A National Traveling Exhibition and Story Exchange Project
A “National Dialogue of Local Stories,” States of Incarceration is the first national traveling exhibition and coordinated public dialogue to explore the history and future of mass incarceration in the United States. Organized by The New School and a coalition of 500 university students and formerly incarcerated individuals from twenty cities, the show launched in New York City in April 2016.
States of Incarceration was created by over 500 students and others deeply affected by incarceration. Growing up in a United States that incarcerates more of its people, including immigrants, than any country in the world – and at any point in its history, recently they have witnessed a bipartisan consensus that the criminal justice system is broken and the intense conflict over how to fix it.
In 2015, they came together to ask: How did this happen? What new questions does the past challenge us to ask about what is happening now? To find answers, they examined their own communities’ histories. Through courses at over 20 universities, local teams shared stories, searched archives, and visited correctional facilities. Each team created a piece of this exhibition.
Together, they created this diverse genealogy of the incarceration generation. It challenges all of us to remember our own past and use the insights of history to shape what happens next.
States of Incarceration is a project of the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities led by The New School working with issue organizations and public spaces to create traveling public projects on the past, present, and future of pressing social issues.