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.


From Human Justice to Healing Justice, a report from H.O.L.L.A!’s Youth Organizing Collective



From Human Justice to Healing Justice: A Non-Traditional Approach to Youth and Community Development and Healing

In this report, H.O.L.L.A!’s Youth Organizing Collective outlines who we are, what legacies we stand on, lessons we learned from our movement praxis, and we believe are critical for sustaining a daily practice of Healing and Justice…


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!




Meet the 2017-18 Beyond the Bars Fellows


Hello Friends,


Please share this opportunity throughout your networks and specifically with currently and formerly incarcerated artists.

The Confined Arts is looking for new and existing artists to collaborate with the From the Inside Out project. Selected artists will be given the opportunity to create representational and abstract art that illustrates new narratives about people in prison and people returning home. This includes visual arts, performing arts, poetry, song, and dance. Media artists will be given the opportunity to utilize and experiment with various aspects of media production. ​In addition, artists who are selected will receive extensive social media publicity and promotion through press release acknowledgments, as well as a public profile highlighting their artwork on www.isaacsquarterly.com. Stipends for selected artists will range from $50 – $500.



Meet our 2017-18 Beyond the Bars Fellows

Our current Fellows come from many schools across Columbia (Social Work, Teachers College, Columbia Law School, and Columbia College), other colleges (Union Theological Seminary and New York University) and a variety of different community and government organizations (the Fortune Society, the Ford Foundation, the Safe Passage Project, the Sex Law and Policy Center, the Mayors Office of Criminal Justice, and Vocal New York).  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.




Beyond the Bars 2018 Conference: Register Now!

Just added to the Friday night line up is the First Lady of NYC. Yes, Chirlane McCray will be kicking off the event with opening remarks. 

Learn more about the First Lady at The Official Website of the City of New York




Join us for the 8th Annual Beyond the Bars Conference: Closing Jails and Prisons. Beyond the Bars brings together a trans-disciplinary group to advance the work of ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization and building a just and safe society.  This year we aim to contribute to the growing movement to close jails and prisons as a part of the larger struggle for decarceration. In particular, we will focus on elevating the efforts led by grassroots organizers that include people who are formerly incarcerated and directly impacted.

Join us as we work to deepen our collective analysis and advance  strategies for a just, equitable and safe society. We are happy to have Patrisse Khan Cullors joining us for our Friday evening event, Building the Movement!
Thursday March 1st 
Ending the Incarceration of Women and Girls
Columbia Law School

(Doors at 6:15pm – Event Starts at 6:30pm)

Friday March 2nd
Building the Movement: Conversations with Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Lerner Hall, Columbia University

(Doors at 6:45pm – Event Starts at 7:30pm)

Saturday March 3rd
Closing Jails and Prisons
Columbia School of Social Work

(Registration begins at 8:30am – Panels start at 9:30am)

Sunday March 4th 
Building the Grassroots 

Columbia School of Social Work
(Registration begins at 9:30am – Program starts at 10am)


The Arts & Culture Committee for the 2018 Beyond the Bars Conference invites you to show your original visual artwork as part of the 2018 Beyond the Bars Conference March 1-4, 2018 at Columbia University in New York City. Our mission is to end mass incarceration and to bring justice to communities affected by the carceral system. Each year the conference examines different aspects of mass incarceration and alternative forms of justice. This year the theme is “Closing Jails and Prisons” and we are seeking artwork that imagines a post-carceral world.

If you would like to exhibit for the 2018 Beyond the Bars Conference please email us at btbartsculture@gmail.com by 5pm February 15, 2018. In your email please include a PDF of the artwork(s) you would like to submit along with your contact information and a brief description of how your artwork contributes to visions of a world free of prisons and jails.

You can also fill out this form to provide us information about your submission:

Richard Roderick, Program Director for the Justice Scholars Program is featured in the Yale News

Film director John Lucas hoped to show jailed friends’ ‘complex humanity’


When two men who were once among the four Ohio restaurant robbers who gained notoriety as “The Cooler Bandits” took the stage at Yale on Jan. 30, many in the audience felt they knew them personally.

Before Richard “Poochie” Roderick and Donovan Harris made their entrance in the Whitney Humanities Center, the audience watched the nearly two-hour documentary film “The Cooler Bandits,” which follows their journeys and that of their other two friends — Charlie Kelly and Frankie Porter — through different stages of their incarceration and reintegration into society. The film is directed by John Lucas, who joined Roderick and Harris in a Q&A after the screening.



Columbia Justice Lab Shaping Justice for the Future

Too Big to Succeed

January 29, 2018

In this new report, some of the nation’s leading community corrections administrators discuss the consequences of the tremendous growth in probation and parole supervision in the United States over the past several decades. They argue that the number of people under supervision needs to be cut in half.

Originally designed as alternatives to incarceration, the authors find that probation and parole are a deprivation of liberty in their own right and have become key drivers of mass incarceration by serving as a trip wire to reincarceration for many of those under supervision…










Apply Now | Music Workshop: Pop & Social Justice Songwriting 101

Spring 2018 Music workshop: Pop & Social Justice Songwriting 101


About the workshop: This course will focus on the analysis and application of the elements of songwriting (rhythm, melody, lyrics, and structure) and how they work together to produce a finished, memorable composition. In informative lectures, supplemented by group discussions, collaborations, demonstrations, and professional feedback, we will learn the craft of songwriting and the role it plays in every popular genre. During the course, students will have the opportunity to learn from popular professional examples and engage with their classmates on subjects ranging from melody writing to social media branding. Each student will spend the semester developing an original song by his or herself, and will be invited to share it with the class. In addition, students will develop a song with classmates in a team exercise that teaches collaborative songwriting. 

Because of the nature of the course, students must be at least 15 years old and have a demonstrated interest in songwriting, performance, and/or the music industry. Although all applications will be considered, youth ages 16-18 in the Harlem area will be be giving strong consideration. The course will be held on Wednesday afternoons from 4:30-6:30pm on Columbia University’s campus.

To submit an application to join the course, please click here.


Application deadline: Tuesday, March 6th


Cost: Free


Course dates and times:

Wednesday, March 7 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, March 14 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, March 21 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, March 28 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, April 4 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, April 11 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, April 18 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, April 25 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, May 2 | 4:30pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, May 9 | 4:30pm-6:30pm


About the instructor:

Afika Nxumalo is a songwriter and artist who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Born to South African and Swazi immigrant parents in North Carolina, Afika administers his own songwriting school, hosts a travel series for Rolling Stone Magazine, and writes pop songs for major label acts.

As a teenager, Afika performed original pieces as an emcee and toured the world as a bassist in a hip-hop seven piece. The band earned the Best Unsigned Act award from Billboard Magazine, and Afika eventually moved to London where he was signed by a Universal Music subsidiary. He eventually returned to the US to sign with publisher BMG Chrysalis/Green & Bloom. His recent releases have earned praise from MTV, BBC, and charted on Spotify’s US Viral 50 Chart.

While touring and recording, Afika also enrolled in community college, earning his way to UNCG where he was a University Marshall– the top 1% of academic achievers– and eventually to UNC Chapel Hill where he was a finalist in the TEDxUNC student speaker competition. He is proud to join the inaugural cohort of June Jordan Teaching Artist Fellows at Columbia University.