We are excited to announce, in collaboration with Princeton's Office of Religious Life (ORL), SPEAR's 5th annual conference Shadows of the Prison. The conference will take place on April 13-14, 2018 at Princeton University.

Shadows of the Prison:

[ʃædoʊz əv ðə prɪzn], noun.

1. lesser-seen, under-discussed features of the criminal (in)justice system which impact lives through the pervasion of carceral logics - punishment, supervision, violence, and control - beyond the prison's walls and deep into "free" society. The prison's shadows fall on individuals, families, and communities alike; they are cast differently based on identity and location. Illuminating these shadows more fully reveal the carceral state, which cannot be wholly dismantled until it is wholly understood.


As the phenomenon of mass incarceration is increasingly acknowledged, popular discourse tends to focus exclusively on the 2.3 million people confined in prisons and jails, overlooking the tens of millions more who are impacted in non-caged ways by the carceral state. As the prison state has expanded, its shadow has likewise grown, reaching into the lives of millions of non-incarcerated but heavily-impacted people. Nearly five million individuals are on parole and probation. Millions of Americans live under the burden of a past conviction, their access to employment, education, housing, and social services severely curtailed. Children are intimately impacted by the incarceration of parents. Communities of color are devastated by abusive policing, urban divestment, and the theft of young people from their homes, schools, and jobs. The prison state increasingly intersects with immigration, environment, and religious discrimination, and disproportionately impacts low-income and low-wealth people, those with disabilities, and LGBTQ people.

At Shadows of the Prison, participants and speakers will seek to shine a light on these shadows - each of which merits close examination. Through sustained scrutiny of policing, parole and probation, incarceration’s impact on families, and the wide dissemination of carceral logics into society, we will develop a sharper understanding of how these often overlooked aspects of the prison state perpetuate harm.

Registration is available here for university students, here for Princeton students, and here for community members. We hope you'll join us.


keynote address - Susan burton

Susan Burton is the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides sober housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women. She is nationally known as an advocate for restoring basic civil and human rights to those who have served time. Burton was a winner of AARP’s prestigious Purpose Prize and has been a Starbucks® “Upstander,” a CNN Top 10 Hero, a Soros Justice Fellow, and a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow at the California Wellness Foundation, and she is the co-author, with Cari Lynn, of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women. She lives in Los Angeles.


opening plenary - breea C. willingham

Breea C. Willingham is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Plattsburgh State University of New York. Her research areas include black women's prison writing, higher education in prison, black women and police violence, the impact of incarceration on black fathers and their children, and race and crime. Willingham worked as a newspaper reporter covering crime and education for ten years before entering academia.

Panel - carceral logics, carceral shadows

                 with Talila Lewis, Nyle Fort, and Sahar Aziz

How do shadows of the prison extend across America depending on place and identity? The goal of this panel is to illuminate the breadth and intersections of the dissemination of carceral logics into society. To that end, this panel brings together experts to talk about their research and organizing experience in different communities: for people with disabilities, in Black and urban communities, and for people of stigmatized faiths, particularly Muslims and Sikhs. This panel explores how the carceral state reaches into various communities, illuminating the dynamics of carceral logics' dissemination into society through broad and intersecting channels - revealing how deeply these 'shadows of the prison' extend.

Panel - parole & probation: PUnishment beyond the prison

                 with Keesha Middlemass, Olinda Moyd, and Reuben Miller

Parole and probation are features of the criminal justice system that ensnare nearly 5 million people at any given time, yet are rarely discussed in conversations about the criminal justice system. What are parole and probation, and how do they fit within the carceral state and especially reentry? How do they impact people's lives, and how do they employ carceral logics of punishment, discipline, and supervision to act as shadows of the prison? Is there hope for reforming parole and probation? This panel seeks to shine the light on a particularly nefarious shadow of the prison, vastly widening the scope of what we consider the carceral state.

Workshops - combatting the shadows

Workshop sessions feature organizers and activists doing on-the-ground work, and provide an interactive opportunity for participants to ask questions and learn more about the work of activists who are confronting the many shadows of the prison. A more detailed list of workshops will be released soon.

performance - free minds poetry 

Panel 3 - police violence and alternatives to policing

                 with Alex Vitale, Cobe Williams, and Eugene Puryear

Policing is one of the largest and most oppressive complements to the prison. While police brutality and killings have become increasingly documented and publicized, essential questions remain of whether there is hope for police reform, and what the true purpose of policing is. How does policing act as a shadow of the prison, even when it does not lead to an arrest and conviction? In other words, how does policing impact the lives of people just through the presence and impact of police alone? What are the most effective police alternatives, police reforms, or police abolitionist strategies? This panel brings together experts and activists on policing to more fully grasp the true problems with policing, and what can be and is being done about it.

closing plenary - Teresa smallwood