Skip To Content

News Releases

Spelman College Hosts Unshackled Narratives: The Impact Of Incarceration Share a Spelman College Press Release

For immediate release 

Mashaun D. Simon
Spelman College

Unshackled NarrativesATLANTA (Sept. 19, 2018) –  Spelman College will host a two-part event to explore, discuss, and bring into focus issues related to incarceration in Atlanta and throughout the United States. Sponsored by Spelman’s Social Justice Fellows program, Unshackled Narratives: The Impact of Incarceration includes a screening of “RIKERS: An American Jail” on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Civic leaders, people from impacted communities, policy experts and students will participate in panel discussions about incarceration and discuss strategies for criminal justice reform in Atlanta after the screening on Sept. 26 and on Saturday, Sept. 29.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than two million adults (one in 110) were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails in 2013. In addition, a report by the Prison Policy Initiative and ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice offers an in-depth analysis of the number of women (219,000) incarcerated in the U.S., making women the fastest growing population behind bars in the country. The state of Georgia ranks No. 1 in the country for the number of persons under supervision by the criminal justice system.

“With 2.2 million people behind bars on any given day, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. Most of the individuals incarcerated are poor and/or people of color,” said Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and director of the Spelman’s Social Justice Fellows program and the College’s UNCF/Mellon Programs. “I hope that Unshackled Narratives will encourage us all to think deeply about the devastating impact of these statistics on the people who are locked up, as well as their families and our communities so that we can work effectively towards solutions.” 

The two-day event kicks off with a screening of “RIKERS: An American Jail” on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m. The award-winning documentary brings audiences face-to-face with the lived experiences of incarceration. A panel discussion with Cadeem Gibbs, a formerly incarcerated man who is featured in “RIKERS,” follows the screening. Ilham Askia, executive director of Gideon’s Promise, will moderate the panel, which will also feature Serena Nunn, former Atlanta Fulton County public defender, and Atteeyah Hollie, senior staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Saturday, Sept. 29, Unshackled Narratives continues with a community storytelling program Mass Story Lab designed to bring community stakeholders together to develop strategies for criminal justice reform in Atlanta. The program will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and will feature personal stories presented by formerly incarcerated men and women living in the Atlanta area. They will share their experiences of being incarcerated and its impact on their families and their communities. Breakout sessions and a community dialogue on potentially closing the Atlanta Jail will follow.

Both events will be held in the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center Auditorium and are free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register for the Sept. 26 screening click here and for the Sept. 29 discussion click here.

Public Square Media, a producer of “RIKERS: An American Jail,” has been collaborating with Create Forward, to bring its signature community storytelling program, Mass Story Lab, to cities. “RIKERS,” which elevates the voices of men and women incarcerated at New York’s notorious Rikers Island Jail, serves as a model for local storytellers, and provides a larger national context for discussion of regional challenges and solutions.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and author Pearl Cleage. For more information, visit


Spelman College Events CalendarEvents
Spelman College Academic CalendarAcademic

Contact Us

News Center