April 21, 2019  

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State Sen. Willie Simmons among panelists to speak at Criminal Justice Forum

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Mississippi State Sen. Willie Simmons

Mississippi State Sen. Willie Simmons will join other panelists Thursday, March 30 from 6-7:15 p.m. at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg for the forum “Justice in the Mississippi State Penitentiary: Past Reflections, Present Challenges and Future Directions.” This free event will be in room 101 of the USM International Building, and the public is invited.

Moderated by Dr. Alan Thompson, a USM associate professor of criminal justice, the forum will address current conditions in the state’s prisons and efforts to reduce crime and recidivism. Along with Sen. Simmons, other forum panelists will include Leonard Vincent, Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) General Counsel; Dilworth Ricks, MDOC Victim Services director; and R. Kim Rushing, author of “Parchman.” The family of former Parchman Superintendent Marvin Wiggins will also be in attendance.

On Friday, March 31 beginning at 10 a.m., student and other volunteers will gather in the Cook Library Art Gallery for a reading and book signing by Rushing. There will also be readings of inmate letters and excerpts from Louis Bourgeois’s “Unit 30: New Writing from Parchman Farm,” a recent collection of prison writing from Vox's Prison Writes Initiative (PWI) as well as a synopsis of victims’ letters presented by Dilworth Ricks.

After the readings, volunteers will package the books that have been donated to Big House Books over the last month to mail to inmates in the Mississippi penitentiary system.

These events conclude the exhibition currently on display at USM’s Cook Library on the history of Parchman. All are free and open to the public. For more information, e-mail Dawn Smith, assistant to the dean of University Libraries, at dawn.smith@usm.edu.