The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - October 30, 2009

Conrad Wetzel on When a Parent is in Prison

My name is Conrad Wetzel, and I live in Champaign. My comment is about the effects on children because of having a parent in prison. In her new book, All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated, Nell Bernstein asks us to 'See' the children of incarcerated Americans. One in ten American children has a parent who is under penal supervision incarcerated, on probation, or on parole. One in eight African-American children has a parent behind bars today. One-half of all boys who have a parent in jail or prison will also wind up incarcerated.

As Bernstein noted, "These children have committed no crime, but the price they are forced to pay is steep. They forfeit, too, much of what matters to them: their homes, their safety, their public status and private self-image, their primary source of comfort and affection. Their lives are profoundly affected . . . "

An exhibit, "When a Parent is in Prison" explores the situation of children who have a parent in prison through their portraits and words. The twelve young people, who are portrayed in the exhibit by large photographs and stories, are among the 2,400,000 American children who have a mother or father in prison. The photographs of the children were done by world-renowned photographer and author, Howard Zehr, Professor of Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University. The exhibit is a joint documentary project of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and the Mennonite Central Committee.

Restorative justice fosters supervised dialog between offenders and their victims, resulting in offenders taking responsibility, offering apology, and making reparation for their offences. Restorative processes which foster dialog between the offender and the victim show the highest rates of victim satisfaction, true accountability by the offender, and reduced recidivism

This exhibit, "When a Parent Is in Prison," will be shown at the UC Independent Media Center, 202 South Broadway in Urbana. It will be on display from November 1 - 21, 2009. There will be an exhibit opening on Sunday, November 1, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The exhibit, which is sponsored by the Mennonite Church in Urbana, is free and open to the Public. You may Call 217-352-8603 for more information.

Please join us at the Independent Media Center for the exhibit opening on November 1 and on display from November 1 - 21, 2009.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 16, 2009

Leslie Cooperband, owner of Prairie Fruits Farm, on the harm that would be done by a proposed extens

Many residents of Champaign Urbana likely have heard about the renewed plans for extending Olympian Drive eastward from where it ends east of Market Street to connect with Highway 45 in Urbana. The road is just the beginning of a larger long-range plan to rezone the region for light industry.

If implemented, many irreplaceable community benefits will be lost. We threaten potential for near-community local foods production which has proven benefits for the local economy, public health, and quality of life. We threaten several designated post Civil War Centennial farms that will be cut in two, increasing the risk that farm families who have farmed this land for as much as seven generations will have to stop farming. We lose the tranquil beauty of a green place minutes from town for bike touring and passive public enjoyment. We pave over the black prairie soils considered the best in the world. We bisect the Saline Branch wildlife corridor, which deer, coyotes, mink, weasels, ducks, muskrat, and an amazing array of other native animals use as an uninterrupted pathway north of Urbana. Finally, we lose the opportunity to gain a unique reputation for sustainability and thoughtful consideration of quality of life for current inhabitants and for the entire Champaign county community. With all the recent discussions about how to make our cities and county more sustainable, this outmoded type of build it and they will come development runs completely counter to local government sustainability goals.

If you agree that we need to find alternatives to constructing Olympian Drive, please sign our electronic petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopolympiandrive

Please contact the mayors and city council members of the cities of Urbana and Champaign as well as elected state and federal officials to let them know you want sustainable alternatives.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 02, 2009

Carol Corning on the Books to Prisoners book sale, Oct. 2-4, 2009

Hi, I'm Carol Corning and I'd like to tell you about Books to Prisoners, and our book sale, approaching quickly, October 2-4, in the Independent Media Center, behind the Urbana Post Office.

When I first began as a volunteer last winter, I was impressed by the scale of this project, which is a tribute to the work that can be accomplished by a group of dedicated local volunteers. Students, retired people, and others who, like me also work full-time---anyone with a few hours to give--- gather to open letters from Illinois inmates, and find books to match their requests. We track book orders on donated computers, package, and ship the books. As of today, we have sent 38,082 books in 9,904 packages to 5,960 inmates! We also operate libraries at the Champaign County Jails.

People are often surprised to learn that dictionaries are the books most often requested. We purchase many of these, with donations or funds from the sale. Due to budget constraints in prisons throughout Illinois, educational programs and libraries have been seriously hindered. Maximum security prisons do not allow used books to be sent to prisoners from family or friends, and our organization is sometimes the sole source of reading material for prisoners. We think you will agree with us that education through reading is a crucial tool for prisoners returning to our communities from prison or jail.

The Pages for Pennies book sale, where you can get any hardback for $1 and paperbacks for 50cents, provides us with crucial funds needed to cover shipping costs and purchase dictionaries. Please stop by the Downtown Urbana Post Office, 202 S. Broadway, on Friday October 2, from 4-8pm, Saturday, 8am-5pm and Sunday, 10am-2pm. Were online at booksTWOprisoners.org. Thank you.

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