Thursday, 5 April 2007

Annual Prison Law Symposium to be held Saturday


Annual Prison Law Symposium to be held Saturday----Conference will discuss
topics including post-release issues, death penalty

In response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Prison
Overcrowding State of Emergency Proclamation on Oct. 4, 2006, the UC Davis
School of Law will be addressing present conditions in California's prison
system during their third annual Prison Law Symposium on Saturday.

"The state of emergency is basically just saying that the issues and
problems can't be neglected anymore," said Phoebe Hyun, co-organizer and
third-year UC Davis law student. "It has to be confronted and it has to be
dealt with now. I think the state of emergency is just a solidification of
how people are feeling. The governor and the state couldn't ignore it

The 4-panel discussion will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Martin
Luther King Jr. Hall in room 2021. 16 speakers from diverse backgrounds
and expertise, including an 18-year political prisoner and members of the
public defender's office, will discuss a variety of issues, including the
present prison conditions, alternatives to incarceration and post-release
issues, sex and gender oppression and the death penalty.

Kimberly Huangfu, co-organizer and third-year law student, said the
symposium is relevant because the government "is spending so much money on
the prison system, but [the public] isn't seeing any results."

Taking money away from social welfare programs and education is not the
best way to alleviate the prison problems, and money instead should be
shifted to prisoner rehabilitation, she said.

Students should attend the event, according to Hyun, because every person
is connected to the prison system in one way or another, even those who
have not experienced it personally.

"We get huge fee hikes every year ... and we're not just paying for our
education," she said. "We're in a public school system. In this case,
these prisons and the costs of these prisons are a big chunk of our budget
right now.... Not only the tax dollars, but it's something that you're
going to have to deal with. It has a trickle-down effect. How we take care
of our law in society will come back around in some way or another."

Hyun and Huangfu expressed a deep concern for the people behind bars and
their possible future if they assimilate back into society.

"When you label somebody as a prisoner, it kind of dehumanizes them and
we're saying that it might have been a mistake," Hyun said. "It's not just
about giving them a second chance. It's about doing the right thing and
making sure that the prison system actually works. That prison system only
works when they're rehabilitated.

"I don't think the problem is solved when you're throwing them back and
forth into prison," she said. "It's far beyond that prison time. I think
it's a part of considering these people as fully human."

(source: California Aggie)

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