In 2018 and 2019, Illinois Humanities made two rounds of modest grants with the goal of contributing to the Envisioning Justice initiative overall goal of stimulating a “citywide dialogue on the state of mass incarceration.” The grants program was based on the notion that creative storytelling can help us to re-examine the criminal justice system in fresh ways; that the arts and humanities are critical to the lives of incarcerated people; and that hosting well-moderated and engaging dialogue can help grow interest and awareness in criminal justice.

One important take away for us is that Chicago has a rich array of organizations and individuals working on a variety of policy issues and that they are eager to explore new ways of drawing the attention of the public to these issues.

The grants guidelines focused on three areas that rarely get enough philanthropic attention — arts programs within jails and prisons, communications efforts and stories meant to grow awareness and civic dialogue.