UPEP statement on solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Dear UPEP Supporters & Allies:

The University of Utah Prison Education Project adamantly condemns the anti-Black violence that has added the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmed Arbery to the list of Black individuals who have been murdered by law enforcement and white supremacists. We stand in solidarity, love, and care for local and national Black communities, and join people from around the world in shared grief and rage.

As an education project committed to social transformation, we support the individuals and organizations around the United States who are speaking loudly and fiercely against police brutality and demanding change. We recognize current protests as the action of people exhausted by oppression and demanding recognition of their humanity, and strongly denounce the use of police and military force in response. Enacting state disciplinary power is never the answer to systemic racism, psychological trauma, and multi-generational harm.

We urge our local elected officials to convene community dialogues and enact policy changes that make a real difference in the lives of Utahns. Like states across the nation, Utah disproportionately targets communities of Color for incarceration and police brutality. Disturbingly, Utah leads the nation in the disproportionate killing of Black men by police force. American Indian and Black communities comprise just 2% of the total population in our state, but represented a combined twelve percent of all incarcerated people in 2017. Latinx communities accounted for 13 percent of the total state population in that same year, but represented almost a quarter of all incarcerated people in Utah. The pathway to punishment begins early in our state, too, as youth of Color are over-disciplined in schools. Black youth are overrepresented by a striking 400 percent among youth appearing before a juvenile court judge.

UPEP will continue the work of advancing educational equity in these heavy and harrowing times by engaging postsecondary coursework in Draper prison via correspondence during COVID-19. Additionally, the UPEP leadership team is ready to serve in any capacity that may help further the pursuit of racial equity, including serving on citizen review panels, engaging in education outreach, and related justice work. We seek to partner with local organizations in this work, too, and invite all to reach out to us using the contact information below.

Sincerely,

UPEP Leadership Team:

Cindy Fierros, Co-Director

Erin Castro, Co-Director

Sarah Manley, Coordinator

Caisa Elizabeth Royer, Postdoctoral Fellow

Estefanie Aguilar Padilla, Graduate Research Assistant