The American prison system has been the focus of a year-long project at Volunteer State Community College. That focus will include a community-wide book read on the subject this year.
The One Book, One Community initiative joins Vol State, local schools, libraries and readers from across Sumner County for the group read. The community-wide book read is “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. The non-fiction book is an examination of the criminal justice system in the United States, and a myriad of problems with that system. It focuses on a notorious murder case in Alabama, and widens the scope to include the stories of people caught up in the system.
There are several speakers coming to the Vol State campus in Gallatin this spring to discuss issues raised by the book. Everyone is welcome to attend these free events. Those speakers include: Molly Lasagna, Alex Friedmann and Graham Reside.
Molly Lasagna is the program coordinator for Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI) college programs. THEI funds and coordinates on-site degree-bearing college programs to incarcerated individuals in Tennessee prisons leading to associate’s degrees in one of three major areas: business administration, psychology or political science. She will be joined by Vol State faculty members in a panel discussion on Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. in Caudill Hall.
Alex Friedmann is the associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center and managing editor of Prison Legal News. He is responsible for news research, investigative research, editing, advocacy campaigns and other tasks, including litigation support as a paralegal. While incarcerated, he litigated his own cases in state and federal court. Friedmann will speak on Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. in Caudill Hall.
Graham Reside is the executive director of the Cal Turner Program (CTP) in Moral Leadership for the Professions at Vanderbilt University. CTP states the purpose of facilitating “discussions across the various professions about their moral purposes and perspectives and to encourage professionals to consider how they contribute to the common good.” Reside will be joined by Rahim Buford, a formerly incarcerated social justice advocate from Nashville. Buford was paroled in 2015 after being locked up for 26 years. While in prison, he acquired certifications from a number of educational institutions and became a leader in SALT (Schools for Alternative Learning and Transformation). Reside and Buford will speak on March 28 at 1 p.m.in Caudill Hall.
“Just Mercy” is available at many Sumner County libraries and all Vol State library locations. For more information on One Book, One Community and “Just Mercy” visit www.volstate.edu/onebook.