We are a collection of practitioners, activists, former students, families of the incarcerated, advocates, and individuals dedicated to seeing that college-in-prison programs are free to provide their students with safe and dignified learning environments.
Rebecca Ginsburg is a co-founder and current director of the Education Justice Project (EJP), a unit of the University of Illinois. Through its prison education programs, events, outreach, and advocacy, EJP supports critical awareness of incarceration and reentry, with special focus on the responsibility of institutions of higher education to engage systems-involved individuals during and after incarceration.
Rebecca received her Bachelors degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, her JD from the University of Michigan Law School, and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of California at Berkeley.
Michael Nasir Blackwell has been an advocate for change as long as he can remember. Having served 24.5 years in prison, Nasir studied jurisprudence the entire time of his incarceration, as well as history, philosophy, and the sciences while becoming a staunch advocate throughout his incarceration. Nasir’s advocacy work within Illinois Department of Corrections focused around literacy, health, and policy. Co-founder of Danville Prison Veterans’ organization DANVETS, Nasir served as commander for two years. Nasir also participated in a committee known as ACT (Awareness, Change, & Triumph). The committee was integral in increasing the graduation rate within Danville prison. Since his release, Nasir began working with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network as a Resident Coordinator and is now a full-time organizer. As an Organizer, Nasir continues to advocate on behalf of returning citizens. Nasir helped write and push for the successful passage of SB 2282, removing a barrier that prohibited returning citizens from associating with other parolees while performing community work, attending religious services, or visiting family members who had felony convictions.
In 2018, Nasir assisted in writing another piece of legislation making Illinois the second state in the nation to allow a registrant on the Murderer and Violence Against Youth Registration Act to challenge the validity of information listed onto the registry. Nasir also works around issues of civilian oversite for police accountability, access to affordable housing, and voting rights. Nasir testified before the United States Commission on Civil Rights concerning jail detainees’ access to the ballet. Nasir continues to speak around the city of Chicago on matters concerning criminal justice, parole reform, restorative justice, and matters affecting Chicago communities.
Dr. Brian Dolinar is media contact for The Freedom To Learn campaign. He is an independent writer residing in Urbana, Illinois. He has written articles on Illinois prisons that have appeared in Truthout and Prison Legal News. He has published two books on African American artists and writers during the Depression. He has taught History and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mike Doyle is Executive Director of the YMCA at the University of Illinois and serves on the Advisory Board of the Education Justice Project. Mr. Doyle graduated from the University of Illinois in 1978 with a Bachelor Degree in Urban Planning. Throughout his 40-year career, he has worked as a community organizer and helped established several non-profit organizations that are devoted to providing citizens and communities a voice in the decisions that directly affect their lives including the C-U Immigration Forum, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, United Citizens And Neighbors, the Illinois Center for Citizen Involvement and Community Shares of Illinois. As the Executive Director of the University Y, he works to develop the next generation of community leaders. A major element of that work in the past nine years has focused on the issue of immigration including the creation of the New American Welcome Center (NAWC) at the University Y.
Marsheda Ewulomi is a former Secondary English Teacher and current Attorney working on police accountability and expanding higher education in prison at BPI Chicago as the Polikoff-Gautreaux Fellow. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Marsheda graduated with Distinction from the University of Michigan with a BA in English and African and AfroAmerican Studies.
Upon graduating, Marsheda taught secondary English in Metro D.C. as a Teach For America Corp Member. She then returned to Michigan to support Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy (MMLA), the K-8 school she graduated from, as a Behavioral and Academic Interventionist. During her tenure at MMLA she supported new teachers, founded a club focused on supporting 7th and 8th grade girls, ran an aftercare program for kindergartners and first graders, coached dance, and worked with all age groups as a floating building substitute teacher. Upon concluding her position at MMLA, Marsheda transitioned to Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. As a law student, she was active in putting the arts and creativity at the center of policy and reform discussions. In 2018, she graduated cum laude from Northwestern Law.
Orlando Mayorga is a formerly incarcerated person whose 20 years of incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections informs his passion to end mass incarceration. He currently serves the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation Community Center as a full time re-entry coordinator, mentor, and Community Anti-Violence Education facilitator. Orlando is an EJP alumni and graduate of Northeastern Illinois University where he obtained a Bachelors of Arts through the University Without Walls program in order to better serve the community.
Christina Rivers, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Political Science, and a DePaul Presidential Diversity Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year. Her teaching and research interests include African-American politics, civil and voting rights and the political implications of mass incarceration. She is the author of The Congressional Black Caucus, Minority Voting Rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and two articles on felony disenfranchisement laws and prison-based gerrymanders. She teaches a course on law and politics at Stateville Correctional Center to a mix of incarcerated and free students, as part of DePaul’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. She also coordinates a think tank at Stateville, comprised of alumni of her course. With the think tank and members of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Chicago Votes, Dr. Rivers was involved in the writing and passage of Illinois’ “Re-Entering Citizens Civics Education Act” (PA 101-0441). This law mandates voting and civics information as part of the exit process from the state’s Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice. She also volunteers with Chicago Votes to provide registration and voting access to detained citizens at Cook County Jail. Her current scholarly project is an edited volume on voting access for pre-trial detainees, felony disenfranchisement laws, and prison gerrymanders.
Sarah Ross is an educator and interdisciplinary artist and an Asst. Professor in Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2011 she co-founded the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP), a cultural project that brings together artists, writers and scholars in and outside Stateville prison to create public projects concerning segregation, criminalization and incarceration. She has also worked with local artists, activists, lawyers, torture survivors and scholars on Chicago Torture Justice Memorials—a campaign for reparations for survivors of Chicago police torture. Her work has exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Copenhagen, Rio De Janeiro, among other places. Ross is an inaugural recipient of the Leaders for a New Chicago award, a Soros Justice Media Fellow and she has been awarded grants from the Propeller Fund, Graham Foundation, and the Illinois Art Council.