News & Events

Spring 2020 updates

Welcome of Dionna Morton as Re-Entry Liaison

We’d like to warmly welcome Dionna Morton as UPEP’s new Re-Entry Liaison! In this role, Dionna will assist the project in developing more robust post-incarceration supports and infrastructure. We sat down with Dionna to ask a few questions about the importance of education and re-entry support. 

Q: What does transformative education mean to you?

A: Transformative education allows us to see ourselves, others, or surroundings and our world from a better perspective...our own, and not one we are conditioned with. It gives us the ability to think autonomously and not strictly by what we have been spoon fed through generational habits, family/religious/societal beliefs, but through our own independent lens. Through transformative education we get the opportunity to overcome negative thought patterns instilled in us by so many others whether intentional or not. Example, I used to love the saying "I'm going after everything they said I couldn't have!" At first glance it's motivating, but transformative education teaches us "I'm going after what I want, period, who are ‘they’ anyways!" I believe in me, I don't need an imaginary "they" to tell me who/what I am or what I do or don't deserve. Transformative education opens up the world to us, on our terms.

Q: Why did you choose to stay involved with UPEP?

A: I chose to stay involved in UPEP because I have always wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives. UPEP has changed my life for the better by showing me I so deserved to be cared about, I still deserved an education, I was still worth it for people to take time out of their days to allow me an education during my incarceration. It wasn't just the standard "school" education that made the difference, it was the love, compassion, and concern that was shown to all of us! Every single teacher, volunteer, staff, every person involved has shown us the basic need to be accepted and treated humanely. UPEP offers more than just education, it offers a better way of life to those of us it impacts. I want to be a part of that for as long as I can be!

Q: Why does re-entry support matter?

A: Re-Entry support is so important because first and foremost, no one should have to be alone in taking the first steps outside of prison. Speaking from personal experience, it is scary, intimidating, and sometimes downright soul crushing to have to navigate the "free world" after incarceration. My self-esteem was shot, my self confidence was gone, I had little to no help in finding resources, and I was rejected left and right for housing! Every day felt like an uphill climb. There is so much that needs to happen and so little support to make it happen. I am so thankful that Dr. Castro and Dr Cindy Fierros were and still remain a positive and strong support for me and my family. The kindness I was shown by UPEP staff, faculty, and volunteers has been the same even after I transitioned back into society. Education is the greatest asset anyone can have and when you have demands from the parole board, your parole officer, family, friends, job searching, trying to find housing, etc, education will always be pushed to the back burner. If we give the support to those individuals who want and need it after such a traumatic experience as prison, then the likelihood of continuing our education becomes higher, our chances of regaining self-confidence and self-esteem becomes higher and our overall chances of success on many levels becomes greater.

Lecture Review with Paul Morgan 

At the request of the Utah Prison Education Program (UPEP) students, Erin Castro invited me to provide a lecture on student veterans in higher education and our U Vets.  I immediately accepted because I enjoy serving others, and this was also an opportunity to serve some of my brothers in arms who were incarcerated. The UPEP staff provided training on procedures and protocols for the Draper facility and the UPEP program, and they told me about how the UPEP students are very motivated and engaged in learning. I was excited about giving the lecture, but I know that what our training teaches us to expect is sometimes different from what we really experience. Such was the case with my lecture.

In the training, I was told that the UPEP students would be motivated, inquisitive, and prepared, but what I encountered far exceeded these expectations. All of the students had read the journal article that I provided in advance. All of them. They asked insightful questions that they had already thought about and other questions that demonstrated they were completely engaged. They provided thoughtful contributions to the discussion. For example, a good portion of the article discussed veterans’ transition out of the military and onto campuses. I intended to guide the discussion to draw out parallels between identity and cultural transitions for veterans and transitions in and out of incarceration. They quickly got there themselves. 

The discussions with the students afterwards were enlightening for me. One said that UPEP helped him think about more than just himself and to consider what meaningful things he might do in the future. Some were planning to go to college, start nonprofits, or work with special needs children. The program has been transformational for them.

Another expectation from the UPEP training was different from what I actually experienced—I underestimated just how rewarding the program would be. 

 

UPEP in the News
PAST EVENTS

Feb. 15 & Feb. 29, 2020

UPEP Lecture Series

Education, Art, & Trauma
Presented by Dr. Audrey Thompson

The purpose of this two-session lecture/workshop series is to explore memory and storytelling connected with hard relationships and/or trauma. We will critically examine narrative assumptions and frameworks connected with both “normalcy” and “trauma” and consider ways to better understand our own stories and others.’ In addition, we may be able to dis-organize and begin to re-author our own stories. Among the topics we will take up will be invisibility and erasure, narrative frameworks, and hidden values.

Dr. Audrey Thompson is a professor of Education, Culture, & Society at the University of Utah.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 15 & Saturday Feb. 29
8am-11am

Location: Timpanogos Facility

 

U of U Giving Day is February 25 + 26!

Check out UPEP's giving page here, and make your donation (recurring, one-time, or if you're employed at the University of Utah, a payroll deduction). Your contribution is greatly appreciated!

October 1, 2019

Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider's Journey
Presented by Dr. Robert J. Durán

Researching the emergence and criminalization of Latino youth groups, Dr. Durán explains the paradigm of how gangs form and persist even against violent suppression. Combining data from 145 different interviews with gang members, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, other relevant individuals as well as his own experiences. Dr. Durán highlights different solutions to racial oppression that change the condition of gang life.

Dr. Durán is an associate professor of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider's Journey is his first book.

Date: Tuesday, October 1st, 5:30-7:45pm

Location: Wasatch Facility, 14425 Bitterbrush Lane, Draper UT 84020

RSVP by September 17: bryn.dayton@utah.edu

September 18, 2019

Public Space, Homelessness and Justice
Exploring traditional and critical views of public space
Presented by Dr. Jeffrey Neal Rose

The work of critical social theorists note that there can be no justice if there is not a space in which that justice can be attained. This lesson will explore traditional and critical perspectives of public space, noting that public spaces are spaces of contestation, diversity, and ultimately, a more justly formed social polity. Using direct examples from ethnographic research conducted with individuals facing unsheltered homelessness while living in a public park, this lesson will challenge participants to reconsider public spaces with which they commonly interact to re-envision a more democratic public sphere that encourages open political discourse and critical community interaction.

Date: Wednesday, September 18, 5:30-7:45 pm

Location: Timpanogos Facility, 14425 Bitterbrush Lane, Draper UT 84020
RSVP by September 1: upep@utah.edu

Date: September 18, 2019

Public Space, Homelessness and Justice
Exploring traditional and critical views of public space
Presented by Dr. Jeffrey Neal Rose

The work of critical social theorists note that there can be no justice if there is not a space in which that justice can be attained. This lesson will explore traditional and critical perspectives of public space, noting that public spaces are spaces of contestation, diversity, and ultimately, a more justly formed social polity. Using direct examples from ethnographic research conducted with individuals facing unsheltered homelessness while living in a public park, this lesson will challenge participants to reconsider public spaces with which they commonly interact to re-envision a more democratic public sphere that encourages open political discourse and critical community interaction.

Date: Wednesday, September 18, 5:30-7:45 pm

Location: Timpanogos Facility, 14425 Bitterbrush Lane, Draper UT 84020
RSVP by September 1: upep@utah.edu

Date: December 6, 2017, 7-8:30pm

Event: UPEP Information Session 

Date: November 2-5, 2017

Event: 7th Annual National Conference on Higher Education in Prison
Location: Dallas, Texas
Notes: UPEP Director Dr. Erin Castro attended and presented research on higher education in prison across the U.S.

Date: October 23, 2017, 12-1pm

Event: Utah Prison Education Project Overview
Location: Spencer Fox Eccles Building, University of Utah Main Campus

Date: October 20, 2017, 5-8pm

Event: UPEP Lecture Series
Presentation: “How to do Math (and Computer Science) while Cutting a Cake”
Presenting Faculty: Dr. Suresh Venkatasubramanian, School of Computing, University of Utah/
Location: Timpanogos Women’s Correctional Facility, Draper UT

Date: September 19, 2017, 10am – 2pm

Event: UPEP Volunteer Orientation
Location: Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, University of Utah Main Campus

NEWSLETTER
FALL 2019 Newsletter

READ MORE

Spring 2019 Newsletter

READ MORE

 Fall 2018 Newsletter

READ MORE

 Spring 2018 Newsletter

READ MORE