The Carceral State Project is an interdisciplinary collaboration that brings impacted communities and advocacy organizations together with researchers, writers, and artists from the University of Michigan to address the current crisis as well as collateral consequences of mass incarceration, policing, and immigration detention in the State of Michigan, and to work towards more just responses to the safety concerns and social needs of this region.

In 2018-19, the Carceral State Project’s symposium series became its first major initiative, bringing together faculty, students, staff, and community members for conversations on mass incarceration, policing, immigration control, and criminal justice, led by community members who are directly impacted by these issues. These conversations will establish the Project’s research, activist, and outreach agenda in the years to come.

In Fall 2019, the Carceral State Project at the University of Michigan will launch a historic archival and research endeavor, the Documenting Criminalization and Confinement initiative. This initiative will be the first comprehensive effort ever undertaken in the United States to collect and archive the voices, writing, art, letters, and lived experiences of those in this country who have experienced criminalization, confinement, and criminal justice control. Via the Documenting Criminalization and Confinement initiative, the Carceral State Project at the University of Michigan seeks to make a dramatic impact on mass incarceration in the state of Michigan and in the United States both by preserving the record of this unprecedentedly punitive moment in history for future generations, and by generating qualitative research that will, in turn, inform the present.

The Carceral State Project recognizes that academic institutions, including the University of Michigan, are not separate from the issues of criminalization, confinement, and control. Following the announcement of U-M policy SPG 601.38 in February 2019, the Steering Committee released an open letter urging the University rescind this and related policies which create discriminatory barriers to studying and working at U-M. On April 25, the Steering Committee released a list of updated requests, including calling upon University leadership to “participate in an evidence-based discussion about these policies at an open forum to be sponsored by the Carceral State Project during the Fall 2019 semester.”