CCI Gallery Exhibit and Symposium Examines Incarceration in America

March 8 event featured graphic novels, films and personal stories
  • America has the highest prison population in the world.1
  • Today there are 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons or jails–a 500% increase over the last 40 years.1
  • One in nine people in prison is now serving a life sentence, nearly a third of whom are sentenced to life without parole. 1
  • People of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. 1
  • 6.1 million Americans are unable to vote due to state felony disenfranchisement policies. 1
  • One in every 50 children in the U.S. has a parent in prison. 1
  • More than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18.2

These grim statistics convey the very real human costs and consequences of incarceration in America, where generations of men and women are removed from society, absent from family life and withdrawn from civic life.  The stories behind these statistics inspired GONE. Expressions of Incarceration in America, a free community event presented by the Kent State University College of Communication and Information (CCI) on Thursday, March 8.

The event shared the stories of current and former prisoners through illustrations, film and spoken word and took place in two venues:

  • Gallery exhibit opening (4:00 to 6:00 p.m., 231 Taylor Hall):  The graphic novel “The Real Cost of Prisons,” featuring work from three award-winning New York City artists, was exhibited. The exhibit also included original illustrations and expressions from those currently incarcerated. The exhibit will run through March 30.
  • Symposium (6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., 340 Franklin Hall):  The film 88 Cents was screened, with introductory remarks from director Tyler Pina, an award-winning filmmaker and 2014 alumnus of CCI’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and lead actor Matthew Weitz, who attended Kent State and starred in Unlucky, a feature film produced by Kent State University Independent Films. After the film, Brandon Chrostowski, founder, president and CEO and owner of EDWINS, the highly rated three-star restaurant in Shaker Heights, Ohio, discussed his story and mission. EDWINS trains and employs formerly incarcerated individuals, giving them a foundation in the hospitality industry. The story of EDWINS is featured in the 2018 Oscar-nominated short-subject documentary, Knife Skills. Chrostowski will be joined by one of his trainees.

The event is part of CCI’s new Media and Movements Series, launched by Dean Amy Reynolds earlier this academic year. “Through this event, we want to explore how a wide spectrum of creative expression can give voice to incarcerated individuals and create greater awareness of some of the social justice surrounding incarceration,” said Amy Reynolds, CCI dean.

The exhibition and symposium were organized by Professor Christopher Darling, who teaches design and illustration in CCI’s School of Visual Communication Design. Darling’s recent research examines the impact of design and illustration education on incarcerated populations and seeks to understand how the field of illustration can be made more accessible to low-income communities. “Over the past few summers I have had the opportunity to teach illustration and design at a correctional facility in Cleveland. Art is a rehabilitative tool that can expose injustice, empower individuals, and rebuild communities. We are excited to share stories that otherwise might go unheard, and consider other's perspectives so that together, we can work towards solutions.”

For more information about the event, contact Christopher Darling ( at (330) 672-1365 or Stephanie Danes Smith ( at 330-672-8147.

Illustration Credit:  Artwork by Sabrina Jones, from the graphic novel The Real Cost of Prisons, within the section titled "Prisoners of the War on Drugs".  Edited and commissioned by Lois Ahrens. 

(1) The Sentencing Project,, 2018.

(2) Glaze, L. E., and Maruschak, L. M. (2009). Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 11:36 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:27 AM
Stephanie Danes Smith