‘States of Incarceration’ explores history, future of mass imprisonment

Post by John Schwarb, IU Communications specialist:

No other country in the world has embraced incarceration as much as the United States.

That’s a blunt truth — yet perhaps not an irreversible one, as a new exhibit coming to Indianapolis this spring will explore.

“States of Incarceration,” a traveling exhibit and website created by more than 500 students and others affected by imprisonment in 20 cities across the U.S., traces the roots of mass incarceration through communities’ stories and opens dialogue on what should come next. The exhibit is organized by The New School’s Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities, issue organizations and public spaces that collaborate to produce community-curated public humanities projects on key social issues.

SOI_LogoIn Indianapolis, students from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Liberal Arts museum studies program — with support from the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Indiana Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and several other local groups — will install the exhibit that will reside in the atrium of the Indianapolis Public Library’s Central Library downtown from April 13 to May 14.

“There’s an important story to tell in Central Indiana,” said Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, professor of anthropology and museum studies and director of the IUPUI Cultural Heritage Research Center. “The opportunity to have an exhibit like this in the atrium of the Central Library is a chance to engage people in the conversation.”

IUPUI students focused on the intersection of incarceration and mental illness for their portion of the exhibit. The city and state have been home to several important legal cases brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to try to improve the treatment of incarcerated citizens with mental illnesses. With help from the Indiana Medical History Museum and the National Alliance of Mental Illness Indiana, the students explored the question “Why are prisons the nation’s mental hospitals?” while looking at both the history of deinstitutionalization of state mental hospitals and the crisis of mental health treatment in today’s prisons and jails.

“An important starting place to imagine change is having conversations, not just in the legal field or the public health world, but in public spaces like the library that bring together people with a variety of perspectives and experiences with incarceration,” Kryder-Reid said. “It’s incredibly important for citizens to understand where we are and how we got here in order to imagine what would need to change for us to move to a de-incarcerated state or at least lower rates of incarceration.”

Before and during the exhibit’s run, several events will delve into different aspects of the issue. See below for more information or visit facebook.com/massinciupui.

March 18, 2 p.m.: Screening of the documentary “13th,” followed by a panel discussion, Central Library auditorium. This public screening by director Ava DuVernay will be followed by a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Ivan Douglas Hicks with experts Dr. James Kilgore, Dr. Terri Jett, Dr. James Dix III, and Marshawn Wolley, director of community engagement and strategic initiatives and lecturer of public affairs in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Co-Sponsored with Circle City (IN) Chapter of The Links, Inc. Register here.

April 13, 6:30 p.m.: Inside Out with Lori Pompa: A public conversation about social change through transformative education, Central Library Riley Room. Pompa, founder of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, an educational program that facilitates dialogue across difference, will lead a conversation with Inside Out instructors, students and graduates about innovative approaches to engaging a wide range of stakeholders committed to social justice. Participants will also have the opportunity to view the newly installed “States of Incarceration” exhibit.

April 10-May 14: Pages to Prisons book drive, collection boxes at the IUPUI University Library and “States of Incarceration” exhibit. Donors are asked to bring new or like-new books, which will be given to prisons for their libraries and educational programs. Particular needs include Spanish-language books, GED test-prep books, and high school-level textbooks for math and science, as well as mystery, adventure, Westerns, and sci-fi fiction. For a more detailed list, go online.

April 20, 6 p.m.: “States of Incarceration” exhibit opening reception and public conversation about mental health and incarceration, Central Library. Anne Parsons, department of history, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, will offer remarks on the intersection of the rise of mass incarceration with the deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals. A panel moderated by Dr. Modupe Labode including Kenneth J. Falk (legal director, ACLU of Indiana) and Maurice Young (founder, Creative Change Project) will offer perspectives on the implications of these issues for Indianapolis.

April 21, 7 p.m.: “Voices of Incarceration: Spoken Word, Art & Dialogue,” Fletcher Place Arts and Books, 642 Virginia Ave. Spoken-word poetry and art combine to create a space for creative responses and thought-provoking conversations about mass incarceration and its impact on the community.

April 28, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Mental Health First Aid Certification, Cavanaugh Hall Room 411. This program is an eight-hour course that offers training and certification for those responding to persons affected by mental illness (similar to the traditional Red Cross First Aid training). Cost is $10. Register here.

April 29, 10 a.m.: Public conversation about re-entry, Central Library. This dialogue-based program brings together people with diverse perspectives and experiences to explore re-entry issues in Central Indiana. Reservations recommended, as space is limited.

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