Stanton Heights: Intersections of Art and Science in an Era of Mass Incarceration


  • Norman Conti Temple University Press



I have the tremendous privilege of working among a collection of artists, activists, incarcerated men, police officers, professors, students, and writers. Some of us straddle multiple categories, but we all come together as fictive kin and chosen family. Without realizing it, we have always been tied together; our connective thread stretches back to American slavery, if not further, and can most easily be observed in the ongoing calamity of mass incarceration. These links and overlaps provide a framework for bearing witness to white supremacy as it plays out through the US justice system.

Finding a true starting point for these relationships is unlikely, so I began mapping the network within the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, or more specifically the local think tank that emerged from that larger program. However, this cartography quickly evolved into a story of people who are bound for powerful interactions with law enforcement, the legal system, corrections, one another, and themselves. Whether creating a strange and terrible saga or a series of smaller projects, our goal is always to share these experiences in a manner that capitalizes on the academic depth and breadth of our ranks while also conveying that this is not simply the work that we do but rather engagement with one of the most severe social problems this nation has produced. As such, it is an experience that makes it difficult for participants to remain complicit with malignant authority.

This work continually changes us, and by telling our stories, I hope to push readers to consider the wider totality of lived experiences included within them. Moreover, our group is working to build solutions that address the human suffering we have observed. This article offers a perspective, comprising many different perspectives, that is the foundation for a program designed to address the disconnection between the public, the police, and men in prison.