Michelle Daniel

Michelle Daniel Jones is an essayist, playwright, editor, visual artist, scholar, and cultural strategist excavating the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for people and families directly impacted by mass incarceration.

Jones’ necessary and solution-based research and advocacy work has led to the development and operation of taskforces, think tanks, and initiatives to reduce harm and end mass incarceration. These initiatives have included legislative testimony on a reentry alternative she created that was approved by the Indiana State Interim Committee on the Criminal Code, an anthology coedited by Elizabeth Angeline Nelson, Who Would Believe A Prisoner?: Indiana’s Carceral Institutions 1848-1920 (The New Press, 2023), and her co- authored original play, The Duchess of Stringtown. Her essays have been featured in scholarly publications such as Social Sciences, biography, Journal of Prisoners on Prison, Magazine of the American Historical Association, Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, and more. Her visual art and performances have included exhibits at NYU Gallatin Gallery in New York, the Beyond the Bars Conference at Columbia University, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia with a permanent Mural Arts of Philadelphia mural dedicated in October 2021.

Right of Return Project

Point of Triangulation: Intersections of Identity

As a Right of Return Fellow, Jones created the multi-media exhibit and art installation Point of Triangulation: Intersections of Identity in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Reimagining Re-entry Fellowship program. The exhibition consisted of life-sized posed portraits of formerly incarcerated people against abstract backgrounds and urban settings. The mural installation featured several portraits of Black people, alongside affirmative language, strategically placed in a prominent part of Philadelphia.

On barriers in the arts industry and the impact of the Right of Return Fellowship:

“You know, the gallery curator didn’t really believe in my project. The research that I had done with Debra Willis helped substantially legitimize me–but also having a working budget. Like money that I could afford to actually mount this exhibition. It helped legitimize me with him. And then also that meant that I could hire Rachel Bosch to come in and do a documentary that went along with the exhibition. That meant I could get high- quality prints from Brooklyn Archival. The funds allowed me to step into the exhibit space with a certain degree of power and empowerment. I think he would not have taken me seriously, otherwise. Right of Return helped with that a great deal.”