Six years after helping British filmmakers with a documentary about Chicago violence, Northeastern Illinois University Associate Professor of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies Lance Williams recently made a 12-day trip to England to lecture about drugs, gangs and prisons from the perspective of a Chicago academic.
Joined by two Northeastern alumni, Illinois Ceasefire Project Manager Chico Tillmon (B.A. ’13 Interdisciplinary Studies and M.A. ’14 Inner City Studies) LeVon Stone (B.A. ’13 University Without Walls and M.A. ’15 Inner City Studies), Williams participated in two university panel discussions, lectured at prisons in London and Birmingham, and participated in community work with law enforcement and social service agencies.
“I think they learned a lot from us, and we learned a lot from them as well,” Williams said. “We learned that they have a really good system for allowing and facilitating the humanity of prisoners. When you interact with the prisoners there and you tour the facility, they have a high sense of hope—even guys who have extended sentences.”
In turn, Williams said their English hosts learned about the self-reliance prisoners must have to achieve success after their release from prison.
“The prisoners we spoke to learned from Chico, there’s no excuse for you guys to re-offend,” Williams said. “You have all this government support, so you don’t have an excuse.”
The trip was arranged by the U.S. Embassy on behalf of the London mayor’s office in response to growing concerns about gang activity in the city. It was paid for by the U.S. Department of State. Williams said he is considering a proposal to the State Department to request funding to take Northeastern students on a similar visit within the next year.