R.E.A.C.H. Coalition Presentation at Nashville Teach-In on Mass Incarceration and the Death Penalty

Join R.E.A.C.H. Coalition for a presentation at the Nashville Teach-In on Mass Incarceration and the Death Penalty on Saturday, September 13, 10 am – 4:30 pm at the Nashville Public Library Conference Center (615 Church St, Nashville, TN 37219 – Directions and Parking Information).

11:30am – 12:30pm

R.E.A.C.H. Coalition: Reciprocal Education and Community Healing on Tennessee’s Death Row

- Tom Williams, Watkins College of Art and Design

- Robin Paris, Watkins College of Art and Design

- Scott Lyon, Vanderbilt Creative Writing Program

- Tatiana McInnis, Vanderbilt English Department

- Amy McKiernan, Vanderbilt Philosophy Department

    Room 1b

For a full schedule of the Teach-In, click here.

Sept 13 Teach-in Poster

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Information and Training Session for R.E.A.C.H. Coalition – Sept. 8

R.E.A.C.H. Coalition will be holding an information session for the general public and a and training session for new volunteers on Sept. 8, 3:30 – 5:30 pm  at Vanderbilt University, Furman Hall 132.   In the first hour, REACH members will present an overview of our past and present work with people on death row, and we’ll explain how prospective volunteers can get involved at the prison and/or on the outside. In the second hour, we will shift the focus to a training session for incoming volunteers. All are welcome!  For more information, see our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/284384441765820/?ref_dashboard_filter=hosting

REACH logo stylized

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“My Life is Outside”: Everyday Photographs from Prison

Watkins Arcade Gallery (WAG); Suite 77, upstairs in the historic Arcade, Nashville
Saturday, July 5, 6-9 p.m.
 

Watkins College of Art, Design & Film presents “My Life Is Outside”: Everyday Photographs from Prison at its downtown gallery WAG during the July 5 edition of the First Saturday Art Crawl. Curated by Sharon Stewart, the show features a collection of photographs belonging to Tennessee prisoners, offering a more fully dimensional look at the personal histories, current realities and surrounding communities of these lives than may normally be seen.

Gary photo 5.87x4-1 Gary text 6x1.7-1

The title of the show borrows from a reflection shared by Riverbend Maximum Security Institution prisoner Harold Wayne Nichols. Writing on the significance of his photographs when considering his life inside versus outside of prison, he says, “My life is outside.”

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REACH Coalition: Philosophy and Praxis on Tennessee’s Death Row

Join REACH Coalition members Andrea Pitts, Amy McKiernan, Carmela Hill-Burke, Lisa Guenther, and Tom Williams for a panel discussion of “Philosophy and Praxis on Tennessee’s Death Row,” this Friday from 3:15pm to 5pm at Vanderbilt University, Furman Hall 109.

All are welcome!  A reception will follow.

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Unit 2 (part 3): Gifts

This month, Nostos Gallery hosted Gifts: Unit 2 (part 3), an exhibition of works made by or in collaboration with prisoners living in Unit 2 (the death row unit) of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Northwest Nashville.

This exhibition was made up entirely of gifts for visitors to the gallery during opening night.  These objects—many knitted, many tooled in leather, many rendered in watercolor, pastel, or colored pencil—represent an effort by these prisoners to reach out from a social and political void using the modest tools they have at their disposal.  Their gesture raises the possibility that community—a community that is conjured and sustained through the gift—might extend beyond the walls of prison.  Their exhibition suggests that it might be possible, in spite of everything, to bring such a community into existence.

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Gallery Opening for Gifts: Unit 2 (part 3) on Feb. 1, 6-9pm

Gifts: Unit 2 (part 3)
February 1-22, 2014
Opening reception on February 1st, 6-9pm
Nostos Gallery, 58 Arcade
Nashville, TN 37207
 

Nostos Gallery is pleased to present Gifts: Unit 2 (part 3), an exhibition of works made by or in collaboration with prisoners living in Unit 2 (the death row unit) of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Northwest Nashville.

This exhibition will be made up entirely of gifts for visitors to the gallery during opening night.  These objects—many knitted, many tooled in leather, many rendered in watercolor, pastel, or colored pencil—represent an effort by these prisoners to reach out from a social and political void using the modest tools they have at their disposal.  Their gesture raises the possibility that community—a community that is conjured and sustained through the gift—might extend beyond the walls of prison.  Their exhibition suggests that it might be possible, in spite of everything, to bring such a community into existence.

Some of the gifts will include suggestions for visitors.  In this way, the gift represents a hope to extend community as widely as possible and thereby to begin to address the conditions that deliver people to prison in the first place.

A photographer will be on hand to photograph recipients (if they consent) and/or their gifts, so their images might replace the objects they have taken away.

Gifts: Unit 2 (part 3) is the third in a series of exhibitions related to an ongoing collaboration between prisoners on death row and a group of artists and educators living in the Nashville area.

Prisoners involved in this project include Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman, Ron Cauthern, Tyrone Chalmers, Gary Cone, Marcus Davidson, David Duncan, John Freeland, Kennath Artez Henderson, Akil Jahi, Nikolaus Johnson, Donald Middlebrooks, Harold Wayne Nichols, and Derrick Quintero.

Collaborators on the outside that have participated in this project include Mika Agari, Justin Braun, Holly Carden, Ann Catherine Carter, Jessica Clay, Amy Clutter, Robert Grand, Kristi Hargrove, Kay Kennedy, Seth Lykins, Upreyl Mitchell, Robin Paris, Zack Rafuls, Sharon Stewart, Alanna Styer, Josh Ungurait, Moses Williams, Tom Williams, Weng Tze Yang, and Barbara Yontz.

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Community Voices: Dr. Ann Charvat on the Trauma of Execution for Family and Friends of the Executed

When I look at the faces of the young people who were killed by Paul Dennis Reid I cannot help but cry.  He stole their innocence, and the innocence of my children.  He ruined so many lives.  He contaminated the idea of first jobs for high school students, honest work for young families, humbling one’s self to bring home a paycheck.  Instead, we had to worry about letting our children out of our sights.

When I see these faces, theirs and his, I am filled with intense anger. These young people were defenseless.  No amount of training could have saved them. This man wanted money that was not his, and they stood in his way. Insanity.  There is no other explanation.

And yet, out response appears to be equally insane.  We want to kill the killer.  We want justice, and we don’t seem to care about what it costs or how we get it.  We want justice, and even though few of us would consider that it belongs to us any more than that money belonged to Mr. Reid, we don’t want anyone to stand in our way.

Looking into the faces of these beautiful innocent people, the notion that justice could be found anywhere escapes me.  Perhaps in the hereafter, but nothing man made will ever bring justice for the unadulterated insanity of these deaths.

Following a period of four years without an execution in Tennessee, death row once more moves to the top of the heap as we prepare to execute another insane man, Billy Ray Irick.  His history of mental illness is indisputable, but has somehow been legally separated from the explanation of his crime.  Another child was killed; one who had inexplicably been left in the care of a man with a long history of mental illness.

I would argue that insanity is the only explanation for all these crimes.  Further, I would argue that our response, the state killing the killers, demonstrates an equal degree of insanity.  None of these victims would have been spared if their killers knew they would face certain death when apprehended.  Our death penalty simply expands the pool of victims.

Incarceration offers us the ability to protect future victims of offenders.  We can watch them, monitor their actions, and enforce sanctions when behaviors move in questionable directions.  We can take away a myriad of human rights and we can literally ensure the public safety.  Execution, on the other hand, provides no genuine social benefit.  It reinforces a false sense of security at an incredible price.

Today, mental illness runs rampant and fewer and fewer interventions exist for successful treatment.  Those who will be most vulnerable to the trauma a new execution will produce will be families of those who have loved ones incarcerated or working with the prison, children, and, of course, the mentally ill.   The rest of us will divert our attention.  These folks, like the very sick people who find themselves in situations where killing makes sense, will have a harder time doing that.

Laws change. It is time for this law to change.

Dr. Ann Charvat is a certified sociological practitioner in Nashville, Tennessee, who has worked on the social histories of more than 100 defendants facing death sentences.

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