Emma Harrison, a junior at West Virginia University, is a passionate and tireless advocate for social justice with a particular interest in prison education. Emma has already taught two courses in our local federal correctional facility: Stigmatization and Leadership Lecture Series. She was also selected to be a member of Think-Tank, a council of imprisoned persons and volunteers that develops programs, workshops and seminars for men in the facility. She also serves as a legal intern with West Virginia Innocence Project. Through these various related experiences, Emma has become not merely aware of but deeply attuned and sympathetic to the challenges facing imprisoned persons throughout their reentry into the community. In response, she has identified the need to expand prison education programming. She has proposed expanding book clubs specifically, starting here at our two local facilities and then progressing statewide.
I have always believed in the innate goodness of others. The fate of people in prison interests me because I could not accept the notion that imprisoned people are necessarily bad people. Prisons are our society's greatest test of empathy, and so far, we have failed. I am challenging the notion that imprisoned people cannot succeed. I remember entering my first prison with my supervising attorney at the West Virginia Innocence Project. As soon as I shook our client's hand that day, I knew this was my calling. Since then, I have been involved with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange in two federal facilities, a class made up of both college students and incarcerated students, and now help to facilitate the class as a Teaching Assistant. I volunteer to help implement programming and classes at the Federal Correctional Institutions in Hazelton and Morgantown to increase the chance of successful reentry of the incarcerated individuals through educational access. I plan to attend graduate school for education and eventually be a leader in the field of prison education.