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Feb 21, 2020

Beyond Prisons Co-host Kim Wilson interviews Michelle Jones about her work as an artist, activist, and historian.

Michelle shares the projects that she’s currently working on and she reflects on what it’s like to be a third-year graduate student working on her dissertation proposal. She speaks to Kim about reentry for women in Indiana, having a soft place to land after incarceration, and her fight for sentence modification so that she could attend grad school after having spent 20 years in prison.

Michelle speaks candidly about what it means to her to have a spiritual practice, her art installation “Point of Triangulation” and the need for arts-based research. They round out the hour by addressing the problematic notion of exceptionalism with regards to prisoners and former prisoners, Michelle’s response to being "thingified" by the media, as well as what it was like to have academics attempt to co-opt the work that she and other women historians did inside.

Michelle Jones is a third-year doctoral student in the American Studies program at New York University. She is interested in excavating the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for people and families directly impacted by mass incarceration, in addition to participating in a scholarly project challenging the narratives of the history of women’s prison with a group of incarcerated scholars. While incarcerated, Michelle published and presented her research findings to dispel notions about the reach and intellectual capacity of justice-involved women.  

Michelle’s advocacy extends beyond the classroom through collaborations and opportunities to speak truth to power. While incarcerated, she presented legislative testimony on a reentry alternative she created for long-term incarcerated people that was approved by the Indiana State Interim Committee on the Criminal Code and SHE has joined the advisory boards of the Lumina Foundation and the Urban Institute.   

She is a founding member and chair of the board of Constructing Our Future, a reentry alternative for women created by incarcerated women in Indiana. She is A 2017-18 Beyond the Bars fellow, a 2017-18 Research Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and a 2018-19 Ford Foundation Bearing Witness Fellow with Art for Justice, a 2019 SOZE Right of Return Fellow, a 2019 Code for America Fellow, and A 2019-2020 Mural Arts Fellow. Michelle is currently under contract with The New Press to publish the history of Indiana’s carceral institutions for women with fellow incarcerated and formerly incarcerated scholars. As an artist, Michelle is interested in finding ways to funnel her research pursuits into theater, dance, and photography. Her original co-authored play, “The Duchess of Stringtown,” was produced in December 2017 in Indianapolis and New York City and her artist installation about stigma, “Point of Triangulation,” ran September 26, - October 1, 2019 in New York.

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Hosts: Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein

Music: Jared Ware