Beyond the Carceral State

Beyond the Carceral State

The United States warehouses more than 2.3 million humans in jails, prisons, and detention centers around the country. The prison is central to the reproduction of political and social life in the United States: it shapes how we experience race, class, gender, sexuality, and geography. For decades, this vast network of confinement has determined public policy and disenfranchised communities. Prisons, and related institutions, are at the heart of American life and governance. Simply put, we live in a carceral state.

Beyond the Carceral State (BCS) is an initiative at the University of Washington Bothell that began in 2013 through the shared leadership of professors Dan Berger and Kari Lerum and UWB students. In spring 2013, more than 200 students, faculty, staff, and community members attended a mini-conference titled "Beyond the Carceral State". The conference combined brief lectures by activists and scholars with short presentations by community organizations in the Puget Sound area about their work to support people in prison, rebuild communities ravaged by the carceral state, or provide alternative programs.

After the success of the conference, BCS formed as a standing project with three goals in mind:


  • Education



  • Networking



  • Advocacy



BCS aims to provide educational opportunities, in and out of the classroom, to inform our campus and wider community about the causes and consequences of mass incarceration. Additionally, BCS aims to use the campus as a meeting ground for campus and community organizations working to address and provide alternatives to the carceral state. Each effort works to connect history, policy, and everyday life in the study of mass incarceration in Washington State. BCS currently connects three active faculty projects:

1. Bothell Youth Court which started in 2011, teaches and uses restorative justice practices with high school youth.  For more information contact Camille Walsh at

2. Mapping the Carceral State is a digital humanities project based on student and faculty research on the history and politics of mass incarceration in Washington State.  For more information contact Dan Berger at

3. Strategic Organizing for Community Relationships and Participatory Action in Lake City/Northeast Seattle is a community-based study of social reproduction in one neighborhood disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration. For more information contact Christian Anderson at

In addition to these projects, BCS supports faculty researching and teaching on the carceral state, including efforts to provide educational equity to currently and formerly incarcerated people.