Fall 2016

Opportunity for all

Jonathan Oppen­heimer in front of a mural in St. Paul’s Snelling-Midway neighborhood
Photo by David Ellis

Jonathan Oppenheimer is a man with many missions. He’s pursuing two master’s degrees at the U: one in public policy and the other in social work. Thanks to the Ebert-Stembler Internship Fund, he recently completed an internship studying the effects of criminal justice policy on mug shots. He’s also working on the next phase of his widely acclaimed Midway Murals project and on his latest brainchild—criMNal.org. 

Why public policy and social work?

In my social work internship, I saw how people coming out of prison were held back by criminal records that continued to punish them. That’s when I realized that better understanding public policy was the perfect complement to social work. 

What prompted your interest in mug shots?

Because mug shots and criminal re­cords are public, they’re often used to extort people. 

What is criMNal.org?

It highlights race-related disparities in arrest and incarceration rates. We’re using T-shirts that say “criminal,” along with a rap song I wrote and a music vid­eo, to remind people that nearly all of us have done something criminal, but only some of us live with a criminal record. 

How did Midway Murals come about?

It was an idea I dreamed up to make my Snelling-Midway neighborhood a stronger, more attractive, tighter-knit community. That project became the cornerstone for the Midway Public Art Working Group, which focuses on fos­tering interaction and vibrancy through public art in the area.