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NIU to focus on incarceration issues during Women’s History Month

February 19, 2015

RosieMarch is Women’s History Month and Northern Illinois University will celebrate with a variety of events focused on incarceration issues.

“The U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world,” said Rebekah Kohli, coordinator of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program. “While the majority of prisoners are men of color (mostly African American and Latino), since 1980, the number of women imprisoned has increased at a much higher rate than the number of men.

“Sexual abuse is an issue in both male and female prisons, yet women and LGBT people experience sexual victimization at much higher rates than straight male prisoners. This month, we will explore a variety of issues related to women, gender, sexuality and incarceration.”

Women’s History Month events include:

Monday, March 2

  • NIU kicks off the month with the first of a three-part series, entitled “Sentenced: Orange is the New Black.” This series will explore the dynamics of identity through the Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black.” Participants may attend one, two or all three sessions where we’ll look through the eyes of Taystee, Sophia, Piper and others and discuss their stories, relationships and the impact of incarceration. Part 1 takes place at 10 a.m. in the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center (corner of Normal Rd. and Lincoln Hwy.) Parts 2 and 3 take place at 6 p.m., on Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5 in Holmes Student Center’s Sky Room.

Tuesday, March 3

  • NIU will celebrate its eleventh annual “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” Sticker Day. The event aims to break harmful stereotypes that cast all feminists as white, female, middle-class, or politically radical, and to open up the definitions of the word “feminist” to more complicated meanings. Stop by Room 103 in Reavis Hall or the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center to pick up a free sticker and wear it with pride. Buttons are also available in Reavis 103 for $1.

Tuesday, March 24

  • Beginning at 7 p.m., the Holmes Student Center’s Capitol Room will host the “Caring for Incarcerated People and Their Families” panel discussion and learn what you can do to help prisoners and their families.

Thursday, March 26

  • During “Mother Jones and the Radical Critique of Prisons in the Early 20th Century,” NIU History Professor Rosemary Fuerer will discuss labor activist Mother Jones’s work against mass incarceration. The talk begins at noon in Graham Hall Room 342.

Thursday, April 2

  • Judy Royal and Andrea Lewis of Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions Women’s Project will moderate a discussion on the prison and re-entry experiences of women who have been wrongfully convicted. The discussion will take place at 2 p.m. in Reavis Hall Room 103.
  • Judy Royal and Andrea Lewis will discuss some of the factors that contribute to the wrongful convictions of women. In addition to giving a brief overview of some of their cases, they will also discuss potential areas for future exploration of this topic. The public lecture will take place at 4 p.m. in Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room.

A complete schedule of discussions, workshops and other activities can be found online at

All events are open to the public and, unless otherwise noted, are free. Sign language interpreters will be provided upon request; call (815) 753-6515. One week’s notice is preferred.

For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call the Women’s Studies Program at (815) 753-1038.

In addition to Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, event sponsors include the NIU Graduate Colloquium Committee; Graduate School; Gender & Sexuality Resource Center; Department of History; Center for Black Studies; Departments of History and Sociology; NIU Women’s Rights Alliance; DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace & Justice; and Unitarian Universalist Church of DeKalb.