Imagining Transformative Justice from the Inside Out

Imagining Transformative Justice from the Inside Out

Lisa Guenther, Associate Professor of Philosophy

That wall isn’t there just to keep me in, but to keep you out.

– Tyrone W., prisoner and former participant in the Inside Out Prison Exchange

The United States incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. We are the only Western democracy to retain the death penalty, although a recent abolition movement suggests that this could be changing. But even apart from the death penalty, the racism, abuse, and exclusion endemic to the US prison system risks becoming what Michelle Alexander has called “The New Jim Crow.” What does justice look like from the perspective of the 2.3 million Americans currently in prison? How might their perspectives transform the understanding of mass incarceration and the death penalty for people on the outside?

This project uses art to explore, initiate and facilitate communication between prisoners at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution (RMSI), Vanderbilt faculty and students, and community members. The focal point of the project is an art exhibition to be held at Sarratt Gallery on the Vanderbilt University campus from January 16 to February 14, 2013. Throughout the year, we will be experimenting with other creative ways to raise awareness of issues raised by the US prison system and capital punishment, and to work collaboratively towards a more just society for all.

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at Sarratt Gallery

Prison Galleries: Imagining Justice from the Inside Out

Gallery Reception:

Monday, January 21• 5 p.m.

Reception following to 6:30 p.m.

Presented as a part of Vanderbilt Martin Luther King Day with Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the Age of Colorblindness

Monday, January, 21, 7 p.m. in Langford Auditorium.

Funded in part by the Creative Campus Innovation Grant Program

Images from the Reception can be viewed here: Rethinking Prisons



About the artists

Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman



Richard Odom



Devin Banks

Donna Summer Tribute 1

Donna Summer Tribute 2

Derrick Quintero


Harold Wayne Nichols


Cover Image credit: Kennath Artez Henderson


Posted on

August 23, 2012