U-M to host national forum on mass incarceration, open to public
Lawmakers, artists, scholars, justice advocates and formerly incarcerated people will gather for a day-long conference April 3 at the University of Michigan to imagine how the arts can contribute to reforming the criminal justice system.
The event at the Michigan Union is the first in a series of national forums aimed at both exploring the mass incarceration crisis in the United States and conceiving concrete and actionable solutions to the crisis.
Michigan legislators from both political parties, including former state representative Joe Haveman (R-Holland) and current state representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) are attending, along with prominent leaders in the prison reform movement. These include Hazelette Crosby-Robinson of Nation Outside and Jason Smith of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Panelists include recent Pulitzer Prize-winning author and U-M professor Heather Ann Thompson (“Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy,” 2016) and John Cooper, policy director of the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, an organization that tracks the $2 billion Michigan spends each year on its prison system—roughly 20 percent of the annual state budget.
Ashley Lucas, director of the Prison Creative Arts Project and U-M associate professor of theatre and drama, is one of the organizers of the event.
“Our nation and the state of Michigan are in a state of crisis in terms of the number of people we have incarcerated and the devastation this causes in families and communities,” she said. “The Michigan Art for Justice Forum is the most ambitious effort to date to bring legislators, criminal justice advocates, former prisoners and artists together to change the conversation around prison reform.”
The forum is taking place during the 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. A 5:30 p.m.reception will follow the forum in the Media Union (exhibition space) of the Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor (North Campus).