Diversity and justice: Symposium to explore how the criminal justice system confronts issues related to race, the Arab American community, and gender and sexuality

February 16, 2015
College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters

A Muslim woman in Dearborn Heights says police violated her constitutional rights when they made her remove her hijab for a mug shot. An 11-year-old in Ohio is being held on murder charges after allegedly beating a 2-month-old baby to death. And residents in cities across the country wonder what can be done about tensions between police officers and residents.

Those are among the topics to be addressed by 12 statewide and national experts and advocates—including Kym Worthy, Geoffrey Fieger, Barbara McQuade and Marilyn Kelly—during University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Diversity and Justice Symposium, March 2-4, 6-8:30 p.m., Social Sciences Building. The event will explore how the criminal justice system confronts issues related to race, the Arab American community, and gender and sexuality.

Donald Shelton, who worked with CASL College-Wide Programs to organize the event, said the event is meant to serve as a starting point for ongoing discussions.

“The first way we try to solve an issue is to have an intelligent discussion about it,” said Shelton, a former Circuit Court judge and current director of UM-Dearborn’s criminal justice program. “None of these issues will be solved in one night, but I hope people come away with a better understanding of these complex problems—and thinking about complex solutions.”

Monday, March 2: “Criminal Justice and Race”
Topics may include whether Detroit is likely to see a situation like what occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, police relations in the African American community, and whether or not body cameras or civil suits brought against police officers could deter police misconduct.

Speakers: Mark Fancher, Michigan ACLU
Geoffrey Fieger, Civil Rights Attorney
Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor
Alford Young, University of Michigan Professor of Sociology
Moderator: Ahmad Rahman, UM-Dearborn Associate Professor of History

Tuesday, March 3: “Criminal Justice and the Arab-American Community”
Panelists may discuss the recent federal lawsuit filed on behalf of an Arab American woman forced to remove her hijab for a mug shot, profiling and discrimination against Arab Americans, and the myth of Sharia law in Dearborn.

Speakers: Fatina Abdrabboh, Michigan Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Director
Ronald Haddad, Dearborn Chief of Police
Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney
Hon. David Turfe, Dearborn Heights District Judge
Moderator: Sally Howell, UM-Dearborn Assistant Professor of History

Wednesday, March 4: “Criminal Justice, Gender and Sexuality”
Panelists may discuss how hate crimes against the LGBT community are prosecuted, whether or not children should be tried as adults, and what can be done about the documented abuse of female prisoners in the corrections system.

Speakers: Hon. Marilyn Kelly, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice
Deborah LaBelle, Attorney for Women and Children in Prison
Andrea Ritchie, New York Police Misconduct Attorney
Yvonne Siferd, Attorney, Equality Michigan
Moderator: Francine Banner, UM-Dearborn Associate Professor of Sociology

Each night, speakers will be given 15 minutes for prepared remarks, followed by an hour-long moderated question and answer period.

Martin Hershock, dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL), said the symposium reflects the college’s commitment to working with the community on issues that have an impact throughout the region.

“This program addresses some of the nation's—and region's—most pressing issues and features some of our most important local leaders,” he said. “CASL faculty, working across disciplinary boundaries, have put together a really remarkable series of events. Their work truly highlights the university's metropolitan mission and the centrality of UM-Dearborn to fostering important dialog and change.”

The event takes place during the first week of National Criminal Justice Month. For more information about the events visit umdearborn.edu/diversity_justice or contact Shelton at desjd@umich.edu.

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