Recent Press and Announcements

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Let Prisoners Take College Courses

NY Times Sunday Review | OPINION

By JOHN J. LENNON,  APRIL 4, 2015

ATTICA, N.Y. — EVER wonder what prisoners do and talk about? Well, at the Attica Correctional Facility, we’re all tucked away in cellblocks watching TV. We watch a lot — all day, all night. Then we talk about what we’re watching. Conversation tumbles through the bars, about movies, ball games and the news on CNN. I hear voices, as if in a trance, rap along to Bobby Shmurda’s new music video on BET. The lyrics — about dealing drugs, toting guns and committing murder — sound like an anthem for the lives many of us have lived.

We don’t have access to the Internet but prison officials are all for TVs in the cells. It’s called the “TV program.” When prisoners watch TV instead of going to the yard, there’s less violence. We’re entertained and confined and everyone’s happy. But the TVs could be put to better use.

What if, a few times a week, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were streamed on the prison’s internal station, channel 3? Companies like Coursera already record university lectures — in subjects like psychology, sociology, existentialism, economics and political science — and stream them online for free. The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Homeless get a hand up

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR

The ochre-breasted bird perched on the chain-link fence and chirped, his song wafting across the front yard and through the open window to where Jerry Grimsley sat in a tweed recliner.

“Is that a robin?” asked his sister, Vickie Chevrette.

Grimsley shrugged.

Last year, the harbinger of spring would have symbolized another winter survived in the woods. Last week, the bird was simply a mellifluous visitor in the yard Grimsley shares with Chevrette and John Worthington.

In early January, the three packed their tents, tarps, sleeping bags, kerosene heaters and portable generators and moved from the woods near Massaponax, in Spotsylvania, to a small home in the same county.
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Fredericksburg resident enrolled at U.Va. after spending seven years behind bars

BY JEFF BRANSCOME/THE FREE LANCE-STAR

While in prison, Julius Berger started taking classes, thanks to a program funded by Doris Buffett. Berger says that while he was in Coffeewood Correctional Center, Buffett was his first and only visitor at that prison.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Behind bars, college is back in session in some Washington prisons

Privately funded college classes are starting to creep back into state prisons after being absent for nearly two decades. Supporters say they reduce the recidivism rate and can save money on re-incarceration.

By Katherine Long

Seattle Times higher education reporter

Every week, they slide books through the metal detectors — novels by Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen, copies of the U.S. Constitution, texts on sociology, psychology and comparative religion.

Then dozens of professors and instructors from Washington’s public and private colleges surrender their driver’s licenses and car keys to an armed guard, walk through the detector themselves and pass through a perimeter fence topped by coils of gleaming razor wire.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Agency to add transition home in Fredericksburg

AMY FLOWERS UMBLE, The Free Lance-Star Richmond Times-Dispatch

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — The little boy tugged gently on Kathy Anderson’s sleeve. In the middle of a party, Anderson didn’t notice at first.

The 5-year-old tugged again, and Anderson leaned down to talk with him.

“This house is everything I ever wanted,” he said.

Anderson directs Empowerhouse, an agency that helps families fleeing abusive situations. And the boy’s simple statement validated months of work raising money and renovating the house that became the agency’s first transition home.

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