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Captive Audience: Incarceration and the family

17th Annual Conference on Race, Class, Gender, and Ethnicity
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall
Saturday, February 22, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
160 Ridge Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Registration | 8:00-9:00

Welcome | 9:00-9:15 | Prof. deborah weissman

Opening Panel | 9:15-10:45 | Framing the Scope of the Problem

Incarceration, its Impact on Poor Families, and its Contribution to Class Inequality in our Communities

Mass incarceration impacts families of all kinds; however, its impact on poor and working class families remains critically problematic. With incarcerated individuals unable to support their families, the children and partners of these prisoners suffer heightened levels of poverty, shame, and decreased access to social capital. Upon release, former convicts suffer the lifelong brand of a felony conviction, not only severely limiting their job prospects, but blocking access to public systems such as housing assistance or higher education. These factors contribute to a cycle of incarceration in poor communities that is difficult to break. This panel will discuss the problems of incarcerated individuals and their families that are unique to our poor and working class communities and will address how the destabilization of these vulnerable families and communities contributes to the destabilization of our national family.


  • Jonathan Rapping, Founder and President, Gideon’s Promise
  • Dennis Gaddy, Executive Director, Community Success Initiative
  • Scott Holmes, Director, Civil Litigation Clinic, North Carolina Central University
  • Allison Riggs, Staff Attorney, Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Concurrent Panel 1 | 11:00-12:20 | Incarceration, Families, and Communities

Prison’s Families: Maintaining Ties Behind Bars

The failure of the U.S. prison system to support the maintenance of family and community ties exacts a toll on the mental health of incarcerated individuals and makes it difficult for incarcerated individuals to re-enter society. We will hear from scholars, advocates, and formerly-incarcerated individuals about the importance of family and community ties, the ways the prison system impedes, rather than promotes, the maintenance of those ties, and about possibilities for change.


  • Melissa Radcliff, Executive Director, Our Children’s Place
  • Leah Sakala, Prison Policy Initiative
  • Philip Genty, Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility, Columbia School of Law
  • Sarah Jobe, Founder, Project TURN
  • Kimberly Brown, Creator,

Modern Prisons and Household Economies

In many poor U.S. communities, prisons are omnipresent as economic institutions and cultural symbols. This panel will explore what happens when prisons become a key part of families’ economic and cultural identity. This panel will look at how the modern U.S. prison system shapes household economies both for the families experiencing incarceration and the families who rely on the prison system for livelihoods. For the former, it will consider the relationship between prison, non-sanctioned economic activity, and the construction of the household. For the latter, it will explore how the presence of prisons shape community economies and values, especially in rural U.S.


  • Daryl Atkinson, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • Tracy Huling, Prison Public Memory Project
  • Tychist Baker, Milk Not Jails
  • Joe Kennedy, UNC Law

Lunch and Community Organization Tabling | 12:30-2:00

Lunch will be provided by Vimala's Curryblossom Café.

Community Organizations will be tabling during lunch to provide information about their mission and how attendees can become involved.

Concurrent Panel 2 | 2:00-3:20 | A Local Approach to Helping “Incarcerated” Families

The Psychological Impact of Imprisonment on Prisoners and Their Families

This panel will explore the psychological impact of incarceration on inmates and their families, both before and after release. An inmate dealing with the stresses of prison life may develop any number of potentially severe psychological disorders. Inmates' families can also suffer. Children of the incarcerated may suffer developmental delays, develop maladaptive coping strategies, loss of self-esteem, and many other ill effects. Further, the strain incarceration places on families does not end after a prisoner is released. Effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder may persist long after a prison term is complete. The coping strategies a person must learn in order to survive in prison are difficult to unlearn and antithetical to a healthy home life.


  • Michele Luecking-Sunman, NC Prisoner Legal Services
  • Trish Hussey, Executive Director, Freedom House
  • Gary Cuddeback, UNC School of Social Work

Who Are We Really Punishing? Envisioning Family Supporting Options to those Affected by Mass Incarceration

To combat the destructive power of current mass incarceration practices on families in the United States, Americans need to cultivate family supporting options for those affected by our criminal justice system. This session will discuss options already present in our community such as restorative justice programs, reentry initiatives, as well as potential policy changes, including decriminalization of drugs, that can all contribute to radical change in our punishment practices. Through this discussion, the options already present and alternatives imagined will provide a foundation to envision the transformation possible within this country’s criminal justice system.


  • Marcia Owen, Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham
  • Daniel Bowes, Second Chance Initiative Prof.
  • Jon Powell, Campbell University School of Law, Restorative Justice Clinic
  • George O’Briant, Criminal Justice Resource Center

Keynote Introduction | 3:30-3:40 | prof. gene nichol

Keynote | 3:40-5:00 | Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology and the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, Harvard university

Bruce Western is Professor of Sociology and the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy. He is the Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and the Faculty Chair of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Western's research broadly studies the relationship between political institutions and social and economic inequality. He has longstanding interests in criminal justice policy, incarceration, and the effects of incarceration on poor communities.

UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106
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