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America’s prisons and life after them is focus of Boise State symposium

A pilgrimage to the Minidoka internment camp

Close to 200 people made the annual pilgrimage to the Minidoka internment camp site in June 2015. Cho Shimizu, who was at Minidoka as a child, was among them. He shared some of his experiences with The Idaho Statesman.
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Close to 200 people made the annual pilgrimage to the Minidoka internment camp site in June 2015. Cho Shimizu, who was at Minidoka as a child, was among them. He shared some of his experiences with The Idaho Statesman.

The Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium, named for the camp not far from Jerome where thousands of Japanese Americans were held following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, takes on the theme of mass incarceration in America.

The two-day symposium takes place Oct. 15-16 at Boise State University.

Speakers include Tom Ikeda, executive director of the Densho: Japanese American Legacy Project on the topic of Minidoka and Michael Santos, former federal inmate and now prison consultant, author of Inside: Life Behind Bars in America. Other presentations include student research on Minidoka, mandatory drug sentencing and more.

Organizer Hanako Wakatsuki, studied history at Boise State University and is now education specialist for the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. Wakatsuki’s great-aunt, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, wrote “Farewell to Manzanar,” a seminal memoir of the internment era.

This year’s theme reflects a topic of growing concern in the country, said Wakatsuki.

“The symposium will address the topic from multiple viewpoints: private prisons; reentry into the community after prison; racism and incarceration; war on drugs; effects on individuals and communities; and tying it back to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII.”

One speaker, Karen Korematsu, will speak on her father’s incarceration and Black Lives Matter. Her father was in the landmark case during WWII, Korematsu v. United States which upheld restrictions on civil liberties on American citizens. (You can hear Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaking on the Korematsu case online).

Local prison life and history will also get a nod during the symposium thanks to Kevin Kempf, director of the Idaho Department of Correction and Amber Beierle, education specialist at the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

The Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium is presented in partnership by the Friends of Minidoka, Boise State University, National Park Service, ACLU of Idaho, and the Osher Institute.

Students can register for Boise State University credit under several disciplines. The public is invited to attend the symposium for a $70 registration fee. For more information regarding both student and public registration, contact Kristof Bihari at 208-426-2616 or kristofbihari@boisestate.edu.

For additional information, contact Carol Ash: carol_ash@nps.gov or Mia Russell: miaaruss@gmail.com.

Also note, the related exhibition, “Minidoka: Artist as Witness,” opens at Boise Art Museum Oct. 8 and continues through Jan. 15, 2017.

The exhibition features significant works by five artists with personal or family history at Minidoka, now a National Historic Site. Read more about this exhibit and accompanying programs. They include a lecture Nov. 9 on the exhibition by Wendy Maruyama, an internationally known contemporary Japanese artist.

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