On April 10, American Studies will be a leading co-sponsor of an event organized by Stanford Beyond Bars, an organization dedicated to sparking dialogue and consciousness of the issues surrounding incarceration. The event will be organized by American Studies major Jacqueline Gauthier, who is the coordinator of Stanford Beyond Bars. Since SBB’s official inception in the fall of 2004, they have started a tutoring program with the San Francisco County Jails in association with the Northern California Service League and volunteered with prison activist organizations such as the Prison Activist Resource Center in Oakland.
Other co-sponsors include the Program in Ethics in Society, the Criminal Justice Center, Sociology and Urban Studies.
This term, in preparation for the April event, Stanford Beyond Bars showed the film, After Innocence, a critically acclaimed, full-length documentary that tells the compelling story of seven men who were released after decades of wrongful imprisonment and their emotional journeys back into society. “After Innocence” has received much national praise, including official selection at: Sundance Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Independent Film Festival of Boston, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and Nantucket Film Festival. On April 10, Stanford will have the opportunity to converse with one of the ex-inmates who was featured in the film,
Mr. Nick Yarris, the exoneree who will be speaking at the event, hails from West Philadelphia and now resides in London. In 1981 he was sent to death row after one of the shortest murder trials in Pennsylvania history for the kidnapping, rape, and murder, of a Boothwyn, PA resident. Nick spent 23 years on death row in solitary confinement and was the first death row inmate in Pennsylvania exonerated with the use of DNA testing. On January 16, 2004, Nick was released from prison and now speaks out around the world as an advocate against the death penalty (source: www.afterinnocence .com). He hopes to bring with him one of the directors of “After Innocence.” He will speak about his experience as an innocent inmate on death row, his views about the death penalty, and the flaws in our criminal justice system that can lead to the wrongful imprisonment of the innocent.
The program raises basic questions and society’s moral obligation to the innocent. It challenges people to re-examine their moral values and ask themselves, “What can I be doing to make our society more just?” It is designed to spark debate and spread awareness in the Stanford community about the ethics of punishment in American society. This event is intended to inform and motivate event participants to become involved in efforts to improve the criminal justice system in the U.S.