Valena Elizabeth Beety WVU Law
MORGANTOWN – A Nov. 1 discussion jointly hosted by the Appalachian Justice Initiative and West Virginia University on mass incarceration “(highlighted) the documentary work of artist Raymond Thompson on the struggles particular to family members who have a loved one incarcerated in Appalachia."
Panelists for the discussion included Fairmont State University Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Jeri Kirby, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia Betsy Jividen, Recidivism Zero President Rich MacAllaster and WVU multimedia producer and freelance photographer Raymond Thompson, according to a WVU news release.
“This panel focuses on a group of people largely stigmatized and shut out from the work force, housing and community involvement: former inmates,” moderator and WVU Law Professor Valena Elizabeth Beety told The West Virginia Record. “Although the majority of inmates in Appalachia are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, addiction is treated as a criminal issue and not a public health issue in West Virginia, and offenders can’t leave behind the scarlet letter of a criminal conviction.”
Beety said the initiative’s mission includes addressing poverty in the region, “and this panel discusses issues and solutions for disenfranchised West Virginians who serve time in prison.”
According to Beety, Thompson’s work also focuses on the isolation of inmates in Appalachia. As a result, the panel also covered “the challenges facing inmates returning to society, the importance of family and community to successful re-entry of these formerly incarcerated individuals and the intersection of poverty, race and the criminal justice system.”
The WVU release said Thompson’s photography exhibit, "The Divide," which portrays the journeys made by families from Virginia to visit their relatives incarcerated in Appalachia is on display at WVU’s George R. Farmer Jr. Law Library and Downtown Campus Library through December.
In addition to the Nov. 1 panel discussion, Beety said Associate Professor of Law and Public Health Jennifer Oliva, who is also a founding member of the initiative, is planning a symposium on Appalachian Justice with the West Virginia Law Review.
The symposium is scheduled to be held on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, 2018, and is expected to feature speakers from across West Virginia and Appalachia.