FAQ - Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION


Why the humanities?

At Illinois Humanities, we believe that the arts and humanities — with their capacity to connect thought to feeling, to challenge and refresh our assumptions, to reimagine possibilities, and to bring people together — are uniquely poised to propel discussion, reflection, and action around mass incarceration, which many have called a present-day human rights crisis.

Art makes personal perspective palpable, thereby creating empathy and instigating needed shifts in stale societal narratives. The public humanities foreground constructive conversation and critical thinking informed by the experiential, embodied, and scholarly knowledge of all individuals and communities.

Illinois Humanities leverages the humanities across multiple programs to deepen civic engagement and our understanding of our world — and of ourselves. Visit our website to learn more about how the humanities take center stage in our programs.

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What do you mean by “mass incarceration”? What exactly is the “carceral state”?

At Envisioning Justice, we try to be mindful of the terminology we use to discuss mass incarceration and its impacts. Check out the Glossary of Terms below for helpful definitions.

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Is the exhibition only online? Where can I see it in person?

The RE:ACTION Exhibition is a fully online exhibition. This means anyone in the world can experience the collection! 

The commissioned artists and humanists whose work you see here are a busy and creative group, and you may be able to see more of their work in other exhibitions, events, and programs. Visit our Meet the Creators page where you can connect with them online and on social media.

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Are the works in this exhibition for sale? Can I make a print of a piece I like, or share it with a friend?

If you are curious about whether a piece in the exhibition is for sale, please contact the creator directly. Visit our Meet the Creators page to get connected.

All works in the exhibition are property of their creator, and may not be reproduced, sold, etc etc except for etc etc. (will add language when we have copyright)

Thankfully, an online platform makes it easy to share RE:ACTION with others! Share a project by clicking the “Share this Installation” button at the bottom of the page. In the Activation Kit, share a prompt by clicking the “Share this Prompt” button.

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How do I use the Activation Kit?

  • Step 1: Browse the prompts on the Activation Kit landing page. Using the filters above the prompts, explore the activities on the website and find one that fits your interests and skills.
  • Step 2: Click the prompt you’d like to work on, and follow the instructions on that prompt’s page. Each prompt leads to a final product, such as a drawing or a piece of writing, that can be submitted back to the RE:ACTION site.
  • Step 3: Share your finished work with us using the submission form at the bottom of the prompt page. Work generated for RE:ACTION and shared through the submission form can be posted on the website and shared out with others as part of a growing archive.


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I completed a prompt. How do I submit my response to be shared in the Activation Kit?

Each prompt in the Activation Kit features an online submission form at the bottom of the page. Upload photos, audio recordings, written work, YouTube links, and other materials you generate as part of your response to the prompt using this online form.

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I submitted a response to a prompt. Now what?

After you submit your response through the form on each prompt page, it will be moderated and approved for publication on the RE:ACTION website. Check back to see your contribution in the Activation Kit!

If your response is not published, it may not have met our moderation guidelines, or not included a necessary piece of the submission. If the prompt asks you to share an image, be sure to upload your image in the form. If it requires a video, be sure to share a URL to your video on YouTube, Vimeo, or other video hosting platform. If you think your submission was not published by mistake, or would like to have your response removed after it is published, please contact us.

View our terms and conditions for more about submission requirements.

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I’d love to use RE:ACTION in a lesson for my students! How can I use the website in my lesson plan? Can I print pages for my students?

The RE:ACTION Exhibition and Activation Kit make valuable educational resources, and a unique hands-on way for students to learn about complex issues. We encourage educators to use the site and its contents in a lesson or class activity. Get in touch with us if you have any questions about using Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION in your classroom.

For K-12 educators: Please note that not all prompts may be appropriate for all ages and settings. We encourage you to review content and student-created responses thoroughly and submit responses on your students’ behalf. 

Please note, that while the RE:ACTION Exhibition and Activation Kit are fair use for educational purposes, commercial use is not permitted, and any reproduction of the works presented here must adhere to these terms. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for more details.

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Something isn’t working right. Can you fix it?

Yes we can! We appreciate RE:ACTION users letting us know about possible bugs and glitches. Visit our Contact Us page to send us a message!

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I am using the website in Spanish and the translation isn’t right.

We’re sorry that our system got it wrong. If you have a minute, send us a message and let us know so that we can improve the experience for all of our visitors. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know that something isn’t right.

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I’m unfamiliar with Envisioning Justice and Illinois Humanities. What else does your program do?

Visions of Justice: 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.

Statewide Grant-making: 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.

Public Programming: 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 build new possibilities. You can watch recent and past programming on the Illinois Humanities YouTube channel.

Envisioning Justice Digest: A biweekly newsletter that features events, updates, resources, and relevant media within the movement of addressing and ending mass incarceration. You can subscribe here.

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I’d love to get my community together to use this platform together, do you offer any support for local events?

Illinois Humanities is offering $1000 micro-grants to individuals and organizations within the state of Illinois interested in hosting discussions or other activities based on prompts featured in Envisioning Justice: RE:ACTION. This new one-time micro-grants program is meant to encourage ongoing engagement with Envisioning Justice: RE:ACTION and the powerful content within. The expectation is for chosen grantee partners to lead a group of at least six individuals through the same prompt and to upload the results to the Activation Kit for other site users to see. Overall, we hope these micro-grants enable hyperlocal arts- and humanities-based activity across Illinois to bring forth experiences, knowledge, and creativity of Illinoisans needed to actualize visions of justice representative of the needs of our communities.

You can find more information here.

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Where can I learn more about other programs offered at Illinois Humanities?

Visit our website and join our email list.

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Glossary of Terms

  1. Abolition
  2. Carceral state
  3. Carceral system
  4. Mass incarceration
  5. Prison industrial complex
  6. System-impacted



During the time of slavery, abolition was a clear reference to ending the institution itself. In contemporary times, as a nod to the modern carceral system’s roots in slavery, the term abolition refers to the movement to dismantle the systems of oppression that make up the carceral state, and to channel the resources that support those systems into strengthening communities most impacted by the criminal legal system. Though many think of abolition as an absence, or as taking away something and replacing it with nothing, in reality, abolition is about completely shifting the paradigm away from a reliance on state-sanctioned punishment and detention. In the words of Mariame Kaba, “Abolition challenges us to ask ‘Why do we have no other well-resourced options?’ and pushes us to creatively consider how we can grow, build, and try other avenues to reduce harm.”


Carceral state

The resulting combination of a​ll the different entities that make up and contribute to the structures of detention as punishment (prisons, jails, immigrant detention facilities, juvenile detention facilities, the police, the court system, etc.), alongside the cultural milieu that leads to their construction. The Carceral State Project writes: “The carceral state encompasses the formal institutions and operations and economies of the criminal justice system proper — but it also encompasses logics, ideologies, practices, and structures that invest in tangible and sometimes intangible ways in punitive orientations to difference, to poverty, to struggles for social justice, and to the crossers of constructed borders of all kinds.”


Carceral system

According to the Underground Scholars Initiative at the University of California at Berkeley, the “carceral system” is considered to be a more accurate term than the commonly used “criminal justice system.” Not all who violate the law (commit a crime) are exposed to this system, and justice is a relative term that many in this country do not positively associate with our current model. In this context, the term “carceral system” is best understood as a comprehensive network of systems that rely, at least in part, on the exercise of state-sanctioned physical, emotional, spatial, economic, and political violence to preserve the interests of the state. This includes such formal institutions as law enforcement and the courts, surveillance and data mining technology, those who manifest and/or financially benefit from prison labor, corporate predation on incarcerated people and our communities, and counterinsurgency in communities of color through “soft-policing” policies.

Many use the terms “carceral system,” “criminal legal system,” and “criminal punishment system” interchangeably, though each underscores a somewhat different aspect of the nation’s judicial and carceral apparatus.


Mass incarceration

The sharp increase in the U.S. incarcerated population between the 1970s and the present due to draconian changes to the state and federal criminal legal system. Though the recognized start date for the era of mass incarceration varies, many scholars attribute its origins to the War on Poverty campaign during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in the 1960s, which provided the foundation for Richard Nixon’s War on Crime in the 1970s and Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs in the 1980s. The result of several decades of harsh criminalization of the social problems of poverty, crime, and addiction has been the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of minority communities across the United States, namely Black and Brown people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and/or Americans living in poverty.


Prison Industrial Complex

All of the different financial stakeholders that benefit from the existence of prisons, including industries that rely on prison labor, companies that build or provide supplies to prisons, and private prisons. According to scholar and organizer Angela Davis, “The exploitation of prison labor by corporations is one aspect among an array of relationships linking corporations, government, correctional communities, and media. These relationships constitute what we now call a prison industrial complex.”



According to the Underground Scholars Initiative at the University of California at Berkeley, the term “system-impacted” refers to: “Those who have been incarcerated, those with arrests/convictions but no incarceration, and those who have been directly impacted by a loved one being incarcerated. While those close to us, as well as the broader society, are negatively impacted by incarceration, it is often partners, parents, children and/or siblings who face the most significant disadvantages during an absence, and therefore categorically merit this designation.”