As this busy year draws to a close, we are taking a breath to appreciate you for your interest, participation and support. Our work is incredibly rewarding but also very challenging. We can't do it without you. And we like to hear from you! Share your ideas, and thoughts with us about our mission and work to create safe spaces for people from all walks of life to have those difficult conversations about the role and meaning of prisons in community and society. At a time of deep division in our country and world, we think it’s more important than ever to have these conversations and to try on each other's shoes. But there is always room for improvement so please help us to improve.
We’re also excited to share with you some highlights from our work in 2018 as well as some of our plans for 2019. If you like what you read, we’d be glad and grateful to have your financial as well as moral support. Please click the DONATE button below to make an end-of-year contribution that will help us build on our achievements in 2018 and realize our plans for 2019.
Incarcerating Women and Girls: Past and Present
In 2018… Following months of planning, the Prison Public Memory Project team in Hudson, NY produced a national conference that took place in April. PPMP scholar/collaborator Frankie Bailey coordinated the national symposium, Incarcerating Girls and Women: Past and Present, at the renowned School of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany in Albany, NY.
The symposium brought together an unusual group of people under the same roof – including interdisciplinary scholars and book authors from across the country, community organizations, state criminal justice agencies, and formerly incarcerated women – to share research and experience, discuss projects, and, yes, to have those difficult conversations.
With the assistance of scholar/collaborator Tobi Jacobi who designed our inaugural pop-up museums in Hudson in 2015, PPMP-Hudson Team member Karen Davis and owner of the Davis-Orton Gallery in Hudson, NY curated a fabulous pop-up history and art exhibition for the symposium that sparked thinking and conversation about the history of the House of Refuge for Women and the New York State Training School for Girls in Hudson, NY.
Walking our talk, PPMP director Tracy Huling teamed up with Hudson, NY resident and retired corrections officer Peter Tenerowicz, and former Hudson Girls' Training School resident Jennifer Vinson to develop and present a very well-received panel, Remembering Punishment and Protection in Hudson, NY about the work that PPMP has been doing in Hudson since 2012, the history of the women’s reformatory and girls training school in Hudson, and Jennifer’s experience in the training school and other state institutions.
Finally, PPMP scholar/collaborator Tera Agyepong presented a paper at the symposium about her critical research and important new book on the history of the criminalization of black children.
In 2019… PPMP team members will be attending, speaking, and hosting conversations at a variety of conferences and meetings across the country. In addition, we’ll be planning an exciting and thought-provoking online exhibition. The online exhibit will feature unique primary source materials from PPMP’s New York and Illinois sites using new digital technologies. Stay tuned!
Family Research Service
In 2018… PPMP’s Family Research Service helped families located across the United States. We provided research assistance to families in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and California to find information about people who worked at, or loved ones formerly incarcerated at, the House of Refuge for Women (1887 – 1904) and New York State Training School for Girls (1904 – 1975) in Hudson, NY. Many of those incarcerated never spoke to family members of their time at these institutions, often leaving a painful void in family understanding and relations. As one grateful recipient of our services this year put it:
In 2019… We hope to expand our research services to families of boys and young men who were incarcerated at the Illinois State Reform School and Illinois State Reformatory (1871 – 1933) in Pontiac, Illinois, our newest site of prison memory, as well as to families of employees at these historic institutions.
In 2018… We welcomed to the PPMP team our first scholar/collaborator based outside the United States. Dr. Alexandra Cox received her B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, and her Masters and Ph.D in Criminology from the University of Cambridge in the U.K. In 2017, she was a Research Fellow at Yale Law School. In 2018 she published her first book, Trapped in A Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People, about the history of juvenile justice reform in New York and the role and attitudes of front-line workers in and toward contemporary efforts to reform that system. Dr. Cox is now a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex in the U.K.
In 2019… Alexandra will be a major partner in developing the new on-line exhibition mentioned above and continuing her focus on the juvenile justice system in the United States.
In 2018… The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience invited PPMP’s Director, Tracy Huling, to participate in a public conversation about the role and use of art in memory projects with Paris-based artist/scholar Lily Hibberd and Australia-based artist/activist Bonney Djuric. Lily and Bonney were creators of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project, an initiative that has become a ‘sister project ‘ of ours. The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience published the conversation with Tracy, Lily, and Bonney. It featured PPMP’s art/memory project with collaborating artist Maureen McNeil and former Hudson Training School resident Luz Minerva Muniz. You can view this conversation on our website.
In 2019… An updated version of this conversation will appear in a chapter on “conscience: making a future memory” in a forthcoming book. Stay tuned for more details and the publication date!
Digital Prison Archive
In 2018… We expanded our unique, free, publicly accessible Digital Prison Archive to include the contents of a rare case file from the House of Refuge for Women in Hudson, NY. The contents of the case file, given to us by a former prison employee at our site in Hudson, NY and written about on our story blog, chronicles the experience of a young woman, Maud Veach. Maud was incarcerated for ‘common prostitution' and received severe punishments that today we would call torture for breaking institutional rules such as silence at meals.
In 2019… We hope to keep adding to the PPMP Digital Prison Archive, including rare material from the historic prison in Pontiac, Illinois, loaned to us by residents of Pontiac.
In 2018… The heart of our work stayed with individual people and communities.
Pop-Up Museum in Pontiac, Illinois
We were delighted to have two young people from the small town of Pontiac helping us to research, create and produce our first community engagement event in our new prison memory site here: a pop-up museum focused on the history of the Pontiac prison farms.
Support from and partnerships with the broader community in rural Livingston County helped to bring the museum, A History Harvest, to life in September at the Pontiac Farmer’s Market in downtown Pontiac. We are so grateful to Pontiac P.R.O.U.D., Pontiac Public Library, AFSME Local 494, the Royal Rustic Red Hat Ladies of Pontiac, IL, WJEZ Radio and the Pontiac Daily Leader and to the following individuals for their contributions and support: Bill Goold, Jim Bartley, Gene Burnett, Emily Chameides, Craig Gilmore, Mark Looney, Ricky and Brenda Matuszewski, Gayle Grady McKinley, Laura Sager and Leslie Tognacci.
Despite the first cold, windy day of Fall, attendance at the Pop-Up was great, so were the conversations it started, and so was the community feedback.
In 2019… With your support, we’ll be able to expand A History Harvest with additional research, images and audio memories of the prison farm taken from materials lent to us by community members and interviews with older adults in the conducted by intern our Pontiac intern Michala Matuszewski. We’ve received invitations and encouragement to pop-up again at various venues around the community… so obviously, once was not enough!
Working with local young people
In 2019… Inspired by PPMP team member Brian Buckley’s workshop with Hudson, NY high school students in 2016, and by our experience with our young helpers in Pontiac in 2018, we plan to partner with at least one youth organization in Illinois interested in using local prison history to educate and inspire local youth in Livingston County. We’re excited to bring you more details about that in 2019.
Engaging the community in Hudson, New York
In 2018… We were thrilled to partner once again with the Hudson Area Library to sponsor a community engagement event and create important community conversation, this time about youth incarceration in the Hudson Valley.
In August Dr. Alexandra Cox, author of Trapped in A Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People, joined by PPMP team member Dr. Frankie Bailey, spoke to a rapt audience in the Library’s community room about the history of juvenile justice reform in the United States, in New York, and in the Hudson Valley. After Alexandra’s illustrated talk, Frankie started off the discussion by posing a series of questions that led into a full audience conversation about the cycles of repression and reform in juvenile justice. The conversation was much enriched by the participation of staff at local detention centers and people who had been incarcerated in detention centers who were in the local audience. Many thanks to Dan Udell for videotaping this event so we could share it on PPMP’s YouTube channel.
In 2019… Plans are being laid for a local event in Hudson of the art project that PPMP team member and artist/educator Maureen McNeil and artist/survivor of solitary confinement at the NYS Training School for Girls, Luz Minerva Muniz, have been working on. Stay tuned for more details!
Laying the groundwork for a new site of prison memory?
In 2018… We were privileged to meet citizen historians in the town of Dwight, Illinois and welcomed them to our Pop-Up Museum in Pontiac. Dwight, just a few miles north of Pontiac, hosted an historic reformatory and then a prison for women from 1930 to 2013 when former Governor Pat Quinn closed the prison. We’ve been talking to community members who worked at the prison, reviewing some primary source materials and work by scholars, and we think there is some fascinating and important prison history there.
In 2019… We hope to continue getting to know the community of Dwight and educating ourselves about the town and the critical role its prison played in the history of women’s incarceration. Stay tuned!
That wraps up this report on the Highlights of PPMP’s work in 2018 and a preview of our plans for 2019.
We send our best wishes to you for a joyous holiday season and a new year filled with hope, health, and happiness.
— Prison Public Memory Project Team