One Book inspires conversation about incarceration

Audrey Johnson, News Editor

On Friday, Sept. 20 from 7:30-9:30 the Library will debut their exhibit “Ghosts Over the Boiler Room: Voices from Alabama’s Death Row” on the ground floor of Collier Library. The exhibit will be on display through Oct 31. This exhibit, along with the UNA One Book Discussion Series, connects students to this year’s One Book, “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. The One Book Discussion Series meets in Collier Library by Cafe Dalluci every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. Weekly speakers cover a variety of topics connected to “Just Mercy” including a variety of connections to incarceration, restorative justice, and resilience. “It’s very educational,” sophomore Sarah Ficus said. These issues need to be talked about and we need to know about this stuff because a 12 year old can be tried for truancy and a 14 year old can be tried as an adult but they’re told that they can’t drink alcohol they can’t vote yet, and they’re told they’re not an adult in these different ways, but yet you can be tried as an adult.” Universities across the country use One Books, also known as Common

Reads, to bring campus together and study a book relevant to their community. “[“Just Mercy” is] about humanity…” said Jennifer Pate, chair of the One Book committee. “Understanding people and accepting their differences, and finding that common ground in that humanity in every single person that you meet,” For students who can’t get enough of “Just Mercy,” Pate recommends following up with “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row ” by Anthony Ray Hinton. Students interested in furthering their passion for the justice system are encouraged to apply for the Inside-Out Program. They travel weekly to Limestone Correctional facility to study with incarcerated students. “Last year they did some amazing stuff,” Pate said. They had the actors from the London stage come and they were looking at King Lear and they were doing excerpts from it. We actually have the videos in our institutional repository.” The senior or graduate level class is open to multiple majors, and gives students the opportunity to explore the intersection between literature and criminal justice. “To me it was life changing,” said Ashley Massey. It not only benefited my academic pursuits but just my life and kind of cemented my passions with dealing with criminal justice reform, and how that intersects with literature, because it does… It’s almost indescribable because it really puts you out of your element because you’re in a prison taking a college course with inside students who are incarcerated. Putting yourself out there opens you up to a whole new way of seeing your text, but also how the system operates.” Ten UNA students will be selected, and applications for the program are now available on the UNA website. Applicants must also go through an interview process. “Do it if you have the chance…I would definitely encourage anyone that can,” Massey said “If you let it, it can change your life and your viewpoints for the better.”