Beyond the Bars Call for Artists

The Beyond the Bars Conference at Columbia University is seeking artwork in response to the theme of this year’s conference: Transcending the Punishment Paradigm. The conference 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?

We are asking artists to interpret and create works of art that represent the theme of Transcending the Punishment Paradigm. What would our society look like if we understood violence differently, looking at structures, environments and state violence as well as the actions of individuals? And what could it look like if all of our systems and responses were focused on prevention and healing, and on restoration and transformation of individuals and communities, instead of retribution and punishment? We invite you to answer these questions through your art.

Selected artwork will be exhibited at the Beyond the Bars Conference on March 4-5, 2017 in New York City. If you are interested in submitting your work, please read the following guidelines:


  • Sizing: Due to space limitations, art pieces must be two-dimensional and must not exceed 18” x 24”
  • Artist statements: You may submit up to two paragraphs describing each work submitted, along with a brief summary of your art experience, including education, exhibitions, art-related work experience, awards, etc.
  • Format: Submissions must be in the form of drawings, paintings, photography, or graphic deign
  • File type: All artwork must be submitted electronically in JPEG form. Selected artists will be contacted about shipping their original works to us to be displayed at the conference.
  • Shipping: Once we review your submission, you may be invited to ship your artwork to the Center for Justice at no cost to you. All work must be shipped through FedEx. Additional details will be provided when we contact you.
  • Sales: Please be advised that there will be no art dealing at the conference, so you must label your artwork and provide your contact information, website, etc. so we can direct attendees to you in order to facilitate purchases.


We are hoping to exhibit artwork by artists who are impacted by violence and/or the epidemic of incarceration, including but not limited to artists who:


  • have experienced incarceration themselves
  • have experienced incarceration through their loved ones or their communities
  • have worked within the criminal justice system
  • have other experiences related to the criminal justice system
  • have participated in activism, organizing, or advocacy work related to social justice


How to Submit:


To submit your artwork for the 2017 Beyond the Bars Conference, please email with JPEG attachments of the work, your artist statement, and your contact info. Please put “Beyond the Bars submission” as the subject heading. Please allow 2 – 3 days for a response from us regarding next steps, shipping, and additional information. The deadline to submit for artists who need to mail their art is Friday February 10th, however local artists who can bring their piece to us may submit up until Friday February 24th.


Artists who are currently incarcerated may ship their submissions directly to the Center for Justice at Columbia University at the following address and can expect to receive a reimbursement for shipping costs in the form of a money order:


1255 Amsterdam Ave, Rm 828

New York, New York 10030


We encourage submissions from artists of color, artists from the LGBTQ community, and artists whose work represents experiences and identities that are often underrepresented in the arts. We look forward to seeing your work.


A Holiday Message From Director Geraldine Downey

December 21st, 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are reaching out after an arduous and contentious election that left much of our country divided, and many with a feeling of discontent and powerlessness. However, instead of feeling defeated, we feel even more driven to continue our work to end mass incarceration. We are dedicated to transforming our criminal justice system from one that focuses on punishment and disenfranchisement to one that that emphasizes people’s humanity and capacity to improve their lives, while ensuring public safety.

As we’ve outlined on the accompanying summary, our accomplishments over the past year have been many; but we cannot do this work alone. In order to effect change in our criminal justice system, we need your help. Your support will allow us to develop frameworks for changing the punitive narrative and to support local and national institutions and communities in implementing new approaches to safety and justice. But more importantly, your financial support will enable us to continue investing in people directly affected by the criminal justice system by providing access to education, employment and leadership opportunities.


Consider supporting us so we can continue our work in 2017.

Please Click Here to donate


More specifically, your support will help:

  1. Talented students who were formerly incarcerated enroll at Columbia University;
  2. Bring more Columbia University professors to teach credit-bearing courses at correctional facilities in New York State
  3. Provide educational workshops for youth detained at Rikers Island;
  4. Engage community youth in summer-long workshops that combine arts and social justice;
  5. Fund research examining the effects of having a criminal record on people’s chances of applying for and attaining educational and employment opportunities;
  6. The Beyond the Bars conference and the Beyond the Bars Fellowship;
  7. Our policy work on releasing people who have served sentences that exceed concerns for public safety;
  8. Our continued efforts to implement restorative justice-based alternatives to the punishment paradigm in Rikers Island and the state prison system

With your help, we can make an even bigger difference in transforming the criminal justice system next year.


Best Wishes,

Geraldine Downey



Center for Justice

Understanding the Needs of Women in the Justice System

Kristi DiLallo  is a 2016-2017 Beyond the Bars Fellow, Center for Justice and Intern, Communications, Vera Institute of justice.

She writes: Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a new series of prison reform initiatives, including a push to expand resources for incarcerated women.

The DOJ’s new plans suggest a shift in public understanding about the needs of incarcerated women, emphasizing the importance of communication between women and their families, providing treatment for mental illness and drug abuse, and creating more women-specific reentry opportunities.



Moving Criminal Justice-The Liman Report

About the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program Fall 2016

The Arthur Liman Public Interest Program supports the work of Yale law students and Yale law school graduates through Liman Fellowships as well as undergraduate and graduate students from Yale College, Barnard College, Brown University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Spelman College, and Stanford University, all of whom work to respond to problems of inequality and to improve access to justice.

The Liman Project provides an opportunity for Yale Law students to work together with faculty on research and advocacy around specific issues related to detention and access to justice. Students may also participate in the Liman Public Interest Workshop, which meets weekly in the spring to discuss emerging issues of theory and advocacy.

This issues features the Center’s Dr. Boudin who is on of today’s leading advocates in Justice Reform



Columbia University to provide sanctuary, financial support for undocumented students

Bracing for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants promised by President-elect Donald Trump, the University has announced a plan to provide sanctuary and financial support for undocumented students, according to an email sent to the Columbia community by Provost John Coatsworth on Monday afternoon.



Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

The presidential election has prompted intense concern for the values we hold dear and for members of our community who are apprehensive about what the future holds.  Some of this concern is focused on possible changes to immigration laws and to the federal enforcement of those laws.  Some is due to possible changes elsewhere in federal law and policy.  Reports of bias crimes and harassment occurring since the election are also deeply disturbing, particularly so when those who feel threatened are part of a community like ours, committed to tolerance and reason.

President Bollinger has asked me to work with the University administration and our community to develop a response to these concerns.  I am writing to share information about relevant policies and our plans for ensuring that every person at Columbia feels safe, is able to proceed unimpeded with their studies and their work, and understands beyond question that Columbia’s dedication to inclusion and diversity is and will remain unwavering.

First, the University will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of undocumented students with those officials unless required by subpoena or court order, or authorized by a student.  Moreover, New York City continues to be a sanctuary city, with special protections for undocumented immigrants, and Mayor de Blasio recently affirmed that local law enforcement officials will continue to operate consistent with that commitment.
If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the University pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status.  It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA.  We subscribe to the view of the Association of American Universities that “DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,” and we will continue to express that commitment in the future.
To provide additional support, the Office of University Life is hosting a series of small-group, private information sessions specifically for undocumented students in our community, including DACA recipients, to offer support and guidance regarding possible changes in the law.  Affected students can contact the Office directly for more information.  Separately, our International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is scheduling information sessions and is prepared to provide assistance via its telephone helplines to any of our international students with questions or concerns.  For more information about resources, support, and reporting options regarding discrimination and harassment, please visit the Office of University Life website.

The commitments outlined above emerge from values that define what we stand for and who we are as a University community.  Indeed, Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have amplified their commitment to undocumented undergraduate students pursuing their first degrees by continuing to meet their full financial aid needs as has long been our policy and also by treating applications of undocumented students no differently than those of students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  The experience of undocumented students at the College and Columbia Engineering, from the time they first seek admission through their graduation, will not be burdened in any way by their undocumented status.
This is a moment for us to bear in mind how important it is to protect all who study and teach in our community and to defend the institution and the values it embodies.

John H. Coatsworth

Women Must Fight President Trump: Gloria Steinem Delivers Powerful Post-Election Message

On Wednesday afternoon, a first year female student at New York City’s Barnard College was vividly recalling the excitement of casting her first-ever vote in a presidential election for Hillary Clinton—and then the crushing despair of Donald Trump’s victory.

Among the 200 guests at Wednesday’s talk were advocates from ten women’s and human rights groups including the NoVo Foundation, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Center for Justice at Columbia University.




CFJ Director Geraldine Downey Awarded Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Trust Grant

November 16, 2016

Columbia Psychology Professor Geraldine Downey was recently awarded the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Trust Award for inspiring her former students to make a significant contribution to society.

The Beckman award, a one-time $25,000 grant, was created in 2008 by Gail McKnight Beckman in honor of her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman. Recipients are chosen for having inspired their former students to “create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large,”



Youth justice study finds prison counterproductive

New report documents urgent need to replace youth prisons with rehabilitation-focused alternatives

By Adam Schaffer, HKS Communications

new report, published by Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), documents ineffectiveness, endemic abuses, and high costs in youth prisons throughout the country. The report systematically reviews recent research in developmental psychology and widespread reports of abuse to conclude that the youth prison model should be replaced with a continuum of community-based programs and, for the few youth who require secure confinement, smaller homelike facilities that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation…


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Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity: Leading the Way to a More Just Future

The Atlantic Philanthropies | October 25, 2016

Dismantling anti-black racism to advance fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies for all

The Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity is one of an interconnected set of fellowship programs – the Atlantic Fellows – launched by The Atlantic Philanthropies as part of the foundation’s final grants to empower new generations of leaders to work together around the globe to advance fairer, healthier, more inclusive societies. It is a 10-year, $60 million program to support courageous and creative leaders dedicated to dismantling anti-black racism in the United States and South Africa, two nations with deep and enduring legacies of racial exclusion and discrimination…


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Secretary-General Welcomes Selection of Manfred Nowak to Lead New Global Study on Situation of Children in Detention

Despite progress in the realization of children’s rights, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, too many commitments remain unfulfilled.  This is particularly true for children deprived of liberty, who often remain invisible and forgotten.  Most countries lack data on the number of children deprived of liberty and on the reasons, length and places of detention.  Detention of children may be decided by judicial, administrative or other bodies, including the police, military authorities, immigration officials, child protection or welfare bodies, health professionals and non-State actors, including in situations of armed conflict…



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