Pitzer Students Win 2018 Letters to an Elected Official Competition

Claremont, Calif. (June 22, 2018)—Pitzer College students Amber Burkhart ’20 and Blake Clement ’20 along with three of their “Inside-Out Prison Exchange” (incarcerated) classmates formed one of five winning teams of the national 2018 D4D Letters to an Elected Official Competition sponsored by the nonprofit Project Pericles. Each winning team receives $500 to support their work during the 2018-19 academic year. Pitzer College’s team wrote to US Rep. Nanette Barragán in support of Title I of Bill 3356, a bill that supports research on strategies to reduce recidivism among the formerly incarcerated.

Burkhart, Clement and their team will collaborate with formerly incarcerated community individuals to create a media project supporting reentry and recidivism research. As part of their project, they will film formerly incarcerated individuals’ testimonials, post the testimonials online and share them with elected officials. The collaborative project has its roots in a Pitzer “Inside-Out Prison Exchange” class, a Pitzer College course that takes place at the California Rehabilitation Center, a state prison located in Norco, CA, where “outside” Pitzer students study alongside “inside’ incarcerated students. The group plans to advocate for greater support to assist the formerly incarcerated in integrating into their communities and is “particularly interested in providing adequate halfway homes for people reentering the free world.”

“With this letter, we hope to humanize incarcerated people,” said Burkhart. “We hope to encourage an understanding that the ways in which people are punished rather than heard and healed in response to illegal activity negatively affect our entire society.”

This year’s many submitted letters for Project Pericles proposed innovative solutions to a wide variety of issues, including climate change and environmental protection, education reform, gun violence, immigration and DACA, prison and sentencing reform, sexual assault, and Title IX enforcement.

Project Pericles works directly with its 31-member institutions, called Pericleans, as they individually and collaboratively develop model civic engagement programs in their classrooms, on the campuses and in their communities. Every year, a panel of judges with significant legislative experience selects the winning letters written by teams of students from Periclean campuses.

Debating for Democracy (D4D)™ is a series of distinctive campus-based programs, such as D4D Letters to an Elected Official Competition, that represent the mission of Project Pericles. D4D promotes civic engagement and effective advocacy skills among a wide range of students.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

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