Laurie Jo Reynolds


Brown University, BA, Public Policy and American Institutions
University of Iowa, MA, Communication Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, MFA, Film, Video and New Media


Laurie Jo Reynolds is a policy advocate and artist who challenges the demonization, warehousing, and social exclusion of people in the criminal legal system, often long-term efforts at the margins of political viability. In collaboration with justice advocates, state officials, and people directly affected by violence and incarceration, she works for policies that truly prevent victimization, and restore and rehabilitate, rather than sabotage, people with criminal records. Reynolds was the organizer of Tamms Year Ten, the grassroots campaign to close the notorious Illinois state supermax prison, shuttered by Governor Pat Quinn in 2013. Along with Solitary Watch, she co-leads the ongoing participatory project Photo Requests from Solitary. She also serves on the board of the Prison Policy Initiative, on the legislative team of Parole Illinois, on the board of Narrative Arts, and is the UIC faculty advisor to the YES APPLY ILLINOIS! campaign to remove invasive and humiliating questions about past convictions from the admissions process in public higher education. 

Reynolds also coordinates the Chicago 400 Alliance, the volunteer grassroots campaign challenging public conviction registries and banishment laws, and engaging organizational partners in research, advocacy, art, and direct aid. She developed this campaign in collaboration with the Chicago 400, people with past convictions who have been forced into homelessness due to Illinois housing banishment laws. The alliance has demonstrated how registry laws mandate adversarial police contact and have expanded the policing, surveillance, and incarceration of poor people in Chicago.

Grants and fellowships include: Soros Justice Fellowship (2010); Documentary Photography Audience Engagement Grant, Open Society Foundations (2011); Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change, Creative Time Foundation (2013); Creative Capital Foundation Emerging Fields Grant (2013); Blade of Grass Foundation Fellow (2014); Opportunity Agenda Communications Institute Fellow (2015); Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Award, Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues (2015); Silver Circle Teaching Award, University of Illinois at Chicago (2016); United States Artists Fellowship (2016); Eastern State Penitentiary Artist Grant for Photo Requests from Solitary (2017); Soros Artist Fellowship, Open Society Foundations (2018); Imagining Justice Grant, Art for Justice Fund (2018); MacArthur Foundation X Grant (2019); Illinois Humanities / Envisioning Justice (2020, 2021); Op-ed Project Fellowship (2021); Faculty Fellowship, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (2022).

Courses Taught

ART 190: Workshops in Social Practice
ART 541 / CLJ 542 / SOC 540: Prison Aesthetics and Policy
ART 540 / CLJ 594 / SOC 540: Decarceration in Theory and Practice
SOC 540 / ART 520 / ART 382: Building a Community Museum in North Lawndale