Our Mission

Created and facilitated by Illinois Humanities, Envisioning Justice engages Illinoisans in conversation about the impact of mass incarceration in local communities and invites residents to use the arts and humanities to devise strategies toward a truly just society.  Envisioning Justice seeks to strengthen efforts to reimagine our criminal legal system and is inspired by the goals of justice, accountability, safety, support, and restoration for all people.

Learn more about the initiative’s Chicago-based efforts from the Envisioning Justice Resource Guide.

Use the Envisioning Justice Curricular Concepts guide to develop innovative ways for involving students in creating a more just world in our schools, our communities, our nation, and beyond.

Our Approach

Envisioning Justice is built upon a two-pronged approach—combining ambitious programming to reach diverse audiences with sustained effort to build capacity among arts, humanities, and policy organizations. The overarching goals are to increase community engagement in responding to the impact of mass incarceration, to amplify the strategies and perspectives of local communities, and to build capacity to sustain engagement and create lasting change.

From 2017 to 2019, Envisioning Justice was concentrated in Chicago. Illinois Humanities partnered with seven “Community Hub” organizations throughout the city in some of the communities most impacted by our criminal legal system; we made grants to organizations and individuals using the humanities to shift the narrative around mass incarceration; and we produced a dynamic, large-scale exhibition (Envisioning Justice) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Galleries that featured work from artists, activists, and collectives across the city who are working to envision a world without prisons and was experienced by nearly 12,000 visitors from August-October 2019.

Moving forward, Illinois Humanities is expanding this initiative and its attendant activities throughout the state.  As a part of this next phase of Envisioning Justice, we seek to host and document conversations and activities that respond to mass incarceration throughout Illinois. In addition, we will offer grants to organizations that use the arts and humanities to shift the narrative around incarceration, and we will offer residencies to artists and humanists who grapple with these issues in their work. Meanwhile, we continue to convene and collaborate with our Community Hub partners in Chicago, and we are developing an interactive digital tool that people throughout the state can use to spark conversation, exploration, and action within their own communities.