The sixth annual ASU Prison Education Conference will bring together a broad coalition of experts and community members to discuss criminal justice and the transformative power of education. Organized by Arizona State University's Prison Education Awareness Club and sponsored by the Department of English and the School of Social Transformation, the conference is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in the Turquoise Room of the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Sometimes during a trial a lawyer will get angry, a witness will speak out of turn or a defendant will have an outburst. The judge will then calmly instruct the jury to disregard what just happened.

In theory, it’s supposed to keep emotion and bias out of the legal system. In reality, ASU assistant professor Jessica Salerno said, it’s hard for humans to separate thoughts and emotions so neatly.

Students in the BASIS Phoenix National Honor Society got an in-depth lesson on prison and prison reform from ASU criminologist Kevin Wright. An associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Wright was invited to the northeast Phoenix charter school by Simran Sall, a sophomore who heard Wright speak as part of a summer program with ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College.

"The DNA is a match."

When you hear that phrase on modern-day detective shows, you know the jig is up; the bad guy has been caught. In a fictional TV world where crimes are solved in 30 minutes, nobody ever questions the authority of DNA evidence.

In real life, though, doubt can easily be cast on it because people get confused by scientific jargon, or because of uncertainties about how the evidence was obtained and handled — in one famous case, the O.J. Simpson murder investigation, both factors ultimately contributed to the outcome of the trial.

ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice professor Michael Reisig received the 2016 Outstanding Graduate Alumni Scholar award from Washington State University's Criminal Justice and Criminology Department. Reisig received his master’s degree from Washington State in 1992 and his doctorate in 1996.  

"I am deeply honored to receive this award,” said Reisig. "Being placed in the company of prior honorees, Nancy Rodriguez and Jihong ‘Solomon' Zhao, is very humbling.”

The U.S. prison system is retreating from an era of force and punishment and is starting to think once again about education and rehabilitation programs.

And that’s not only good for society but good for the economy, according to a panel of experts who gathered at Arizona State University this weekend to discuss the role of prison education as part of the American landscape.

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