By Pamela Schwartz
Week seven and we’ve really settled in. Names and faces are familiar, as are the smiles and greetings we share with our University Beyond Bars classmates. The classroom is very welcoming, permitting us to practically ignore the intimidating walls and barbed wire that surround us. Our space, a non-descript classroom inside the Monroe Correctional Complex, provides us opportunities to think critically and engage in respectful and thought-provoking discussions. Furthermore, learning inside this 105-year-old prison compels us to ask such questions as, “What exactly IS law and geography” and “Why is it important?”
Humor me while I provide you with a quick review of the curriculum we discussed (and consequently debated) over the past couple of weeks. Glimpsing into the challenges of both space and free speech, we considered the Supreme Court Case, Hill v. Colorado, where the constitutionality of restrictions on speech-related conduct was challenged. In this particular situation, the Courts ruled that it was unlawful for individuals outside of a women’s healthcare center to approach any person within eight feet for the purpose of passing out leaflets, displaying signs and engaging in a verbal confrontations. Trying to stay focused on the issue of free speech, some of us were a bit too enthusiastic in defending a woman’s right to both privacy and access to health care. Fortunately, calmer voices than mine prevailed, and thankfully our discussion continued in a more thoughtful direction.
Further examining the fine balance of free speech and the protection of public safety, the case, Menotti v. City of Seattle, was prompted by the events of the 1999 World Trade Organization Conference, also known as the “Battle of Seattle.” Here plaintiffs challenged Seattle’s Emergency Order #3, which restricted movement and subsequently protests by unauthorized persons throughout a 25 square block area in downtown Seattle. We debated whether the City of Seattle’s desire to protect the safety of the public interfered with the First Amendment rights of its citizens to demonstrate and further whether the “no protest zone” was unconstitutional.
And finally, this week we engaged in a “mock Senate hearing.” In groups of 5, we argued 2 hypothetical bills that would seek to either legalize prostitution, confining it to four square blocks in the city OR decriminalize the sale of prostitution while criminalizing its solicitation, probing the contrasting opinions of sex workers, interfaith coalitions, police and downtown business associations. Not surprisingly our discussions were as lively as they were creative. Pulling from our readings we challenged ourselves, citing specific examples that would seek to validate our arguments, in an attempt to finally convince our hypothetical Senate panel. Despite the seriousness of our topics, humor frequently finds its way into most of our conversations, as a good laugh is often a cure for even the most difficult of days.
These past seven weeks have provided my UBB and LSJ colleagues and me a chance to uncover some of the relationships between the law, space and speech. And while both cement walls and barbed wire surround the space we occupy, they in no way define our time together. Our moments are defined through our shared experiences; and these experiences have been nothing short of remarkable.
Read Pamela Schwartz’s previous reflection on the Mixed Enrollment program: Day 1 at Washington State Reformatory
In partnership with the Law, Societies, and Justice Program, the UW CHR provides funds to support engaged instruction on human rights topics. In 2013-14, an honors research course on immigration in Washington state was supplemented to provide training in digital storytelling for both UW students and a group of youth from families who had experienced deportation; in 2014-15 funds will support a mixed enrollment course in which students from UW study alongside prisoners at Washington State Reformatory.
Pamela Schwartz returned to the University of Washington in 2013 after 30 years to complete her Bachelors of Arts degree in Law, Societies and Justice and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies minor. In her professional career, Pamela was a manufacturer’s representative for a women’s swimwear company for over 15 years. Pamela Schwartz joined the Pacific Northwest Board of the Anti-Defamation League in 2004 and was a recipient of the ADL’s Daniel R. Ginsberg Leadership award in 2007. She is a member of both the Regional Board and Executive Committee, serving as Board Chair from 2008-2010. She served on the Board of the Stroum Jewish Community Center and Temple De Hirsch Sinai and has been active in several other community organizations including the Northwest School and Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. Pamela will be graduating in spring 2015. She is married to Steve and they have 2 daughters, Emilie and Sofia.