Criminal Justice Alternative Break

Delve into the complexities of the U.S. justice system and explore alternative views of justice through participating in CCEL's criminal justice focused Alternative Spring Break, "Beyond Orange is the New Black: Mass Incarceration in the U.S."

The Issue
  • With only 5% of the world's population, the United States accounts for about 25% of the world's prison population.
  • For many state budgets, corrections is the fourth largest expenditure, higher often than education.
  • The U.S. criminal justice system intersects with a vast array of community issues facing the country, including race, gender, and economic disparities; substance abuse; mental health treatment; barriers to education; and more.


The Project

Participants will volunteer with the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) in Ann Arbor, assisting with their Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Projects may include typing hand-written artist statements to prepare for display, sorting and labeling artwork, setting up, preparing mailings, and more. Through assisting with the show, volunteers will get an up-close look at the pieces and at some of the artists' thoughts behind their work. Participants will also hear from staff at the prisoner-advocacy nonprofit, American Friends Service Committee's (AFSC) Criminal Justice Program in Ypsilanti, about conditions of confinement in Michigan's prisons such as health care access, parole preparation, solitary confinement, and more in order to gain a deeper understanding of the prison system's composition.


Students will also immerse africanbeadsmuseumin the rich cultural attractions of southeast Michigan while on the break. Stroll the streets of the college town, Ann Arbor, and check out its eclectic shops and restaurants. Learn about the unique community-based neighborhood revitalization projects happening in Detroit, and explore its diverse neighborhoods like Greektown, Mexicantown, Corktown, and more. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, Motown Museum, Detroit Historical Museum, and Heidelberg Project. This ASB will be an opportunity to not only deepen your understanding of a community issue but to also explore a historic region of the country and to bond with fellow trip participants.

Pre-trip sessions

In addition to actively participating during spring break, students will also engage in three pre-trip education sessions to learn more about the issue and important trip logistics and will be asked to independently watch a documentary and to read an article. Participants should ensure they are able to make these sessions prior to applying for the program:

  • Friday, February 9, 2018 from 4:45 to 6:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 17, 2018 from 1 to 4 p.m. (includes field trip)
  • Friday, February 23, 2018 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
FOOD AND accommodations

The trip will be led by a CCEL staff member and one or two hostelbunksstudent Site Leader(s). Participants will travel via minivan from Cleveland to Detroit (approximately a three hour drive each way). They will stay at the hip, colorful Hostel Detroit. The hostel is located in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, one of the largest areas for urban farms in the city. Lodgings on the trip may be mix-gender; participants should be comfortable sharing a large room of bunk beds with other CWRU students. The hostel also has four private, gender-neutral bathrooms and a few kitchens.

Participants should be comfortable preparing their own hostelkitchenbreakfasts and lunches – offerings include bagels, oatmeal, fruit, sandwiches, vegetable sticks, and snacks. There will be a stop at a grocery store while on the break for students who wish to purchase their own meals out of pocket. The group will also be eating dinner out most evenings; however, there will be two communal dinners that group members will be asked to prepare (vegetarian pasta night and taco/burrito night). All meals provided during the Alternative Break will include a vegetarian option, if requested in advance of the trip. However wheat-free, nut-free, low-sugar, vegan, and other restricted dietary options cannot be guaranteed. Food selections outside of the standard menu will be up to the individual participant to purchase and prepare.


The trip fee is $350, which includes transportation, lodging, entertainment, and most meals. Participants should plan to bring additional money for three meals on their own during the trip as well as any money they would like to bring for souvenirs (total recommended spending money = $60-$100).


To officially become registered for the break, please complete the following steps:

  1. Complete the online application by Friday, December 1, 2017. However, spots will be filled on rolling basis.
  2. If selected, you will be asked to turn in by Friday, December 8, 2017 a non-refundable deposit of $200, which will be applied to the cost of your break. Payments can be made by cash or check (checks made payable to : Case Western Reserve University) and turned into the CCEL office – Tinkham Veale University Center, Suite 165.
    • Your remaining trip balance will be due to CCEL by Friday, January 19, 2018. Note: all payments are non-refundable.

A tentative agenda for the break is as follows. Please note, this agenda is subject to change:

Monday, March 12, 2018 (8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.) BelleIsle

  • Meet in CCEL (Tinkham Veale University Center, Suite 165) at 8:30 a.m. with your luggage
  • Travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan (approximately 3hrs)
  • Arrive at AFSC (lunch and overview of Michigan's prison system)
  • Explore University of Michigan's campus
  • Dinner at Pizza House in Ann Arbor
  • Grocery shopping
  • Travel to Hostel Detroit (approximately 0.75hrs)
  • Reflection

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 (8:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.)

  • Leave hostel at 8:30 a.m. and travel to Ann Arbor
  • Service & educational speakers 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Return to Detroit and explore Motown Museum
  • Cook dinner, eat as a group, reflection
  • Optional: Bowling at The Majestic Theatre Center (8:30 to 10:30 p.m.)PCAPartwork

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 (8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

  • Leave hostel at 8:30 a.m. and travel to Ann Arbor
  • Service & educational speakers 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Return to Detroit and explore MBAD's Bead Museum and The Heidelberg Project (community art installations)
  • Pastry treat from La Gloria Bakery in Mexicantown
  • Cook dinner, eat as a group, reflection

Thursday, March 15, 2018 (8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

  • Leave hostel at 8:30 a.m. and travel to Ann Arbor
  • Service & educational speakers 9:30 a.m. to ?
  • Dinner in Ann Arbor
  • Tentative: Explore Ann Arbor
  • Return to Detroit spiritofdetroit
  • Reflection

Friday, March 16, 2018 (8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.)

  • Load vans / clean hostel
  • Explore the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Lunch & final reflection at Pegasus Tavernas in Detroit's Greektown
  • Explore downtown Detroit
  • Travel to CWRU (approximately 3hrs)—pick up dinner at turnpike plaza along way
  • Students will be dropped off at their on- or off-campus lodging (within reason)

Please contact Adrian Griffin with any additional questions or if you would like to set up a meeting to talk in more detail about the trip.

Accessibility: CCEL is committed to providing all students with opportunities to take full advantage of our programs. Our staff recognizes that students with documented disabilities may require reasonable accommodations in order to achieve this objective. If you are interested in taking part in a specific project but have questions related to accommodations and/or the accessibility of a site, please contact the office of Disability Resources in Educational Services for Students (216.368.5230 or, and they will work with a representative from our office to answer your questions.