Inside & Out: The Humanities and Mass Incarceration

A convening for state humanities councils and their community partners

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What do words like justice, safety, and freedom truly mean? 

How does the prison industrial complex permeate our culture? 

How might humanities councils engage with people and organizations most impacted by the carceral system?  And how can we work together to imagine a truly just future? 

From Thursday, March 14 through Saturday, March 16, 2024, humanities councils colleagues and their community partners from around the country gathered to explore the roles that the humanities and humanities councils play in illuminating the impacts of mass incarceration, interrogating the dehumanizing nature of the criminal legal system, and paving a path toward restoration and healing. 

This three-day, in-person working convening, which took place at the Rubenstein Forum located on the South Side of Chicago, provided dynamic opportunities to deepen our understanding of these issues, learn what state humanities councils and community partners are doing to address them, and collectively articulate essential practices for humanities councils as they pursue ways to engage and partner in this work. 

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Continuing the Conversations

24 state humanities councils and their community partners participated in a landmark, three-day convening, “Inside & Out: The Humanities and Mass Incarceration.” Each of the more than 150 attendees had something powerful and unique to contribute to the conversation, be it a lived experience of incarceration, experience with grantmaking or college-in-prison programming, a creative practice, a deep knowledge of the criminal legal system, or an abiding passion for the role of humanities in society. Everyone left with a renewed sense of purpose, a feeling that we are not alone in doing this work, and a need to continue the conversations and expand the work being done in this area.


Who attended?

Inside & Out: The Humanities and Mass Incarceration convened an array of state humanities council staff and community partners from 24 states and territories across the country. Illinois Humanities believes in the transformative power of a collective to enact lasting change, which is why “Inside & Out” was as much about who was gathering as why we gathered. It was important to us to ensure that our convening is informed by experiential knowledge of both humanities councils and the impacts of the carceral state. 

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Humanities council staff

Program staff, grantmaking staff, and Executive Directors from state humanities councils.

Community partner representatives

Invited by State Humanities CouncilsCommunity partner representatives were individuals who have lived experience of incarceration and/or work extensively within directly impacted communities. A community partner representative might have been a grantee of a state humanities council, a regular program participant/panelist/moderator, an educator or student involved in council-related educational programming, or another close colleague of the council. 

Community members

Individuals with a vested interest in the intersection between humanities councils and mass incarceration.

Inside & Out Planning Committee

Illinois Humanities was proud to produce this first-of-its-kind convening for state humanities councils and their community partners, with generous support from the Mellon Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Good Chaos, and the Polk Bros. Foundation, and of course with assistance from our partners Hoopla Communications, Haymarket Books, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

However, it would not have been possible without the exceptional Inside & Out Planning Committee, which includes council staff and community partners from 13 states. Enormous thanks for your wisdom and vision in helping us to shape this convening! 

Nashid Madyun | Florida Humanities | Florida
Patrick Rodriguez | Georgia Coalition for Higher Education in Prison | Georgia
Steph Iacello | Georgia Humanities | Georgia
Rob Chang | Hawai’i Council for the Humanities | Hawai’i
Roseanne Propato | Public Safety Department, Hawai’i | Hawai’i
Johanna Bringhurst | Idaho Humanities Council | Idaho
Flor Esquivel | Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison | Illinois
Jane Beachy | Illinois Humanities | Illinois
Martin Matsuyuki Krause | Illinois Humanities | Illinois
Gabrielle Lyon | Illinois Humanities | Illinois
Willy Palomo | Illinois Humanities | Illinois
Brandon Wyatt | Illinois Humanities | Illinois
Sarah Ross | Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project | Illinois
Sam Opsahl | Indiana Humanities | Indiana
Megan Telligman | Indiana Humanities | Indiana
Alesha Seroczynski | Moreau College Initiative | Indiana
Meghan Reedy | Maine Humanities Council | Maine
Linda Small | Women Transcending, Re-entry Sisters, New England Coalition for Higher Education in Prison | Maine
Laura Adams | Minnesota Humanities Center | Minnesota
Corey China | Minnesota Humanities Center | Minnesota
Zeke Caligiuri | Minnesota Justice Research Center | Minnesota
Robert Taliaferro | Odyssey Beyond Bars, The Prison Mirror | Minnesota
Carol Andersen | Mississippi Humanities Council | Mississippi
Joe Murphy | Humanities New York | New York
Alex Anderson | Re-entry Theater of Harlem | New York
Laurie Zierer | PA Humanities | Pennsylvania
Yahusef Medina | Virginia Humanities | Virginia
Shannon Ross | The Community, Correcting the Narrative | Wisconsin
Jen Rubin | Wisconsin Humanities | Wisconsin

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