Erasure is a form of poetry that uses an existing text, selectively erasing parts of it in order to create a new text. Using a source text, the writer can delete, white out, black out, or draw over words to alter the visual effect and meaning. Some of the most successful erasures use a source text’s language in a new way to reveal a truth that may otherwise be hidden. An excellent example is U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s "Declaration." Smith’s source text is the Declaration of Independence, which she erases to unveil the ways oppression has been written into the fabric of our society.
As part of the Art for Justice project, we invite you to create your own erasure here. Our ten source texts are representative examples of legislation and policies that have directly affected incarceration rates in the United States. Many disproportionately affect people of color. These texts were chosen in consultation with The Sentencing Project and The Marshall Project and are meant to be representative; there are hundreds of examples at the local, state and federal levels that could have been used for this project. We encourage you to use this tool to think about the legacy of incarceration in the United States. Much of the language collected in our examples has imagined whole groups of people in particular, defined ways. Can you use this tool to imagine them differently?
Increased sentence lengths by abolishing parole and limiting earned release credits to fifteen percent reduction for good behavior.
Allows law enforcement officials to inquire about immigration status during any "lawful stop, detention or arrest," when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is undocumented. Challenges to the law reached the United States Supreme Court, where it was upheld 5-3.
The Arizona State Constitution prohibits those convicted of felonies from voting. In 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Arizona laws barring former felons from voting until the completion of probation and the payment of outstanding fines.
It’s since been amended, but the original law was the most far-reaching legislation in the United States aimed at habitual offenders. Eighty-five percent of the offenders sentenced under the law were sentenced for nonviolent offenses, and the application of the law raised claims that it increased racial disparities.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued this executive order, which authorized the internment and imprisonment of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
In Texas, jurors on capital punishment cases are asked to speculate "whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society." This kind of speculation can lead to increased death penalty convictions.
A unanimous Supreme Court decision that explicitly allowed pretextual stops by police. It enables authorities to detain suspects on minor violations in order to investigate "other matters." Evidence shows that people of color are stopped by police more frequently for minor offenses due to racial profiling.
This Clinton-era law was the largest crime bill in history and made sweeping changes to law enforcement. It added sixty new death penalty offenses, eliminated the possibility of Pell grants for inmates’ higher education, and led to an increase in incarceration.
Changed the federal approach to drugs from a rehabilitative system to a punitive one. New mandatory minimum sentences were implemented, including for marijuana. Sentencing disparities between crack vs. powder cocaine still exist in many states, including Arizona.
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…" People of color in the U.S. are incarcerated at higher rates and for longer sentences than their white peers.
Highlight the block of text you want and click ’Next.’