarenessgroup.org/. All events are free and open to the public.

The week of events leads up to a daylong conference, “The Prison System: At Large and At Home,” on Friday at Libbey Hall on the University of Toledo’s main campus.

On Saturday, the public is invited to Toledo Correctional Institution for a discussion on education in prisons and improvisational theater performed by inmates responding to their experiences with prison programming.

Anyone wishing to attend the Saturday event must register by Wednesday by sending an e-mail to Renee Heberle, renee.heberle@utoledo.edu.

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