Prisons Today

Prisons Today Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration

On May 6, 2016, a groundbreaking new exhibit, Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, opens at Eastern State Penitentiary. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, by far, with 2.2 million citizens in prison or jail. This phenomenon has generally been driven by changes in laws, policing, and sentencing, not by changes in behavior. The results have disproportionately impacted poor and disenfranchised communities (mostly communities of color). In contrast, these historic changes remain nearly invisible to many Americans.

Prisons Today

This new interactive exhibit sheds light on these issues. It elicits personal connections to recent historic changes in the U.S. criminal justice system, encourages reflection, supports dialogue, and suggests steps that visitors can take to help shape the evolution of the American criminal justice system moving forward.

Prisons Today

Prisons Today is the next step in Eastern State’s continued focus on issues of contemporary corrections. It acts as a companion to The Big Graph, now on view, as well as The Searchlight Series, a monthly discussion series about crime, justice, and the American prison system.

Prisons Today



We gratefully acknowledge the following individuals and organizations whose support has made this exhibit and the exhibit space preparations possible:

The Pew Center for Arts and HeritagePrisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Click here for a full list of additional donors.



Core Advisors:
Brendan Conlin, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc.
Valerie V. Gay, Art Sanctuary
Dr. Nazgol Ghandnoosh, The Sentencing Project
Dr. Marie Gottschalk, University of Pennsylvania
Leslie Guy, The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Sarah Pharaon, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

Additional Advisors:
City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Members of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program “Think Tank" at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford
National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women
Women Organized Against Rape
Todd Bernstein, Global Citizen
Robert E. Brown, Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network
Dr. Seth C. Bruggeman, Temple University Center for Public History
V. Chapman-Smith
Carol Anne Ferlauto, Bread & Roses Community Fund
Cynthia F. Figueroa, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc.
Nancy Franke, Goldring Reentry Initiative, University of Pennsylvania
Ryan Allen Hancock, Esq., Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity
Dr. Maghan Keita, Villanova University
Mike Lee, Esq., Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity
Marc Mauer, The Sentencing Project
Dr. Stephanie Mayweather, East Division Crime Victim Services
Emmy Morse, Bread & Roses Community Fund
Dr. Leslie Patrick, Bucknell University
Dr. Keith Reeves, Swarthmore College
Norberto "Rob" Rosa
Ann Schwartzman, Pennsylvania Prison Society
Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel and Janet Kelley, PA Department of Corrections
Liz Ševčenko, Humanities Action Lab, The New School
Elizabeth Silkes, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
Rev. Michelle Anne Simmons, Why Not Prosper
Robert Smith
Betty Jean Thompson Nobles, Kandlelight Productions
Hannah Zellman, Institute for Community Justice