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Carol Jacobsen Retires from Stamps, Teaches at U-M Law School

Jacobsen sq

For more than thirty years, award-win­ning social doc­u­men­tary artist and Stamps pro­fes­sor Carol Jacob­sen has lever­aged her power as an artist, fem­i­nist, and scholar to cre­ate polit­i­cal change.

Since she arrived at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan in 1995, she has been intro­duc­ing gen­er­a­tions of Stamps stu­dents to the ways that pho­tog­ra­phy, film, and video can play a role in the move­ment for social jus­tice and fem­i­nist change. In addi­tion, Jacob­sen also serves as Direc­tor of the Michi­gan Women’s Clemency Project. Here, she advo­cates for the human rights of women pris­on­ers and seeks free­dom for women wrongly incarcerated.

Jacobsen is interviewed during a demonstration for clemency at the Michigan State Capital.
Jacob­sen is inter­viewed dur­ing a demon­stra­tion for clemency at the Michi­gan State Capital.

Under Jacobsen’s direc­tion, the project has freed 13 women from life sen­tences and con­tin­ues to raise aware­ness of human rights vio­la­tions of incar­cer­ated women in the state of Michi­gan. Jacobsen’s book, For Dear Life: Wom­en’s Decrim­i­nal­iza­tion and Human Rights in Focus (Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan Press, 2019) focuses a crit­i­cal lens on an Amer­i­can crim­i­nal-legal régime that imparts racist, gen­dered, and clas­sist modes of pun­ish­ment to women law­break­ers. She has also pub­lished crit­i­cal stud­ies and essays in fem­i­nist, art, law, and social stud­ies journals.

Image showing an open book, with black and white photographs of two faces
Image from Carol Jacob­sen’s For Dear Life: Women’s Decrim­i­nal­iza­tion and Human Rights

The inter­dis­ci­pli­nary nature of Carol’s work is reflected in her aca­d­e­mic appoint­ments in Women & Gen­der Stud­ies and the Law School, her long asso­ci­a­tion with the Insti­tute for Research on Women and Gen­der, and her ser­vice as a grad­u­ate stu­dent advi­sor for stu­dents across cam­pus. In 2010, Carol received the Sarah God­dard Power Award in recog­ni­tion of her sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the bet­ter­ment of women at U‑M and globally.

As a fine artist, Jacobsen’s work actively con­fronts issues of women’s crim­i­nal­iza­tion, human rights, and cen­sor­ship and has been exhib­ited and screened at venues world­wide, includ­ing New York’s Lin­coln Cen­ter, the Walker Art Cen­ter in Min­neapo­lis, Cen­tre de Cul­tural Con­tem­po­ranea in Barcelona, the Kun­st­fo­rum in Bonn, Tem­ple Gallery in Rome, the Pho­tog­ra­phy Bien­nial of Wan­ganui, New Zealand, the Inter­na­tional Women’s Con­fer­ence in Bei­jing spon­sored by Human Rights Watch, and other venues. Her work is rep­re­sented by Denise Bibro Gallery in New York City, and her exhi­bi­tions and screen­ings in both the U.S. and abroad have been spon­sored by Amnesty Inter­na­tional since 1998.

While the Stamps com­mu­nity will miss Jacobsen’s pres­ence in the class­room, she con­tin­ues to serve U‑M stu­dents at the Law School, teach­ing Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Prob­lem Solv­ing (Law 741), a course that brings together small groups of U‑M grad­u­ate and pro­fes­sional stu­dents work with fac­ulty to explore and offer solu­tions to emerg­ing, com­plex problems.

When asked if she had a mes­sage for the next gen­er­a­tion of artists and design­ers, Jacob­sen replied with enthu­si­asm: The world needs you!”

Clemency freed

13 women freed from life sen­tences through Michi­gan Women’s Jus­tice & Clemency Project (MWJCP)

Left col­umn from top: Lev­onne Roberts, freed 2009 through clemency granted by Gov­er­nor Jen­nifer Granholm based on MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Bar­bara Ander­son, freed 2009 through MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Mil­dred Perry, freed 2009 through MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Tonya Car­son, freed 2018 through MWJCP assis­tance on clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Vio­let Allen, freed 1999, based on a motion in court filed by MWJCP legal direc­tor Lynn D’Orio.

Cen­ter col­umn from top: Doreen Wash­ing­ton, freed 2008 through clemency granted by Gov­er­nor Granholm based on MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Joyce Cousins, freed 2013 based on MWJCP tes­ti­mony and sup­port; Juanita Thomas, freed 1998 based on a motion filed in court by MWJCP vol­un­teer attor­ney Andrea Lyon, with evi­dence devel­oped by MWJCP founder Susan Fair and Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan law students.

Right col­umn from top: Melissa Chap­man, freed 2019 based on MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Min­nie Boose, freed 2008 through clemency granted by Gov­er­nor Granholm based on MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Linda Hamil­ton, freed 2009 through clemency granted by Gov­er­nor Granholm based on MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Melanise Pat­ter­son, freed 2017 through MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and sup­port; Karen Kant­zler, freed 2017 through MWJCP clemency peti­tion, tes­ti­mony, and support.