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ASPiRE Book Club, Panel Addresses Incarceration

More than 50 VCU and community members attended a panel April 25 that addressed issues related to incarceration and included panelists working in community organizations addressing these issues and several individuals who had formerly been incarcerated. The panel topic, "Are Prisons Obsolete?" was the culminating event of a five-week book club hosted by ASPiRE Faculty Fellow Kristin Reed, a professor in the VCU University College.

The book club met weekly at the Richmond City Justice Center. During the fall semester, Reed taught students about mass incarceration by hosting a screening of the film, "Up the Ridge," and hosting several discussions of book excerpts from "The New Jim Crow." In the spring, students and Justice Center residents read Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir, "The Beautiful Struggle," and his well-known essay, "The Case for Reparations."

"It was amazing just how big the problem is and that we don't really hear much about it," said Nicole Reeder, an ASPiRE student who participated in the book club and attended the panel. "One thing that stood out to me was the financial aspect of how much money goes into having people incarcerated. It was great to actually talk with inmates, or residents, and get to realize that they're normal people just like us and not villains."

Reed said students are often called upon to be leaders in their communities, but this charge comes with a lot of responsibility.

"It's my hope that the students who represent ASPiRE can be informed allies for existing community partners," Reed said. "This is just the first stage in a longer conversation about how we can collaborate more to inspire leaders in the communities around us."

For more information, contact Reed at