Michigan History Museum - States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue on Local Histories

Date:  September 08, 2018  -  May 19, 2019
Time: All Day Event
Location: Michigan History Museum, 702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing, MI 48915

The words States of Incarceration are placed over white horizontal stripes and a purple background

See museum hours and regular admission.

Michigan's history of incarceration is full of contradictions.

When Michigan became a state in 1837, one of the first institutions proposed by the new governor was a prison. A decade later, Michigan became the world's first English-speaking government to ban the death penalty. And by the early 20th century, Michigan State Prison in Jackson was the largest walled prison in the world.

"States of Incarceration" is a national traveling exhibit that looks at the history and future of mass incarceration in the United States. In It was created by university students and formerly incarcerated individuals from 30 communities across the country. Investigating why the U.S. incarcerates more people than at any point in our history and more people than any other nation in the world, they examined their communities' histories, shared stories, searched archives and visited correctional facilities.

You'll also find out about the history of incarceration in Michigan with stories and artifacts from our own museum and archives collections. Highlights include the story of the last stagecoach robber in Michigan, the history of youth incarceration and Michigan prison labor. You'll see rare prisoner photographs and elaborate furniture made by prisoners. Young visitors are encouraged to ask, "what is fair?"

This exhibit is included with museum admission. You can save on admission and receive other great benefits when you become a Michigan History Center member.

A series of public programs, funded in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, are scheduled during the exhibition's run. 

Upcoming Programs:

Past Programs:

  • September 8, 2018 - Dr. Heather Ann Thompson presented about mass incarceration and her book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy 
  • October 24, 2018 - The State of Juvenile Justice in America. Representatives from the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency discussed the current Raise the Age Campaign. 
  • November 30, 2018 - Over Eight Decades in the Carceral State. A presentation and panel discussion on issues surrounding mass incarceration, lead by four formerly incarcerated individuals currently working on criminal justice reform. Watch presentation on our Facebook page
  • December 13, 2018 - Offender Success: Understanding the Purpose of the Michigan Department of Corrections. MDOC's Kyle Kaminski covered trends in the corrections population in Michigan, as well as the approach and core programming used by the department to prepare offenders for return to the community. Watch presentation on our Facebook page.  Download PowerPoint presentation. 
  • February 12, 2019 - Clean Slate Michigan: A Fresh Start Community Listening Session. Directly impacted leaders and advocates from Nation Outside and JustLeadershipUSA hosted a Community Listening Session regarding Clean Slate proposals to expand Felony Expungement and make it automatic for individuals who qualify.
  • March 3, 2019 - "The Sentence" Screening and Discussion. A free screening of the award-winning documentary about the struggle of Cindy Shank to maintain a relationship with her daughters while she was incarcerated will be followed by a question-and-answer period with Cindy Shank and the filmmaker, her brother Rudy Valdez. You can watch the documentary on HBO


The Michigan History Museum—flagship of the Michigan History Museum System—is located in the east wing of the Michigan Library and Historical Center. Sunday admission and weekend parking are free. Read more Michigan History Museum visitor information.

We invite you to explore our online calendar, where you'll find all Michigan History Center events throughout the state.

Updated 02/20/2019