Vanderbilt Prison Project

November 2015

Our Mission

We are a service-based organization founded in 1972 that is committed to inspiring and educating both the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities to collectively work towards an improvement in the current state of criminal justice system and all those affected by it either directly or indirectly including at-risk youth, inmates, those that have recently been released, and those affected by the incarceration of loved ones.

VPP Presents VICE At Vandy

Wednesday, Nov. 11th, 7-8:30pm

Buttrick Hall 306

Nashville, TN

Many of us enjoy the Emmy Award Winning TV show VICE for its insightful look into unknown and often shielded parts of society. VICE takes its cameras where few people can go while inspiring commentary and discussion on controversial political and cultural issues.

In Fixing the System, VICE's own Shane Smith travels to a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma and gives viewers a first-hand view into the daily life of its prisoners. Fixing the System gives a voice to the concerns of former Attorney General Eric Holder, prisoners serving life-long sentences as well as their families, and features commentary from President Obama, the first sitting president to ever visit a federal prison, all while providing us with the history of mass incarceration in the US alongside alarming statistics on rising rates of incarceration.

So join us for a night as we shine a light on the state of our prison system, hear the voices of the forgotten, and see how our elected and appointed officials react to their stories.

Following the presentation of the film we will have a conversation with our peers and prominent members of the Vanderbilt community about the film's portrayal of prisons, address questions and concerns, and depart with the knowledge to start a dialogue with others in and around Vanderbilt about the shocking aspects of our society.

November News Updates

Obama "Bans the Box"

In a move that has been an ongoing debate for months, President Obama announced Monday that all federal agencies must now remove the box that asks prospective employees about their criminal records.

"It's not too late" President Obama said in a speech at Rutgers University on Monday. “There are people who have gone through tough times, they’ve made mistakes, but with a little bit of help, they can get on the right path. And that’s what we have to invest in. That’s what we have to believe. That’s what we have to promote.”

The move has been a highly anticipated step for activists seeking to reform a system that they say makes it difficult for former inmates to reintegrate into society. But it’s not the first of its kind. Over 14 states and a handful of US cities have already passed similar laws forcing employers not to take criminal records into account until later stages in the hiring process.

Still, some are worried the move won’t be enough. Some activists are pushing for a stricter executive order that would cover contractors.

Private Prison Stocks Fall After Clinton Announces Her Opposition

On Friday, private prison stocks dropped sharply after Clinton said the U.S. needed to “end the era of mass incarceration.” “We need to end private prisons. Protecting public safety...should never be outsourced or left to unaccountable corporations,” she said in a tweet drawn from comments she made during a speech on the criminal justice system in Atlanta. Corrections Corp. of America fell more than 6 percent, lopping off approximately $200 million in value, while GEO Group Inc. dropped 4.2 percent, losing about $100 million.

Clinton also pledged to stop accepting campaign contributions from private prison corporations and the lobbyists who work for them. All previous donations will be given to charity, the former secretary of state's campaign said.

"Hillary Clinton has said we must end the era of mass incarceration, and as president, she will end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers," campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement Thursday night. "She believes that we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute -- or have the appearance of contributing -- to over-incarceration."

Volunteer Opportunities

Opportunity One: We volunteer with the Next Door Reading Buddies. This service opportunity entails reading and playing games with young children whose mothers have struggled with substance abuse addiction. This occurs on the fourth Tuesday of every month throughout the semester.

Opportunity Two: We also work with Preston Taylor Ministries. This service opportunity entails tutoring under-served middle school students in the Greater Nashville Community. We offer tutoring opportunities every first and third Thursday of the month throughout the semester.