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Expanding Public Discourse on Criminal Justice

When it comes to media coverage of the criminal justice system, which groups of people are left out of public discourse?

That question was at the heart of Communication Ethics and the Public Sphere, a course taught by Fordham professor Diana Kamin, Ph.D., in partnership with the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), the only independent organization in the state with the authority to monitor prisons and report their findings to the legislature and the broader public.

“Going back to ancient Greece, the public sphere is defined by the exclusion of incarcerated populations,” Kamin said, noting that CANY’s mission is “to create a public platform and access for a group that has traditionally been excluded.”

Kamin met with Jennifer Scaife, executive director of CANY, and they determined that students in the class would engage in media monitoring for the organization, providing tips to help CANY create media campaigns on four topics: parole, prisons and food, COVID-19 vaccines and prisons, and the 50th anniversary of the uprisings at Attica Correctional Facility in New York state.

“With CANY, our thoughts and research were actually going to people who want to use it to help others,” said Regine Anastacio, who graduated from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in May. “This project opened up my eyes to whose voices were being heard within the public sphere and whose voices were being neglected during times of uncertainty.”

For their final projects, students presented their research and the private Instagram feeds they created as campaign models to Tyrell Muhammad and Felicia Henry, a senior advocate and a research fellow, respectively, at CANY.

“What you’re doing is so important for our activism,” Muhammad told the students during their May 4 class. “I want to continue working with you because you’re incredible young people. You’re going to change some minds.”

Kamin said the partnership with CANY has helped students appreciate “the value [they]can bring to nonprofit and community-driven organizations.”

Gillian Russo, who graduated from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in May, said the course helped prepare her for a career in journalism. She said that out of approximately 20 stories she read on decarceration during the course, only two included quotes from an incarcerated person.

“It made me think about how as a journalist I should strive to seek out the points of view of the people most directly affected by any issue I write about,” she said.


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