Restorative Justice Fellow pictured with THEI and Scarritt Bennett Leadership. From L-R: Restorative Justice Fellow Cameron Robinson; Dr. Harold Trulear; Rev Kelli X; Kim Powell, Belmont University; Laura Ferguson Mimms; Rev. Sondrea Tolbert; Ka-Ronda Porter (Photo/THEI)

Nashville, TN (TN Tribune) – Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI) continues to make groundbreaking inroads to opportunities for college programs in Tennessee prisons with the announcement of the Restorative Justice Initiative: Behind the Walls Fellowship in partnership with the Scarritt Bennett Center. The Inaugural collaboration was acknowledged at a community luncheon on August 1, 2022, held on the campus of Scarritt Bennett. The Restorative Justice: Behind the Wall Fellowship will allow fellows the opportunity to engage with students behind the wall pursuing their degrees through Lane College and Belmont University.

The Inaugural Fellowship recipient, Cameron Robinson, is a recent 2021 graduate of Vanderbilt University earning a bachelor’s degree in Medicine, Health, and Society. Cameron has been involved in a variety of endeavors as a scholar-athlete playing football for the Vanderbilt Commodores as well as being a leader and activist within the Nashville community. As an activist, he is hands on with marginalized populations. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree with a concentration in prison and carceral studies at the Vanderbilt Divinity School with a long-term goal of making a lasting impact that transforms and elevates the Church and his community to a level of commitment and resilience that bears witness to the liberating reassurance of the Gospel.

In his role as the Restorative Justice Fellow, Cameron will coordinate faith and social justice programming while working with the Director of Racial Justice Ministries to develop higher education curriculum and presentations for THEI students in the prison program in conjunction with Scarritt Bennett Center as well as THEI to complete faith and social justice enrichment. As a Fellow, he will be tasked with creating modules of restorative justice and social justice workshops suitable for the correctional environment. The programing will encourage spiritual and intellectual growth, develop resiliency, and evoke a desire for participants to become positive change agents in their community.  

The historic luncheon’s keynote speaker was the Reverend Dr. Harold Trulear, an Associate Professor of Applied Theology at Howard University School of Divinity and Director of the Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Prisoner Reentry Project of the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation. Dr. Trulear who has spent nearly 40 years educating socially justice impacted individuals behind the walls in prisons around the world applauded the selection of Cameron Robinson. Dr. Trulear stated, “My sole reason for coming to Nashville was to meet Cameron and to encourage him. I am in awe of him as he begins his journey in this space.” Dr. Trulear is an advocate of recruiting more African American males who have a passion for serving and educating in prisons to help deter recidivism. Dr. Trulear spoke about his experiences as an educator, a pastor, and as a former incarcerated member of society.

Dr. Trulear was invited by his former student, Scarritt Bennett Center’s Executive Director, Reverend Sondrea Tolbert.

“Scarritt Bennett Center is proud to collaborate with THEI to help change the trajectory of the lives of the students and their families with restorative justice and reentry programming,” said Rev. Tolbert.

Executive Director of THEI, Dr. Laura Ferguson Mimms shared, “We are exceptionally excited about this new partnership with Scarritt Bennett to launch the Restorative Justice Fellowship.  This year long opportunity to engage with THEI students behind the wall seeks to ensure both the fellow and our incarcerated students have time and space to thoughtfully consider the intersection of education, carceral spaces and restoration.”

The luncheon was well attended by a cross section of the community with representatives from Belmont University, members of the clergy, elected officials, community leaders and board members and staff of THEI and Scarritt Bennett.

About THEI

The Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI) is a non-profit organization working to disrupt systems of harm and create opportunities for autonomy and success by providing college access to people inside Tennessee prisons, preparing students for skillful re-entry and reducing barriers to continued education and achievement. THEI is grassroots, community organization committed to principles of harm reduction, healing, and centering the lived experiences of the people we serve. We engage in reimagining and building towards the world we want to see through systems work and direct service.

About Scarritt Bennett Center

Scarritt Bennett Center, founded in 1988, is a nonprofit conference, retreat, and education center whose mission is to create space where individuals and groups engage each other to achieve a more just world. Located in the heart of Nashville, TN on ten tree-filled acres, its ten buildings, constructed of crab orchard stone in collegiate gothic architectural style, include three residence halls, an on-site dining facility, library, theater style auditorium, chapel, and administrative buildings as well as six houses. Owned Scarritt College for Christian Workers (1924–1980) and Scarritt Graduate College (1981–1988). Today, Scarritt Bennett Center works to continue the powerful legacy of the Scarritt students, faculty, and staff in the fight for women’s empowerment, racial justice, transformative education, and spiritual formation.