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2021 vitalvoices Spring Series Is Here

February Event: The Journey From Prisoner to Prisons Reporter


By Sheryl E. Taylor

The Center for Public Service & Community Research is hosting “Trouble with Authorities: The Journey from Prisoner to Prisons Reporter” 1-2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4.

The virtual event features investigative journalist Keri Blakinger who begin covering death row and prisons after serving time. After spending 21 months in prison on a drug charge, she is one of the leading journalistic authorities in the United States on prisons and corrections. Blakinger’s story includes a suicide attempt by jumping off of a bridge (which she openly talks about), a dog on the outside that helped her get through the prison experience, and a second chance (an eventually a degree) from Cornell University.

Houston-based Blakinger, a reporter with The Marshall Project has covered criminal justice for the Houston Chronicle, will share about her journey from prisoner to prisons reporter, discuss what life is like behind bars, and talk about the value of reporting on mass incarceration. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, VICE, the New York Daily News and NBC News. Blakinger is working on a memoir for St. Martin’s Press.

“What I love about our vitalvoices series is the chance to engage in conversation with others on topics of civic interest without the often divisive rancor that has infiltrated our national dialogue,” said Steve Villano, Director of the Center for Public Service and Community Research. “Our guests allow us inside access to their experiences and areas of expertise… we get so much more than just a sound bite of knowledge. We dig into their content, ask questions, hear different perspectives and hopefully come away with a more complete understanding of their perspective.”

 To attend the February 4 virtual event, register now

Upcoming vitalvoices Events

March 4
3 – 4:30 p.m.
Many of us have endured much adversity in our lives. In “Becoming a Coffee Bean: Finding the Opportunities in Adversity” UHD’s Damon West, Adjunct Professor in Criminal Justice shares how he exchanged the American Dream for a dystopian nightmare. He went from serving life in a Texas maximum-security prison to teaching about prisons in America at UHD’s College of Public Service. You don’t have to have a prison experience to feel imprisoned and stuck. Learn about West’s story and be inspired by the lessons he learned.
Register here.

April 8
1 – 2:30 p.m.
We all know how COVID-19 has affected our community. Many of us have experienced its devastating first-hand effects. But, do you know how it has it affected the elderly? What special circumstances they have to deal with? What other issues have surfaced for the elderly as a result of the pandemic? How can you help a loved one or neighbor? Join Dr. Rachel Jantea of
The University of Texas Health Science Center at the McGovern Medical School and the Director of Education at UT Health’s Consortium on Aging joins UHD College of Public Service’s aging expert Dr. Angie Goins, Lecturer of Social Work to discuss these issues and more. Register here.


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.