Mass incarceration from one family’s perspective, a Curatorial Short with Kurt Boone

seated man in a blue button down shirt and jeans sits in a chair outside a protest encampment holding a sign that says shut down rikers.
Photo courtesy of Kurt Boone

In the RBML’s continuing Curatorial Shorts programming, we feature a collection of oral histories on mass incarceration collected by Kurt Boone for the Oral History Archives at Columbia. The collection holds eight interviews by Boone. Boon is a collector and documentarian of urban culture – including hip hop, graffiti art, and street style. You can learn more about him at his website:

Initially, OHAC’s intention was to collect oral histories about the anti-mass incarceration movement toward offering oral history and archival practices as tools to resist the over-incarceration of marginalized groups of people rooted in the capitalist, white supremacist needs for a prison industrial complex.  However, in talking with Kurt about his family’s varied experiences, it was apparent that the willingness of his family to be interviewed created an opportunity to listen to people capable of speaking about the range of human experiences and structural dynamics. The proposed “anti-” positioning would close off going both wide and deep into a single Black families’ engagements with the carceral state.

Featured audio

Clip 1 – impact of incarceration on families, especially children


Clip 2 – thoughts on where our system, focused on punishment, falls short and how it can better help people implicated in the system


Full oral history interview with Iris Donita Bowen, 2018


Collection information

The Mass Incarceration oral history collection holds eight interviews by Kurt Boone. He interviews 8 members of his family who have been incarcerated, work in law enforcement or corrections, or have close family members who have been incarcerated. Narrators discuss their relationship with mass incarceration, whether that is through their own incarceration, their work as a police officer or corrections officer, or through a family member’s incarceration. Narrators who have been formerly incarcerated discuss the events that led up to their incarceration, including homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty. Narrators who are currently or have previously worked in law enforcement of corrections reflect on the impacts of crime, policing, and incarceration in Black communities

The collection’s narrators are: Wayne Bolt, Elliott Boone, Kanita Boone, Iris Bowen, Darnley Braithwaite, Robert Crocker, Lawrence Sealey, and Akilah Shedrick.

Event recording


Interview audio and transcripts for this collection are available via Columbia University Libraries’ Digital Library Collection online. The printed transcripts and audio can also be used in the RBML’s reading rooms by appointment. Kurt Boone can be reached directly via email: bmc20205(at)aol(dot)com.