Op-Ed from Bruce Western and Bernard Harcourt on Parole Reform and the Case of Herman Bell

Columbia Law Professor Bernard Harcourt and Columbia Justice Lab Director and Professor of Criminal Justice Policy at Harvard University Bruce Western co-wrote an op-ed in the Daily News on the case for parole reform and the case of Herman Bell.

Harcourt and Western write “New York’s new parole rules bring the state more into line with international standards and acknowledge a reality uncovered by criminologists. Criminal offending declines with age, and virtually all people convicted of crimes ultimately cease their involvement in crime at some point in their lives. With very long prison sentences, we inevitably incarcerate people who pose no risk to society.

Just as important as the research evidence, the new parole rules acknowledge that unending terms of incarceration do too little to heal the pain of communities and families harmed by serious violence. The new parole rules express a belief that debts can be paid, and those who have caused terrible pain to others, like Bell, are nevertheless worthy of redemption.”

You can read the full article on the Daily News site here:

Why Should We Keep Murderers in Prison Until They Die? 

You can also read more about our work on parole reform from our report Aging in Prison: Reducing Elder Incarceration and Promoting Public Safety.

 

Beyond the Bars 2018 Recap! Videos, Photos and More

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 8th annual Beyond the Bars Conference, this year focusing on the efforts to close jails and prisons.  We are continually humbled by the strength and diversity of the movement to end mass incarceration and mass criminalization and are thankful to all of those who spent the weekend with us, and to the many who tuned in via livestream.  Below are a number of things from the conference to check out!

Videos!

Photos!

Programs 

Meet the 2017-18 Beyond the Bars Fellows

Beyond the Bars 2018 – Request for Proposals

Beyond the Bars – March 1-4, 2018

The Beyond the Bars Conference, now going into its 8th year, is an annual event that brings together a trans-disciplinary group to advance the work of ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization and building a just and safe society. Each year scholars, students, activists, advocates, policy makers, government officials and those who have been most directly impacted by issues of incarceration and criminalization come together for three days to deepen our collective analysis, strengthen our network of those working for change and make visible the many ways those from the academy and the community can engage in action.

This year’s conference will focus on elevating the growing movement to close jails and prisons to:

  1. Convene and support a national network of people and organizations
    working to close jails and prisons across the country
  2. Help articulate a vision and analysis for closing jails and prisons and
    envisioning what comes next
  3. Address and examine some of the difficult issues and questions that arise
    when people are calling for closing jails and prisons
  4. Further catalyze university involvement in ending mass incarceration

Request for Proposals

Sunday, March 4, 2018, the third day of the Beyond the Bars conference, will feature 45 to 90-minute organizing workshops. These sessions are designed to facilitate skill-sharing, learning, and active engagement in justice work. The workshops are a chance to to further understand the many political struggles connected to mass criminalization, to teach new tools for advocacy and organizing, and to connect participants to opportunities for continued engagement beyond the conference. What skills do you wish more people had?  What do people need to know in order to contribute more effectively to your work? What are the concrete steps people can take today to support the work that you’re doing?  What skills do you wish more people had?  We are particularly committed to highlighting the voices and organizing done by: people of color, women, queer and trans people, young people, and people directly impacted by incarceration and the criminal legal system.

We are interested in proposals that touch on various topics related to closing jails and prisons, including:

  • Building grassroots campaigns to close jails and prison or that tackle related issues

  • Building political power to end mass incarceration and criminalization

  • Organizing strategies and goals that decrease the number of people detained and incarcerated

  • Alternatives to detention and incarceration that don’t replace jails and prisons with other forms of criminalization

  • Restorative, transformative and healing justice practices

  • Political education around the many issues related to closing jails and prisons including bail, policing, speedy trial, parole reform.

  • Centering the lived experiences and leadership of people directly impacted by the criminal legal system

  • Developing and sustaining relationships and networks across organizations, campaigns, and geography

  • Alternative community uses for closed jails and prisons

We are looking forward to learning various skills, including:

  • Self care: how do you do this work while dealing with trauma?

  • Restorative approaches to reducing violence

  • Anti-oppressive organizational practices

  • Creating political campaigns

  • Political power-mapping as it relates to criminal justice policy

  • Community organizing and base building strategies (including direct actions and engagement with diverse communities)

  • Communicating your message (including the use of social media and presenting stories)

  • Arts-based activism

  • Supporting people experiencing state violence (including currently incarcerated people)

  • Fundraising and budgeting

  • Legal advocacy

  • Mediation

  • Other Related topic or skill:

We invite proposals for workshops that address one or more of these foundational topics and skills. In your proposal, please emphasize tangible takeaways for participants and the ways you will facilitate this through active participation and/or gaining a deeper understanding of an issue.

Accepted proposals will be interactive and bridge the gap from analysis to action. We are especially excited about workshops that provide the opportunities and/or resources for continued involvement after the conference weekend—either through one’s individual actions or through involvement with a group.

All workshops will be in either 45-minute or 75-minute blocks and take place on Sunday, March 4, 2018 at Columbia University School of Social Work.

Please include in your proposal: 1) the materials you will need for your workshop (e.g. projector, paper, markers, etc.), and 2) whether you would like to do a 45-minute or 75-minute workshop.

To submit a proposal, please fill out this form by Friday, January 26 at 11:59PM EST.

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments at: btbworkshops2018@gmail.com

Beyond the Bars 2018 – Save the Date

Save the Date! 
Beyond the Bars: Closing Jails and Prisons
March 1-4, 2018

The 8th annual Beyond the Bars Conference of the Center for Justice at Columbia University seeks to contribute to the growing movement to close jails and prisons as a part of the larger struggle to end mass incarceration. In particular, we will focus on elevating the efforts led by grassroots organizers that include formerly incarcerated and directly impacted people.

Prison and jail closings have been taking place unevenly throughout the United States over the past decade. However, campaigns like the ones in New York, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee have helped to usher in a new phase, one that highlights the role of grassroots organizing and directly impacted leadership, and that has begun to put forth a more transformative vision of how to close jails and prisons and what comes in their place. Momentum for lasting change is building. Organizers, activists and scholars have been grappling with many of the deeply seeded issues related to incarceration and criminalization. From the movement to close youth prisons entirely, to centering the fight for racial justice, to highlighting the ways that women and lgbtq community are impacted, to focusing on the elderly inside prisons with long sentences that are about punishment not safety, to interrogating the effectiveness of punishment in reducing violence, we are at a moment where we are able to make concrete advances in reducing the carceral footprint.

It is our hope that this conference will bolster these efforts in the following ways:

  • Convene and support a national network of people and organizations working to close jails and prisons across the country
  • Help articulate a vision and analysis for closing jails and prisons and what comes in its place
  • Address and examine some of the difficult issues and questions that arise in the efforts to close jails and prison
  • Further catalyze university involvement in the struggle to end mass incarceration

2017-18 BEYOND THE BARS FELLOWSHIP – APPLY NOW

The Beyond the Bars Fellowship offers students and community members an interdisciplinary leadership development program to develop and deepen their identity, analysis, skills and network towards ending mass incarceration and creating a more just and safe world. Through seminars, workshops and guest lectures Fellows explore their own experiences and identities as people working for social change; gain a theoretical and practical understanding of mass incarceration; and are introduced to various models of social change including community organizing, legislative advocacy, messaging and communications and more.  In addition Fellows work together with the Center for Justice and the Criminal Justice Caucus to organize the annual Beyond the Bars Conference on ending mass incarceration and realizing social justice. The Fellowship is made up of both Students and Community members and our aim is to work collaboratively with the University and Community towards social change



Is the Fellowship Right for me?

We aim to bring together Columbia University students with the larger NYC community to create a diverse and rich learning environment that can be mutually beneficial to all Fellows. We encourage people impacted (directly and indirectly) by mass incarceration to apply. Please note that extensive experience is not a requirement.

What will you gain?

  • Leadership Development: Participate in regular seminars, workshops and guest lectures and deepen your understanding of yourself as well as develop your understanding of justice issues and your capacity to enact change.
  • Organizing Experience: Work collaboratively to help organize the annual Beyond the Bars Conference
  • A Community of Mentors and Colleagues: The Fellowship is an intentional and experiential learning community that will support your growth as a social justice advocate.

All applicants should meet the following:

  • Have a desire to be a part of group learning environment
  • Demonstrated enthusiasm for social justice.
  • Commitment to fulfill all requirements of the Fellowship

Columbia Fellows should be Current Columbia student enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate or graduate program.

Community Fellows are not enrolled at Columbia University. We encourage applicants who are not students or have not attended college to apply. Students from other colleges / universities are welcome to apply.

Deadlines

The priority application deadline is Monday August 21st.  After that we will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until Monday August 28th.

 

APPLICATION MATERIALS

  • 1 page cover letter including:
    • Why you are interested in becoming a Beyond the Bars Fellow
    • What you hope to gain from the Fellowship
    • An assessment of your strengths and challenges
  • Resume/CV

Application Process  

July 28th: Application Period Opens
August 21st: Priority Application Deadline
August 28th: Application Period Closes
August 28th- Sept 7th – Interviews
September14th: Accepted Applicants are Notified
September 21st: Fellowship Starts

Tentative Fellowship Calendar

The Fellowship meets most Thursday nights from

Fall Dates

September 21st
September 28th
Oct 6th – Oct 8th: 3 Day Retreat
October 12th
October 19th
October 26th
November 2nd
November 9th
November 16th
November 30th
December 7th
December 14th

Spring Dates

January 18th
January 25th
February 1st
February 8th
February 15th
February 22nd
March 1st–4th: Beyond the Bars Conference
March 9th
March 22nd
March 29th
April 5th
April 13th-15th: 3 Day Closing Retreat

Center for Justice Partners on New Early Diversion Initiative

The Center for Justice is excited to partner with the Osborne Association and the Advancing Justice Initiative at the Columbia School of Social Work on a new Early Diversion Initiative launched by the Office of the District Attorney of New York County, Cy Vance Jr.

The Early Diversion Initiative will create early diversion programs that provide participants with opportunities to avoid prosecution and an arrest record through participating in short term programming in the community.

Our partners at the Osborne Association had this to say “The Osborne Association is honored to partner with the Center for Justice at Columbia University to divert people who have been arrested in Harlem by offering a meaningful community alternative to court process that can lead to better outcomes for individuals and safer communities. We thank District Attorney Vance for this opportunity to offer pathways out of the criminal justice system and into targeted interventions and wrap-around services. The District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative and commitment to alternatives to traditionally punitive prosecutions promises to make a real difference in the lives of all New Yorkers.” – Osborne Association President and CEO Elizabeth Gaynes

You can read the full press release from the District Attorney’s Office HERE. 

Beyond the Bars 2017 Recap

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 7th annual Beyond the Bars Conference: Transcending the Punishment Paradigm.  We are grateful for the more than 1500 attendees and the 150+ speakers who joined us over the four days. This year’s conference focused on the criminal justice system’s responses to violence focusing on the following four questions:

  1. What are the root causes of violence within communities? What are the root causes of state violence? How do the two intersect?
  2. What is needed to makes communities safe?
  3. What are the existing narratives about people who have committed violent acts? How do we change those narratives?
  4. When violence happens in the community, what are responses that decrease mass criminalization and incarceration and do not rely on the punishment paradigm?

 

Recap Video Below 

 

We are especially thankful to the dozens of organizers and supporters that contributed in some way to make this a meaningful and important event.

We have lots to share from this year and are looking forward to publishing a report from the conference in the Fall of this year.

Voices from Beyond the Bars 

Videos from the Conference 

Conference Programs 

Photos 

 

2017 Recap Video

Meet the 2016-17 Beyond the Bars Fellows

We are excited to introduce the 2016-17 Beyond the Bars Fellows, the third cohort of this growing Fellowship.

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Our current Fellows come from many schools across Columbia (Social Work, Teachers College, Columbia College, the School of the Arts, School of Public Health and the Sociology Department), other colleges (Rutgers, New York University, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College) and a variety of different community and government organizations (the Osborne Association, Vera Institute of Justice, the Red Umbrella Project, the Fortune Society, VIBE magazine and the Center for Court Innovations).  We are honored to be working with such a powerful group of people and look forward to seeing the work of the Fellowship continue to grow.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS YEAR’S BEYOND THE BARS FELLOWS

Beyond the Bars 2017: Save the Date and Request for Proposals

Save the Date – Beyond the Bars: Transcending the Punishment Paradigm

March 2-5, 2017

The Beyond the Bars Conference, now going into its 7th year, is an annual event that brings together a trans-disciplinary group to advance the work of ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization and building a just and safe society. Each year scholars, students, activists, advocates, policy makers, government officials and those who have been most directly impacted by issues of incarceration and criminalization come together for three days to deepen our collective analysis, strengthen our network of those working for change and make visible the many ways those from the academy and the community can engage in action.

This year’s conference, Transcending the Punishment Paradigm, will address the criminal justice system’s responses to violence focusing on the following four questions:

  1. What are the root causes of violence within communities? What are the root causes of state violence? How do the two intersect?
  2. What is needed to makes communities safe?
  3. What are the existing narratives about people who have committed violent acts? How do we change those narratives?
  4. When violence happens in the community, what are responses that decrease mass criminalization and incarceration and do not rely on the punishment paradigm?

Request for Proposals

Sunday, March 5, 2017, the third day of the Beyond the Bars conference, will feature 90-minute organizing workshops.  These sessions are designed to facilitate skill-sharing, learning, and active engagement.  The workshops are a chance to present the many political struggles connected to mass criminalization, to teach new tools for advocacy, and to connect participants to opportunities for continued engagement beyond the conference.  What skills do you wish more people had?  What do people need to know in order to contribute more effectively to your work?  What are the concrete steps people can take today to support the work that you’re doing?  We are particularly committed to highlighting the voices and organizing done by: people of color, women, queer and trans people, and young people.

We are interested in proposals that touch on various topics related to violence, including:

  • State violence (including policing, incarceration, deportation, and correctional supervision)
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Community Violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Transformative and restorative justice
  • The distinction between “violent and nonviolent offenders”
  • Trauma and healing
  • Interrupting violence and self-defense
  • Reentry

We are looking forward to learning various skills, including:

  • Self care: how do you do this work while dealing with vicarious trauma?
  • Alternate approaches to combatting violence
  • Anti-oppressive organizational practices
  • Creating political campaigns
  • Community organizing and base building
  • Communicating your message (including the use of social media)
  • Coordinating direct actions
  • Arts-based activism
  • Supporting people experiencing state violence (including currently incarcerated people)
  • Fundraising and budgeting
  • Legal advocacy
  • Mediation

We invite proposals for workshops that address one or more of these foundational topics and skills. In your proposal please emphasize tangible take-aways for participants and the ways you will facilitate this through active participation and/or gaining a deeper understanding of an issue.  

Accepted proposals will be interactive and bridge the gap from analysis to action. We are especially excited about workshops that provide the opportunity for continued involvement after the conference weekend—either through one’s individual actions or through involvement with a group.

All workshops will be 1.5 hours long and take place on Sunday, March 5, 2017 at Columbia University School of Social Work.

To submit a proposal, please fill out the following form by January 31, 2017: https://goo.gl/forms/5sbCrf63CgArmQbm2

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments at: workshops.btb.2017@gmail.com

Restorative Justice and Racial Justice Event + Peacemaking Training with Kay Pranis

This past Friday we co-organized an event “Building a Restorative Justice

IMG_3820Movement Grounded in Racial Justice” with the Restorative Justice Initiative, the Criminal Justice Caucus at Columbia School of Social Work and the Field Education Department and Student Services at Columbia School of Social Work.  The speakers included Whitney Richards-Calathes, Aisha Norris, Melody Benitez, José Alfaro and Kay Pranis and covered a wide range of questions including using restorative justice processes to talk about race and racism, what is needed to build a movement that embraces an intersectional lens and puts racial justice at the forefront, and what contradictions exist within the restorative justice movement currently.

 

 

 

 


IMG_3824

This weekend we also hosted a 3-day Introduction to Peacemaking Circles with Kay Pranis that included participants from a wide range of organizations including instructors and facilitators in our Rikers Education Program, staff from Center for Court Innovation, Bronx Defenders, Center for Creative Conflict Resolution – Oath, NYC High Schools and more.

 

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