THINK TANK

HAPPENING NOW

MORE BEAUTIFUL, MORE TERRIBLE: HUMANS OF LIFE ROW
APRIL 26 – JUNE 6
CO-PROSPERITY SPHERE 3219 S MORGAN | CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

More Beautiful, More Terrible: Humans of Life Row is a counter narrative, a sustained act of resistance, an exhibition that reveals the intimate experiences, transformative ideas, and beautiful dreams of people facing the stark realities of life and de facto life sentencing in Illinois. These sentences are commonly described as death by incarceration because they condemn people to confinement until their death. Nevertheless, as contributing artist, Reginald BoClair, states, “Though sentenced to die in prison, we are alive.” Through personal narratives, artistic expressions, compelling installations, and poetic verse, this exhibition shines a light on the people who inhabit ‘life row.’ 

The exhibition is part of a broader Humans of Life Row initiative that emerged from the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project (PNAP) Think Tank at Stateville Prison. The Think Tank is composed of scholars, writers, and artists who seek to transform the material and ideological conditions created by carceral logics through in-depth research, policy analysis and advocacy, alongside creative cultural projects. The Think Tank seeks to make key interventions and offer critical insights to the broader movement to end mass-incarceration from within one of the most brutal geographies of the prison-industrial-complex. As Devon Terrell, an inaugural Think Tank member, put it: “[we] walk into the future by visualizing it today.”


The PNAP Think Tank started in the fall of 2017 as a way to support community building inside Stateville maximum-security prison, and as a space to reflect on and refine PNAP’s programming. Since then, it has grown into a hub of strategic knowledge and cultural production around issues of long-term incarceration, sentencing policies, and transformative justice.

The Think Tank is composed of incarcerated scholars and cultural workers and is co-facilitated by Alice Kim and Timmy Châu. Through in-depth research, policy analysis, and advocacy, alongside creative cultural projects, we work to transform the material and ideological conditions created by carceral logics. We seek to make key interventions and offer critical insights to the broader movement to end mass-incarceration from within one of the most brutal geographies of the prison-industrial-complex. Abolition is our horizon. 

The PNAP Think Tank meets regularly and continues to host well-known thinkers and movement makers from around the state and country.

Humans of Life Row

Through a series of interrelated projects, Humans of Life Row aims to capture the life experiences of the students in our PNAP Think Tank. In the wake of the 1994 Crime Bill, which is based in ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and policies including ‘Truth-in-Sentencing’ legislation, the men incarcerated at Stateville are all serving very long or life sentences. The first part of the title of the project (Humans) focuses attention on these incarcerated men as fellow human beings, while the second part of the title suggests that they are living on ‘Life Row,’ a new iteration of ‘Death Row,’ where people with long/life sentences are effectively sentenced to death by life or de facto life sentencing. We want to expand the narrative around these men, most of whom are serving sentences associated with convictions for violent crimes–they are stereotyped as irreparably violent criminals and usually left out of discussions of rehabilitation, prison education, and prison reform.

Work produced by Think Tank members:

Humans of Life Row: “I walk into the future by visualizing it today” chapbook
Humans of Life Row digital collages
Why Illinois Needs a Parole System zine 

“I don’t know what safety feels like. Everyday I’m vulnerable to system induced harms. My food is not safe, health care is not safe, sanitation is not safe. I could be unjustly persecuted just because he or she is having a bad day. I guess the only thing that makes me feel safe is that I do all I can to distance myself from people and circumstances that could bring harm toward me.”

Devon Terrell, Humans of Life Row: “I walk into the future by visualizing it today”

There are currently 11 active members of the Think Tank.

  • Joseph Dole
  • Raúl Dorado
  • Howard Keller Jr
  • Rodney Love
  • Benny Rios
  • Michael Simmons
  • Carlvosier Smith
  • Lonnie Smith
  • Michael Sulllivan
  • Devon Terrell
  • Eric Watkins

Click here to view full student bios.