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Event Details

The Criminalization of Race in America

Rutgers School of Social Work's Office of Student Affairs and NASW-NJ, with support from Rutgers School of Social Work's IIDEA Committee, are hosting a discussion surrounding the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the world. With white Americans making up the majority of citizens, there is a disproportionate number of black and brown people in the criminal justice system. This conversation will explore the roots of the criminalization of race in America, the policies that enable this, and how this affects the current landscape with particular attention to immigration and detention.

Event speakers include: 

Alia Berry
Alia Berry, currently a licensed community-based social worker, has 20 years experience serving individuals ages 0-60 years old in a variety of settings from daycares to group homes to correctional facilities (juvenile/adult and the halfway house setting). Alia has also helped design two grant-funded and highly visible Reentry Programs from their onset. 

Alia’s passion is working with violent and/or gang affiliated offenders before, during and after incarceration. In a day, she often experiences the entire street continuum as she starts the day providing in-home therapy to a 13 year old who just entered the lifestyle while in the afternoon, mentoring the 16 year old carjacker who gives her a hug at the red light on her way to supporting a reentry program (that she designed) serving recently released clients in the community. Then that night, she waves hello to the 21 year old former student behind the correctional facility’s glass before running group (using curriculum she wrote) with the 50 year olds who are coming home from prison after serving 25 years. Funerals, sentencing hearings, candlelight vigils...but also graduations, career successes and baby showers.

This is what “before, during and after incarceration” looks like. It’s also why she is now doing macro-level work as she brings the streets to the 30,000 foot strategy table to help design programs and systems.

As an LSW, Alia is dually certified in Elementary/Special Education, a certified School Social Worker and holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work with an emphasis in Violence Against Women and Children: Concentration on Violent Perpetrators.

Alia currently works as Founder and CEO of Seeds & Berries as a consultant doing Social Impact Strategy, Program Development and Training in schools, nonprofits and the government sector. 

Joseph Lascaze
After being incarcerated in the NH jail and prison system for 13 years, Joseph Lascaze, equipped with a solution first mentality, took the lessons he learned and returned to society to enact groundbreaking reforms in greater NH. During his incarceration, Joseph developed an invaluable and unique perspective of the hidden challenges and barriers directly impacted community members face. This perspective has helped Joseph strategically lobby key New Hampshire decision makers to pass meaningful criminal justice and police reforms such as HB 1645 which banned law enforcement from using chokeholds, required law enforcement to reports all instances of witnessed misconduct and banned the use of private prisons in the state.  

Chia-Chia Wang
Chia-Chia Wang is the Organizing and Advocacy Director at the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program. Chia-Chia supervises organizing staff, fellows and interns and has been with AFSC since 2005. Prior to joining AFSC, Chia-Chia was with the Children’s Defense Fund - New York working to increase access to health care for low-income children and families. Since being with AFSC, Chia-Chia supports the creation of local and federal policies that uphold immigrant families’ rights and dignity. Chia-Chia specializes in immigration enforcement policies and collaborative programs with local law enforcement agencies. Chia-Chia worked with others to prompt the groundbreaking NJ Attorney General’s Immigrant Trust Directive and the passage of a law that prohibits profiteering from prison phone calls and capping prison phone rates at reasonable level. Mostly recently, Chia-Chia and her staff are working on a legislation to ban immigration detention agreements in NJ.

Chia-Chia has a graduate degree in International Relations and was born and raised in Taiwan.

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