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About the Project

States of Incarceration was created by over 500 students and others deeply affected by incarceration in 20 cities. 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. Recently, they have witnessed a new 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 20 universities, local teams shared stories, searched archives, and visited correctional facilities. Each team created one piece of this website.

Together, they created 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 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.