Arts and Justice

We believe that art is crucial to our movement work and in enacting change, and we are committed to including the arts in all of our educational and policy work, and to build on the network of connections we have forged with New York arts organizations through our participation in the Kenan Social Justice and the Arts network. Working with teaching artists and arts educators, we have developed an initiative that integrates our arts educational work at Rikers, which offers an artist-in-residence program for formerly incarcerated people working in the area of social justice and the arts. 

To serve our commitment, we also support innovative partnerships through our work with the Columbia law school, where we aim to equip law students with the ability to tell powerful stories alongside artists and community members in order to amplify their impact on policy changes. This is a part of a larger initiative to solidify a visible, working model, for other research universities interested in using arts education to bridge the gap of lived experience of those incarcerated with members of the university community, policy makers, and the general public.

From the Inside Out

From the Inside Out is an action- and research-based multidisciplinary project integrating research, artistic, and public programming to advocate for humane treatment, humanizing language, and representative imagery and depictions of people in prison. 

The primary goal of From the Inside Out is to collaboratively deconstruct degrading and inaccurate narratives by showcasing the true lived experiences of directly impacted people. By providing a platform for impacted 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 informed of and better understands malpractices of the prison system, they are more likely to view the incarcerated as persons rather than criminals. If the public views the incarcerated as people rather than criminals, these individuals will have an easier time reentering society and working towards personal development. 

Through wide dissemination of our research findings, our program goals include: 

  • Facilitate discourse to debunk misrepresentations of those impacted by the criminal legal system;

  • Expose the realities and power of dehumanizing treatment throughout the justice system;

  • Influence policy in the criminal legal system;

  • Provide opportunities for graduate and undergraduate level research and strategic community engagement.

Confined Arts

The Confined Arts (TCA) program illustrates and showcases the talents and creative voices of currently and formerly incarcerated artists. This platform provides an outlet for artists to express their voices through the visual and performing arts, poetry, and music as a means to abolish the inhumane narratives and socially degrading stigmas that are used to describe the past experiences and limit the futures of individuals impacted by incarceration. TCA is also open to artists who work in or around jails and prisons, and those who have been impacted by mass incarceration through a friend or family member.

TCA intends to:

  • Change the narrative that is commonly associated with individuals who are formerly incarcerated as well as those currently in prison;

  • Create a consistent stream of public education that amplifies the creative voices of people affected by incarceration.

Since 2014, TCA has explored existing issues such as solitary confinement and the rising population of women in prison, and has connected the personal prison experience to struggles of impacted families.

TCA hopes to expand its platform to include artists who advocate for other populations experiencing different types of human rights abuses and social injustices, including immigrants and undocumented individuals, housing discrimination, LGBTQIA discrimination, women’s rights, education, environment, and more. ​

The Confined Arts is a community initiative that is supported by the Justice-in-Education initiative at Columbia University.