News & OpinionNooze Hounds

Nooze Hounds: Lorenzo Steele Jr. of Behind These Prison Walls

Episode 70

Lorenzo Steele stands with his arms out as if he's shrugging while wearing a Behind These Prison Walls hoodie
Lorenzo Steele Jr. stands on his Mobile Prison Art Museum bus. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

On the latest episode of Nooze Hounds, Ryan and Justin talked to Lorenzo Steele Jr., founder of Behind These Prison Walls, an organization through which he hopes to help steer kids away from lifestyles that will land them in jail or prison. 


Steele worked as a guard in one of the country’s most violent juvenile detention centers for 12 years before the work took a toll on him and he left to become an activist against mass incarceration and advocate for youth crime prevention. After moving to Charlotte in 2018, he decided to hit the road. Then a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employee, he bought a decommissioned school bus and inside it built the Mobile Prison Art Museum.

“The project just kept growing and I needed a bigger vehicle,” Steele told Queen City Nerve in a story we ran in late-February. “I was tired of begging art galleries and museums not responding to my emails for an exhibition.” 

On the podcast, we took things a bit deeper, discussing Steele’s experience as a guard at the Adolescent Reception and Detention Center on Riker’s Island and how his journey played out, eventually leading to his realization that he was taking part in a broken criminal justice system. 

Nowadays, Steele travels the city on his Mobile Prison Art Museum, holding workshops for at-risk youth and educating them on the parallels between chattel slavery of the past and the modern-day prison industrial complex. 

Remember you can catch Nooze Hounds on Spotify and other places where you find podcasts and be sure to check out Queen City Podcast Network for a slew of other great Charlotte podcasts that aren’t quite as good as ours but pretty damn close. Find past Nooze Hounds episodes here.

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