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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Professor Publishes Book on Prison Education

Dr. Tony Gaskew, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, understands the concept of social justice from both a personal and academic perspective.

In his new book, “Rethinking Prison Reentry: Transforming Humiliation into Humility,” Gaskew uses his experiences as young black man in inner-city Chicago, a major crimes police detective, a federal prison volunteer and a scholar to examine the role higher education and the criminal justice system could play in expanding the definition of social justice.

Gaskew spent 10 years assigned as a member of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, investigating and arresting thousands of violent criminal offenders. Throughout his professional career, there is very little that he has not seen or experienced. This includes how the institutionalized oppressive nature of the criminal justice system and its by-product of mass incarceration have negatively impacted the lives of black males across the nation.

Born in one of Chicago’s most violent inner-city neighborhoods -- commonly referred to as the “Wild One Hundreds” – Gaskew describes how his journey as a young black man growing up surrounded by poverty and crime shaped his collective outlook on life and the criminal justice system.

“My dad encouraged my brothers and me to explore careers in policing and to immerse ourselves in educational endeavors as early as the age of 5 and 6,” he said. “He had a ’60s-style mindset and felt it was an important part of our collective moral duty as black American men to become ‘mitigators of justice,’ especially when an unjust criminal justice system existed for black Americans. He simply wanted to give his children an opportunity at everything he was legally denied growing up in the era of Jim Crow.”

In his book, Gaskew describes a prison-based education, the Humiliation to Humility Perspective, designed to address the prevalent racial politics of shaming, self-segregation, and transgenerational learned helplessness faced by many black men trapped within the counter-culture of crime and mass incarceration.

“We (as a society) need to be re-educated that some of the most brilliant and talented minds in the nation are locked behind bars, and that can only be accomplished if we start seeing these men as incarcerated college students,” Gaskew said.

“The ‘truth’ of knowledge accessed through an education is a powerful liberating force for change and transformation. Prisons are no different than college campuses once you take a very close look. It’s what the students at either location are learning that separates the two worlds. The collaborative relationship between institutions of higher education and institutions of corrections have the potential to transform the entire concept of social justice for generations of disenfranchised Americans.”

Gaskew has published numerous articles on issues of social justice. His most recent work includes a book chapter in the edited volume “Crimes Against Humanity in the Land of the Free” entitled, “The Policing of the Black American Male.”

He holds a doctoral degree in conflict analysis, specializing in crime and justice from Nova Southeastern University.

In 2013, he was awarded and served as the principal investigator on a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency research grant examining the impact of reentry initiatives on recidivism rates. He is the recipient of the 2012 PBAA Teaching Excellence Award, and in 2010 he was awarded the FCI McKean Volunteer of the Year.

Artwork for the cover of then new book was created by Jamie Vanalstine, a biology student from Byrnedale.

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