Inmate turned activist to be honored with inaugural Warren J. Ferguson Scholarship Award

March 20, 2018

UMass Medical School will bestow the inaugural Warren J. Ferguson Scholarship award to Precious Bedell, a tireless advocate for improving the lives of people affected by incarceration, at the Academic & Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health at the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria in Houston, Texas, March 22-23, 2018. 

The Warren J. Ferguson Scholarship honors its namesake’s numerous contributions to the field of criminal justice health by supporting Bedell’s attendance to the conference he founded 11 years ago. The annual conference, hosted by the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, is now the premier peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary forum on correctional health care for researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers from more than 100 academic and correctional institutions around the world.

Bedell is employed as a Human Subject Research Coordinator at the University of Rochester’s Women’s Initiative Supporting Health Transitions Clinic, which helps individuals recently released from jails and prisons gain access to the health care they need. She also founded and directs the Turning Points Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides financial and emotional support for families of prisoners, and volunteers for several organizations addressing health disparities, equality issues, and employment discrimination…all while pursuing her doctoral degree at The Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.

Bedell has come a long way from her 19-year stint as an inmate at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York. Back in 1980, she went to prison for a murder conviction (later reduced to manslaughter), and vowed to turn her life around. While incarcerated, Bedell earned bachelor's and master's degrees, developed a mentoring program for other African-American inmates, and published papers about parental rights and rage control.

This year’s conference features opening remarks from Rep. James White, chairman of the corrections committee in the Texas House of Representatives. The keynote address will be delivered by the newly appointed National Leader for Health & Justice of Public Health England, Dr. Éamonn O’Moore. Plenary speaker Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH, a leading authority in the links between infectious disease, addiction treatment, and incarcerated individuals, will present data on the substantial reduction of overdose deaths in Rhode Island associated with medication-assisted treatment behind bars. The 2018 conference is co-hosted by the University of Texas Medical Branch.

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