Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) unites teaching artists, arts advocates, currently and formerly incarcerated artists, and allies, harnessing the transformative power of the arts to reimagine justice. Through the sharing of resources, stories, and learning opportunities, JAC is building a nationwide collective of people who are committed to increasing opportunities for creative expression in carceral settings, amplifying the voices of those most impacted by mass incarceration, and shaping public dialogue around the intersection of the arts and justice. Initially formed by veteran teaching artists Judith Tannenbaum, Julia Taylor, Emily Harris, Allie Horevitz, Rachael Zudak, Jaime Nelson, and Suzanne Gothard in 2008 as the Prison Arts Coalition, JAC has remained a grassroots, volunteer-led project throughout its recent transformation into a national 501c3 nonprofit organization.  

The work of Justice Arts Coalition is grounded in the beliefs that:

  • Creative expression is both a human need and a human right

  • Creative expression is essential to healing, reconciliation, and community-building

  • Participation in the artistic process significantly affects a person’s self-worth and sense of purpose and meaning

  • Art is an individual expression of universal human experience, increases empathy and serves as a bridge between diverse groups

Justice Arts Coalition values human dignity, equity, and integrity.
Artists and advocates inside and outside of prison come together to share our passion for art experiences that welcome a multitude of voices, inspire creative expression, embrace authentic dialogue, and reveal our shared humanity.

  • We put relationships first, and will not sacrifice human connection and direct support for organizational expansion

  • We remain committed to amplifying the voices of system-involved artists. Their leadership and guidance in all JAC activities is sought and encouraged

Our work centers on the following areas. Current as well as future activities are listed.

Building Community

  • Organizing national conferences and regional convenings
  • Developing partnerships with other organizations working at the intersection of the arts and justice
  • Providing opportunities for online community-building and resource-sharing via social media discussion groups and listservs
  • Cultivating a strong network of national and local-level support that system-impacted artists can turn to, especially upon re-entry

Capacity Building

  • Providing education and trainings to deepen the skills and capacity of those working at the intersection of the arts and justice
  • Educating constituents about their constitutional right to protect their intellectual property
  • Facilitating mentorship opportunities for teaching artists and system-impacted artists

Leveraging Information and Resources

  • Serving as a primary resource for information about arts programming and art-making within the system
  • Collecting evidence and data to strengthen the case for increased access to and funding for the arts within the system

Raising the Credibility and Visibility of the Field

  • Shining a spotlight on the work of organizations and individuals through blog posts, newsletters, exhibits, social media posts, and annual Program and Artist of Distinction Awards
  • Developing a speakers bureau comprised of system-impacted artists, their loved ones, and teaching artists 
  • Aggregating evaluation materials, sharing research methodologies and helping to create common language and messages across programs and regions.
  • Supporting the fundraising efforts of arts organizations serving justice-involved populations

Supporting Systems-Impacted Artists; Amplifying their Creative Work and Voices; Cultivating Connections Between Artists Inside and Outside of Prison

  • Hosting exhibitions, online galleries, and ArtLinks events
  • Facilitating opportunities for currently and formerly incarcerated artists to share their work through other organizations and publications
  • Hosting an arts-focused correspondence program, the pARTner Project
  • Hosting Create + Connect workshops that feature systems-impacted artists
  • Providing support and resources to incarcerated artists’ loved ones

About our website:

The JAC website builds upon the Prison Arts Coalition website, which was established in 2008 by a group of veteran teaching artists to serve as an online platform and resource for those working at the intersection of the arts and justice and those looking to learn more about art-making in and around the US criminal justice system. Until February, 2019, the site and the connected social media pages and email accounts were 100% volunteer-run. Through extensive outreach and organizing, PAC volunteers provided support, information, and partnership opportunities, and as an advisory body, they offered ongoing, personalized guidance to people working to develop arts programs or looking to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists. As a resource, PAC compiled publications, artistic works, research, events, and job postings to share with the public. One of PAC’s most notable resources is a comprehensive list of arts programs in prisons, jails, youth detention centers, and reentry and diversion programs around the US, organized by state and region. The Justice Arts Coalition will continue to provide all of these resources and more in our effort to bring together a consortium of artists, organizations, facilities, students, researchers, and advocates to build collaboration and strengthen partnership.  

All visitors are encouraged to use this site as a resource and to contact us for further support and guidance. 

Does Justice Arts Coalition offer arts programs in prisons?

Generally, no, though we recently launched our first distance learning program serving incarcerated artists. Rather than delivering or organizing programs directly, we provide support, resources, information, and partnership opportunities for those active in programs around the country.

Does the Justice Arts Coalition provide information on programs in other countries?

As JAC is currently focused on the US, this site does not provide information or resources about prison arts abroad. However, JAC is connected to many allies abroad. Please contact us to learn more about arts programs in justice systems abroad, or how you can find support if you are not based in the US.

How can I get involved?

1) Add your voice. Contact us to add an existing prison arts program to the list, to post an event,  job, or guest blog post, and to share an artist’s work or resource.

2) Stay in the know! Subscribe to our mailing list here, and subscribe to the blog to receive new posts directly into your email inbox; simply click the ‘Sign Me Up!’ button on the right-hand sidebar of every page. 

3) Follow JAC on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

4) Sign up for the pARTner project, a pen-pal program that offers artists on the outside an opportunity to foster connection with artists in prison through letter correspondence and the exchange of creative works.

5) Volunteer. Share your time and expertise with JAC! We are looking for volunteers to help in a variety of ways, including responding to the large volume of mail we receive from incarcerated artists. To read the list of needs and let us know what you’re interested in, please complete our Volunteer Survey.

6) Become a sustaining member of JAC, or make a one-time donation through our fiscal sponsor to support us in these early phases of our development into a 501c3 nonprofit.

7) And, as always, anyone is welcome to contact us with questions and/or feedback.