Humanities Beyond Bars

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Humanities Beyond Bars: Combatting Stigma and Building Community Through Storytelling

The United States of America has one of the largest incarcerated populations in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “an estimated 6,613,500 persons were under the supervision of U.S. adult correctional systems” in 2016 with nearly 2.2 million of these individuals in prisons and jails. These issues are particularly relevant to California’s Central Valley, a region with one of the largest incarcerated populations in the country.

Despite these high rates of incarceration, the realities of imprisonment and the voices of formerly incarcerated people are often unseen and unheard. Prisons are generally located on the physical fringes of our urban communities (and, so, are unseen, or seen only from a far distance) and further, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people are stigmatized and disenfranchised and, so, are often unheard, located on the fringes of our attention. This lack of visibility leads to a lack of understanding, both regarding the scale of incarceration and the life experiences and human condition of formerly incarcerated persons.

Humanities Beyond Bars (HBB) aims to increase public understanding of incarceration in California’s Central Valley and the human condition of formerly incarcerated people. HBB increases engagement with humanities through:

  • open-access oral histories featuring the stories of formerly incarcerated persons
  • public lectures and community conversations
  • a public symposium on incarceration and reimagining public safety

Collectively, these projects will foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing between community members and organizations serving currently and formerly incarcerated students.

Key project collaborators include:

  • Michael Burroughs (Director, Kegley Institute of Ethics; Associate Professor of Philosophy, CSU Bakersfield)
  • Brady Heiner (Founding Chair, CSU Project Rebound Consortium; Executive Director, Project Rebound at CSU Fullerton; Associate Professor of Philosophy, CSU Fullerton)
  • Christopher Livingston (Director, Historical Research Center, CSU Bakersfield)
  • Romarilyn Ralston (Program Director, Project Rebound at CSU Fullerton)

Humanities Beyond Bars is funded by grants from California Humanities and the Whiting Foundation, the Kegley Institute of Ethics, and the CSUB Historical Research Center.



Cal humanities
Whiting Foundation