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Marietta, Georgia – March 11, 2024 – March 8, 2024 marked this year’s International Women’s Day, so it seemed an appropriate time for Life University’s (Life U) Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics (CCISE) to host a dynamic panel of Chillon Project graduates and students,to discuss the complex challenges facing incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. The Chillon Project is an initiative of the CCISE to provide higher education to people impacted by the prison system in Georgia so the women included in the panel were able to provide powerful and poignant insight. Friday’s panel was held on Life U’s campus in CGUS 119 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., though the conversation was so lively and riveting that many stayed until noon to ask follow-up questions.

The topics of discussion focused on themes of direct, structural and socio-cultural violence, as well as systems and institutions, positive peace, human rights, PTSD, trauma, compassion, resilience and meditation. Dr. Thomas Flores, Assistant Professor and the Associate of Arts in Positive Human Development and Social Change Faculty Coordinator, served as the panel moderator. Life U President Dr. Rob Scott was also in attendance, as well as Dr. Thomas Fabisiak, the Director of the Chillon Project.

“It’s the recognition that our structures within our country have built within them inherent systemic entanglements of government, corporation and private financial interest that perpetuate [injustice],” Dr. Scott commented toward the end of the main panel time.

Dr. Flores had a tough task as moderator, trying to keep the discussion moving while not cutting off vital dialogue.

“I’m a bit speechless at this point because there is so much that has been said but so much more that could be said,” Dr. Flores remarked.

Dr. Fabisiak complimented the women, all of whom he has known for many years, on their strength and resilience in the face of tremendous adversity.

The panelists who participated were very knowledgeable about the endemic issues surrounding mass incarceration, and many of the ladies made a special point to attend despite transportation and work conflicts. There were numerous fascinating points made, many of which can be reviewed in footage to be distributed through Life U’s  social media channels soon. This article will include a few particularly striking quotes.

“I went into a lot of things just assuming that I knew how it worked, or assuming that that was status quo, assuming that structural violence was OK because it was prison. But there comes a time when you must challenge your own ideas and see what really is behind this,” Angela Williamson said.

Williamson went on to say how she and her fellow co-hort members “lived and breathed” their educations because they needed education as a mental and emotional anchor.

“With my education with Life University, I was able to realize the systems that were imposed upon me that landed me in that situation,” MeChannon Barnard said.

Barnard also discussed her personal struggles with finding employment after release, a common refrain that goes largely unaddressed but that often contributes to the mass incarceration cycle. This problem is echoed by others on the panel, bringing up the Catch 22 that they need employment as a condition of release, yet there are endless systemic barriers that make landing or keeping gainful employment extremely difficult.

“Prison is never going to fix people. It is supposed to be a contemplation thing, that is how it started. You go to be penitent in the penitentiary. But you can’t sit and focus on the things you need to change about yourself when every day is constant trauma and a constant fight for survival,” Jessica Cates said.

Life U thanks these brave women for their contribution to this riveting panel and the many students, faculty and staff in attendance for taking the time to learn about this issue.

Founded in 1974, Life University is a health sciences institution most known for its College of Chiropractic, the largest single-campus College of Chiropractic in the world. Undergraduates can pursue 14 undergraduate degrees; a pre-chiropractic, degree-seeking pathway; and three graduate degrees within the College of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. Some degree programs are offered to distance learners through the College of Online Education.

Life University strives to empower our students to succeed both professionally and personally. At LIFE, we innovate our approach to higher education, while also remaining true to our philosophical commitment to produce informed leaders who exemplify humanistic values in their professions. To achieve this goal, LIFE recognizes and demonstrates its dedication through three official Life University Values: Lasting Purpose, Vitalism and Integrity.

LIFE’s 110-acre campus in Marietta, Georgia, just northwest of Atlanta, is home to more than 2,800 undergraduate, graduate and professional students who come from all 50 United States and more than 60 countries.


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About Life University

Life University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, master’s and Doctor of Chiropractic degrees, and also has programmatic accreditation through the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). The mission of Life University is to empower students with the education, skills and values necessary for career success and life fulfillment, based on a vitalistic philosophy.