Beyond the Bars 2019 – Save the Date

Save the Date!
Beyond the Bars
March 7-10, 2019

Mark your calendars! The 9th annual Beyond the Bars Conference of the Center for Justice at Columbia University will focus on women and girls: the impact of incarceration and criminalization on women and girls, their families and communities. The many struggles for justice, equity and safety led by women directly impacted by the criminal justice system will be at the heart of the conference as we create a space to design change.  Beyond the Bars 2019 will continue developing the collaboration between universities and the many ongoing efforts to end mass incarceration.

Inaugural June Jordan Fellows use the power of art to promote social justice, transcend barriers

The Center for Justice at Columbia University commemorated the work of the inaugural class of the June Jordan Fellowship at the Gavin Brown Enterprise in Harlem earlier this month.

The fellowship is named for June Jordan, a Harlem-born poet who used her art to promote social justice, and is funded by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. It is awarded each year to artists dedicated to social justice to encourage open workshops hosted by those artists and Columbia faculty and community members. Fellowship recipients also contribute to the Columbia University Rikers Education Program.

This year’s class of June Jordan Fellowship recipients were photographer Amanda Saviñón, songwriter Afika Nxumalo, and poet Aracelis Girmay.



Fall Trainings

We have a number of great trainings happening this fall all with the aim of supporting people who are advancing alternative approaches to justice, safety, healing and accountability. Please join us!

Responding Restoratively: An Introduction to Restorative Principles and Practices
with Sethu Nair and Cameron Rasmussen

November 2nd-4th, 2018
9:30-5:00pmColumbia School of Social Work
1255 Amsterdam AveThis is an introductory training to the principles and practices of restorative justice and restorative approaches to conflict resolution. Participants will learn the ethos of restorative approaches including underlying theory and values as well as experience and learn some foundational tools to respond to conflict and harm in a restorative way. Participants will learn how to facilitate restorative community building circles and less formalized restorative responses.


Full Circle: Reclaiming and Reconnecting to Our Restorative Practices
with Whitney Richards-Calathes

November 9th-11th, 2018
9:30-5:00pmColumbia School of Social Work

1255 Amsterdam AveThis three day experience is an opportunity for those who identify as a people of color to collectively explore restorative/transformative justice and circle practice and philosophy. It is an invitation to reconnect with our indigenous roots, our ethnic identities, and our cultural practices.  How do we ensure that restorative action is always in alignment with racial justice? How do we reclaim circle keeping as a cultural tool as well as an abolitionist stance? How can we embody transformations away from punishment as transformations away from white supremacy too?  This training will give tools and information, but it will also be highly experiential. All levels of experience with RJ are welcome, but this is an opportunity specifically for people that identify as people of color, that work predominantly in spaces with people of color.


The Empathic Facilitator: Leading A Transformative Group Process
With Piper Anderson

November 30th – December 1st

The Empathic Facilitator is a two-day training for anyone who leads groups and wants to develop the skills to lead a transformative change process. The principles and practices learned in this training can be adapted for a range of settings and groups whether you regularly facilitate workshops, team meetings, or offer one-on-one coaching.


Research Opportunities: From the Inside Out

People in prison, including those suffering from mental illnesses, are victims of mistreatment such as violence due to the use of excessive force and severe neglect in the form of moral exclusions and disengagement by prison guards and other staff  (Haslam, 2006; Blackler, 2015; Gullapalli, 2015), as per correctional policy. This mistreatment is not conducive to a successful reentry back into society. The US rate of recidivism in 2014 was 76.6% compared to Norway’s 20%. This difference is attributed to Norway’s implementation of the concept of “restorative justice” (Sterbenz; 2014). This concept prioritizes the humanization and rehabilitation of people in prison. Acknowledging their humanity and treating people in prison as PEOPLE instead of irredeemable and unworthy of acceptance (Dreisinger; 2016). Despite the above research, existing information, and efforts made by activist and organizations lobbying against these conditions, the inhumane treatment continues to occur (Blackler, 2015). This would suggest that a larger constituency remains compliant with, and/or ignorant to, these abuses.



Columbia Journal 57: Call for Submissions from Incarcerated Writers

Community Outreach Program

Columbia Journal’s Community Outreach Program aims to maintain and sustain space for those writers from vulnerable and at-risk communities who have traditionally been excluded from the larger literary discussion of art, taste, and scholarship. The outreach program actively questions and challenges our formal thinking about what we consider “good writing”, who we consider “serious writers”, and whose stories we read in literary magazines.

Download Columbia Journal 57_ Call for Submissions from Incarcerated Writers (3)



Columbia Journal wasfoundedin1977bystudentsintheC olumbiaUniversitySchoolofthe Arts Graduate Writing program. Since then, we’ve featured work from Nobel laureates and unknowns, National Book Award winners and newcomers. Our past issues have included writers such as Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, Kara Walker, Mary Karr, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Today, Columbia Journal publishes both in print and online,, seeking to showcase the best poetry, nonfiction, fiction, translation and visual art on both platforms. The print edition, published each spring, is a combination of solicited work and the best of the submissions we’ve received—including the winners of our annual winter contest. Online, you’ll find reviews and interviews with writers and artists, as well as the same caliber of original, vibrantly creative work that the print edition is known for.

PRI to co-organise conference on women in prison ft Dr. Kathy Boudin

Penal Reform International and the Vance Center are co-organising a conference on Women in prison: evidence, advocacy and reform, in Bogota from 5–7 September 2018.

The conference will bring together 45 women prisoners’ rights advocates from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe to share information about conditions of women’s imprisonment in their respective countries and regions and build capacity for improved and collaborative monitoring, reporting and advocacy regarding such conditions. Participants will include academics, grassroots advocates and international experts on women’s rights and women’s imprisonment, including formerly incarcerated women. The workshops will explore themes such as the growing trend of women’s imprisonment around the world, the international legal framework regarding women’s imprisonment, improving conditions for women in prison, research methods on women’s incarceration, and strategies for effecting change. Key speakers will include Dr. Kathy Boudin, Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Justice at Columbia University, and Roger Juan Maldonado, President of the New York City Bar Association.



Remembering Justice-in-Education Scholar Richard Lynch

by Nicole Callahan

At the end of William Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, the brilliant, powerful, and deeply complicated Cardinal Wolsey comes to a critical moment of self-recognition. He meditates there on the cruel and paradoxical cycles of the life of man, how “to-day he puts forth / The tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms, / And bears his blushing honours thick upon him; / The third day comes a frost, a killing frost, / And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely / His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root, / And then he falls” (HVIII, III.ii).

Richard “Rick” Lynch, one of our deeply beloved Justice-In-Education Scholars, passed away on July 3, 2018. Home for just over a year, he had completed Humanities Texts, Critical Skills with great success, and was enrolled in University Writing and University Studies for the summer session, approaching the course and the work with his usual dedication and commitment. Rick had also earned his parole on June 14th, ten days before his 49th birthday on June 24th.

By any definition, as Shakespeare wrote, Rick’s “greatness [was] a-ripening,” and the devastation in our community over his loss speaks to the incredible impact he had on each of us. Rick was an essential part of our JIE family. At the beginning of our class, Rick wasn’t quite sure, as a fellow scholar remembers, “about all this ‘Columbia Shit.’” Quickly, however, he transitioned from, in another student’s words, from the guy who “chewed gum at the back of class… to the scholar whose perspective I was always eager to learn from.”

He was always early to class, and he and I would sit there across from each other, on the hard benches in the hallway of Philosophy, talking about his deep revulsion at the actions of Humbert Humbert, or how many years the most recent writing assignment had taken off his life. Sometimes he’d tell me an inappropriate joke, or ask me a question about Columbia, or about my life, and then we’d go in to class. As many times as I tried to get him to sit next to me at the table, he liked his corner by the door, his book on his knee.

Rick was the Greek chorus of our class, the brave and honest man who would never back off from confronting us with ideas we might be trying to avoid. We could count on Rick, as a classmate put it, for “his hilarious bluntness, for saying the things we were all thinking, but were too embarrassed to say out loud.” Even when he knew that what he had to share would be unpopular or controversial, he shared it with grace, with care, and with humor.

I know that, just as he was to me, Rick was incredibly thoughtful and generous and loving with everyone, a deeply soft-hearted man underneath his gruff exterior. He’d notice when anyone even quietly cleared a throat in class, and then, as a classmate said, “he proceeded to offer me cough drops every single class after that, and sometimes even gave me several handfuls of them or brought an extra bag just for me. I am finding cough drops all over the place until this day.” He often brought bags of snacks to class, passing them off to another student to bring in because he didn’t want the credit or the attention. Another JIE scholar who had just come home was looking for a job in the music industry, and Rick, as soon as he found that out, called up old contacts and set up a job for his fellow student.

Rick was also, in the words of one of his classmates, both “unbelievably candid and so, so enigmatic. It’s those juxtapositions—the fact that you can’t quite figure him out, but still understand him—that makes Rick so special. I’ve never met anyone like him in my life—someone with absolutely no filter, but absolutely no ill will in his heart.” As well as we thought we knew him, as much as he let us in, there was still so much we didn’t know and so much he didn’t share. But the one place he never held back was in showing his love for and appreciation of this community that we all built together.

And because he would have laughed and grimaced at me for including even more Shakespeare, for too much emoting, and for going on at length (like one of my overwhelming e-mails), I’ll end with this blessing from Act IV, scene ii of Cymbeline:

Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun
Nor the furious winter’s rages;

Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta’en thy wages…

Fear no more the frown o’ th’ great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke…

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor th’ all-dreaded thunder-stone;

Fear no slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan…

Quiet consummation have,
And renowned be thy grave.

If you have memories of Rick to share, or would like to see what his classmates of have shared, please click here.

Image Credit: Alexandra Zarins Rolls

The Social Dilemma of the Youth: The Youth Crisis in NYC

Jarrell Daniels

Bronx Community college Panel

The Social Dilemma of the Youth: The Youth Crisis in NYC

Far too often society fails to adhere to the outcry our young people. They are the ones being under represented and under resourced. Our youth flow through life in silence, unheard in their public plight for attention. There has been a pre-existing power dynamic in America that pertains to the youth. The youth are not being included in community affairs, and social change initiatives have yet to feature the younger generations perspective. Young people are faced with more challenges due to technological advancements, advanced academic standards/curriculum, changing family structure, and accessibility to community programs and services. Social policies have been implemented that adversely affect young people. Upcoming generations of children have adapted all these new social customs.

The margin of understanding the plaguing dilemmas of the youth has not been met on common ground. Furthermore, minority youth, suffer the peer influence of social media and open encouragement of gangs. Failing education systems, lack of community involvement, and sense of social accountability, ultimately lead to imprisonment. Academic institutions are failing to cultivate the attention of young people in order to effectively meet their needs.  Parents are left trying to re-configure a healthy method to encourage and motivate their children. Peer youth advocacy has been my way of leading the charge for bringing the voices of the disenfranchised youth to the forefront of social justice. Building youth leadership, training through academia, socio-political awareness and providing community intervention are starting points I feel we as a society need to engage the youth.


DIG Member Christopher Medina-Kirchner creates “Formerly Incarcerated Reintegration Science Training (FIRST)” program

The Formerly Incarcerated Reintegration Science Training (FIRST) program helps integrate formerly incarcerated students into graduate school. This is accomplished by providing a sense of community to program participants while they are trained to conduct scientific research and prepare for a career in academia. Although participants come from diverse fields, all research projects have a social justice focus.

While in the program, participants are provided with a multitude of resources and mechanisms to assist in their professional development. Formerly incarcerated mentors help students design their projects, develop career goals, build professional networks, while also providing advice and encouragement. Weekly workshops help participants improve their research and writing skills. As an incentive for completing the program, stipends are provided. Finally, participants will present their research at the FIRST Annual Program Symposium, gaining valuable experience in science dissemination.




It Does Take a Village

When Mayor Bill de Blasio established the NYC Children’s Cabinet—a multi-agency initiative designed to foster stronger working relationships among city agencies whose major responsibilities include, promoting children’s wellbeing—he did not anticipate being called the “Baby’s Mayor.”

Center staff members, Jay Holder and Geraldine Downey, were invited to visit the Cabinet’s Baby Shower at Roy Wilkins Parks in Queens on March 12. They were amazed at the atmosphere and to the initiative’s approach to child development. Jay explained, “It was like being back in a human development course. They not only offered games and gifts to mothers and children, but they also provided parents with critical information on child development that included vital factors such as nutrition, and readings on healthy development.” Jay further elaborated, “I left that shower realizing that I had to do more. When the organizers said they would be having another shower for mothers on Rikers Island, the empathy employed by government hugged me at my core, and I started sending pictures of the event to my colleagues and contacts.”

A contact at Nickelodeon was the first to respond to the invitation and agreed to participate at the event. On Tuesday, June 19th(Juneteenth), approximately fifty mothers and sixty children celebrated the essence of motherhood together with dozens of agencies and organizations, such as the Osborne Association and The Fortune Society. Jay added, “I know that Chirlane McCray is out there attending most of the events, being hands on with the families, but I have to give a nod to Bill for understanding the need for this initiative, and the long-term significance these courses of actions have on the lives of others. For that, he is not just the mayor, he is the Baby’s Mayor.”