The Mass Incarceration Lab @ CSREA

The Mass Incarceration Lab @ CSREA

Archiving the Social Life of Mass Incarceration 

The United States incarcerates the world’s largest prison population, caging, surveilling and supervising more people than any other nation. The Mass Incarceration Lab @ CSREA seeks to curate a comprehensive archive of mass incarceration in the United States–centering and preserving the narratives and writings of those individuals (including family and community members) who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. 

It is through their oral testimony and writings that we understand the “living history” of mass incarceration and its legacies. Ultimately, this humanities lab project is an important act of historical preservation, capturing the first-person accounts of mass incarceration for generations to come and centering the voices of those who have been impacted.


If you are incarcerated in the United States or have previously experienced incarceration, we ask you to write a letter sharing your story that addresses one or all of the following questions: 

  • What do you need the world to know about U.S. prisons, jails, probation, and/or parole?
  • What about your experience has been left out of the news and narrative of mass incarceration?  

Acknowledgment of Consent

I understand that, by sharing my story, I am consenting to have the story placed in the website repository for Brown University’s Mass Incarceration Lab @ CSREA and made available to the public. My story will be anonymous unless I clearly state in my story: “I want my name shared with my story.” Anyone will be able to read, watch, or listen to my story and to use what they read, see, or hear for any purpose. Personally identifying information about other people, the prison, or anyone else will be removed from my story by Brown University staff. I will never be able to ask Brown University to remove my story from the website repository. I am also waiving and releasing Brown University from any claims or lawsuits of any kind for any reason related to my story.  I confirm that I am at least 18 years old and I am freely and knowingly submitting my story.

I understand and agree to the terms explained above and want to participate. 

How to Contribute to the Archive

  • Please send your story to the following email address: [email protected] 
  • OR send a letter to the following address: 
    The Mass Incarceration Lab
    Box #362
    11 S Angell St
    Providence, RI 02906

Your submission will be archived in the Special Collections of the John Hay Library at Brown University as well as digitized by the Center for Digital Scholarship. Brown University students taking SOC 1116 Criminal Courts and the Law in an Era of Mass Incarceration will help to curate the content of this archive. All submissions will be part of a publicly accessible repository of primary materials about the punitive consequences of mass incarceration as told by currently and formerly incarcerated people, their loved ones, and those living and working in communities most impacted by mass incarceration.


The Mass Incarceration Lab @ CSREA will also document how incarceration impacts businesses, religion, art, medicine, healthcare, and activism – transforming “social life” in American cities. 

If your life has been shaped or transformed by mass incarceration (either by being incarcerated or by experiencing the incarceration of your own family, friends, or neighbors), we want to hear your story. We are also interested in hearing the narratives of people who live next to U.S. jails and prisons or those who work within them.  

If you are interested in submitting an oral history, please email [email protected] and an archivist will contact you to preserve your story. 


Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Brown University and an affiliated scholar with the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, IL. She is an affiliated fellow with Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA). She is the author of Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America's Largest Criminal Court (2016) and The Waiting Room (2018).  She is the generator and faculty lead for the Mass Incarceration Lab @ CSREA, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Nina Johnson is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Program in Black Studies at Swarthmore College. She is a scholar of inequality, politics, race culture, stratification, and mobility, and she is an experienced educator and collaborator with students and scholars who are incarcerated in U.S. prisons. She is the Mass Incarceration Humanities Lab Fellow, contributing her expertise as a prison educator in identifying and collecting materials for the archive.