EJP receives 2017 Community Impact Award

by the College of Education at Illinois  /   Sep 18, 2017

Education Justice ProjectThe Education Justice Project (EJP) was announced as a co-recipient of the Community Impact Award by the C-U Immigration Forum and the Urbana Free Library. The award will be presented to the organization at the fourth annual Immigrant Welcome Award Ceremony and Celebration on Sept. 23.

The C-U Immigration Forum Welcome Awards recognize the contributions of individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in Champaign-Urbana.

A unit of the College of Education since 2011, EJP is a comprehensive college-in-prison program that demonstrates the positive impacts of higher education on incarcerated people and their families, as well as the communities they come from. The academic program consists of for-credit courses, various educational workshops, a mindfulness discussion group and other extracurricular activities, and reading groups.

While EJP’s core work remains in the realms of penal incarceration and reentry, the organization has in recent months extended its reach in response to the uncertainty surrounding federal immigration policy, according to Director Rebecca Ginsburg.

EJP’s longtime Ripple Effect program, for example, which invites concerned individuals to send cards of encouragement to individuals behind bars, now includes an opportunity for people to send notes to undocumented students at Illinois, undocumented immigration families in the community, and refugees who have settled in the Midwest.

“It’s a small gesture, but we understand that the letters received, which are distributed by local nonprofits with whom we partner, have made a big impact upon those who have received them,” Ginsburg said. “Under circumstances of such vulnerability and uncertainty, it means a lot to people to know that others recognize their plight and care about their situation.”

EJP’s award is also in recognition of the organization’s new reentry guide, which will be distributed to individuals who are leaving prison and will be deported to Mexico. Ginsburg said these people face particularly harrowing circumstances, and the revised reentry guide will help make them aware of the issues and direct them to pertinent resources.

The Immigration Project will also receive the Community Impact Award at the September event. Ginsburg will attend the ceremony on behalf of EJP, possibly with an individual who has received cards from members of Ripple Effect.

Ginsburg said efforts to draw distinctions between immigrants with “clean records” and those with a criminal background is more concerning than the overall “criminalization of immigrants” stories pushed out by mainstream media. One of EJP’s goals, she said, is to bring together people who have been impacted by incarceration and those who have been affected by immigration policies.

“We hope to help folks consider how much these two vulnerable groups have in common, and that we’re stronger when we join forces,” she said.

View all of the awardees and watch a video from WCIA News about EJP’s recent honor.