The Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC) is one of the largest (96 acres) single site county pre-detention facilities in the United States. Primarily holding pre-trial detainees, the Department admits approximately roughly 100,000 detainees annually and averages a daily population of 9,000. The facility covers more than eight city blocks with ten divisions, a health services facility, two education departments, a privatized food service and commissary agency, and four additional onsite Sheriff’s departments.
96 Acres is a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that address the impact of the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side. We aim to generate alternative narratives reflecting on power, and to present creative projects that reflect the community’s vision of transformation.
96 Acres is a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that involve community stakeholders’ ideas about social and restorative justice issues, and that examine the impact of incarceration at the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side. 96 Acres uses multi-disciplinary practices to explore the social and political implications of incarceration on communities of color. Through creative processes and coalition building, 96 Acres aims to generate alternative narratives reflecting on power and responsibility by presenting insightful and informed collective responses for the transformation of a space that occupies 96 acres, but has a much larger reaching outcome.
Cook County Jail
96 Acres Education Initiative at the Teachers for Social Justice Conference in Chicago
In Fall 2014, 96 Acres’ Education Initiative hosted three workshops to address the ways in which power is manifested through place. Place could be determined as physical space, imagined space, or internalized space. The questions were created over the course of several Education Initiative meetings, where educators, activists, and artists met with the purpose of engaging praxis, or critical reflection and action on power and place with a broader community. The value of having conversations around power and place with students, youth, and educators is to form a space where people can critically engage in dialogue and radically imagine new narratives that allow us to actively participate in the transformation of our communities, particularly as we address how incarceration predominantly affects black and brown people. The purpose is to activate alliances, build solidarity, and continue working towards creating alternative and socially just spaces.
1) How do we celebrate radical love and empower for action?
2) What does power look like?
3) What is the relationship between individual and systemic power?
Each workshop was documented and then turned into a toolkit that educators, activists, artists could use to continue having those conversations. Designed by artist and teacher, Silvia I. Gonzalez, the zines were informed by the Fall 2014 workshop series. Each toolkit includes actions (tasks, “assignments,” or activities) and guided reflection questions for further engagement.
Toolkit pdf’s are available upon request. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com. A contribution is suggested for the work to continuously grow. If you use the toolkits: Share the results of using the curriculum/resources with students in the form of documentation images, reflections, feedback,etc. They can also hashtag 96 acres or post on the 96 acres facebook. More than likely we will want to post it to our 96 acres tumblr where we continuously share resources!
The 96 Acres Education Initiative is made up of youth, teachers, and cultural workers committed to cultivating praxis (reflection and action) through critical learning and educational programming around incarceration issues impacted by the Cook County Jail. If you are interested in joining the committee, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow our Tumblr site here.
This content also appears on 96 Acres.org
Silvia Inés Gonzalez is a photographer and teaching artist in the city of Chicago. A believer in the arts as a form of transformative healing and a cultural worker for social change, she enjoys practicing art as a labor of love with others. She has experience working in Chicago Public Schools, media literacy practices with youth and community based projects with women. Her personal work explores individual narrative and ritual as well as the significance of collective healing. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with two degrees, one in Art Education and the other in Photography. Silvia is currently a teaching artist at the Village Leadership Academy Upper Campus. She is also a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Masters of Art Education Department where she is researching transformative praxis that addresses power and engages social change.