Carceral Archipelagos is a body of work that examines the parts we all play in supporting and subverting the criminal justice system on individual, familial, communal, and societal levels. Using a variety of methods, it asks us to consider the questions “What if the criminal justice (criminal punishment) system functions exactly as intended?” and “How can we reimagine it?” This series includes site-specific interventions/ installations in public space that invite individuals to reflect; participatory works (socially engaged artworks) that encourage discourse; and multimedia artworks to be shown in community and contemporary art spaces that document and expand upon the interventions and participatory works.
We all know the high rates of incarceration in the US, and the disproportionate impact on persons of color. We also know that in the US, we spend more on incarceration than education, that that often conditions within jails and prison are deplorable individuals and held in jails pre-trail make up the bulk of those who are incarcerated. We also know that many reform efforts are underway, the best of which engage those directly impacted by the system(s).
I feel and know the individual and family impacts of incarceration because my oldest daughter was recently released from federal prison, where she served a 9-month sentence after 8-months of pre-sentence detention; my brother served time in a state prison for sexual assault; and other relatives too numerous to mention have “done time”.
I also know —although I do not always understand—the perspectives of those within the system. In a behavioral health-related project on which I work, funded by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Administration, I interface with individuals who work in law enforcement, the judiciary, and corrections on a daily basis.
The questions that I started with at the beginning of Carceral Archipelagos have evolved in conversation with who are engaged in re-imagining the system. I strive to devise layered works that (1) offer a sensory experience to disrupt current ways of thinking and feeling (what), (2) encourage the viewer-participant to consider the implications and consequences of new interpretations of criminal justice (so what), and (3) provide opportunities to begin to imagine a different system (now what).