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Five Omar Mualimmak spent nearly five years in a solitary confinement cell. Photo: <a href="">Matthew Thompson</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Five Omar Mualimmak spent nearly five years in a solitary confinement cell. Photo: Matthew Thompson, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Prison reform advocate will speak in Canton tonight

St. Lawrence University is hosting a series of events this month aimed at opening up a public conversation about the prison system.

Last night was the first: Five Omar Mualimmak spoke to a lecture hall full of students and community members, about his near five years in solitary confinement, on charges that were later overturned. He also talked about his work to reform the system, and the art he created in prison.

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Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

Savannah Crowley is a senior at St. Lawrence, and she invited Five to speak on campus. "This is a great opportunity to really have a conversation and a dialogue about an issue that isn't really talked about very much. And I think St. Lawrence should be a venue to have these types of discussions."

Crowley first learned about the realities of the prison system when her uncle was sent to prison in Malone for drug possession. She says too often, St. Lawrence students stay in their own "bubble" on campus.

"We come here to St. Lawrence and the other universities and we have this awesome, awesome opportunity to learn and grow here and we're helped and surrounded by this community that shows us all these experiences too. But then we also have a responsibility to our community here where we live for four years to pay attention to what's happening around us and the people that live here, and that includes all people even those that are incarcerated."

Five Mualimmak's portraits of inmates, prison guards, and their family is part of an exhibit showcasing art by incarcerated people across the country, called "Cellblock Visions: Set Free in the Penitentiary," up through the middle of April.

This month of conversation is a collaboration between the Brush Art Gallery and a group of Amnesty International Students at St. Lawrence.

Five speaks again tonight at 7:00 at the Global Dialogue Center at St. Lawrence on Park St. and the event is free and open to the public. We'll have an interview with Five later this week on the 8 O'clock Hour, as well as more interviews with speakers in the series throughout the month. In the meantime, you can check out NCPR's Prison Time Media Project.

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