Carceral State Project

Research and Advocacy on Criminal Justice, Policing, Imprisonment, and Inequality

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.

Heather Thompson moderates CSP symposium panel, Jan. 16, 2019. Courtesy Michigan Daily.

In 2016, Professor Heather Ann Thompson and the Department of Afro American and African Studies (DAAS) launched the Carceral State Project to bring together faculty, students, and community partners engaged in research, teaching, and advocacy related to containment, control, criminalization, and punishment in the United States and the World. (Read more about Thompson’s vision for the CSP in this Michigan Daily article).

The co-directors of the Carceral State Project are Heather Ann Thompson (History, DAAS, Residential College) and Matthew Lassiter (History). The current steering committee also includes Ruby Tapia (English and Women’s Studies) and William Lopez (School of Public Health). Former members of the steering committee (2018-2021) are Nora Krinitsky (Residential College) and Ashley Lucas (Theater and Drama, Residential College). Amanda Alexander (Detroit Justice Project), an original member of the steering committee while a professor at the U-M Law School, now serves as a community liaison.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, the Carceral State Project laid the groundwork for its Documenting Criminalization and Confinement research initiative with a yearlong symposium series featuring speakers from directly impacted populations and advocacy organizations (listed below). In Fall 2019, the Carceral State Project officially launched the DCC initiative with grant funding from the Humanities Collaboratory. Matt Lassiter and Ashley Lucas served as co-PIs of this three-year grant project, which involved around 85 faculty, student, and community researchers as well as more than 200 undergraduate students in affiliated lab courses between 2019-2022.

In 2022, the Carceral State Project received major funding for a five-year expansion of its research mission from the College of LSA’s Meet the Moment grant program. The umbrella research initiative, retitled Documenting Criminalization, Confinement, and Resistance (DCCR), brings in several new faculty-led research teams and additional campus and community partners. Heather Thompson, Matt Lassiter, and Christian Davenport (Political Science) are the co-PIs of the DCCR project running from 2022-2027.

The Carceral State Project continues to organize programs for campus and community audiences and participates in various campaigns that combine research and advocacy, including its leadership in the movement to rescind the University of Michigan’s criminal background check and criminal disclosure policies.

To contact the Carceral State Project, and/or to sign up for our monthly newsletter, please use this form. Follow the Carceral State Project and its DCCR research initiative on Twitter here.

Community Partners Represented in the 2018-2019 Carceral State Project Symposium Series