On any given day, there are roughly 1.5 million people incarcerated in adult prisons in the U.S. For many years, James Schuler was one of them. Schuler will bring his story to HWS with a talk titled “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, Education, Prison and ‘At-Risk’ Children” on Monday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of Scandling Campus Center.
As a young man, Schuler dropped out of high school and spent more than 10 years in and out of jails and prisons for various crimes. In 1997, he was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison on drug charges, of which he served 10 years before being paroled.
Schuler struggled to re-enter society on his release, finding it difficult to resume family life with his wife and three daughters and to find work. He currently is employed with Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., as an intensive case manager. He is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Task Force of the Finger Lakes. He founded a group at the Wayne County Jail that assists youth who are incarcerated with self-development, and speaks to youth at group homes and drug treatment facilities, including the Villa of Hope’s Life House in Rochester.
Schuler’s message is an important one for people to hear, says Associate Professor of Sociology James Sutton. “Stories about crime and offending are often sensationalized, and those who break the law are often dehumanized,” he says. “The personal stories and perspectives of those who have been locked up need to be included in discussions about justice. James Schuler’s presentation will help us better understand why many people find themselves on the path to prison. It will also give us insights into how individuals and their families are personally affected by incarceration, and it will ultimately pose new ideas for positive change.”
This talk is the latest in a series of speakers who have visited HWS with powerful stories about crime and justice, including exonerated former death row prisoners Kirk Bloodsworth and Sabrina Porter; Cindy Best, who was married to convicted murderer Karl Karlsen for 18 years; and Linda Dynel, who wrote Leaving Dorian about her experiences as a domestic violence survivor. The speakers are connected, says Sutton, in that they are voices that often go unheard.
“All of these individuals have transcended barriers and are challenging conventions in their efforts to make a positive difference in their communities, which makes them important role models for our students who wish to make the world a better place,” he says.
Schuler’s talk is sponsored by the Departments of Sociology, Africana Studies, Education and Anthropology, as well as the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and the Office of Intercultural Affairs. The talk is free and open to the public.