Second annual "Just Poetry" event offers different perspectives of incarceration

The Department of Criminal Justice at Wayne State is hosting its second annual “Just Poetry” event to shed light on the many ways that crime and the criminal justice system affect communities throughout Detroit. Last year’s event drew over 200 guests and it’s expected to be even bigger this year.

“Just Poetry” takes place at 7 p.m. on April 19 at Detroit’s Marble Bar. 
 
Contributors will share poems from an array of perspectives, ranging from those who have been victimized by violent crime to family members who have lost a loved one to opioid addiction. Presenters will include community members, previously incarcerated individuals, police officers, published poets, and faculty and students from the Wayne State community. 
 
"Understanding the experiences that shape people's perception of justice is critical so we’re glad to be able to create this platform," said Leah Ouellet, who is co-organizing the event. "Last year’s event offered us a lot of insight into other worlds. For example, one piece described how it feels to be a DPD officer in the “Black Lives Matter” era and another was read by a father whose son was sentenced to life without parole as a sixteen-year-old. We’re eager to represent an even broader range this year.” 
 
Having written poetry with incarcerated people as a volunteer in several prisons, Ouellet has seen firsthand the ways in which poems enable people to connect across experiences. She felt the same technique could be used in a community setting to help others share perspectives of the criminal justice system.  
 
Matt Larson, an assistant professor of criminal justice and creator of the event, hopes the second rendition of “Just Poetry” will continue to help guests think about crime and criminal justice in a more substantive way. “The more people who are aware of how crime and criminal justice shape lives, the better positioned we, as a community, will be in advocating for a version of justice that everyone, no matter their race, class, or religion, can believe in.
 
"The purpose of this event is to bring people together to share, reflect, and hopefully, see through the eyes of others for an evening. That's really it. There aren’t many spaces that we know of where people from all sorts of experiences and backgrounds are able to come together and have such a clear, mutual respect for one another. Last year’s event showed us, and everyone in attendance, that it’s more than possible,” Larson said.
 
“Just Poetry” is free and open to the public 18+. Seating will be limited. Guests are encouraged to arrive early. The Marble Bar is located at 1501 Holden St., Detroit, MI. 
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Second annual "Just Poetry" event offers different perspectives of incarceration 3/16/2018
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