Stormont Conference explores Texas prison system

“Prison and Punishment – The Texas Prison System” is the theme of the 2015 John W. Stormont Conference on South Texas, which will feature nine lectures and a documentary film. The conference, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 2 in Victoria College’s Student Center.

Keynote speakers Juan Melendez and Delia Perez from the Witness to Innocence Project will kick off the conference with a lecture titled “The Death Penalty at What Cost? Stories of Innocence and Exoneration on America’s Death Row.”

Each lecture will last about 20 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session. The conference will conclude with a screening of “At the Death House Door,” a film detailing the journey of Rev. Carroll Pickett, Huntsville Penitentiary’s Death House Chaplain, who accompanied over 95 men into the execution chamber during his tenure. Rev. Pickett is a Victoria College alumnus.

“We’re so excited to have such a wide range of speakers at this year’s conference: exonerees, social justice activists, scholars and former Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees,” said Lisa DeVries, who co-chairs this year’s conference along with Ann Kapp. “Texas’ prison system is such a part of our state’s history and involves many players.”

Lectures in this year's conference will include:

  • “The Death Penalty at What Cost? Stories of Innocence and Exoneration on America’s Death Row,” by Juan Melendez and Delia Perez, at 8 a.m.
  • “The Costs of Incarceration,” by Amin Alehashem, at 9 a.m.
  • “The School to Prison Pipeline in Texas,” by Morgan Craven, at 9:30 a.m.
  • “Pardon Me if I’m Sentimental: Radio and Texas Prison Bands in the New Deal Era,” by Caroline Gnagy, at 10 a.m.
  • “The Prison Show: Using Radio to Create Positive Community in a Prison Environment," by Raymond Hill, at 10:30 a.m.
  • “The Treatment of Women in Texas County Jails,” by Diana Claitor, at 11 a.m.   
  • “40 Days in Orange: A Lenten Journey in the Uniform of the Imprisoned,” by Kent McKeever, at 11:30 a.m.
  • “For-Profit Penitentiaries: The Past, Present, and Future of Prison Privatization in Texas,” by Nacona Nix, at 1 p.m.
  • “Citizen: Felonies, Voting, and Skin in the Game,” by Corena White, at 1:30 p.m.
  • Screening of “At the Death House Door” at 2 p.m.

Prior to the conference, an opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 at the Museum of the Coastal Bend. The reception is free and open to the public.

The conference is sponsored by VC’s Division of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences and is funded in part by Victoria College, the John. W. Stormont Endowment and the Kathryn Stoner O'Connor Endowment.

For more information, call (361) 582-2530.

Published: Friday, 18 September 2015

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