The U-M Carceral State Project launched the Documenting Criminalization and Confinement (DCC) research initiative in 2019 with major grant funding from the Humanities Collaboratory. Documenting Criminalization and Confinement is a multifaceted humanistic study of the historical and contemporary processes of criminalization, policing, incarceration, immigrant detention, and other forms of carceral control in the United States.

The DCC collaboration is a public engagement mission that connects academic researchers–including faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates–with impacted persons, advocacy groups, artists and writers, and other allies. Our agenda is to chronicle and challenge the policies and discourses that have propelled criminalization and incarceration, especially in racially and economically vulnerable communities, and to document diverse forms of resistance to the carceral state. (For more on how we define the carceral state, please see the main Publications page. To contact us, click here.)

The DCC initiative comprises six interrelated research projects: Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab, Confronting Conditions of Confinement, Documenting Prison Education and Arts, Critical Carceral Visualities, Afterlives of Conviction, and Immigration and the Carceral State. These research teams span the domains of art and performance, history, visual culture, anthropology, literature, public health, digital humanities, and other disciplines. Together, and along with additional special project teams, they seek to document the human and social costs of criminalization and confinement by centering humanistic research questions about topics that have been dominated by the fields of law, public policy, and the quantitative social sciences.

The DCC’s research reports, multimedia storytelling, and overall Documenting Criminalization and Confinement digital archive seek to historicize contemporary systems of criminalization and confinement, chronicle the voices of those most directly impacted, provide resources to public and academic audiences, inform policymakers and journalists, foster community partnerships, promote inclusive methodologies and abolitionist frameworks, and preserve records of the impact of racialized criminalization and mass incarceration for future generations.

“The struggle for freedom is a struggle not just against cages, but against a society that could have cages. Let us look everywhere, so that we can act anywhere.”

— Brett Story, Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America (2019)