As part of Wesleyan’s E2020 Speaker Series, on Oct. 1 a group of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders discussed the topic “Criminal Justice and the 2020 Election.” The event, hosted on Zoom, was open to the Wesleyan community and the public.
This event featured a panel of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders, including Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Julian Adler ’02, director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation; Lorenzo Jones, co-founder and co-executive director at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice in Hartford, Conn.; Andrew Clark, director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University; Earl Bloodworth, director of The Warren Kimbro Reentry Project, whose mission is to help formerly incarcerated New Haven residents successfully return to the community after their release from prison; and Tracie Bernardi, co-founder and co-director of Once Incarcerated… Once In, a nonprofit organization geared toward ending recidivism and generational incarceration.
The discussion was moderated by Allie Cislo, program manager of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education. She asked the panelists to reflect on their own work and discuss the uses and limitations of elections at every level of government—from the federal to the municipal—in affecting transformative change to the landscape of law and punishment in America. She also asked, “What is the relationship between prospective changes in the criminal legal system and an electoral paradigm?”
Julian Adler ’02 is the co-author (with Greg Berman ’89) of Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration (The New Press), and he is a co-chair of the advisory board for Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education.
Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18, a leader and community activist in her hometown of New Britain, was named one of Connecticut Magazine’s 2019 “40 under 40.” At 21 years old, Strong became the youngest person nationally to be given the title of executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Strong is working to empower young Muslim women and, in her work with the New Britain Board of Education, tackle socioeconomic and racial disparity in New Britain schools. After taking a course in comparative religion during her junior year at New Britain High School, Strong converted from Catholicism to Islam. She went on to double-major in government and religion at Wesleyan, studying abroad in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia her junior year and graduating with honors. During her time at Wesleyan, Strong received the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship for a research proposal seeking to explore the Muslim identities of the Albanian population in Kosovo.
Tracie Bernardi is a formerly incarcerated woman who entered prison as a teenager and served 23 years in prison, seven of which she spent in solitary confinement. Since her release five years ago, Bernardi has become a Certified Recovery Support Specialist. Bernardi co-facilitates Once In Anonymous (OIA) an online safe haven for formerly incarcerated people, and she’s also a dedicated ACLU Smart Justice Leader fighting to end mass incarceration. “I’m in this game for every person who ends up incarcerated. If you don’t help us, and let us back into society, you essentially block us out of society,” she said, “You’re doing a disservice to our kids, our families, and new victims. . . . I just want to make changes. I speak out and try to change perspectives and change hearts, and change minds, and hopefully who we vote for will help change the world.”
The E2020 Speaker Series features an array of public figures from diverse backgrounds, all with compelling messages about the power of students and young people to affect change amid the urgency of this moment. The E2020 Speaker Series is a centerpiece of Wesleyan’s E2020 Initiative, the University’s comprehensive effort to support student learning and civic participation, while engaging the public around the electoral process and broader questions related to civic life.
Upcoming E2020 Speaker Series events include a vice presidential debate watch party with Logan Dancey, associate professor of government; “Don’t Hate, Communicate: Discussing Politics and Maintaining Relationships”; “Our Country Our Votes: Young Voters Weigh in on the Election, Election Coverage, and Political Discourse Today”; “Religion, Diversity, and Democracy: Eboo Patel in conversation with Michael Roth”; an election results watch party; and more.
The E2020 Speaker Series is supported by generous contributions from the Wintman Family Lecture Series Fund.