Topeka K. Sam, Justice in Education Scholar and Co-Founder of Hope House featured in the NY Times

A House for Women Leaving Prison Sits Empty

When Shirelle Howard left prison in 2016, she had $112 in her pocket — her life savings.

After buying her train ticket from Taconic Correctional Facility to Manhattan ($12.75); a MetroCard ($5); and two slices of pizza and a soda for her first meal of freedom in 16 years ($2.99), she had $91.26 to start over.

For a year, she struggled. And then she got a lifeline: a room at “Hope House,” a new transitional home in the Castle Hill neighborhood of the Bronx for women just leaving prison.

At least, she thought she did…

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NY Times Op-Ed from Columbia Law Professor Bernard Harcourt: Executing a Terminally Ill Inmate

The Ghoulish Pursuit of Executing a Terminally Ill Inmate

When judges schedule a lethal injection for a terminally ill prisoner whose struggle against lymphatic cancer and extensive medical history has left him without any easily accessible veins, our law descends into a ghoulish inferno. It is a dreadful place where our most august jurists ruminate over catheter gauges and needle sizes, and ponder whether to slice deep into the groin or puncture internal jugular veins. History will not judge us favorably….


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Related Article

The Decades-Long Defense of an Alabama Death-Row Prisoner Enters a Final Phase

Center for Justice Awarded the College and Community Fellowship Institutional Vision Award

On October 26th, 2017, the Center for Justice was awarded the College and Community Fellowship (CCF) Institutional Vision Award at their Bi-Annual Benefit Gala in downtown Manhattan. Center Directors Geraldine Downey and Kathy Boudin and Senior Director of Education and Programs Cheryl Wilkins accepted the award on behalf of the Center.


The Institutional Vision Award is given to formal institutions that participate in criminal justice reform work. CCF values the institutions that support the criminal justice reform movement with research, data, on-the-ground experience, and influence with their peers. The Center was honored as this year’s recipient for “its relentless commitment to transforming the criminal justice system and creating social change”.


CCF is an organization of educators, social workers, policy changers, and former students working together to help formerly incarcerated women succeed in college, career, family, and life while earning their college degrees. CCF seeks to eliminate individual and structural barriers to higher education, economic security, long term stability, and civic participation for women who have criminal convictions (including those currently and formerly incarcerated) and their families. CCF offers scholarship programs, professional and college counseling, mentorship, and social and support services. For more information on CCF and their work, please visit their website at:




BUZZ FEED interview with Keila Pulinario on reentry and employment

Keila Pulinario Thought Prison Was Tough. Then She Had To Find A Job.

For women looking for jobs after prison, it doesn’t just feel harder. It is harder. Meet the formerly incarcerated women who are helping one another to get ahead.

Not long after Keila Pulinario was released from prison, she was hit by a car while walking to work.

Pulinario was pissed off. Before the accident, she’d worked her first post-incarceration job at a culinary company that ran a cafeteria in New York City’s financial district. Afterward, she had to accept that her life wouldn’t be the same — that the back and shoulder injuries she’d suffered meant she could no longer be the same “beast in the kitchen,” on her feet all day without the time or flexibility to sit down and rest every so often. She couldn’t lift a heavy pot or pan with one hand anymore, let alone multitask at the breakneck pace of a commercial cook…



Congratulations to the first cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

Congratulations to the first cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, which includes criminal justice reform advocate, Marlon Peterson. Hosted at Columbia University, the fellowship will study the causes of and develop solutions to anti-black racism.


Twenty-nine advocates, organizers and artists selected from across the U.S. and South Africa to tackle anti-Black racism and white supremacy

NEW YORK, NY — The Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE) named its first cohort of 29 Atlantic Fellows to begin a year-long program, expanding their work to challenge racism in the U.S. and South Africa and disrupt the rise of white nationalism and supremacy.

The inaugural group is composed of activists, lawyers, artists, scholars, advocates and other leaders, all accomplished in their work to end white supremacy and racism in the United States and South Africa. The cohort is the first of 10 in a 10-year, $60-million program centered on exposing and ending racial discrimination and violence that dehumanize Black people and, ultimately, harm all people.



Columbia Giving Day

On Wed., October 18, 2017, support the Center for Justice at Columbia University in honor of Giving Day!


Our mission is to develop university-community partnerships that work together to end our nation’s reliance on criminalization, incarceration and retribution, and transform the justice system into one centered on prevention and healing.


Your gift will help us provide college courses to students in prisons, workshops in areas that range from coding to creative writing to youth in detention centers, and educational, research, and leadership opportunities to formerly incarcerated students at Columbia. It will also help us provide internships and research fellowships to Columbia students interested in working with the Center for Justice.

Please support us at any level you can – $10, $25, $50, $100, $250 or more – your gift WILL make a difference, and help fund these critical educational and leadership initiatives.

Click Here to Make your Gift NOW!





Smart on Crime | The Crime Report

Why Community Corrections Systems Fail

“If we didn’t exist, no one would invent us,” says former New York Commissioner of Probation Vincent Schiraldi. Speaking this week at the Smart on Crime conference at John Jay College, he said the punitive approach taken by probation and parole agencies made them major drivers of mass incarceration.



Beyond The Bars Fellows and Justice In Education Scholars featured in Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act

The United States holds 30% of the world’s incarcerated women. We shackle them while giving birth. We often place them hundreds of miles away from their children – further inhibiting the healthy development of their children. And we force them to make draconian choices, like whether to use commissary funds to call home, or purchase sanitary pads.



DIG member Christopher-Medina-Kirchner featured in the Milwaukee Courier

Drugs Are Not The Problem; The Environment Is

“It is not heroin or cocaine that makes one an addict. It is the need to escape from a harsh reality.” –Shirley Chisholm

My little brother is addicted to heroin. I desperately want to make his life better than what it currently is. For this reason, I have spent the last five years studying drug use and abuse. I was astonished to learn that the vast majority of people who use drugs, such as heroin, don’t have a problem and are not addicted. They are responsible members of our society, who pay taxes and take care of business. If this is true, then why does my little brother use problematically?


New Feminist Solutions Report: The Crisis of Criminalization

The Crisis of Criminalization: A Call for a Comprehensive Philanthropic Response

Written by Andrea J. Ritchie and Beth E. Richie


This report is an urgent call for a comprehensive philanthropic response to the growing crisis of criminalization. Over the past decade mass incarceration – the reality that over 2.2 million people are locked up in the nation’s prisons and jails, and 60% are people of color – has emerged as a central social justice issue of our time. Advocates, organizers, and philanthropic partners have confronted this crisis by working to reduce both racial disparities and the overall population of incarcerated people, and to mitigate the collateral consequences of criminal convictions.