Civil Rights Corps

Civil rights advocacy

Grantee Cohort Fall 2017, Spring 2019

Location National

Civil Rights Corps takes on civil rights cases around the country on behalf of impoverished and otherwise marginalized people. It works with people accused and convicted of crimes, their families and communities, currently or 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 human freedom. Its work focuses on reform of money bail, probation practices, and prosecutorial roles.

Art for Justice supports the Civil Rights Corps as it works to end money bail as well as excessive criminal justice fines and fees. CRC also worked to address prosecutorial misconduct and building partnerships and collaborative ventures to amplify the impact of litigation. They are also increasing partnerships with local organizers and artists, including the Texas Jail Project, Zealous and the Mass Incarceration Quilt series.

It’s also partner in three different Art for Justice Activating Art and Advocacy grants. First, it commissioned renowned artist Jesse Krimes to create the Mass Incarceration Quilt — a touring art exhibit that will reframe public narratives that perpetuate mass incarceration and tell the stories of people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system. The series includes handmade quilts with images from incarcerated people and the broader community. Jesse and the Civil Rights Corps also commissioned 14 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists to contribute their creative visions and talents to the project, and they will identify opportunities for the public to interact with the project.

Second, the Civil Rights Corps also partnered with attorney and poet Dwayne Betts and MacArthur “Genius” Titus Kaphar to take Redaction from MoMA PS1 across the country. Redaction is a powerful new exhibit that addresses cash bail reform — an issue as pivotal as prosecutorial outreach when it comes to the dehumanizing elements of our justice system. Titus and Dwayne drew inspiration and source material from Civil Rights Corps’ lawsuits filed on behalf of people who remain locked up because they can’t afford bail, despite not having been tried or convicted. Dwayne’s poetry, which uses legal redactions artistically, is coupled with Titus’ unique printmaking techniques to create a visually sobering portrait of mass incarceration. The exhibit will travel to communities with the highest rates of incarceration to start conversations with everyone from high school students to practitioners about the criminal justice system and bail reform.

Lastly, together, Civil Rights Corps, Texas Jail Project and Zealous will create Bearing Witness: A COVID-19 Capsule, a digital and searchable archive of letters, art, handwritten lawsuits, audio and video interviews and other records of mass incarceration in Texas. The capsule will serve to increase community awareness of jail conditions, as a digital advocacy toolkit for directly impacted people and their supporters and as a centralized record of the conditions within Texas county jails. Now more than ever, as COVID-19 decimates jails and prisons, the voices of people who are incarcerated are forcibly quieted and distant. Bearing Witness will amplify those voices so that they can again be heard by government leaders, committed advocates, communities and families alike.