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Arts & Life

MSU's Broad Art Museum opens new art exhibits highlighting societal effects of mass incarceration

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Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum wants to bring attention to the ways incarceration affects society through six new art exhibitions.

The exhibitions tell the stories of current and formerly incarcerated people. At any given moment in the United States there are more than two million people incarcerated or in detention facilities.

And in Michigan, there are more than 30,000 people currently incarcerated. Of those individuals, more than 3,000 are serving some form of solitary confinement.

Monica Ramirez-Montagut is the Director of the MSU Broad Art Museum. She wants to bring attention to the reasons why the U.S. has the largest number of incarcerated people in the world.

“There's really very little awareness of what happens in the facilities and also the challenges of returning citizens. There are a lot of challenges that also as a society, we are at large unaware of.”

She explains one of the exhibitions is based on the story of Bobby Jean Johnson, who spent nearly 40 years in prison after being coerced by police into confessing to murder.

“It's a black queen of a game of a chess game. And it kind of like pays homage to the story of someone that was, you know, innocent at the moment of her incarceration.”

Montagut says the exhibitions focus on subjects like the length of sentencing and overcrowding in Michigan’s prisons, the impact of incarceration on women, and the dangers of COVID-19 among the incarcerated.

The exhibitions are open to the public through the end of the year.

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