Art for Justice Summer Film Series

You may have noticed that many of our summer events this year center around the theme Art for Justice. This past year, the Poetry Center received a $500,000 grant from the Art for Justice Fund, which aims to turn art into action, investing more than $100 million dollars in strategic efforts to reform the criminal justice system.  

The Poetry Center will be bearing witness in a variety of ways, from partnering with local justice-oriented organizations, to our online presence, to commissioning poets to speak on the human costs of mass incarceration as part of the Reading & Lecture Series. You can read all about it here, but the essentials are below.

Over the three years of funding, the project will:

  • commission and present new work from poet ambassadors in the Reading & Lecture series at the University of Arizona, in conversation will local organizations working for change in the criminal justice system, in three cohorts;
  • commission found-text poems and responses created from the language of representative federal and state legislation that has disproportionately affected people of color;
  • seek to publish works created through the above commissions in leading publication venues through publishing partnerships;
  • create a single-source archive for all new works on the Poetry Center’s website, including interactive platforms to encourage public participation in the found-text project.

That's why we chose to focus our summer programming on documentaries that talk about the realities of mass incarceration. We hope these insightful films will help prepare our Tucson audience for the upcoming Art for Justice project and the presentations from poets that will happen here. All film screenings take place at The Loft Cinema and are free and open to the public. 

June 6, Wednesday at 5:30 PM 


In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the legacy of the thirteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States, mapping the connection between the legacy of slavery and the criminalization of African Americans during U.S. prison boom.  Hailed by the New York Times as “Powerful, infuriating…[Director] Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th will get your blood boiling.” 

June 20, Wednesday at 5:30 PM

The House I Live In

For the past 40 years, the war on drugs has resulted in more than 45 million arrests, $1 trillion dollars in government spending, and America’s role as the world’s largest jailer. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available than ever. Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories of those on the front lines — from the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge — and offers a penetrating look at the profound human rights implications of America’s longest war. “Persuasively urgent…[The House I Live In] is an insistently personal and political look at the war on drugs and its thousands of casualties.”


July 25, Wednesday at 5:30 PM

Mothers of Bedford

Eighty percent of women in US prisons today are mothers of school-age children.  Mothers of Bedford tells the story of five women, mapping the experience of motherhood through the lens of mass incarceration.  Filmed over four years, the film chronicles Sister Elaine Roulet’s work in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where Roulet works to allow greater access between incarcerated mothers and their children.