UCLA scholars recently announced the launching of what it called “an ambitious initiative” aimed at creating one of the nation’s most diverse collections of material related to policing and incarceration.
The goal is to collect, digitize and preserve a sustainable archive of data, testimonies, artifacts and police files for the next generation of research on racial and social justice.
“Archiving the Age of Mass Incarceration,” the name of the initiative, will bring together expertise from the UCLA Institute of American Cultures’ four ethnic studies centers and their established connections to local advocacy groups and is being funded in part by a three-year, $3.65 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The project builds off of the work of the award-winning UCLA-based Million Dollar Hoods research project, a community-driven initiative that began in 2016 to map the fiscal and human cost of mass incarceration in Los Angeles.
The collection will include new oral histories documenting Angelenos’ experiences with law enforcement and incarceration, as well as stories of survival and protest practices. Other materials collected from the community, such as bail bond receipts, mix-tapes and poster art, will provide meaningful counterpoints to official police and criminal justice statistics.
“This new collaboration between Million Dollar Hoods and UCLA’s ethnic studies centers will preserve the documentary evidence of mass incarceration and its impact on people’s lives in Los Angeles while building a new digital bedrock for racial justice scholars and scholarship at UCLA,” said Kelly Lytle Hernández, director of the Bunche Center and a 2019 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred to as the “genius grant.”
Led by Lytle Hernández, Million Dollar Hoods has advanced efforts to shrink public funding for policing and jails in Los Angeles and to reallocate those resources to community-based systems of care.
As part of the project, UCLA scholars plan to make the archive available to the public by the end of the three-year grant period. The Mellon Foundation funding will enable UCLA to build a digital platform to be shared across the ethnic studies centers. That platform will both create the permanent home for the archive and build the centers’ capacity to maintain a wide range of digital collections focused on racial justice.