Grantee Partners


A Little Piece of Light (ALPOL) provides critical services for women formerly involved with the criminal legal system and their families, including with domestic violence resources and grief and mental health support. ALPOL was founded by Donna Hylton, an activist and author who advocates for the rights and well-being of women and girls who have been impacted by intersectional trauma. She is an outspoken proponent of the need to incorporate harm reduction into policies for addressing societal and justice issues within a humane framework. In 2020, A Little Piece of Light opened a new office in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to serve as a community resource center for people affected by mass incarceration. There, community members can receive help with varying social service needs, including transitional housing and health care.

A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) is a nationally acclaimed, Black-led re-entry program dedicated to helping women, families, and communities heal from the experience of mass incarceration while simultaneously creating opportunities for leadership, activism, and advocacy. The organization offers community-based resources that spur leadership development and collective action, in recognition of the expertise and lived experiences of women directly impacted by incarceration. ANWOL provides safe re-entry housing for women returning to the community, as well as operating a family reunification program and legal clinic to promote and protect the civic and employment rights of formerly incarcerated women. The Network currently consists of 24 organizations in 20 U.S. cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn.

El Sawyer (he/him) is a filmmaker and social justice advocate whose personal experience with poverty and incarceration informs his international consulting and public speaking practice on the challenges of re-entry, recidivism, and neglected communities. He was trained in film production while in a maximum-security prison and upon his release began to create media programs for youth. He later co-founded Media in Neighborhoods Group (MING) with Jon Kaufman to use the power of media to change the culture of crime. MING creates video documentaries, offers audio and photo services, and leads professional mentorship and technical training for communities including returning citizens. In 2017, MING engaged a cohort of eight returning citizens in the production of short social media-friendly films that reflect their personal journeys through the criminal legal system. This 12-month, paid digital media training program culminated in screenings, immersive exhibitions, and public events.

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Adnan Khan (he/him) is a filmmaker, writer, and policy advocate. He works in collaboration with survivors of crime, currently and formerly incarcerated people, district attorneys, and other stakeholders to build a case and encourage action toward restorative justice practices. In 2019, while incarcerated at San Quentin, he co-founded the organization Re:Store Justice, where he advocated for the successful passage of Senate Bill 1437, ending the role of “natural and probable consequences” doctrine in murder cases. Re:Store Justice worked to convene diverse stakeholders in the criminal legal system and to engage in meaningful dialogues about crime, violence, and healing for crime survivors, as well as those who have inflicted harm. Through its signature FirstWatch media project, based in San Quentin State Prison, incarcerated people created and shared stories about being system impacted.

Allen Kwabena Frimpong (he/him) is a cooperative entrepreneur, resource mobilizer, and cultural strategist whose work focuses on a solidarity economy for all. He has supported the capacity-building of global philanthropic, governmental, and community efforts over the last 15 years. He is a senior fellow and co-founder of Liberation Ventures, a resource, mobilizing, and field-building effort fueling the U.S. Black-led movement for racial repair. He is also a co-founder of ZEAL, a creative studio cooperative for Black artists throughout the diaspora, where he practices as a conceptual and performance artist. Frimbong brings a unique multidisciplinary practice to community organizing, harm reduction, cultural strategy, transformative leadership coaching, and participatory planning. His primary aim through his skill sets and talents is to support resource mobilization initiatives that strengthen social movement ecosystems to be relational, center community healing, and redistribute wealth and resources through learning and innovation.

Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) is a multi-state advocacy organization that aims to replace ineffective criminal legal policies with what works to keep people safe. They represent diverse crime survivors and system-impacted people as key public safety stakeholders, working with state leaders and coalition partners to win reforms that stop cycles of crime, reduce costly incarceration, and make communities safer. ASJ supports a range of “shared safety” reforms, including crime prevention, community health, rehabilitation, economic mobility, and trauma recovery. In 2019, ASJ began the process of creating a leadership development program, the Safe and Just Campaign Academy, which trains local leaders, especially leaders of color, in justice reform advocacy.

Allied Media Projects (AMP) is a hub, home, and incubator for many of the visionary people and collectives in Detroit.  The LOVE Building, located in Detroit’s Core City neighborhood, is home to Allied Media Projects, Detroit Justice Center, Detroit Disability Power, Detroit Narrative Agency, Detroit Community Technology Project, and Paradise Natural Foods. Joining together under one roof allows The LOVE Building to create a hub for collaborative social justice organizing and serve as a resource for the surrounding neighborhood. Though the individual missions vary, all of these organizations are rooted in the collective vision of cultivating liberation, joy, and justice for all Detroiters. The LOVE Building provides a community space that is deeply accessible and environmentally responsible. It nurtures and amplifies the art, organizing, and cultural work of Black, brown, indigenous, queer, trans, and disabled Detroiters. Additionally, it provides legal services, healthy and affordable food, media arts programming, and a community Internet hotspot to the surrounding neighborhood.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is committed to getting as many people out of pretrial detention as possible and, in the process, ending wealth-based pretrial incarceration. Their recent initiatives include focusing on bail reform via litigation, public education, and organizing. In Louisiana, the ACLU launched the Justice Lab: Putting Racist Policing on Trial initiative to combat racially discriminatory policing practices and reduce pretrial incarceration. In Pennsylvania, they worked aggressively to protect the health and lives of incarcerated people during the pandemic, filing four major lawsuits. The ACLU of Ohio launched its fiscal impact analysis of bail reform, which revealed that Ohio could save $199 to $264 million each year while reducing the state’s jail population by about 8,000 people. The ACLU of Michigan helped lead coalition efforts to urge Gov. Whitmer and local jails to reduce prison and jail populations amid the pandemic.

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Founded in New York City in 1953, the Aperture Foundation produces, publishes, and presents photography projects that stimulate dialogue on the role of images in contemporary culture. Through publication of Aperture magazine, the organization aims to bring new voices and points of view into the art world. In recent years, the Aperture Foundation has aimed to reframe the conversation around incarceration in the U.S. with an exhibition titled Prison Nation at a critical moment for Ohio audiences. The photography exhibition at the Cleveland Public Library underscored the humanity of incarcerated people as Ohio prepared to vote on Issue #1 (Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment).

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The legendary Apollo Theater—the soul of American culture—plays a vital role in cultivating emerging artists and launching legends. Since its founding, the Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, New York City, and the world. The Apollo envisions a new American canon centered on contributions to the performing arts by artists of the African diaspora, in America and beyond. Starting in 2020, Art for Justice Fund supported a musical collaboration between the Apollo Theater and the American Composers Orchestra for a contemporary production of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed which speaks to police killings of unarmed black men across the U.S. The production used art as a tool for community healing and reflection in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor and the reenergized Black Lives Matter movement.

The Art Museum at Arizona State University (ASU) was founded in 1950. Recently, the museum was reinvented with a vision to pursue the highest level of research and experimentation in exhibitions, programs, collections, and publications. The museum has more than 12,000 pieces in its collection across three locations in the Phoenix metro area. In 2020, the ASU Art Museum built upon its research to present Undoing Time: A Visual History of Incarceration. The six month exhibition featured contemporary artists Paul Rucker, Mario Ybarra, and Vincent Valdez, among others, who presented works intended to challenge current practices and explore transformative ideas about criminal justice. In this exhibition, art and history were used to interpret how the penal legacies of the past persist today. To accompany the exhibition, ASU produced a fully illustrated catalog featuring interviews with artists and essays by the curators, poets, and cultural historians.

Aron Pines (he/him) is a returning citizen, part of the NJ Step/Mountainview Rutgers alumni who graduated cum laude in August 2020 with a BA in English and creative writing. He was ushered into the oppressive carceral system at 17 years old, when he was tried as an adult offender. With fortitude and resilience, he represented himself in the court of law as a pro se litigant and was acquitted of the charges levied against him. Since his release, he has immersed himself in the fight against mass incarceration and prison reform, becoming a staunch proponent of juvenile justice. Pines received a PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship and is a Right of Return fellow. Employed in the public health sector, he continues to work on his memoir, The Miseducation of Icarus, which captures his journey as a pro se litigant in the American judicial system.

ArtChangeUS is a national BIPOC- and artist-led initiative interrogating the role of creativity and cultural equity in this rapidly changing nation. Their grant supported the rescue and exhibition of artwork from a currently incarcerated artist.

The Arts for Healing and Justice Network (AHJN) utilizes arts to build resiliency and wellness in system-impacted youth and seeks to transform the juvenile criminal legal system. Young people who are directly impacted by the juvenile criminal legal system lead the efforts to design effective policy and drive reform around youth diversion and incarceration. AHJN is building on its practice of arts as an integral tool for systems change around youth incarceration. The organization has collaborated with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health to implement its Peer Learning Exchange Training through the department’s Trauma Prevention Initiative. AHJN has also partnered with the Department of Arts and Culture, Office of Child Protection, and Department of Mental Health to co-design Creative Wellbeing, an approach to integrating healing-informed arts practices with mental health tools as a resource for youth and youth-serving adults.

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Ashley Hunt (he/him) is a visual artist, filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles, where he is on faculty at the California Institute of the Arts. In works such as Prison Maps (2002), A World Map in Which We See (2004—07), and Degrees of Visibility (2010—), Hunt collaborates with grassroots organizations to illuminate issues related to criminal justice. His partners have included Critical Resistance, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Southerners on New Ground, and Friends and Family of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. Hunt’s art has been shown in venues ranging from community centers to prisons to museums, most notably at MoMA, the Hammer and the Tate Modern. His writings include the book Notes on the Emptying of a City.

Asia Johnson (she/her) is a writer, storyteller, and filmmaker who has worked with several organizations in the criminal legal system transformation space, including The Bail Project, cut50, Shakespeare in Prison, Prison Creative Arts Program, Hamtramck Free School, and the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative. Johnson is a 2019 Right of Return Fellow, 2019 Room Project Fellow, and 2021 Brennan Center for Justice Fellow. Her chapbook, An Exorcism, was released in 2018 and her first film, Out of Place, was released and screened across the country in 2022.


Founded in 1991, Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) is one of the leading Asian American organizations in the nation. With a focus on both literary arts and racial justice, AAWW is devoted to creating, publishing, developing, and disseminating creative writing by Asian Americans at the intersection of migration, race, and social justice. AAWW publishes online magazines, manages grants and fellowships to emerging writers of color, and curates and presents community programs with Asian American writers. AAWW’s prison intervention initiative fosters, publishes, and promotes excellent writing that demonstrates the human cost of mass incarceration and the essential humanity of incarcerated people, with particular emphasis on immigrant populations. It has also coordinated public events, writing clinics, and cross-movement coalitions to advance the cultural shift against mass incarceration—all while examining the specific role that Asian Americans play in efforts to abolish prisons across the U.S. and the world.

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Founded in 2001, Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) was one of the first programs in the country to offer college education to incarcerated students following the ban on federal funding for higher education in prison. Beginning as a pilot program with 15 students, the program has grown immensely and currently offers college courses in six New York State facilities, enrolls more than 300 incarcerated students annually, and has conferred more than 450 degrees. In addition to its educational programming, BPI established the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, offering support and technical assistance to colleges that operate college-in-prison programs across the country. In 2019, BPI was featured in College Behind Bars, a feature-length documentary film directed by Lynn Novick and executive produced by Ken Burns. BPI has partnered with Spitfire Strategies to identify press opportunities to make visible the human toll of mass incarceration and motivate viewers to advocate for reform.

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Bayeté Ross Smith (he/him) is a photographer, multimedia artist, filmmaker, and educator whose work challenges the power structures inherent in images and media. His works are often realized through partnerships with cities and civic and legal institutions. Most notably, he developed Hyphen-Nation in collaboration with The New York Times and PBS’s POV series. In 2020, Smith embarked on Art Matters, a multiyear series of installations, workshops, games, and lectures that uncover and examine implicit biases related to mass incarceration, migration policy, and immigrant detention. Through storytelling, Art Matters brings criminal legal system actors, including law students, law firms, district attorney (DA) offices, and current and future policymakers into experiences that challenge common narratives around mass incarceration. Art Matters also engages the public through digital and in-person events.

Beverly Price (she/her) is a formerly incarcerated fine arts photographer based in Washington, DC. Her approach encourages the active engagement of her photo subjects and participates in bearing witness to her neighborhood’s gentrification from a grassroots perspective. With A4J’s support, she will digitize, edit, archive, and ultimately produce a book of her work.

Billy Almon (he/him) is an Astrobiofuturist who explores solutions to improve human experiences on earth and in space. His aim is to help the next generation of inventors, designers, scientists, and engineers design the future they wish to see. Almon studied architecture at Howard University before turning to biomimicry at ASU. He went on to apply his training in biomimicry in the corporate sector, but found himself increasingly motivated towards addressing issues of social justice. For example, in a recent conference organized by the Nature Lab at RISD, Almon presented his studies of different animals’ reactions to perceived threats, and how these solutions could be applied to human biology in order to reduce violence against communities of color, specifically within the context of police shootings.

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Borealis Philanthropy is a philanthropic intermediary that helps donors find and fund grantees that are doing the most effective, constituency-led work. They believe that community leaders who are closest to the problems are also closest to the solutions. Founded in 2015, Borealis focuses on ten donor collaborative funds at the intersections of criminal justice, Black-led movements, LGBTQIA+ communities, disability justice, immigrant rights, and more. In 2019, Borealis Philanthropy started the Spark Justice Fund (SJF), a donor collaborative that supports constituency-led grassroots efforts throughout the country to end cash bail, transform pretrial justice, and build power in communities most impacted by incarceration. SJF provides grantees with predominantly multiyear general operating grants, as well as organizational development support and a range of capacity-building supports.

Brooklyn Museum promotes art as a catalyst to engage communities in conversations that create a more connected, civic, and empathetic world. The organization values art as playing a central role in society, framing ideas around social and policy change, and has revamped a public agenda that calls for increased community representation and inclusion. With support from Art for Justice and a newly dedicated commitment to promoting criminal legal system transformation, the Brooklyn Museum opened its spaces to communities that are directly affected, allowing them to participate and collaborate in the creation of an exhibit and related programming focused on promoting policy and advocacy efforts for criminal legal system transformation. The resulting exhibition used art to amplify underrepresented voices and educate a wider audience about the harmful, pervasive effects of our nation’s current penal system.


C.T. Mexica (he/him) has a dual doctorate in comparative literature and theory and criticism from the University of Washington. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation. Mexica’s research is centered on the literature of crime, confessions, and confinement as well as on social theories of tragedy, transformation, and transition. Mexica is currently working on a memoir on intergenerational incarcerations and the demimonde of bonded males in the U.S. He is a 2019 to 2020 PEN America Writing for Justice Fellow.

Founded in 1974, California Lawyers for the Arts (CLA) provides education, representation, and dispute resolution while articulating a role for the arts in community development. Its vision is for artists and arts organizations to serve as agents of democratic involvement, innovation, and positive social change. It believes that an empowered arts sector is essential to healthy communities. In 2018, CLA launched the Art for Justice State Forum project, which is advancing the agenda of reducing mass incarceration through six one-day forums that take place in states with high prison populations. In 2020, CLA and grantee partner Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) partnered with the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development to hold 10- to 12-week art classes in at least three parish jails and/or transitional facilities.

Founded in 2012, Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) aims to end mass incarceration in California by reducing prison admissions and spending and redirecting those funds toward prevention, rehabilitation, and support for system-impacted people as well as crime survivors. CSJ uses a diverse range of strategies to build broad support for criminal legal reforms, including policy advocacy, lobbying, research, coalition-building, grassroots mobilization, and mass communications campaigns. The organization is driving a statewide advocacy strategy around sunsetting convictions and developing a package of policy proposals to achieve greater state prison incarceration reduction. Its goal is to advance bold public education and policy reform efforts to reduce probation and parole terms in California and expand diversion programs for people experiencing mental illness.

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Founded in 2009, the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) works to reform the juvenile criminal legal system with a focus on banning juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) and other extreme sentences for young people. The campaign approaches reform through coalition-building, public education, advocacy, and litigation. CFSY builds on the experience and expertise of those directly impacted by the juvenile criminal legal system. In 2020, CFSY launched the Community Prosperity Initiative to deepen the cross-collaboration among diverse private-sector partners and people who were formerly incarcerated. It works with national partners to further establish movement-wide narratives to combat dehumanizing and racist rhetoric and policies and continues to support legislation ending extreme sentences.

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The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) offers individuals just coming home from prison the ongoing support necessary to build career capital and financial stability. CEO believes that everyone, regardless of their past, deserves the chance to work toward a stronger future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Serving more than 30 cities, its model includes four programs: job readiness training, transitional employment, job coaching and placement, and retention services. In 2020, the Art for Justice Fund supported CEO’s new initiative, the Returning Citizen Stimulus Program, which provided financial support to formerly incarcerated individuals in the unprecedented times of COVID-19.

The Center for Justice Innovation (CJI) exists to achieve a criminal legal system that is fair, effective, and humane. Since 1993 CJI has worked with both government and communities to develop and run programs that have reduced the use of incarceration, increased equity, and strengthened neighborhoods by increasing safety and economic opportunity. CJI’s first initiative was the Midtown Community Court in New York, a neighborhood-based court that effectively reduced the number of people sent to jail by requiring them to carry out restitution projects (painting over graffiti, cleaning local parks) and social services (drug treatment, counseling, job training). In 2019, CJI collaborated with Performing Statistics and Recess Assembly for Project Reset, a pre-arraignment diversion program that offers people charged with low-level misdemeanors the opportunity to resolve their criminal cases by participating in community-based programming. Project Reset culminated with an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum created by program participants.

Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) aims to honor and to seek justice for the survivors of Chicago police torture, their family members, and the communities affected by the torture. CTJM is a cultural collective founded in 2011 that has fused art, activism, and radical popular education with a tenacious commitment to antiracist politics. In 2013, CTJM introduced an ordinance to the Chicago City Council to provide redress to approximately 120 victims of racially-motivated torture by former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates. CTJM spearheaded the grassroots campaign Reparations Now!, which led to unprecedented reparations legislation passed unanimously by the Chicago City Council in May 2015. Today, CTJM’s mission is to establish a permanent public memorial for the Burge torture survivors. Honoring the police torture survivors and their resilience, Chicago’s memorial will show the nation how public art can bear witness and repair systemic harm.

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Kaneza Schaal (she/her) and Christophe Myers (he/him) are acclaimed New York City-based visual and theater artists whose past works include GO FORTH, which premiered to great acclaim as part of Public Space 122’s COIL 2015. Schaal’s creations follow an extraordinary history of work, bringing her to venues including the Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and MoMA. Award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers is the son of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers. In 1998, the two collaborated on Harlem, which was named a Caldecott Honor Book as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

Civil Rights Corps (CRC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the U.S. criminal legal system. CRC takes on civil rights cases around the country on behalf of impoverished and marginalized people. It works with people accused and convicted of crimes, their families and communities, currently and formerly incarcerated people, activists and organizers, and judges and government officials to challenge the system of mass incarceration and create a legal system that promotes equality and freedom. CRC has yearly Artist in Residency fellowships that embed leading artists who have experienced incarceration into the organization’s work, creating beautiful and powerful collaborations and an organizational culture deeply connected to the value of art, in turn changing how advocates think about their work. In 2020, CRC commissioned the artist Jesse Krimes to create the Mass Incarceration Quilt—a touring art exhibit to reframe public narratives that perpetuate mass incarceration.

Cleveland Public Library Foundation serves every neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, contributing to its diversity and intergenerational equity by developing programs and building collections that are diverse, inclusive, and culturally relevant. Its Art for Justice grant supported the development of a series of public art installations addressing mass incarceration in Ohio.

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Clint Smith (he/him) is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, which was a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, and the Stowe Prize, in additional to being selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2021. He is also the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award.

Colloqate Design is a New Orleans-based design and architecture firm founded in 2017 to develop counter-carceral spaces that promote community cohesion, well-being, and healing while addressing the systemic harms caused by the criminal legal system. Its Art for Justice grant supported the development of a Design Toolkit for Anti-carceral Spaces, in collaboration with advocacy and arts organizations pursuing aligned goals of reallocating law enforcement resources to community-led safety initiatives.

The Columbia University Justice Lab works for community-centered justice in which incarceration is no longer used as a solution to problems that are largely rooted in extreme poverty and racial inequality. Founded in 2017, the Justice Lab combines research expertise with policy innovation and collaborates with system-involved people. Youth justice is its focal area, as the Justice Lab seeks to dramatically shift away from applying adult responses to system-involved youth. Specifically, the Justice Lab focuses on closing adult-like youth prisons and ending the automatic exclusion of older youth from the rehabilitative aspects of the youth criminal legal system. Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Justice Lab, was the founding director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and the Justice Policy Institute. His history of lived experience provides the Justice Lab access to, and credibility with, academics and researchers, practitioners, advocates, and formerly incarcerated people.

Led by executive director George Scheer, PhD, the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (CAC) is a touchstone for visual and performing arts education in New Orleans and the Gulf South. The connection between artists and communities is at the forefront of its programming. Louisiana is a leader in the development of private prisons and has one of the highest rates of incarceration per capita in the U.S., so CAC’s community is inherently impacted by the carceral system. Its Inter[Sector] program is a multidisciplinary curatorial initiative considering decarceration, health, and environment issues. Artists within each of these programs address incarceration as their subject matter and community-building as their method. A subset of this program, Inter[Sector] Decarceration, promotes the work of artists shining light on the injustices of our criminal legal system and engages families and communities dealing with the effects of mass incarceration and the prison system.

Courtney Cone (she/her) is a sculptor, painter, performer, and video artist whose practice plumbs experiences of trauma, horror, and disgust through darkly irreverent humor. Cone’s current work explores the visceral ramifications of inhabiting a “female body” in the prison system. She was incarcerated at the Crain Unit (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) from 2006 to 2009. She says, “My personal autonomy was severed while serving time. I became property of the state—an object. I realized art making could be used to communicate. Drawing enabled me to share what I experienced and offered an escape from the grim reality of prison.” Cone’s goal is to raise awareness among allies in the “free world” about the current threats to body autonomy that system-impacted women, trans people, and non-binary people have long endured.

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Dana Kaplan (she/her) is a senior advisor for the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform. She is the former deputy director of the Close Rikers and Justice Initiatives at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), coordinating the multi-agency effort and public approval process to close the Rikers Island jail complex and overseeing the related efforts to reduce the jail population, including diversion, re-entry, and alternatives to incarceration. Prior to this role, she led a neighborhood-based crime prevention effort focused on public housing. Throughout her time in city government, her work included close coordination with grassroots organizations and formerly incarcerated individuals to ensure that the policy changes and directions taken by the administration were informed by and responsive to the community whose lives they would impact the most.


Dean Gillispie (he/him) spent 20 years in prison before he was freed by the Ohio Innocence Project, where he now serves on the board. A self-taught artist, Gillispie spent his nights in prison making intricate miniature models of places and things he remembered from before his incarceration, using materials scavenged by fellow prisoners. His artworks included contraband materials such as sewing pins, small lights, beads and wire. Gillispie’s work is featured in Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. He says making art in prison offered a “way to escape” and opportunities to connect with others inside, who also became the audience for his work. In 2022, Gillispie and the filmmaker Barry Rowan collaborated on the feature-length documentary Spiz, which documents Gillispie’s wrongful imprisonment, his transition to civilian life, and the power of carceral art as both a reclamation of individual identity and an indictment of the criminal legal system.

In 2017, Deborah LaBelle (she/her) founded the Youth Justice Fund (YJF) to create opportunities for the growing number of young adults returning to the community after long periods of incarceration. YJF is building a human rights-based reintegration and responsibility model for returning young people. The organization aims to provide alternative means of support that do not marginalize formerly incarcerated people, educate the community about the need to reform criminal legal policies that are punitive and excessive, and change the narrative about people who are returning home after incarceration. LaBelle is a seasoned litigator and nationally recognized champion for children serving excessive prison sentences.

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Die Jim Crow Records is the first nonprofit record label for formerly and currently incarcerated musicians in the U.S. It began as a project in 2013, when founder, artist, and activist Fury Young started production of a double album about racial injustice in the U.S. prison system, featuring the music of formerly and currently incarcerated Black musicians. After recording 25 music groups in three prisons, creating dozens of unreleased recordings that would not fit on one album, the Die Jim Crow board of directors expanded the purpose of the organization from concept album to record label. The label launched in 2020, and its first two full-length albums were released to critical acclaim, with features in the Los Angeles Times, BBC, Pitchfork, and The Washington Post. 

Dr. Baz Dreisinger (she/her), a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the founder of John Jay’s Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college education and re-entry services to incarcerated students in New York State prisons. She is also the founder and executive director of Incarceration Nations Network (INN), a global network that supports, instigates, and popularizes innovative prison reform and justice reimagining efforts around the world. In 2020, INN produced the film project Incarceration Nations: A Global Docuseries, a ten-episode series about global mass incarceration, told entirely by those with lived experience in criminal legal systems worldwide. In 2019, Dreisinger, INN, and Hank Willis Thomas collaborated to create the traveling exhibition and installation The Writing on The Wall (TWOTW), constructed from over 2,000 pages of writing and art by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people across the world.

Drug Policy Action is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy group that aims to support marijuana legalization and more lenient punishments for drug possession, use, and sales, as well as political candidates who support similar drug policy stances. Drug Policy Action has a sister nonprofit organization, Drug Policy Alliance. In 2020, Art for Justice Fund supported Drug Policy Action in its groundbreaking 2020 ballot initiative in Oregon, which decriminalized possession of all drugs for personal use. The initiative also significantly expanded access to services and treatment—viable alternatives to criminalization that are supportive rather than coercive—funded from excess marijuana tax revenue and criminal legal system savings.

Duron Jackson (he/him) is a cross-disciplinary artist who uses installation, photography, video archives, and objects to create new critical perspectives on dominant historical and contemporary narratives. His younger brother has been incarcerated on and off for his entire adult life, including a 25-year span at Rikers Island. The impact of his brother’s incarceration on their entire family informs Jackson’s body of work, including projects that address displacement, surveillance, and the criminal legal system. In 2016, Jackson crafted Witness, a multimedia installation that commemorated a generation of people who suffered through mass incarceration and the systems that support it. Witness is inspired by the many urban myths attributed to sneakers tossed over lampposts and electrical wires throughout the country. The installation includes multiple totems of sneakers wrapped over wire suspended above a domino-tiled floor. Jackson collects and receives donations of sneakers from cities across the country, building collaborations and networks with organizations that work directly with the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and their families.


Emani Davis (she/her) is the founder of The Omowale Project, an initiative designed to support Black and brown movement leaders with sustainable personal and community care. Rooted in the Black Panther’s core commitment to “Serve the People, Body and Soul,” Omowale affirms this effort by introducing personal and professional practices that enable leaders to center self-repair, avoid burnout, and address internalized, often racialized, trauma. Davis is the child of an incarcerated parent and has been directly impacted by the carceral system; her father, Jomo Omowale was a minister of defense for the Black Panther Party, an Attica Brother, and is the spirit of The Omowale Project. Guided by her father’s legacy and grounded in her work as a health educator, Davis helps people with incarceration histories or those leading racial justice work to understand and mitigate the physical, mental, and spiritual consequences of being enmeshed in these oppressive systems.



Faylita Hicks (she/they) is a queer Afro-Latine activist, writer, and interdisciplinary artist. Born in southern California and raised in Central Texas, they use their intersectional experiences to advocate for the rights of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people by interpreting policy’s impact on the individual using poetry, music, performance, and digital art. They are the author of HoodWitch, a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry, and the forthcoming poetry collection and debut memoir A Map of My Want (Haymarket Books, 2024) and A Body of Wild Light (Haymarket Books, 2025). Their personal account of their time in pretrial incarceration in Hays County is featured in the 2019 documentary 45 Days in a Texas Jail, and the 2021 documentary Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem.

Founded in 2016 by a coalition of artists, academics, and organizers, For Freedoms is an artist collective that centers art and creativity as a catalyst for transformative connection and collective liberation. For Freedoms has grown to become the largest community for creative civic engagement in the U.S. It comprises thousands of artists and organizations working together to invite radical imagination and set the table for new national conversations. For Freedoms upholds creativity as a core societal value and aims to build new systems that no longer rely on extractive or corrupt foundations but instead center love, care, and community. In 2022, For Freedoms created a series of billboards as part of the Another Justice: By Any Medium Necessary campaign. Artists were invited to speak to the prompt: “What does JUSTICE mean to you?” creating space for diverse perspectives and magnifying new solutions.

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Force Detroit, a fiscally sponsored program of Faith in Action, leverages media and culturally relevant strategies to activate individuals least likely to be engaged in civic infrastructures. It is a culmination of the work of interfaith, grassroots, and public sector leaders dedicated to having hard conversations about complex community issues, pushing boundaries, and generating creative, justice-oriented solutions. The organization is headed by Alia Harvey Quinn, a directly impacted woman of color who hails from a multi-generational family of activists and organizers. In partnership with residents and peacemakers, the organization helps marginalized populations recognize the power of their vote, advocate for their communities, and advance dialogue with public officials and stakeholders about issues that adversely affect Detroiters. By engaging artists, residents, youth, and violence interrupters, Force is establishing a community violence intervention (CVI) site in collaboration in Detroit’s Cody Rouge neighborhood, a predominantly Black area of roughly 35,000 people.

Based in New York City for over 75 years, Fountain House is a national mental health nonprofit fighting to improve health, increase opportunity, and end social and economic isolation for people living with serious mental illness. Over the past three years, Fountain House has expanded its national footprint in the areas of advocacy and policy change. Fountain House uses a pioneering collaborative model in which staff and members work together to overcome social isolation and build the community and resilience needed to thrive and take steps in reclaiming their agency and dignity—with access to clinical support, housing, and care management. Fountain House has also made a long-term investment in research and knowledge-building, tracking and measuring the efficacy of its programs, and scaling this work through policy and advocacy to serve the more than 14 million Americans impacted by serious mental illness.

Francisco Cantú (he/him) is a writer, translator, and the author of The Line Becomes a River, a memoir which details his time working as a U.S. Border Patrol agent from 2008–2012. His book describes the normalized brutality that takes place inside law enforcement organizations and considers what it means to have participated in dehumanizing enforcement practices that charted a course toward the rejection and repair of violence. Since leaving the Border Patrol, Cantú’s writing and translations have been featured in The New Yorker, Best American Essays, Harper’s, and Granta, as well as on This American Life. In 2021, he helped launch the DETAINED project at the University of Arizona, a community archive that collects oral histories of formerly-detained migrants.

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Founded by Reginald Dwayne Betts, Freedom Reads is a first-of-its-kind organization that empowers people through literature to confront what prison does to the spirit. With its Freedom Library and literary programs, Freedom Reads supports the efforts of people in prison to imagine new possibilities for their lives. Its central initiative is the Freedom Libraries: curated book collections that Freedom Reads has put in prisons and housing units, allowing open access to books that spark human curiosity. In 2017, with the support of Art for Justice Fund and The National Book Foundation, Freedom Reads supported a project that engaged readers who are currently incarcerated with highly-relevant multi-part programming centering on books that examine carceral systems, justice, and universal themes, from race and sexuality to family and love.


George Anthony Morton (he/him) was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He is a painter who spent 10 years in a federal prison, which he often describes as his monastery. Morton dedicated his time there to studying and making art. After his release, he was trained at the Florence Academy of Art. Morton remains committed to defying society’s inequities and challenging the white-dominant art world. His work is sought after by international galleries and prized by collectors. He is the founder of Atelier South, Atlanta’s first art workshop/studio modeled upon six centuries of classical tradition. Morton is also the subject of the documentary Master of Light, made in collaboration with director Rosa Ruth Boesten, which made its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

Gilberto Rivera Reyes (he/him) was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn. As a teen, he was a graffiti artist. Sentenced to 20 years at the age of 23, Reyes began to explore a range of artistic mediums and collaborate with fellow artists inside. A few months after his release from prison in 2013, he lost his hand in a construction site accident. Reyes has continued to integrate new approaches and media in his practice. His work has been featured in Artforum, The Arts Fuse, The Nation, Hyperallergic, and The New York Times. Reyes is a Right of Return Fellow and participated in Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration at MoMA PS1 and The Collective: Chosen Family at Martos Gallery.


Goodnation, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, was founded to change how donors find and fund powerful work. Goodnation works to connect donors seeking to have a meaningful impact with the highest-performing nonprofits in the areas that matter most to them. With the assistance of Goodnation, Art for Justice Fund was able to provide funding for the Women’s Community Justice Association.

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Groundswell Action Fund is one of the largest funders of organizing led by women of color in the U.S. and of the Reproductive Justice (RJ) Movement. Established in 2017, Groundswell Action Fund 501(c)4 centers electoral organizing efforts led by women and trans people of color. It provides unrestricted general support grants that allow organizations to build their infrastructure and avoid the harm caused by boom-and-bust electoral funding that only shows up to elect certain candidates during a key election year. In 2017, Art for Justice Fund supported the Groundswell Action Fund with 501(c)4 dollars to match Agnes Gunds’ $1 million donation.

Guadalupe Maravilla (he/him) is a visual artist, healer, and choreographer. At the age of eight, in the 1990s, he was part of the first wave of undocumented children to arrive at the U.S. border fleeing civil war in El Salvador. Combining personal mythology and collaborative performative acts, Maravilla’s work traces the history of his own and others’ displacement. Across media, Maravilla explores how the systemic abuse of immigrants physically manifests in the body, reflecting on his own battle with cancer, which began in his gut. His large-scale sculptures, entitled Disease Throwers, function as headdresses, instruments, and shrines—incorporating materials collected from sites across Central America, anatomical models, and sonic instruments such as conch shells and gongs. Described by Maravilla as “healing machines,” these Disease Throwers ultimately serve as symbols of renewal, generating therapeutic, vibrational sound.

Gwendolyn Garth (she/her) is a native Clevelander, multimedia artist, and long-time community activist. She founded Kings & Queens of Art, a grassroots collective embracing all creative disciplines, with a focus on artists who are presently and/or formerly incarcerated. Garth is committed to building a vibrant arts environment in a neighborhood context. Her goal is to create safe and communal space for everyone—from beginners to professionals. Garth integrates her training as a Creative Arts Therapy specialist with her commitment to celebrate African American history and culture. A lifelong learner, her own artistic practice has expanded to include new mediums, including writing.

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Haley Greenfeather English (she/her) is Red Lake and Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe artist and educator born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work draws from observation, personal narrative, and recycled memories to break down imposed notions of reality based on Western European cultural biases. With A4J’s support, HGE funded a series of mural-making intensives that offered paid stipends to collaborating young adult artists.

In 1997, at the age of 16, Halim Flowers (he/him) was charged as an adult and sentenced to 40 years to life. In 2018, while incarcerated, he cofounded the social entrepreneurial media production company Unchained Media Collective with filmmaker Kristin Adair to tell the stories of those who are directly impacted by the criminal legal system. A year later, he was released after successfully petitioning for resentencing after 22 years behind bars. Flowers has received numerous honors, including the Halcyon Arts Lab and Echoing Green Fellowship awards. In 2020, he signed on to be represented by DTR Modern Galleries for his visual art practice. His art has been exhibited at MoMA PS1 and the National Arts Club in New York City. In 2022, Flowers started his own fashion brand, releasing exclusive limited collections of streetwear designs.

Hank Willis Thomas (he/him) is a conceptual artist who works with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published by Aperture in 2008. Notable works include Strange Fruit (2011), Hank Willis Thomas: I Am A Man (2016), and All Power to All People (2017). He is a 2018 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and a member of the New York City Public Design Commission. In 2020, Thomas collaborated with Dr. Baz Dreisinger to create Writing on the Wall (WOTW), a traveling installation made from diagrams, essays, letters, notes, poems, and stories from incarcerated people around the world, including the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Norway, and Uganda. They have exhibited the work in public spaces overseas and across the nation, including on the New York City High Line. 

Haymarket Books, a project of the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, has spent the past three decades as an innovative and dynamic nonprofit publisher. Since its founding in 2001, Haymarket has published more than 950 titles, selling more than 3 million books in aggregate. The organization strives to make books a vibrant and integral part of social movements and the education and development of a critical and engaged polity. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, Haymarket Books was able to start a fellowship program for writers whose lives have been impacted by the criminal legal system. The intention behind the fellowship is to assist system-impacted writers in pursuing their writing, connecting with one another, and amplifying their work to a broader audience.

Heartland Alliance advances human rights and responds to the human needs of marginalized populations—particularly the poor, the isolated, and the displaced—through the provision of comprehensive and respectful services and the promotion of permanent solutions leading to a more just global society. Heartland Alliance believes everyone in society benefits when people who experience disparities are able to exit poverty, heal from trauma, achieve stability, secure their rights, and shape policies that respond to their needs. Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy Division was established in 1989 to address the root causes of poverty and inequity through research, policy and systems change, and field building. The Division leverages a multifaceted approach to social change that includes: identifying social problems and learning from what works; seeding, incubating, and catalyzing policy and systems change; mobilizing and supporting change-makers; and sharing knowledge widely.

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson (she/her) is a historian at the University of Michigan and the Pulitzer Prize- and Bancroft Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. Previously, Thompson served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the U.S. In 2018, Thompson collaborated with the Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan to create Documenting Criminalization and Confinement—a record of how the post-1970 turn to mass incarceration is experienced from the perspective of those who endured it most directly.

Henry Frank (he/him) is a descendant of the great nations of the Yurok and Pomo tribes, a multidisciplinary artist, block printer, creative writer, poet, and photographer based in Novato, California. While incarcerated in San Quentin, Frank participated in Arts in Corrections, a program where he learned bookbinding, color theory, composition, and more. He served as a clerk to the lead teaching artist, handling tasks such as accounting, scheduling, event production, and conflict resolution. Frank believes art taught him to be both critical and humble, instilling meaning and inner peace. Art is only one of the things the program produced for him; he has also developed friendships, a community, and compassion for others. For the past five years, Frank has worked as an instructor Arts in Corrections, and he serves as Vice President of the Marin Museum of the American Indian.

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Established in 1968, The Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority is a New York State public benefit corporation whose mission is to plan, create, coordinate, and sustain a balanced community of commercial, residential, retail, and park space within its designated 92-acre site on the Lower West Side of Manhattan. Since then, Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City has achieved worldwide acclaim as a model for community renewal.  In 2021, the Authority worked with Art for Justice Fund to present a newly commissioned installation by artist James “Yaya” Hough.


Ian Manuel (he/him) is a Brooklyn-based author, activist, poet, and performer. At age 13, he was directed by older juveniles to commit a robbery. During the botched attempt, a woman suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound. Manuel surrendered to the police and was charged—as an adult—with armed robbery and attempted murder. He accepted responsibility for his actions, but was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. During Manuel’s 26-year imprisonment in Florida, he spent 18 years in solitary confinement. While isolated, Manuel taught himself to write poetry and now believes this was the thing that kept him sane. In 2016, the Equal Justice Initiative was able to vacate his juvenile life without parole sentence (JLWOP) and free him. In 2021, Manuel released a memoir that documents his struggles, from a childhood in Tampa’s most violent housing projects, to his time in prison, to freedom.

Illinois Humanities works to build dialogue across all sectors of society to examine issues important to democracy in the areas of public policy, media and journalism, business, and art. Using the humanities as a tool to stimulate discussion, Illinois Humanities creates experiences across Illinois through programming, events, and grantmaking to engage a diverse public on ideas that matter. In 2018, with support from Art for Justice Fund and in partnership with Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice exhibit on incarceration in Illinois, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting hosted a half-day program to educate Pulitzer Center journalists and other leaders from Chicago institutions. Illinois Humanities also created the Envisioning Justice exhibition program to engage more Illinoisans in conversation about the impact of mass incarceration.

Impact Justice dares to dream of a humane and restorative system of justice in the U.S. While its approach is anchored in research, policy, and advocacy, the organization also prioritizes innovation to forge a new path to a criminal legal system that is fair to all. Its Restorative Justice Project works to make improvements on what is already considered a progressive transformation. Impact Justice’s model of restorative justice diversion is explicitly designed to ensure that offenses and neighborhoods driving the highest number of referrals for youth of color are prioritized. Since 2011, it has also provided training and technical assistance to sites across the country through a National Restorative Justice Diversion cohort, which includes community-based organizations and leaders from the criminal and juvenile legal systems who are working to introduce pre-charge restorative justice diversion programs to meet survivors’ needs that are not reliant on youth criminalization.

Dr. Iquail Shaheed (he/him) is a Philadelphia-based artist and activist whose work successfully integrates social justice into high-caliber performance and community-building. As the founder and executive artistic director of DANCE IQUAIL!, Shaheed creates new works and programs that center Blackness, justice, and joy. DANCE IQUAIL! embraces and pushes the talents of under-recognized dance artists while also seeking to enhance the appreciation of dance as an art form. As a student, Shaheed earned scholarships to The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, The Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, the Paul Taylor School, The Juilliard School, Jacob’s Pillow, Pennsylvania Ballet, and several international ballet theatre schools, among many others. He received a BFA in ballet performance from the University of the Arts, an MFA in choreography from Purchase College, and a Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, where he became the first Black man to receive a doctorate in dance.

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jackie sumell (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist and prison abolitionist working at the intersection of art, abolition, and education for over 20 years. Her collaboration with Herman Wallace, who was wrongfully imprisoned in Louisiana and sent to solitary confinement for 41 years, was the subject of the Emmy-winning documentary Herman’s House. Her public art project, The Solitary Gardens, uses the tools of permaculture and transformative justice to facilitate exchanges between people in solitary confinement and volunteer proxies on the “outside.” It asks all involved to imagine a landscape without prisons. Solitary Gardens was featured in MoMA PS1’s courtyard as part of a larger plant powered initiative called Growing Abolition. In 2020, sumell took The Abolitionist’s Apothecary on tour. The Apothecary collaborates with The Solitary Gardens to offer free plant medicine and healing justice workshops to communities most affected by mass incarceration.

Jaiquan Fayson (he/him) is a visual artist based in New York City. While incarcerated, Fayson rediscovered his childhood passion for drawing when he was commissioned by fellow inmates for greeting cards and portraits of their children. Fayson used his Art for Justice Fund grant funds to complete several large-scale paintings, which are inspired by the Old Masters while tackling contemporary social issues and cultural themes.

Jared Owens (he/him) is a multidisciplinary artist raised in Rockland County, NY. His practice calls attention to the 2.5 million people enmeshed in the American carceral system. During more than 18 years of incarceration, Owens taught himself to work in painting, sculpture, and installation. While inside, Owens taught classes in ceramics, painting, and drawing, using materials and references culled from the prison environment. In 2021, Owens’s work was included in Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration at MoMA PS1 and Rendering Justice at the African American Museum of Art in Philadelphia. In 2019, Owens received a Restorative Justice grant from Mural Arts to create murals with teenagers under court supervision. In 2016 to 2017, he won a grant from the Eastern State Penitentiary to produce a large-scale installation. He continues to mentor and teach system-impacted young people.


Jason De León (he/him), professor of anthropology and Chicana, Chicano, and Central American studies at UCLA, directs the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a nonprofit collective that works to humanize the migrant experience, illuminate the loss of life at the U.S.-Mexico border, assist families looking for their missing loved ones, and highlight the growing migrant detention-industrial complex in the U.S. and Mexico. UMP asserts that objects migrants leave behind are of great historical significance, translating archeological and anthropological data into public education and art initiatives. De León is a MacArthur fellow whose work specializes in border crossings and incarceration. He wrote The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail and coproduced the documentary film Border South. In 2019, UMP developed Hostile Terrain 94, a participatory art exhibition that bears witness to the humanitarian crisis at the border.

Jesse Krimes (he/him) is a formerly incarcerated visual artist. Since 2014, he has been deeply engaged in both contemporary art and social justice efforts, including cofounding the Right of Return USA Fellowship in partnership with Soze Agency and Open Philanthropy Project and, in 2023, launching the Center for Art & Advocacy with support from Art for Justice Fund. The Center is dedicated to supporting artists who are formerly incarcerated at all career stages through fellowships, residencies, and more. While serving a six-year prison sentence, Krimes produced and smuggled out numerous works exploring how contemporary media shapes or reinforces societal mechanisms of power and control. Krimes has also produced various projects focused on racial and criminal justice issues through his work with Philadelphia Mural Art’s Restorative Justice program, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Artist as Activist Initiative, and Creative Capital. In addition to his independent practice, he successfully led a class-action lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for their predatory practice of charging people released from federal prison exorbitant fees.

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Jon Boogz (he/him) is a movement artist whose work encompasses dance traditions of urban Black communities including jookin, popping and locking, and krump. As a dancer, choreographer, and director, Boogz seeks to push the evolution of what dance can be. He sees dance as a way to tell stories, bring awareness to social issues, and discharge trauma. Boogz wrote, choreographed, directed, and performed in Color of Reality, a short video with artist Alexa Meade and dancer Lil Buck, which explores police violence in communities of color. It won Concept Video of the Year from the World of Dance and Best Experimental Film at the Toronto International Short Film Festival, among other awards. His video, Am I a Man?, plays on a loop at Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum. Across his work, Boogz seeks to document how street dance enables communities to claim ownership of their own narratives and thrive.


Juan Ortiz (he/him) is an artist, activist, and community organizer who focuses on raising awareness around issues of immigrant rights and mass incarceration on both sides of the border. He creates art through actions and interventions that are neither lobbying, campaigns, or performances. In and out of juvenile detention centers since age 14, he spent years fighting false charges and now seeks to highlight how his experience with mass incarceration is both individual and collective, generational and structural. Ortiz received a Master of Art in art and public policy from New York University, a Master of Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art, and a doctorate from the University of Arizona. He is a member of the Tornillo: The Occupation Coalition, a convergence of artists and activists from around the country that came together to occupy the children’s detention camp that opened in Tornillo, Texas.


Justice Arts Coalition is a national network that unites teaching artists, arts advocates and currently and formerly incarcerated artists in harnessing the transformative power of the arts to reimagine justice. It increases teaching-artists’ collective efficacy and capacity to implement arts programs, including those centering restorative and transformative justice practices, in and around prisons. The Coalition’s goal is to foster an ongoing community of artists and advocates working to end mass incarceration, center the voices of formerly incarcerated and currently incarcerated artists in conversation around criminal legal system transformation, and shift the narrative around incarceration by creating opportunities for the broader public to encounter the work of currently and formerly incarcerated artists.

JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) was founded in 2014 around the principle that the people closest to the solution are often the people furthest from resources and power. The organization equips individuals most affected by incarceration to drive policy transformation. JLUSA has been dedicated to cutting in half the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. by 2030. Through targeted advocacy, strengthening leadership, and membership support, JLUSA believes a decarcerated America is both possible and necessary. Supported by the Art for Justice Fund, JLUSA was able to sustain its core leadership programs, expand its reach impact into new regions in the U.S., and add new visionary programs, bringing JLUSA closer to its goal of #halfby2030.


Kamisha Thomas (she/her) is a filmmaker, writer, director, and cofounder of the Returning Artists Guild. She is a Columbus, Ohio native who has been telling stories since grade school. Thomas was a filmmaker before she went to prison, but while incarcerated in a Dayton, Ohio correctional facility, she wrote and directed her first short film, BANG! (2016), as a part of the Pens to Pictures project. The film, about a mom who is pushed to her breaking point, screened as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2017. Thomas is completing a series of short films called Silence is Consent, which explores the injustices of the criminal legal system and the impact incarceration has on families. She is a 2020 Right of Return Fellow and was represented in the exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.

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The Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice was created in February 2016 as a state-based strategy hub and collaborative partner in movements to advance health, equity, and justice for everyone. Katal approaches its work through community organizing, advocacy, and leadership development to create change. Its primary organizational goals are to end mass incarceration, advance evidence-based solutions that promote health and safety while eliminating racial disparities, and securing equitable access and outcomes. Supported by Art for Justice Fund, Katal was able to build a statewide bail reform coalition, reform bail legislation, and expand speedy trial reform in the State of New York. The organization played a key leadership role in the coalition created for New York’s pretrial reform campaign. It led organizing efforts, trained new advocates who have been directly impacted or incarcerated, and engaged lobbyists to work with legislators.

Kate Fowle (she/her) is a curator and the former director of MoMA PS1. During her tenure at the organization, she strengthened community partnerships, especially with residents of Long Island City and Queensbridge, and led collaborations with artists and activists to produce installations and exhibits that confronted a range of social justice issues, including mass incarceration and public safety. She was integral in supporting Nicole Fleetwood’s highly acclaimed exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, making MoMA PS1 one of the first major cultural institutions to showcase the work of currently and formerly incarcerated artists. Fowle has curated exhibitions for national and international art institutions and cofounded the master’s program in curatorial practice at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.


Topeka Sam founded the Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM) in 2017 with the ultimate goal of ending the incarceration of women and girls. The organization pursues five key programs: the Reentry Readiness Program, Hope House, Faces of Women Imprisoned, the Angel Food Delivery Project, and the Parole and Probation Accountability Project. LOHM’s mission is to help disenfranchised and marginalized women and girls transition back into society through access to high- quality resources such as education, entrepreneurship, spiritual empowerment, advocacy, and housing. In summer 2020, the organization established Hope House NOLA in New Orleans, strengthening a partnership with the Art for Justice Fund grantee partner Operation Restoration in Louisiana. In 2021, LOHM furthered its work to end poverty and incarceration with the Faces of Women Imprisoned and Global Speakers Bureau, through which launched the #RewritingHerStory media campaign.

Las Imaginistas is an artist collective based in Brownsville, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. Founded by three women in 2017, its work focuses on community empowerment through artistic expression and policy activism. Their Art for Justice Fund grant supported a campaign to interview and collaborate with directly impacted people to create artworks that imagine liberated solutions for community accountability and restorative justice.

Lauren Williams (she/her) is a Detroit-based designer, researcher, and educator who works with visual and interactive media to understand, critique, and reimagine the ways social and economic systems distribute and exercise power. Her creative and research practice focuses on examining the violence visited on Black people at the hands of the American state and on speculative worldbuilding that enables her to imagine and inhabit liberated, decarceral futures as a means for advancing abolitionist organizing. Williams was a 2022 Jacob Lawrence Legacy Resident and the inaugural Detroit Justice Center artist-in-residence in 2020. Her writing and artwork have appeared in Shifter Magazine, The Black Experience in Design, Future, Becoming Undisciplined, and Design and Culture Journal.

Laurie Jo Reynolds (she/her) is an artist and organizer whose work challenges the marginalization of people in the criminal legal system. She has produced bill analyses, communications trainings, conferences, symposiums, performances, listening campaigns, photography projects, and calling cards. She was the organizer of Tamms Year Ten, the grassroots legislative campaign to close the notorious state supermax, which Illinois Governor Pat Quinn shuttered in 2013. Reynolds currently coordinates the Chicago 400 Alliance, a campaign developed in collaboration with people with past convictions who have been forced into homelessness due to Illinois housing banishment laws. Through both art and data collection, the Alliance has demonstrated how registry laws mandate adversarial police contact and have expanded the policing, surveillance, and incarceration of poor Chicagoans. She serves on the boards of the Prison Policy Initiative, Narrative Arts, and is an associate professor of art at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Liza Jessie Peterson (she/her) is a playwright, actor, and poet. She instructs formerly incarcerated people during the re-entry process through Friends of Island Academy and DREAMS Youthbuild. Over the last 20 years, she has served as a court advocate, teaching artist, group facilitator, and re-entry specialist for people incarcerated at Rikers Island and returning to the community. Her experiences have inspired her to create several works, including a memoir titled All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island, and contributions to Bill Moyers’s documentary Rikers: An American Jail. In 2019, Peterson produced The Peculiar Patriot, a one-woman show by the National Black Theatre in New York. Peterson’s protagonist is a reflection of the millions of people who travel to penitentiaries, subjecting themselves to long bus rides and security checks to boost the morale of incarcerated friends and family.

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Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture fosters excellence, diversity, vitality, understanding, and accessibility of the arts in Los Angeles County and provides leadership in cultural services. In addition to coordinating the Arts Education Collective, a public-private partnership dedicated to making the arts a core component of public education for L.A.’s 1.5 million students, the Department funds nearly 400 nonprofit arts organizations, manages the County’s civic art policy, and funds the largest arts internship program in the country. In 2018, the Department launched the Arts and Youth Development Project, which aimed to support, heal, and develop youth and families in the criminal legal system and those at risk of involvement by engaging them all through art. The project utilized a collaborative, arts-based approach to youth development to foster personal growth. In doing so, the Project aimed to dismantle the youth-prison pipeline and change the narrative about youth of color.

Louise Waakaa’igan (she/her) is an Anishinaabekwe poet enrolled at Odaawaa Zaaga‘iganiing (Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation) in northern Wisconsin. A former participant in the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, she released her debut poetry collection, This is Where, in the spring of 2020. With A4J’s support, Waakaa’igan intends to finish her second collection of poetry, publish it, and establish a traveling program of writing workshops for Indigenous women incarcerated across Indian Country.


Mahogany L. Browne (she/her) is the Executive Director of JustMedia, a media literacy initiative designed to support criminal justice leaders and community members. This position is informed by her career as a writer, organizer, and educator. Browne is the founder of the diverse lit initiative and Woke Baby Book Fair, and has authored such recent works as Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby and Black Girl Magic. Her newly published collection I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love is a book-length poem responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children. She is based in Brooklyn and is the first-ever poet-in-residence at Lincoln Center.

Marcus Manganni (he/him) began his journey as an artist during his time in solitary confinement, when a sliver of natural light entered his cell. He sought to capture it—creating compositions out of toothpaste, toilet paper and the reflective insides of chip bags. By placing these structures around his cell, Manganni scattered the natural light, allowing him to explore his physical and social remoteness. Through the use of reflection and refraction, Manganni continues to investigate isolation within physical and societal structures of hierarchy. His art is centered around his experiences with prison and mental health systems and his advocacy for changing these systems. He is a 2019 Right of Return Fellow and had his first solo exhibition in 2022 at Brackett Creek Exhibitions in New York City.

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Maria Gaspar (she/her) is an artist based in Chicago, Illinois, with extensive experience working with incarcerated people to create works of art that reflects their stories. From 2012 to 2016, she led the 96 Acres Project, a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that used theater, video, sound installation, and interdisciplinary processes to examine the impact of incarceration at the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side, which is the nation’s largest single-site jail. Gaspar also leads an ongoing project, Radioactive: Stories from Beyond the Wall, a series of radio broadcasts and visual projections on Cook County Jail, to communicate the experiences of currently incarcerated people. She is a faculty member of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Mark Loughney (he/him) is an artist from rural Pennsylvania who engages with portraiture through serialization. Prior to his incarceration, he used watercolors and acrylics to create bright paintings of his favorite musicians. During his 10 years inside, Loughney found portraiture to be a life raft—a way to share time and space with fellow prisoners. Loughney’s work provides each of his subjects with a level of dignity, personalization, and respect that is often forgotten and ignored within the prison system. His series Pyrrhic Defeat: A Visual Study of Mass Incarceration, composed of nearly 750 images, was included in the Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration exhibition.


Marlon Peterson (he/him) is a writer, podcaster, speaker, youth organizer, and criminal justice advocate. He is the author of Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionist’s Freedom Song and coauthor, with Colin Kaepernick, of Abolition for the People. His writing has been featured in Ebony, The Marshall Project, and The Nation, among many others. He originated and has hosted the DEcarcerated Podcast since 2017. While incarcerated for a decade, he began youth development work, cofounding How Our Loves Link Altogether (HOLLA) and later Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets through the Center of Court Innovation. In addition to Peterson’s advocacy, speaking, and writing, he is the owner of a social impact endeavor, The Precedential Group Social Enterprises, and its nonprofit arm, Be Precedential, Inc., through which he provides consulting services to leading criminal justice reform organizations.

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Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter (she/they), also known as “Isis Tha Saviour,” is an award-winning Philadelphia-based artist who creates socially conscious music, film, and visual art through an autobiographical lens. Although it has been a decade since her release from incarceration, Baxter’s time spent inside continues to shape the direction of her art and practice. Her powerful works offer a critical perspective on the particular challenges women of color face in the criminal legal system. Baxter’s art has been exhibited at venues including  MoMA PS1, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Eastern State Penitentiary, Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont, and HBO’s The OG Experience at Studio 525 in Chelsea. She serves as project manager for learning at MoMA PS1.

MASS Design Group was founded on the understanding that architecture’s influence reaches beyond individual buildings. MASS (Model of Architecture Serving Society) believes that architecture has a critical role to play in supporting communities to confront history, shape new narratives, collectively heal, and project new possibilities for the future. MASS Design Group is committed to exploring the built environment’s role in accelerating decarceration and promoting re-entry. Its Restorative Justice Design Lab aims to change both the demand for improved spaces and the supply of architects who can implement those strategies. Art for Justice Fund supported MASS Design Group’s work to increase advocacy and training in hopes of transforming the way our nation views criminal justice. Through case studies, historical analysis and partner insight, MASS hopes to inspire a national narrative that values and calls for a restorative justice infrastructure.

In 2016, on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, the City of Detroit’s Law Department launched Project Clean Slate to eliminate barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated Detroiters eligible for expungement (sealing a criminal conviction in the eyes of the law). Project Clean Slate works with partner organizations to provide free legal representation and connections to employment support for Detroit residents with criminal records. Through quarterly “expungement conferences,” participants undergo an initial screening by volunteer attorneys to determine eligibility, connect with the city’s workforce development team, and receive individual assistance with their expungement applications. Art for Justice Fund supported a public/private collaboration with the Detroit Mayor’s office to expand expungement of criminal records for thousands of people in Detroit and across the State of Michigan.

Michelle Angela Ortiz (she/her) is a visual artist, community arts educator, and filmmaker who works to counter narratives that criminalize immigrants and devalue the contributions of communities of color. Since 2004, Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public artworks with communities nationally and globally. In 2013, she created the Familias Separadas project, focused on amplifying the stories of families affected by detention and deportation. Her large-scale public art installations have covered the streets of the ICE building in Philadelphia and the Capitol steps in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Ortiz created the Las Madres de Berks documentary, which shares the testimonials of four mothers that were detained for two years with their children at The Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, the country’s oldest prison for immigrant families seeking asylum.

Michelle Browder (she/her) is an artist, activist, and nonprofit leader based in Montgomery, Alabama. Her recent work includes a public monument to the enslaved Black women who endured a series of non-anesthetized gynecological experiments by Dr. James Sims in Montgomery in the late 1840s. With A4J’s support, Browder will expand the scope and scale of her initiative We Create Change Alabama, an art therapy program for formerly incarcerated persons and families suffering trauma from gun-related violence.

Michelle Daniel Jones (she/her) is an organizer, collaborator, and doctoral student focused on creative liberation strategies for incarcerated people. She serves in the development and operation of task forces and initiatives to reduce harm and end mass incarceration. She is board president of Constructing Our Future, a housing organization created by incarcerated women in Indiana. Jones’s fellowships include Beyond the Bars, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, Right of Return, Code for America, and Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Rendering Justice. As an artist, Jones finds ways to funnel her research into theater, dance, and photography. Her coauthored play, The Duchess of Stringtown was produced in 2017 in Indianapolis and New York. Her artist installation about weaponized stigma, Point of Triangulation, was on view in New York in 2019 and 2020 and with new participants in Philadelphia in 2020 to 2021, with a public mural in October 2021.

The Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration (MI-CEMI) was created in 2015, when a group of criminal justice advocates launched a coalition to transform carceral-based criminal legal solutions in Michigan. Currently, more than 50 organizations and 250 individuals make up the collaborative’s membership. Its general members include organizers and policy advocates, direct service organizations with a mission to serve incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, faith-based groups, and prison-based membership organizations. From 2019 to 2021, MI-CEMI used its Art for Justice Fund grant in three priority areas of work: prosecutorial transformation through public education about the role of prosecutors and their impact on mass incarceration; pretrial reform through the elimination of money bail; and support for incarcerated parents, especially pregnant women and mothers, including increased visitation opportunities for children with incarcerated parents

Mitchell S. Jackson (he/him) is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing and the 2021 National Magazine Award in Feature Writing. His debut novel The Residue Years received wide critical praise and won a Whiting Award and The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. Jackson’s honors include fellowships and awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN America, TED, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Center for Fiction. His writing has been featured on This American Life, as well as in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, Harper’s Bazaar, The Paris Review, The Washington Post Magazine, The Guardian, and elsewhere. His memoir Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family was published in 2019.

MoMA PS1 champions how art and artists are at the intersection of the social, cultural, and political issues of their time. Providing audiences with the agency to ask questions, access to knowledge, and a forum for public debate, PS1 has offered insight into artists’ diverse worldviews for more than 40 years. PS1 has been a member of New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) since 1982 and affiliated with The Museum of Modern Art since 2000. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, PS1 mounted the debut of Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, an exhibition of works by currently and formerly incarcerated artists brilliantly curated by Dr. Nicole Fleetwood. PS1’s first exhibition when it reopened in September 2020, Marking Time welcomed 32,000 visitors and gave the public a window into the visual culture of incarceration.

Monica Cosby (she/her) is a formerly incarcerated artist, poet, and writer from the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Since coming home, she has collaborated on several art installations and exhibitions and designed arts curricula for use in prisons and on university campuses. Crosby used her grant to support her ongoing performance art project, Acting OutSide, which addresses the misleading and harmful labeling of people as “violent.”

Motus Theater aims to create original theater to facilitate dialogue on critical issues of our time. They use the power of art to build alliances across diverse segments of the American community. After the 2016 presidential election, community leaders called upon Motus to develop more programs that encouraged conversations about immigration. In response, Motus created the Creative Courage Initiative, with 21 programs presented in universities, theaters, museums, churches, and synagogues. The most ambitious program within the Initiative was a performance that brought to the stage the Boulder County district attorney, sheriff, police chiefs, and the CU Boulder vice chancellor for safety to stand in solidarity with Dreamers by reading their autobiographical monologues. The powerful performance influenced the national and local conversation about immigration and was featured on NPR’s Here & Now, USA Today, American Theater Magazine, and many local newspapers.

Mural Arts Philadelphia is an innovative public art program rooted in the traditions of mural-making that engages the community and employs therapeutic practices to transform individual lives. Each year, Mural Arts interacts with up to 25,000 people through programs at sites around the city of Philadelphia. Mural Arts seeks to create opportunities and improve the quality of life of those in and returning from prison to reduce recidivism and increase chances of successful re-entry. In 2017, with the support of the Art for Justice Fund, Mural Arts Philadelphia launched the Reimagining Re-entry Fellowship. The fellowship selected artists impacted by the criminal legal system to examine the problems posed by mass incarceration on both a personal and a systemic level, illuminating the human cost and potential solutions. In 2020, Mural Arts Philadelphia partnered with artist Russell Craig to expand his mural Crown onto the east and west sides of Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building.


Natasha Trethewey (she/her) is a poet who served as the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2014. The daughter of a mixed-race marriage, Trethewey experienced her parents’ divorce when she was six. When she was a teenager, Trethewey’s mother was tragically murdered by her ex-husband. Her third book of poems, Native Guard, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, contains elegies to her mother and a sonnet sequence in the voice of a Black soldier fighting in the Civil War. Her recent work includes a book of creative nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010), and the poetry collection Thrall.

The National Book Awards were founded in 1950 to recognize literary excellence in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. For nearly seven decades, the National Book Foundation has honored America’s most important writers, such as William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Susan Sontag, Jonathan Franzen, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Foundation has a long history of connecting readers with stories that emphasize humanity, lend voices to marginalized people, and introduce new ways of thinking about the social issues facing our country. In 2017, the Art for Justice Fund supported the launch of the Literature for Justice Program, which increased awareness of the injustices of mass incarceration. This program included a coalition of contemporary writers working across genres to serve as creative and artistic influencers, a curated reading list in which the coalition identified writers and works that deal with mass incarceration, national public programming, and an interactive website.

Founded in 1969, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) aims to ensure that all workers, and all who aspire to work, can attain economic opportunity, security, and prosperity through their labor. Achieving this mission demands an inclusive economy—one that has successfully realized NELP’s three core priorities of reducing economic inequality, ending structural racism, and building worker power. NELP is a leading research and advocacy voice focusing on issues of special significance to low-wage and unemployed workers. In 2019, the Art for Justice Fund supported NELP’s work to create employment opportunities for people with criminal records in key states like Ohio and Illinois, creating pathways to employment and improving the rewards of work for workers in low-wage jobs, particularly women and people of color. In 2020, NELP deepened its partnership with Black diasporic artists and cultural strategists using art as a vehicle for challenging mass incarceration and to build shared learning for criminal legal system transformation.

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The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) works to reduce incarceration and violence, improve the outcomes of system-involved youth and adults, and increase the capacity and expertise of the organizations that serve these individuals. Its Art for Justice Fund grant supported the development of NICJR’s Community-Based Alternatives to Youth Incarceration (CBAYI) Initiative, which supported 10 jurisdictions in developing and implementing actionable plans to close youth correctional facilities and build community-based approaches to youth rehabilitation through reinvestment.

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Ndume Olatushani (he/him) is a painter based in Denver, Colorado. The seventh of 11 children from St. Louis, Missouri, he dropped out of high school and was arrested for first degree murder at the age of 24. Wrongly convicted, Olatushani spent 28 years in maximum security prisons—20 of those years on death row. A self-taught artist, painting allowed him to exist in a state of harmony and tranquility while physically locked up. Olatushani’s paintings depict Black people who are unbound, bright, and colorful as a way of resisting the sensory deprivation and close confinement of the cells. His death sentence was overturned in 1998, but it took six more years to be moved off death row. Olatushani was released in December of 2012. He continues to create art and also works with advocacy groups to end capital punishment and mass incarceration.

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Founded in 2010, the New Virginia Majority Education Fund (NVMEF) is an advocacy organization that engages working-class communities of color in Virginia’s urban areas. NVMEF works towards a Virginia that is democratic, just, and sustainable through community organizing, large-scale voter education and mobilization, leadership development, and strategic communication. NVMEF focuses on four issues: environmental protection, immigration, smart growth/transportation, and voting rights. In 2018, NVMEF launched Court Watch of Central Virginia—a program that gathered data on the disturbingly high number of people of color without legal representation during bail hearings. In 2020, with the Art for Justice Fund’s continued partnership, NVMEF pivoted its Right to Vote campaign to engage voters digitally in the face of COVID-19. The organization has created a movement that transforms Virginia by organizing communities of color, women, working people, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, and people in progressive politics.

The New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) was founded in 1987 to improve the social standing of women in the city. As of 2018, the Foundation had invested a total of $66 million to build a vibrant network of 350 women-led organizations across the five boroughs and has positively affected the lives of 6 million women and girls in the city. NYWF is the largest women’s grantmaking foundation in the U.S. In 2018, through support from Art for Justice Fund, NYWF continued its partnerships with STEPS to End Family Violence and artist Troy Lamber to expand engagement with system-impacted women in community conversations to envision a “Healing New York City.” Lamber portrayed their vision in a series of posters that NYWF and STEPS presented to the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice. These posters and the ideas they represented provided a framework for creating a more just New York City.

Nicholas Dawidoff (he/him) is the author of six books, including The Catcher Was A Spy and In the Country of Country. He has been a Henry Luce Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Civitella Ranieri Fellow, a Berlin Prize Fellow of the American Academy, and an Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University. In 2022, he published The Other Side of Prospect: A Story of Violence, Injustice, and the American City. The book documents racial profiling and wrongful imprisonment in Dawidoff’s hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, where he spent eight years conducting his investigation into urban decay, white flight, and redlining at the local level. He is a member of the advisory board of Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education, and a member of the honorary council of the board of directors of the MacDowell artists’ residency program.


Nicole Fleetwood (she/her) is the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication in the Steinhardt School at New York University. A MacArthur Fellow, she is a writer, curator, and art critic whose interests are contemporary Black diasporic art and visual culture, photography studies, art and public practice, performance studies, gender and feminist studies, Black cultural history, creative nonfiction, prison abolition and carceral studies, and poverty studies. Her book and art exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Era of Mass Incarceration powerfully documents the inner lives and creative visions of people rendered invisible by America’s prison system. Based on interviews with currently and formerly incarcerated artists, prison visits, and the author’s own family experiences with the penal system, Marking Time shows how the imprisoned turn ordinary objects into elaborate works of art. Their bold works have opened new possibilities in American art.


The Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) creates fair, intelligent, and redemptive criminal legal systems through advocacy and community education. Between 2019 and 2021, OJPC furthered its advocacy to reduce barriers and increase opportunities for Ohioans with criminal records. The Center has had numerous policy wins in reducing the size of Ohio’s prison system. Alongside other advocates—including the Art for Justice Fund grantee partners Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Represent Justice, and the Alliance for Safety and Justice—Ohio became the 23rd state to abolish juvenile life without parole sentences. OJPC also advocated for a new law that enables people with underlying substance abuse issues to access treatment in lieu of conviction and use the “non-conviction/not guilty” record-sealing mechanism to avoid more than 130 conviction-related sanctions for people with drug convictions.

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The Ohio Transformation Fund (OTF) is a donor collaborative fund created in 2015 by national and local funders to address the impact of mass incarceration and criminalization in Ohio. OTF regrants funds to organizations working in the field of criminal justice in Ohio to address capacity gaps. OTF staff convene funders and grantees to help them learn from each other and work together to achieve policy transformation and systems change. The Ohio Transformation Fund leveraged its Art for Justice grant to enhance its creative messaging and strategies to advance criminal legal system transformation, build capacity and infrastructure for state grassroots activism, and deepen its relationships with arts partners. It specializes in creating structural change in Ohio’s criminal legal system to improve safety and health in the community. It is one of the few statewide donor collaborative funds dedicated to safely reducing the number of people in prisons and jails.

Ohioans to Stop Executions Action Fund (OTSE Action Fund) is the 501(c)4 arm of Ohioans to Stop Executions, a coalition of individuals and organizations that pushes for progressive policies that holistically address the harms of violent crime on victims and the people who commit them, as well as community safety. OTSE Action Fund uses data-driven approaches to educate the public and lawmakers about the need to ban the death penalty in Ohio. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, the organization worked towards its goals by recruiting bill sponsors to move this issue through both chambers of Ohio State Legislature, collaborating with faith-based entities to educate constituents about the existence of the movement, partnering with community-based organizations to host educational civic engagement events, and publishing reports that amplify public opinion polls showing a majority of people want to ban the death penalty in Ohio.

Operation Restoration is an organization created and run by formerly incarcerated women in New Orleans, Louisiana, that is committed to providing currently and formerly incarcerated women with the resources necessary to sustainably transition home. Founded in 2016 by Syrita Steib, Operation Restoration provides women and girls with the tools to successfully reenter society through advancement in education, employment training, and access to income and employment opportunities. It underscores its academic and employment programs with services that help manage post-traumatic stress, and provides women and girls with a safe space for rehabilitation and healing. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, Operation Restoration continued infusing activism with New Orleans arts and culture, including by expanding their (Per)Sister exhibition series, a project that centers youth impacted by incarceration and immigrant detention.

The Opportunity Institute (OI) advances social mobility and equity through education and social policies that make true opportunity possible. OI’s flagship criminal justice initiative, Renewing Communities (RC), aimed to “bridge corrections to college” in California by providing people with criminal histories the opportunities, resources and support they needed to earn a college degree while in prison or after release. OI believes that higher education plays a key role in breaking the cycle of poverty, reducing recidivism, and rebuilding lives damaged by mass incarceration. From 2016 to 2020, OI focused on partnering with community colleges to offer in-person, full credit college courses in California state prisons; partnering with formerly incarcerated students and student leaders to have a public presence on community college campuses; and hosting sustainability replicated Project Rebound programs, a student program that originated at San Francisco State over 50 years ago and that OI helped to replicate on eight campuses.


Paul Rucker (he/him) is a visual artist, composer, and musician who often combines media, live performance, sound, original compositions, and visual art. His work is the product of a rich interactive process, through which he investigates community impacts, human rights issues, historical research, and basic human emotions surrounding a particular subject matter. Much of Rucker’s work has focused on the prison-industrial complex and the relationship between incarceration and slavery. Rucker has performed and exhibited visual art exhibitions across the country, including in schools and prisons, and has collaborated with educational institutions to address the issue of mass incarceration. Rucker is a Guggenheim Fellow, TED Senior Fellow, Rauschenburg Fellow, and an iCubed Arts Research Fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University. Currently, he is the curator for creative collaboration for VCUarts at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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PEN America is a nationwide community of more than 7,500 members—novelists, journalists, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, and other writing professionals—working together to carry out the organization’s mission of championing the freedom to write and recognizing the transformative power in creative expression. For more than four decades, PEN America’s Prison Writing Program has supported and amplified the writing of thousands of incarcerated authors by providing free resources, writing mentorships, a rigorous annual awards program, and opportunities to find new audiences. In 2018, with the support of the Art for Justice Fund, PEN America established the Writing for Justice Fellowship to connect incarcerated writers and those with lived experience of the criminal legal system with esteemed artists, authors, and activists to serve as mentors. Fellows from its two cohorts include Art for Justice Fund grantees Reginald Dwayne Betts, Mitchell Jackson, Vivian D. Nixon and C.T. Mexica.

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Founded in 2012 by artist Dustin Yellin, Pioneer Works is a nonprofit cultural center located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The center has become a model for cultural organizations and a cornerstone of contemporary art and community in Brooklyn. Pioneer Works enables artists to bear witness to the injustices of our criminal legal system, elevate the voices of people enmeshed in it, and imagine alternatives to mass incarceration through exhibitions, public programs, workshops, and classes. In 2021, in partnership with the Art for Justice Fund, Pioneer Works developed two public artworks—The Forever Museum Archive_Circa 6000BCE by Onyedika Chuke and Kalief Browder: The Box by Coby Kennedy—that drew together the historical origins and contemporary realities of the U.S. criminal legal system. Pioneer Works also partnered with For Freedoms to reimagine a new quartet of public ideals that respond to the urgent needs of our contemporary era: Awakening, Listening, Healing, and Justice.

The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) is dedicated to advancing safe, fair, and effective juvenile and adult pretrial justice practices and policies that honor and protect all people. In 2018, with support from the Art for Justice Fund, PJI expanded its national strategy, focusing on promoting racial equity, reframing pretrial legal policy transformation, and enhancing community education. In Ohio, PJI used its funding to work with Dr. Zaria Davis to promote a pretrial justice bill that emphasizes racial justice, data collection, pretrial liberty, and community investment. In 2020, the Pretrial Justice Institute partnered with the Ohio Student Association to support a new collaborative of artists from across the state to partner with grassroots advocates. These artists’ efforts expanded the changing narrative around the power of partnerships between white and Black people who experience the same economic, environmental, and criminal legal oppression.

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) produces cutting-edge research to expose the broader harm of mass incarceration. Because essential national and state level data is often inaccessible, the Prison Policy Initiative’s data analyses help fill in gaps to bring in new supporters and help movement leaders reach their goals. PPI produces cutting-edge research and advocacy that set the agenda for criminal legal system transformation and abolition efforts across the country, all designed to change the public conversation around mass incarceration and create ideological, factual, and messaging tools for the press, policymakers, and advocates. The organization’s research advances campaigns on pocketbook issues affecting incarcerated people and their families—including reducing the cost of jail and prison phone calls, eliminating medical co-pays, and ending prison gerrymandering—as well as assisting grassroots advocates with technical skills around data.

Launched in 1996, the Prison University Project (PUP) is the only on-site, degree-granting college program in the entire California State prison system. It currently serves about 330 students, two-thirds of whom are enrolled in college-level courses. The recidivism rate for new offenses among PUP graduates who leave prison is just 4 percent, compared to 19 percent for all prisoners released statewide in the same time frame. In 2015, the program received the National Humanities Medal. With support from Art for Justice Fund, the Prison University Project was able to provide COVID-19 relief aid to incarcerated people and correctional officers at the beginning of the pandemic. The packages included dried meat, dried fish, nuts, writing materials, envelopes/stamps, soap, and hand sanitizer. These efforts improved the hygiene, health, and morale for roughly 4,000 incarcerated individuals and correctional officers.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (PCCR) is an innovative, award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to supporting in-depth engagement with underreported global affairs. PCCR achieves that goal by sponsoring quality international journalism across all media platforms and directing a unique program of outreach and education to schools and universities. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, PCCR supported the World of Difference initiative, a three-year journalistic effort to examine issues related to mass incarceration between 2017 and 2019. In partnership with Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice exhibit on incarceration in Illinois, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting hosted a half-day program to educate Pulitzer Center journalists and other leaders from Chicago institutions. To design the project, the Pulitzer Center called on the expertise of fellow Art for Justice Fund partners Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and Youth Justice Fund.


Recess Art is an art gallery that partners with artists to inspire a more inclusive and just creative community. Since 2009, Recess has welcomed radical and innovative thinkers to answer society’s complex questions. Recess also offers arts programming, one of which is Assembly, a youth diversion program for young adults convicted of misdemeanors to reflect on their own lives and engage in visual storytelling. In 2019, with Art for Justice Fund’s support, Recess partnered with Performing Statistics and the Center for Court Innovation to provide artistic expertise for their respective alternative-to-incarceration programs. The Center for Court Innovation used its collaboration for Project Reset, a pre-arraignment diversion program that offers people charged with low-level misdemeanors the opportunity to resolve their criminal cases by participating in community-based programming. Project Reset culminated with an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum created by Project Reset participants.

For over 20 years, Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) has worked year-round in maximum- and medium-security prisons to develop a supportive culture in which incarcerated people can explore their identity and express themselves through various art forms. RTA offers workshops and drop-in sessions in a range of artistic disciplines, including theater, dance, writing, and visual arts. RTA currently operates in five New York State correctional facilities, including four men’s maximum- and medium-security prisons and Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the state’s only maximum-security women’s prison. In 2017, Art for Justice Fund helped RTA establish an additional program at Taconic Correctional Facility, which placed RTA in two of the three women’s prisons in New York State. A further grant supported RTA’s teaching artists, its curriculum expansion in correctional facilities, and programmatic opportunities for alumni.

Restore Justice Illinois (RJI) is a 501(c)(4) civic organization founded to mitigate the human and fiscal impact of the extreme sentencing laws of the 1980s and 1990s, particularly where they have impacted children. RJI believes in the possibility of rehabilitation, redemption, and reunification with the community for all incarcerated people. With support from Art for Justice Fund, RJI continued to advance an end to extreme sentencing for youth in partnership with Campaign for Fair Sentencing for Youth. Not only is RJI steeped in the fight to end juvenile life without parole (JLWOP), but its policy and legislative work spans other critical issues in the state, including ending other types of extreme sentences and promoting voting rights for incarcerated individuals.

The Returning Artists Guild is a Cleveland-based organization of directly-impacted artists dedicated to ending mass incarceration through community-centered art practices, mentorship, and resilience-driven services for artists in re-entry and those who are still inside. Their Art for Justice grant supported the Guild’s programmatic expansion, including the establishment of a dedicated space for members and staff and the goal of building an artist residency model for returning citizens.

Rowan Renee (they/them) is a genderqueer multimedia artist and photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Their work addresses intergenerational trauma, gender-based violence, and the impacts of the criminal legal system through image, text, and installation. With A4J’s support, Renee interviewed formerly incarcerated individuals who have been through the restorative justice process and translated the information gathered into new material forms

Russell Craig (he/him) is a painter from Philadelphia now living in New York City. He is the cofounder of Right of Return USA, the first national fellowship dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated artists. A self-taught artist who survived nearly a decade of incarceration after growing up in the foster care system, Craig creates art as a means to explore the experience of over-criminalized communities and to reassert agency after a lifetime of institutional control. Craig is an alumnus of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s restorative justice program The Guild and a Right of Return Fellow. In 2022, Craig released Dark Reflections, a series of portraits of people most impacted by issues of the criminal legal system. He chose subjects for these portraits as they appear in national headlines or trend on social media platforms, intentionally leaving the portrait series open-ended to highlight the urgency in addressing criminal legal failures.



Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes (he/him) is a composer and pianist known for large multidisciplinary projects and for his use of music to examine sociopolitical issues. He graduated from The Juilliard School with a bachelors of music in jazz studies in 2013. While at Juilliard, he began work on his highly acclaimed performance piece, The Transformations Suite, which brought together jazz and classical musicians, spoken word artists, actors, and dancers to produce a performance piece that paints a musical picture of the current state of social inequality and injustice. He is a member of Blackout for Human Rights and was musical director for their #MLKNow and #JusticeForFlint events. Since 2015, Pinderhughes has been making The Healing Project, a multimedia installation and performance series driven by the quest to understand how incarceration and detention traumatizes people and communities, and the processes, strategies, and practices that people use to cope and heal.

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Sara Kruzan (she/her) is a writer, visual artist, and activist based in California. In 1995, at the age of 17, she was convicted of the first-degree murder of her trafficker, George Gilbert Howard, who began to groom her for the sex industry at the age of 11. Following her 2022 pardon, Kruzan has dedicated her life to advocating for children who find themselves in a similar position to the one she was in. She used her Art for Justice Fund grant funds to create works that bring light to the voices of individuals who identify with experiencing crimes against humanity.

Sergio De La Torre (he/him) has worked with and documented the manifold ways in which citizens reinvent themselves in the city they inhabit, as well as site- specific strategies they deploy to move in and out of modernity. De La Torre’s works invoke collaboration with his subjects and invite both intimate and critical reflections on topics related to housing, immigration, and labor. Through video documentary, photography, public art, and installations he tries to approach the lives of these individuals—not as victim-subjects, but rather to reexamine the meaning of their actions in the context of shifting global conditions. His work has appeared in the Istanbul Biennial, Bienal Barro de America, MoMA, Atelier Frankfurt, Centro Cultural Tijuana, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Tribeca Film Festival and Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia. De La Torre is an assistant professor in the University of San Francisco art and architecture department.

sheri crider (she/her) is a formerly incarcerated visual artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work encompasses interactive sculpture and painting that engage nontraditional audiences in galleries, prison cells, classrooms, and courtrooms. With Art for Justice Fund’s support, crider will create a series of works linking colonialism and racial capitalism to mass incarceration, develop the framework for a traveling abolitionist library, and curate statewide programs that trace the intersections of immigrants, women, queer people, and the criminal legal system.

Sherrill Roland (he/him) is an interdisciplinary artist whose Jumpsuit Project raised awareness around issues related to mass incarceration and grew out of Rowland’s personal history. He spent ten months in state prison on a wrongful conviction just after started his last year of graduate school in 2013. Based on new evidence, Roland was exonerated of all charges in 2015. He toured The Jumpsuit Project nationally as a performance piece at institutions ranging from LACE: Los Angeles and the Studio Museum in Harlem to Princeton and the University of Michigan Law School. Roland earned a bachelor’s of fine arts in design and a master’s of fine arts in studio art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Roland’s work was featured in For Freedoms’ 2022 billboard campaign ANOTHER JUSTICE, with an original piece installed on a billboard in Charlotte, North Carolina as part of a project that proposed new paths forward to justice.

Shontina Vernon (she/her) is an award-winning filmmaker, theater artist, musician, and educator who explores intergenerational legacies around trauma and queerness. Entering the Texas juvenile criminal legal system at just 10 years old, her work explores the impact of incarceration on identity and a sense of belonging, especially in the lives of women and girls of color. Vernon has also been a teaching artist with court-involved youth in detention. Some of her recent works include BLACK SPRING, GRRRL Justice, and HER BLACK BODY POLITIC. She also leads the Visionary Justice StoryLab, a collective of visual storytellers whose work highlights the impact of the criminal legal system and systemic oppression in communities of color.

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Founded in 2019 with the mission to change models of structural systems that perpetuate a culture of inequity, Silver Art Projects supports artists with critically needed studio space in New York City to nurture and build thriving practices while also contributing to the creative ecosystem in Lower Manhattan. In addition to studio space, Silver Art Projects provides professional development opportunities and connections with museum curators, art leaders, galleries, collectors, thought and business leaders, peer-to-peer artist mentors, and others to change artists’ lives and enhance careers. In 2022, with support from Art for Justice Fund (A4J), Silver Arts Project opened applications for its third round of year-long residencies, offering free studio space in the World Trade Center along with stipends and mentorship for artists. The grant from A4J allocated residency positions to formerly incarcerated artists.

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Szu-Han Ho (she/they) is an artist in performance, sound, text, image-making, and installation, who roots her art-making in collaboration. The experience of growing up in Texas as an immigrant from Taiwan influences her art as she focuses on migration, borders, and alternative economies. In 2021, Szu-Han Ho and OLÉ New Mexico developed #FreeThemAll billboards along the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico to bring awareness to the outbreaks of COVID-19 and maltreatment that individuals face in detention centers, prisons, and jails. The billboards were created in partnership with New Mexico-based Black and Indigenous artists of color, creating opportunities for them to get involved as advocates in the movement.

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Talilo Marfil (he/him) is a Portland, Oregon-based artist seeking to positively impact the world through music. Born in the Philippines, he immigrated to the U.S. when he was two. As a young person living in poverty and struggling with housing insecurity, he experienced survival challenges and became incarcerated as a result. Upon release at 21, Marfil was guided by spiritual values to reconnect with his culture. Since 2014, Marfil has been working with marginalized youth in Portland as a mentor and guide. Today, he is a program manager at Ascending Flow, a nonprofit supporting young people aging out of foster care, and the founder of the Youth Development Practitioner Apprenticeship, which creates career pathways for system-impacted youth by offering paid on-the-job training and peer support. Marfil also serves as a hip-hop instructor in schools and juvenile detention centers, inspiring young people through their ability to create music together.

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Tameca Cole (she/her) is a lifelong resident of Birmingham, Alabama. She entered the prison system at a young age but always with a hopeful attitude that a better future lay ahead. During her incarceration, she spent significant time in trade school to bolster her job skills and reading level. She attended creative writing classes sponsored by Auburn University, which inspired her purpose in life to become an artist. Reconnecting with her creative side changed the course of her life to follow. Cole is one of the artists featured in Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Art and writing have allowed Cole to address her personal demons in a way that does not cause harm to others while providing an outlet to express what the artist refers to as “the cruelty of incarceration, injustice, and experiences with racism.”

Through artistic expression, The Actors’ Gang (TAG) strives to create effective, original, and unique programming that gives hope and emotional fluency to a disenfranchised population of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. In 2017 and 2018, The Actors’ Gang received two grants from Art for Justice Fund. The first supported a new arts-based wellness program for correctional officers to help heal work-related trauma and a re-entry project using the arts as a safe off-ramp for people exiting the prison system. The second grant allowed TAG to continue to develop re-entry programs, expand teacher training, and strengthen and forge partnerships.

The Harmony Project was formed in 2009 with the mission of building a more inclusive society by breaking down social barriers, bridging community divides, and empowering the voices of people through arts, education, and volunteerism. From its inception as an initial chorus of 100 people who agreed to sing and serve their community, the Harmony Project now has over 1,000 people singing weekly, and tens of thousands who attend concerts, performances, and programs serving differently-abled adults, people who have experienced homelessness, students from across the economic spectrum, incarcerated individuals, veterans, and returning citizens. Additionally, the Harmony Project supports local artists to create and lead programs within and outside of prison walls to engage the community in the re-entry process in creative and non-judgmental ways.

The Hive is a youth-centered community based in Richmond, Virginia that holistically supports young people as they transition into adulthood. A grassroots organization incubated by Performing Statistics, an Art for Justice Fund grantee partner, The Hive is based on principles of participatory action research and cultural organizing. The Hive is founded on the recognition that we must build the future we want; the criminal legal system was founded on and is fed by principles of racism and colonization and thus cannot be the steward for a new vision for shared safety.

The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating people who have been wrongfully convicted and transforming the criminal legal system to prevent future injustice. Founded as a legal clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University by civil rights lawyers Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck in 1992, the Innocence Project was the first legal organization to systematically apply DNA testing to criminal justice—not as a means to convict but as a tool to reveal innocence in cases of wrongful conviction. Empowered with the unequivocal proof of innocence provided by DNA technology, the Innocence Project has provided direct representation or critical assistance in more than 200 exonerations, overturned because of factors including DNA testing, new scientific evidence, conviction reinvestigations, and more.

The Justice Collaborative (TJC) supplies deep legal, policy, communications, and networking support to visionary leaders and organizations working to end dehumanization and extreme vulnerability and build in their place a society with dignity and freedom for all of us, starting with those who are the most vulnerable. The policies driving dehumanization and extreme vulnerability—from mass incarceration to the lack of health care, from vulnerable employment to housing precarity, and beyond—are built upon a maze of local, state, and federal laws and procedures. TJC employs a team of legal experts, researchers, media strategists, and journalists to cut through this complexity and confusion. Art for Justice Fund supported the Justice Collaborative in the wake of COVID-19 to dramatically expand its capacity to respond to opportunities to release people for COVID-19 purposes and serve as a future media hub for the larger movement.

Established in 1990 as an alternative to large, commercial publishers, The New Press is a nonprofit publishing house operated in the public interest. Committed to publishing innovative works of educational, cultural, and community value that may be deemed insufficiently profitable by commercial publishers, The New Press aims to provide underrepresented viewpoints to leverage social change. They have advanced the publication of a series of books on mass incarceration that address four key strategies: keeping people out of jails and prisons, shortening sentences, promoting re-entry, and changing the narrative through art. In 2020, with support from Art for Justice Fund, the New Press collaborated with Mural Arts and Fair and Just Prosecution to create a collection of 10 original works for publication. The project put justice-involved artists at the heart of a national dialogue about a new vision for our legal system.

The People’s Paper Co-op (PPC) is a women-led, women-focused, women-powered art and advocacy project at the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia. The PPC looks to women in re-entry as the leading criminal justice experts our society needs to hear from and uses art to amplify their stories, dreams, and visions for a more just and free world. Since 2018, the People’s Paper Co-op has collaborated with the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund on their annual Mama’s Day Bail Out campaign. Each year, PPC organizes exhibitions, parades, press conferences, and events to raise awareness and funds for the campaign, while sharing the stories, dreams, and demands of formerly incarcerated women with thousands of Philadelphians.

Founded in 2001 in the northeast San Fernando Valley, Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Chucha’s Centro Cultural transforms the community through the arts, culture, and literacy. The organization’s publishing wing, Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Chucha Press, is one of the country’s leading small, cross-cultural presses focused on socially engaged poetry and literature. In 2017, with support from Art for Justice Fund, Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Chucha’s Centro Cultural led 15 Youth Justice Fellows in creating life-sized wood cutouts of themselves, illustrative of the gap between socialized stereotypes and reality. The pieces were displayed for the Board of Supervisors to see when they voted on the recommendation to move all youth out of the probation system and into another existing county system. The organization has also launched cultural art programming, centered on writing by formerly incarcerated individuals in Greater Los Angeles, to change the national dialogue on prisons.


The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona was founded in 1960. It is one of the country’s leading academic poetry institutions, and hosts programs including a reading and lecture series featuring nationally known contemporary poets, outreach programs for writers of all ages, and a library with one of the country’s most extensive collections of contemporary English-language poetry. The Poetry Center administers a prison writing program that includes workshops in local state and federal prisons; a weekly writing workshop for formerly incarcerated writers; and Rain Shadow Review, a journal featuring works from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated writers. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, the Poetry Center commissioned and published new work from dozens of poets across the country focused on racial justice, the experience of incarceration and the need for systemic transformation. It also expanded Free Time, a workshop that pairs community members with incarcerated writers through written correspondence.


Valeria Luiselli (she/her) was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa, and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. She is the author of Sidewalks, Faces in the Crowd, The Story of My Teeth, Tell Me How It Ends, and Lost Children Archive. She has been the recipient of the Vilcek Prize, the Guggenheim Fellowship and the MacArthur Grant. Tell Me How It Ends, an essay about the perils faced by children who travel alone from Central America to the U.S. in search of refuge, received the American Book Award. Lost Children Archive, also about migration and state violence against migrants, won the Dublin Prize, the Folio Prize, and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.


Founded in 1961, the Vera Institute of Justice is a national leader in criminal legal system transformation, focused on systemic change toward a more humane criminal legal system. Vera focuses on injustices within the system by partnering with the institutions where most criminal legal policy is practiced: police departments, courts, the immigration system, jails, and prisons. In 2023, with support from Art for Justice, Vera successfully restored Pell Grants to people in prison. This victory is the result of decades of consistent engagement and advocacy from a number of grantee partners. Art for Justice Fund also supported Vera’s efforts to partner with grassroots and grasstops leaders to shape and deliver legislative and policy victories related to bail reform—shifting funding from jails and policing to community-based services and accountability for the government and criminal legal institutions.

Victor Quiñonez (he/him) is a New York City-based visual artist working at the intersection of contemporary art, graffiti, fashion, and design. With paintings, murals, drawings, and mixed-media pieces, Quiñonez’s robust palette blends elements of street and pop culture with Mexican and Indigenous aesthetics. With A4J’s support, Quiñonez began work on multimedia installations that focus on the beauty of Indigenous cultures surviving in the U.S.

Reverend Vivian D. Nixon (she/her) is the former executive director of College & Community Fellowship (CCF) a New York City organization that helps women and families most harmed by mass criminalization gain equitable access to opportunity and human rights. Reverend Nixon identifies herself as a joyfully Black woman whose release from correctional oversight gave rise to a search for true liberation and guided her academic and career choices. Her work at CCF and beyond advances justice through economic and social equity, anti-racism, civic engagement, and artistic expression. She has a particular interest in Black women affected by structural oppression and trauma. Instructed and ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Reverend Nixon has an MFA from Columbia School of the Arts and currently teaches at Bennington College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action.

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Headquartered in New Orleans, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) mobilizes directly impacted leaders to transform the criminal legal system throughout Louisiana. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, VOTE advocated for the safe release of people from jail and prison in Louisiana and focused on ending discriminatory policies preventing people from accessing housing and quality medical care once released. Art for Justice Fund also supported their effort to eliminate predatory phone rates in facilities and engage people paid low incomes and those impacted by the criminal legal system in Louisiana’s democracy. In 2018, VOTE helped restore voting rights to people on probation in Louisiana by registering roughly 30,000 eligible people, and it shared voting rights information with over 100,000 directly impacted people ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.


We Got Us Now (WGUN), founded in 2017, is the first national nonprofit organization built by, led by, and about children and young adults with incarcerated parents. Ebony Underwood, the daughter of a now formerly-incarcerated parent, launched WGUN to identify, mobilize, and empower others with similar personal experiences through action and advocacy. Through creative advocacy campaigns, digital narratives, safe and inclusive spaces, and a signature leadership program that promotes healing and reduces the stigma from having parents who are incarcerated, WGUN works to keep families connected as they navigate the realities of being physically separated. Out of a commitment to its mission to encourage bold and relevant dialogue about mass incarceration, WGUN uses partnerships with media, entertainment, and the arts to raise the voices of children of incarcerated people and build community among them.

The Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA) is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of women and gender-expansive New Yorkers affected by mass incarceration. Founded in 2018, WCJA is led by justice-impacted women and focuses on change through policy advocacy, community organizing, and service. WCJA leads the #BEYONDrosies campaign and the Justice 4 Women Task Force. Art for Justice Fund supported the WCJA’s #BEYONDroises Campaign to help WJCA secure a commitment from city and state officials to relocate a women’s facility as a stand-alone site in New York City, and to create a preliminary decarceration plan that will drive the Rosie’s population down. Additionally, Art for Justice Fund provided resources in 501 (c)(4) dollars to engage Jason Ortiz of Moonshot, LLC, a political strategy and communications firm, in the efforts.

Worth Rises is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to dismantling the prison industry and ending the exploitation of those it touches. They work to expose the commercialization of the criminal legal system while advocating and organizing to protect and return the economic resources extracted from affected communities. Through their work, they strive to pave a road toward a safe and just world free of police and prisons. Worth Rises’ 2020 publication of the report The Prison Industry: How It Started, How It Works, How It Harms was groundbreaking, delving into the history, business, and impact of the prison industry, underscored by firsthand accounts of people with lived experience. The organization is prioritizing engagement and collaboration with people directly impacted by the prison system, offering paid learning opportunities to help develop skills that support their leadership to dismantle the industry and reinvest its resources in their communities.

WriteGirl is a Los Angeles-based creative writing and mentoring organization that spotlights the power of a girl and her pen. WriteGirl matches girls with women writers who mentor them in creative writing. Through one-on-one mentoring and monthly creative writing workshops, girls are given techniques, insights, and hot topics for great writing in all genres from professional women writers. Workshops and mentoring sessions explore poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, persuasive writing, journal writing, editing and more. The Art for Justice Fund supported the pilot program of a new curriculum that included job-specific skills training and college entrance guidance and supported youth in their transition back to their home communities. In the following year, WriteGirl sustained, enhanced, and expanded its capacity to deliver mentoring and pathways to college and employment for the youth it serves.


Xaviera Simmons (she/her) works with multiple media—performance, photography, sculpture, sound installation, and video—to examine the ways that landscape, language, and portraiture construct identity. In 2012, she created Number 14 (When A Group Of People Comes Together To Watch Someone Do Something), which shows a series of photographs documenting her spontaneous performance aboard a train in Sri Lanka.  Simmons has served as artist-educator at Recess Assembly, engaged with the Women’s Prison Association on an arts and education program, and worked with students in multiple New York City high schools. In 2018, Simmons developed Continuum, an homage to Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series, which focused on themes of discrimination, disenfranchisement, law, and politics. The artist also collaborated with formerly incarcerated people to produce audio and video clips that answer questions around incarceration, incorporating different media to examine possibilities to repair the system.



The Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign 501(c)4 was a Black-led coalition-model campaign that sought to replace the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) with a new Department of Public Safety by amending the Minneapolis City Charter. In 2020, the Art for Justice Fund supported the Yes 4 Minneapolis Campaign to amend the city charter to dismantle its Police Department and build a Department of Public Safety in its stead. The measure replaced traditional policing with a comprehensive public health approach designed to address homelessness, addiction, lack of access to mental health services, and poverty more generally. Led by grassroots community activists and allies, it represented a first-of-its-kind effort to transform policing through a direct public ballot.

Launched in 2015, the Youth First Initiative (YFI) is a national advocacy organization that designs strategies and leads campaigns in states with the goal of closing youth prisons and redirecting resources to community-based alternatives to incarceration. In partnership with state-based organizers, Youth First creates a model for reducing incarceration that builds on past successes, overcomes opposition, and can be replicated across the country. Dedicated to ending youth incarceration and increasing community-based investment in the success of young people, YFI has built on its high-impact campaigns, including those to successfully close or prevent new youth prisons from being built in Connecticut, New Jersey and Virginia. YFI used the Art For Justice Fund’s support to accelerate efforts to dismantle the youth prison model by closing youth prisons, reducing the incarceration of youth, and redirecting resources to community-based alternatives to incarceration.

The Youth First State Advocacy Fund (YFSAF) is a pooled donor fund that works in parallel with the Youth First Initiative to provide financial resources to state-based advocates running campaigns to transform the juvenile criminal legal system. YFSAF has provided grantmaking support to state-based coalitions leading campaigns to dismantle youth prisons, a continuation of its previous work funded by the Art for Justice Fund. YFSAF granted funds to six state-based campaigns and successfully closed youth prisons in New Jersey and Connecticut. It has also developed campaigns in four additional states, including doubling down on efforts to close Virginia’s single remaining youth prison after twice deterring state efforts to construct a second facility.

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Zealous activates, trains, and supports public defenders, in partnership with local organizations and the people and communities they serve, to harness the power of media, technology, storytelling, and the arts. Its ultimate goal is to create transformative and enduring policy change to end mass criminalization. With support from the Art for Justice Fund, Zealous worked with partners throughout the U.S. to develop a new, replicable practice of breaking down and rebuilding the way these organizations and individuals advocate and collaborate.

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