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About the Project

States of Incarceration is a collaboration of over 800 students and others deeply affected by incarceration in 20 cities and counting. They grew 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. In 2015, when the project began, they witnessed a new bipartisan consensus that the criminal justice system is broken and the intense conflict over how to fix it.

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 universities, local teams share stories, search archives, and visit correctional facilities. Each team creates one piece of this website.

Together, these stories represent a 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.

Your history — and that of your community — will tell a different story that teaches us all something new. ADD YOUR STATE AND JOIN THE NATIONAL DIALOGUE.

States of Incarceration is a project of the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities led by Rutgers University-Newark working with issue organizations and public spaces to create traveling public projects on the past, present, and future of pressing social issues.