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Director of Human Rights Practice Alice Kim is coeditor of and contributor to a new book illustrating the devastation caused by an unjust prison system. Kim is the inaugural director of the new Human Rights Lab, a project of the Pozen Center, that engages students and community in human rights work addressing mass incarceration and racialized policing. Her contributions in the book include an essay about the campaigns for justice in the Jon Burge police torture cases and an interview with a local activist about the Let Us Breathe collective’s creative organizing work to create alternatives to prisons and policing. 

SSA Assistant Professor Eve L. Ewing and SSA alum Janaé Bonsu are also contributors to the book. The Long Term features Ewing’s poem “Affirmation” and an essay by Bonsu about funding black futures. The anthology also includes essays and artwork by incarcerated writers and artists, several of whom are Kim’s students at Stateville Prison where she teaches writing and cultural studies courses through the Prison Neighborhood Arts Project. Kim is currently facilitating a Think Tank comprised of incarcerated students at Stateville that is examining sentencing policies in Illinois and nationwide. Think Tank members Joe Dole, Raul Dorado, and Andre Patterson contributed writings to The Long Term about prison conditions, reform initiatives, and the consequences of tough-on-crime policies within and beyond the prison walls. 

The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working Toward Freedom “asks that readers—including the artists, parents, writers, lovers, organizers, scholars, and sisters who contributed to this project—take stock. Who are the people persistently caged away from the rest of us? What was gained, and lost, during reforms and movements under the ‘crisis of mass incarceration’ What is needed to practice accountability, to heal and to thrive together?,” as Kim and the coeditors write in the introduction. 

The Long Term asserts that people condemned to life or virtual life sentences bear the brunt of the bipartisan embrace of mass incarceration heralded by the “tough on crime” agenda of the 1990s and 2000s. Like the rest of the United States’ prison population—the world’s highest per capita—they are disproportionately poor and non-white. The book brings these often silenced voices to light, offering a powerful indictment of the prison-industrial complex from activists, scholars, and those directly surviving and resisting these sentences. 

Kim was also a leader in the movement to end capital punishment in Illinois and nationwide. She worked closely with the Death Row 10, a group of African American men who were tortured by former notorious Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s forces and sentenced to death. Kim was instrumental in advocating for the successful blanket commutations of Illinois’ 167 death sentences in 2003. In Winter quarter, she will teach a seminar, “Reimagining Justice: The Chicago Police Torture Cases, Reparations and Human Rights Practice.”

In October, the Human Rights Lab hosted The Long Term book launch at the Arts Incubator. See photos by Chicago photographer Sarah Ji.

This week, join Alice Kim, Erica Meiners, Audrey Petty, Beth Richie, Tara Betts, Krista Franklin, Patrick Pursley, David Stovall, Monica Cosby, Mary L. Johnson, and more for readings and a book celebration with the Invisible Institute. 

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 6:30pm at the Experimental Station, 6200 S. Blackstone Ave. Event info.