The United States has the largest prison population in the world, with over 2,300,000 men and women currently incarcerated, giving us the second-highest per capita incarceration rate in the world and making us “the world’s leading jailer,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. This development is more recent than many may think: in 1990 there were about 600,000 incarcerated people in the US. This staggering increase has impacted our social fabric, culture and democracy in a multitude of ways, rending and destabilizing the family relationships and financial stability of those who are or have been incarcerated, and significantly reducing the numbers of Americans who may exercise the right to vote.
This fall, the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage has organized a series of public programs and events related to this important issue in order to better understand the dimensions of the problem and to generate discussion about how Brown might contribute to efforts to ameliorate this national trauma.
States of Incarceration, an exhibition running from August 29 – September 24, 2016 at the URI Gallery at 80 Washington Street in Providence, is the first national traveling multi-media exhibition on the history and future of mass incarceration in the United States. It was developed by faculty and students at twenty different universities across the country, including Brown, working together through a national program called the Humanities Action Lab with funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences. For more information on the exhibition, click here.
What are the country’s leading universities doing to help rectify the problems caused by mass incarceration? Increasingly, they are establishing education programs in prisons, and/or “prison-to-college pipeline” programs to support positive re-entry to give current and formerly incarcerated men, women and youth the opportunity to earn BA-level credits or BA degrees while in prison, or to support them in doing so upon release. The Prison Education Movement: Does Brown Have a Role? – a conference to take place on September 16, 2016 in Petteruti Lounge, Room 201 of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center at Brown – asks what it would take to establish a Brown Program for Prison Education, and how Brown can work with other Rhode Island institutions to strengthen existing higher education programs in the state’s prisons and to develop new ones. The conference brings together local and national leaders in the prison education movement to speak about their programs, the state of this growing field and Brown’s potential contribution to college-level educational opportunities for Rhode Island’s incarcerated population of more than 3,000 men and women.