Transforming Justice is a collaborative effort to create a grassroots history of mass criminalization and incarceration in Milwaukee. Collectively, UW-Milwaukee scholars, filmmakers, and community members are working to re-frame conventional narratives about crime, health, safety, and justice. This project is not only documenting and “giving voice” to these issues, but helping to develop strategies for re-defining security and health from the perspectives of individuals and communities directly affected by these forces on the ground.


Mass incarceration is a defining feature of the United States’ political landscape and is the nation’s central human rights and racial justice issue in the 21st century. Over 7 million people, predominantly poor men and women of color, are under correctional supervision of some form (i.e., prison, jail, and parole). In Milwaukee, patterns of policing and Black incarceration track historical lines of racial and class segregation. Imprisonment does not end at prison walls. Most people return home to neighborhoods that continue to suffer from economic disinvestment, and are now struggling with the collective trauma of another form of community dislocation.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s 2013 criticism of mass incarceration signals the high level acknowledgement of the failure of criminalization and prison building to produce public safety. Despite this acknowledgement, the criminal justice system is so enmeshed with education, health, and welfare institutions, and so strongly shapes economic and political possibilities that it eludes simple analysis and reforms. Policy makers and community groups in Milwaukee and other heavily incarcerated places are struggling to design strategies to create community security while reining in incarceration, even as they cope with healing the personal and collective harms of the system.


  • To co-create new media and public archives with local youth and community members directly impacted by prison expansion, reimagining and documenting anew the uneven, lived geographies of mass criminalization and incarceration
  • To transform how we think about trauma and community health, especially considering how these ideas are structurally and historically created and impacted by mass criminalization and incarceration
  • To re-think the concepts of security and safety through the everyday lived experiences of communities that are routinely and excessively subjected to policing and surveillance

Project Organizers

anneAnne Bonds

Anne is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with research interests in the areas of racialized and gendered poverty and inequality, incarceration, and urban political economy. In addition to Transforming Justice, Anne’s current research projects examine 1) gender, race, and post-incarceration geographies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 2) prison-led rural development agendas and racialized poverty; and 3) non-profit housing provision, neoliberal community development, and the politics of race.

jennaJenna Loyd

Jenna is an assistant professor in the Zilber School of Public Health and member of the Urban Studies Program faculty at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her first book Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978 (2014, University of Minnesota Press) investigates everyday understandings of health and violence and people’s grassroots mobilizations for health and social justice. She is also the co-editor, with Matt Mitchelson and Andrew Burridge, of Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis (2012, University of Georgia Press).​

lorraineLorraine Halinka Malcoe

Lorraine is a faculty member and social epidemiologist at the Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her teaching, research, and activism address social and health inequities caused by racism, colonialism, poverty, sexism, heterosexism, and ableism. She has collaborated with Indigenous nations, community-based researchers, and community partners to study child health, mental health, and violence against women, with the aim of promoting social and health justice.

jennyJennifer Plevin

Jenny is the Program Director at doc|UWM, Department of Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres (UWM). She has collaborated with doc|UWM students and over 100 community partners to produce over 100 video projects and two full length feature documentaries shown online, on Milwaukee and Wisconsin Public Television and at film festivals locally, nationally, and internationally, including the Wisconsin Film festival, the Milwaukee Film Festival, the Hmong Film Festival,​ and the Unknown Cinemas Film festival.

RobRobert Smith

Rob is an Associate Professor of History, Vice Chancellor, and Director of the Cultures & Communities program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He earned his PhD from Bowling Green State University, researching the intersection of race and law. In his book, Race, Labor and Civil Rights: Griggs v. Duke Power and the Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity, Rob chronicles the efforts of grassroots activists who used Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) to garner better jobs and long overdue promotions. Currently, he is exploring the relationships forged between civil and human rights attorneys in the U.S. and South Africa during the latter stages of Apartheid and into the 2000s.

Graduate Assistants

yuiYui Hashimoto

Yui is a PhD student in Geography. Her dissertation research is about fast food workers in Milwaukee. In particular, she is interested in their campaign for a living wage and the right to unionize, and how their labour activism is informed by their everyday lives. She is also a teaching assistant for the course on the Geography of Race in the United States.

willWill Tchakirides

Will is a PhD candidate in U.S. History whose research explores the relationship between race and law enforcement in Milwaukee from the vantage point of Black police officers. He earned his MA in Public History from American University in 2011. In addition to developing the Transforming Justice website, Will has worked on digital projects for the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, the National Museum of American History, and the Anacostia Community Museum. He is also a Graduate Assistant in the Cultures & Communities program.

doc|UWM Student Film Crew

Carol Brandt
Kelsey Figel
Breianna Harvey
Marcus Keys
Haley Kreofsky
Joe Lindner