Program Overview

Envisioning Justice leverages the arts and humanities to envision alternatives to the enduring injustice of mass incarceration. This Illinois Humanities initiative works with communities and people impacted by mass incarceration to spark conversation and illuminate community-based strategies that address our racist and unjust criminal legal system.

From 2017 to 2019, Envisioning Justice was concentrated in Chicago. Illinois Humanities has since expanded this initiative and its attendant activities throughout the state — more specifically, in Bloomington-Normal, Carbondale, Chicago, Decatur, East St. Louis, Galesburg, and Urbana-Champaign. We continue to host and document community conversations, provide grant opportunities, and commission projects by artists and humanists working to shift the narrative around incarceration and system impacted communities.

Illinois Humanities acknowledges that people and communities affected by the criminal legal system are driving this movement for change, and we are committed to supporting their efforts to bring public awareness to issues of systemic racism and injustice inherent in mass incarceration through arts and humanities programming. We also seek to strengthen the networks, organizations, and resources they need to continue making a difference.

For more information, please contact us at You can also receive bi-weekly updates by signing up for our Envisioning Justice digest.

Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION

Tea Project (Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg)
Reparations Now! | The Dynamo and The Black Box

Illinois Humanities presents Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION, an interactive digital exhibition and activation kit using the arts and humanities to imagine a future without mass incarceration.

Browse dynamic works of visual art, creative writing, music, film, scholarship, and more in the RE:ACTION Exhibition, created by Illinois artists and humanists to deepen our understanding of our punitive criminal legal system and its personal, local, and global impacts. Then, put what you’ve learned into practice in the Activation Kit, with more than a dozen prompts to lead you through real-world activities to question our relationships to the carceral state, encourage healing, and share how you envision justice. Complete a prompt and share your response on the RE:ACTION website to add your vision to a growing archive of community responses to mass incarceration.

Learn more and share how you envision justice at 

Statewide Grants

Former North Lawndale Community Hub Director Dominique Steward presenting at a community discussion program funded through Envisioning Justice in 2018.

Grantmaking is a critical component of Envisioning Justice. Through the Envisioning Justice grants program, Illinois Humanities partners with groups throughout the state to use the arts and humanities to spark statewide conversations about the impact of mass incarceration as well as envision community- based solutions.

Learn more and apply

Visions of Justice

Illinois state capital building with text reading, Visions of Justice is an eight-part video series created in partnership with VAM STUDIO that brings together the perspectives of more than 30 Illinoisans spread over seven towns and cities to examine the far-reaching impacts of mass incarceration in our local communities. Watch the full series to hear from an exciting array of Illinois artists, organizers, scholars, local residents, and others working to interrogate the foundation of the criminal legal system and advance justice where they live.

Watch the series

Artist & Humanist Commissions

“Harbor for Mending Hearts” by commissioned artist Sonja Henderson featured in the 2019 Envisioning Justice Exhibition, Photo by Tony Favarula.

Illinois Humanities commissioned 14 multidisciplinary projects by artists and humanists from across the state whose work grapples with issues related to mass incarceration and its impacts. These projects are currently on display in the virtual RE:ACTION Exhibition

Commissioned artists and humanists also created “instructional prompts” based on this new work for the Envisioning Justice Activation Kit that invites users to participate in the arts and humanities as essential practices in confronting the impacts of mass incarceration.

Learn more about the commissioned projects

Public Programming

Randall Horton leads a lecture at Illinois Humanities’ Elective Studies Supper Club, 2018, Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis.

Illinois Humanities continues to develop public programming that includes our ongoing Rapid Response Series, film screenings, and other activities that can be used to advance the conversation and bring people together to collectively imagine alternatives.

The Envisioning Justice Rapid Response Series was created by Illinois Humanities to share short, original videos featuring perspectives and reflections from humanists, artists, and community organizers working in system-impacted communities during this complex time.

You can watch past Rapid Response programs on the Illinois Humanities YouTube channel.

Envisioning Justice Digest

The Envisioning Justice Digest is a monthly newsletter that features events, updates, resources, and relevant media within the movement of addressing and ending mass incarceration. Subscribe Now