Beyond Bars Summit A dialogue about mass incarceration in West Virginia

The mass incarceration of men and women in the Mountain State cost over $314 million in 2019. The collateral consequences impact our communities, families and economy. Please join us on Thursday, Nov. 12 for a virtual summit to hear from experts, participate in dialogue and discuss solutions to mass incarceration in our state.
Summit Schedule

3 p.m. Dwayne Betts, author of Felon

4 p.m. Break out sessions led by West Virginia experts

5 p.m. Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black

Dwayne Betts will discuss his transformation from a sixteen-year old kid sentenced to nine-years in prison, to a critically acclaimed writer and graduate of the Yale Law School.

He speaks to the failures of the current criminal justice system and presents encouraging ideas for change. Betts was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and more recently for Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut appointed him to the Criminal Justice Commission, the state body responsible for hiring prosecutors in Connecticut.

Piper Kerman is the author of the memoir turned Netflix original Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.

Kerman has worked with nonprofits, philanthropies and other organizations working in the public interest. She also serves on the board of directors of the Women’s Prison Association and the advisory boards of the PEN America Writing For Justice Fellowship, InsideOUT Writers, Healing Broken Circles and JustLeadershipUSA.

Breakout Sessions

Participants will have the opportunity to participate in one of the following breakout sessions to further discuss issues surrounding women’s incarceration.

A Conversation with Dwayne Betts Dwayne Betts will lead a discussion and answer questions on advocacy through art, the process of writing poetry, academy and prison, and the world we desire to create.

Criminal Justice Reform in W.V.a. Legislators and criminal justice reform advocates will discuss policy priorities for the February 2021 legislative session. These priorities will include restoring voting rights for those on probation or parole, removing reentry barriers, sentencing reforms, and expanding alternatives to incarceration.

Reentry: Building Bridges to a Better Community Listen to the journeys of three former inmates and how they’ve worked with a retired correctional professional to develop paths to successful reentry. You will collaborate with these individuals on creating successful reentry paths and overcoming the 1,000+ collateral consequences of felony convictions for others.

Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline A panel of professionals and those with lived experiences will discuss the link between childhood adversity and adult criminality, as well as exploring the impact of adverse childhood experiences, the school to prison pipeline, and the growing number of ‘grandfamilies.’

Employment Information for Justice Involved Individuals Participants will review the Jobs & Hope WV program and the online resource Fairshake. There will also be a discussion about the frequent questions asked by employers when approached with hiring justice-involved individuals.

Restorative Justice: From Harm to Healing, A Journey Toward Wholeness Participate in a discussion about restorative justice by addressing the broken relationships in communities. Topics will include restorative justice practices such as the Restorative Circle, which is currently used in schools as a way to decrease suspension and increase the understanding of troubled students.

Criminal Injustice: Confronting Racial Disparities in the Criminal Legal System Like many other layers of government and every-day life, racial disparities greatly pervade the criminal justice system. People of color fare worse from arrest rates, sentence lengths, recidivism rates, and much more. In West Virginia, black individuals only make up 3.5% of the population, but account for nearly 12% of the prison population. We will delve into these issues, the history of them, how over criminalization impacts communities, and how we can advocate for change.

Mindfulness for Mental Health: Reframing the Way We Respond to Crises in our Communities Throughout the country, law enforcement has become first responders to behavioral health emergencies. In a time when both mental health and police reform are being heavily focused on, it’s crucial we discuss more effective and humane responses to behavioral health emergencies. We will discuss the impact of over-reliance on the police in mental health and substance use crises, emerging models for more effective crises responses and identifying potential steps that can be taken in policy and practice to implement these models.

Seeking Solutions Through Alternatives to Incarceration Alternatives to incarceration can provide needed solutions to a defendant’s underlying and unaddressed issues, creating cost-effective interventions while promoting community safety and reducing individual rates of recidivism. Alternatives to incarceration include treatment courts, diversion, and conditional release into treatment which will all be discussed.

Outbreak: Covid-19 and Incarceration Covid-19 presents a number of challenges for jails and prisons. There is a high likelihood of outbreaks in congregate settings risking inmates and staff, services are interrupted, and the community faces additional risks. This breakout room will explore such challenges, current trends, and potential solutions to these problems.

If you have questions, you may reach the summit organizers at womenbeyondbars@gmail.com.

About Women Beyond Bars

Since the fall of 2018, students and faculty from West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media have been working to better understand the lives and hardships surrounding women’s mass incarceration in the Mountain State. After extensive research, data collection, interviews, and more, the students were determined to spread awareness and enact positive change for the thousands of women and families affected by mass incarceration, thus creating Women Beyond Bars.