History frames the future. It is best done collaboratively. It is always a work in progress. Past, Present, Prison proceeds from these three assumptions.
The History Department at Colorado College encourages collaborative investigation of the origins of compelling contemporary circumstances. Our location in the Rocky Mountain West sets us in physical proximity to the single largest concentration of corrections facilities in the United States—eleven state and federal prisons less than fifty miles away in Cañon City and Florence. That geography, in a period in which more than two million Americans are incarcerated along highly racialized lines, has led students and faculty of our liberal arts community to inquire how the contemporary crisis in incarceration developed—and how historical awareness might be useful in remediating it.
This website has grown from research done by twenty-six Colorado College students in Cañon City archives in fall of 2016. Here we represent American incarceration as it has developed since the late nineteenth century on the ground in southern Colorado. We anticipate continuing development of our project and invite readers’ response on the blog.