Mass Incarceration Working Group
The Human Rights Lab, a new initiative of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, engages students and community members in finding solutions to human rights challenges. Under the leadership of Alice Kim, director of Human Rights Practice, the Lab’s focus during its initial three years is mass incarceration and racialized policing. As part of this work, Kim applied for an Inclusive Climate Grant to launch a Mass Incarceration Working Group in partnership with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.
“This group will explore how UChicago can address social injustices caused by mass incarceration and begin to imagine how we might create pathways to higher education for system-impacted individuals and communities,” Kim said. Through her work teaching and helping to organize humanities and arts classes at a maximum-security prison, Kim has seen the impact of mass incarceration.
“The consequences of the nation’s prison system can be seen within and beyond the prison walls,” she said. The Mass Incarceration Working Group aims to raise awareness about mass incarceration and, in particular, to make visible the unique challenges and the stigma facing formerly and currently incarcerated individuals seeking higher education. The group will explore how the campus community can foster a sense of belonging and full participation of students, staff, and faculty who may have a history of incarceration, as well as those affected by the incarceration of family members.
The Working Group began in early 2019. Participants will be drawn from faculty, staff, and students in the Division of the Humanities, Division of the Social Sciences, School of Social Service Administration, Law School, and other campus divisions and units. Priorities for the Working Group include developing a mapping project to conduct an initial survey and literature review of research, partnerships with community organizations, student-led initiatives, and other efforts at UChicago addressing mass incarceration to raise the visibility of this work and to identify potential synergies.
The group will host short-term residencies with visiting scholars who are doing related work at other universities. Ultimately, Kim hopes the Working Group can identify strategies to reverse the well-known school-to-prison pipeline as it develops innovative and robust “prison-to-education” practices.