PNAP has three areas of work, each with a pair of co-directors. These areas of work have grown and developed in response to needs and desires of students at Stateville. The different areas lead classes, workshops, or think tanks at Stateville and also collaborate with partners and organizations across the city of Chicago.
ART & EXHIBITIONS
Through art exhibitions, live poetry events, and publications, PNAP’s mission is materialized in public, cultural projects exhibited in Chicago and beyond. Artwork is developed with artists at Stateville through PNAP studio classes. Projects are often expanded or further mobilized outside the prison by PNAP members and guest artists. The goal of art and cultural projects is to create pedagogical, affective works that challenge our ideas about carcerality, criminalization, incarceration, and more. Our work thinks about audience and building a visual language to speak to critical contemporary issues. Through art we develop proximity, closing the gap between the inside and outside by presenting work that speaks to the conditions of lives lived behind the walls.
Our Community Building area works to create connections between PNAP students at Stateville and scholars, community advocates, activists, educators, and artists on the outside. Through these relationships, both the inside and outside are strengthened as we work to address issues of criminal justice reform and long-term sentencing policies. Community Building work is done primarily through the PNAP Think Tank. The Think Tank started at Stateville in 2017 with eight people and since then has evolved into a group that meets twice monthly for discussion, research, and collaborative work. The Think Tank also plays a key role in reflecting on and refining PNAP’s programming both at Stateville and in outside communities.
In collaboration with the wider PNAP leadership and community, we coordinate humanities and social science classes, which are non-credited, college-level classes in Political Science, Literature, Sociology, Economics, and more. Serving 80-130 students a year, classes are taught by faculty from institutions such as Dominican University, Illinois Humanities, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago, and the University of Chicago. Educators create collaborative environments for all participants, enabling strong communities of learners. Our classes empower students to further university study and strengthen their ability to be meaningful change agents in the world. We also partner with Northeastern Illinois University to coordinate the University Without Walls Program—a fully accredited BA Program that allows eligible students to use college-level learning from prior experience as well as prior schooling towards a college degree. In 2019, seven students earned their BA degrees through the UWW program and, as of 2021, five more students have been enrolled.