From the Inside Out is an action-research-based multidisciplinary project that advocates for the use of humanizing language and representative imagery and depictions of people in prison to decrease punitive triggers in the US criminal justice system, as well as to change the existing negative narratives of people in prison and those formerly incarcerated. The core hypothesis of this project is that the widespread pejorative labels and depictions of people touched by the criminal justice system—in both real life and the media—dehumanize incarcerated populations. This tendency contributes to the maintenance of punitive attitudes, abusive penal policies, a general desensitization to prison malpractices and, ultimately, a reluctance to the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society. Thus, targeting negative label use and misrepresentations of people in prison could have the impact of reducing dehumanization and its detrimental consequences for the lives of those who are or have been affected by the prison system.
The goal of From the Inside Out is to collaboratively deconstruct these degrading and inaccurate narratives by showcasing the perspectives of directly impacted artists and creative voices. By providing a platform for these individuals to express themselves, we hope to dispel misrepresentations and reframe the conversations surrounding people in prison and our present carceral state. If the public is better able to understand the malpractices of the prison system and view the incarcerated as people rather than criminals, these individuals will have an easier time reentering society and working towards personal development. Over the project’s duration, we will work with both new and experienced artists to deconstruct widespread misperceptions about incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in order to create a counter-narrative where their humanity is understood and honored.