Finding Freedom After Incarceration Through Education and Advocacy

Center for Justice staff member, Jarrell Daniels, journey to the Ivy league was featured on the General Studies website.

Jarrell Daniels, a New York native and formerly incarcerated teenager, enrolled at the Columbia University School of General Studies during the fall of 2019, not too long after completing a six-year sentence on Rikers Island. Since his release, Daniels has become a prominent advocate for criminal justice reform through public speaking, research, and mentorship efforts.

To read the full article click here.



LANGUAGE CONFERENCE *Recap, Videos, and More*

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the first annual justice conference for the From the Inside Out project. Hosted by Sue Fearless, founder of Fearless Women and Pastor Isaac Scott, the inaugural event explored linguistics and popular language that is used as a means of dehumanization. We appreciate you for spending the day with us, and to the many who tuned in via livestream.  

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2019-20 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.


The priority application deadline is Monday August 19th.  After that we will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until Monday August 26th.

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

To Apply

Email your application materials to:

Application Process  

  • July 17th: Application Period Opens
  • August 19th: Priority Application Deadline
  • August 26th: Application Period Closes
  • August 22nd- August 30th – Interviews
  • September 7th: Accepted Applicants are Notified
  • September 20th: Fellowship Starts

Tentative Fellowship Calendar

The Fellowship meets most Thursday nights from 6:15-8:30pm starting September 19th going through to early April 2nd. 

Fall Dates

  • September 19th
  • September 26th
  • Oct 4th – Oct 6th: 3 Day Opening Retreat
  • October 10th
  • October 17th
  • October 31st
  • November 7th
  • November 14th
  • November 21st
  • December 5th
  • December 12th

Spring Dates

  • Saturday January 11th – Day long Conference Planning Retreat
  • January 16th
  • January 23rd
  • January 30th
  • February 6th
  • February 13th
  • February 20st
  • February 27th
  • March 5th-8th:  Beyond the Bars Conference
  • March 12th
  • March 26th
  • April 2nd: Fellowship Graduation
  • April 10th-12th: 3 Day Closing Retreat

Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Featured in The Crime Report Magazine

When These Young People Speak, NYC Justice Officials Pay Attention

The first eight-week program brought together a range of young New Yorkers—some formerly incarcerated—and New York City officials, law enforcement included, to collaborate in creating criminal justice reform policy proposals.

The co-founder, Jarrell Daniels, 24, modeled the program on the Inside Criminal Justice program–a partnership between the Manhattan DA’s Office, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and Columbia University, in which he took part toward the end of a six-year prison sentence he began at age 18.

Daniels observed that he had never had a constructive interaction with law enforcement officials until after he went to prison. “I started JAYC so that these interactions could happen before that, especially for black and brown youth in New York City,” he told the group.


Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Grand Summit

New Columbia Initiative Brings Together New York Criminal Justice Officials with Local Youth to Address Issues of Mass Incarceration

Jointly authored policy proposals to be presented at Columbia University’s Inaugural Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Summit on June 11th

In an effort to change current juvenile justice policy, the inaugural Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Grand Summit seeks to address some of New York City’s most challenging community issues surrounding mass incarceration.

The Justice Ambassadors Youth Council was developed by Jarrell E. Daniels in collaboration with the Center for Justice at Columbia University, Friends of the Island Academy, Brooklyn Outreach Network, New York Trinity and New Directions High Schools, as well as city officials from numerous city agencies

Mr. Daniels, Columbia University Justice-in-Education Scholar, Open Society Youth Activist Fellow and Annie E. Casey Youth Advisory Council Member, envisioned the Justice Ambassador program as a way to bring policy makers together with community members to improve the social challenges around issues of mass incarceration.

Justice Ambassador participants will be presenting projects they have developed over the course of an eight week program of joint seminars between the local young people and City officials.  The co-authored policy proposals show promising signs for future dialogue involving directly affected populations in shaping the policies that govern their communities.

Daniels, who is formerly incarcerated, was inspired to create the Justice Ambassadors program after spending time in a classroom alongside prosecutors during his time in prison. As he discussed in his recently aired TED Talk, it was through this experience that he came to believe that, “through education we will arrive at a truth that is inclusive and unites us in a pursuit of justice”.

The Justice Ambassadors Program components include:

  1. Personal Change – participants identify an aspect of themselves they wish to change.
  2. Community Change – students present at NYC youth centers to advocate for community change.
  3. Social Change – students and city officials co-author policy proposals to improve adverse social conditions.

Tuesday, June 11 marks the final component of the Justice Ambassadors Program, when the inaugural group of 10 youth participants present their co-authored proposals with officials from the Bronx Borough President’s Office, Department of Probation, NYPD, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorney Offices.

Please join us to witness the beginnings of a historic change in public policy developed in collaboration with the communities that are directly affected by it.

Event Details:

Justice Ambassadors Program Graduation and Policy Presentation | June 11th | 5-7 pm | Columbia Law School – Jerome Greene Hall Room 106 – 456 W 116th St. NY, NY 10027 | Press welcome | Invite Only

To confirm your attendance at this event please email: Geraldine Downey at

Click here to download a copy of the Justice Ambassadors Grand Summit press release.

Request for Proposals: Language in Justice Conference

The Center for Justice at Columbia University and The Confined Arts presents From the Inside Out: The Power of Language to Incarcerate, a one-day justice conference in New York City that will meet and resist linguistic methods of dehumanization, which foster implicit and explicit biases about people in the criminal justice system.The mission of the conference is to explore the attachment of labels used to describe individuals with justice system contact, which are coupled with negative imagery, and provide re-humanizing counter narratives using the power of storytelling to highlight true-lived experiences. More specifically, the audience will engage with stigmatized labels coupled with (mis)representative imagery and be given a historical context of how labels foster misconceptions about incarceration and the people that are incarcerated.

We are now accepting applications for:

  1. Break-Out Session Facilitator: We are looking for individuals to engage with and promote discussion amongst conference participants on the negative impact of labels and marginalization.
  2. Organizational Information Blitz Facilitator: We are looking for individuals to share information about their social justice work and discuss how they believe labels negatively or positively impact that work.
  3. Spoken Pen Performing Artist: We are looking for performing artists to perform “Spoken Word”, a creative writing project produced by four condemned prisoners from the State of Arkansas.


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TED Salon featuring Jarrell Daniels, Justice in Education Scholar

Our colleague, Jarrell, an Open Society Youth Activist Fellow, Annie E. Casey Youth Advisory Council member and Justice-in-Education Scholar at Columbia University, is now featured by national non-profit powerhouse, ‘TED’ for his recent TED Talk: Education Everywhere. In his talk, Jarrell promotes the advancement of joint educational experiences that build functional bridges between incarcerated people and those entrusted to govern our criminal justice system.

Jarrell himself spent six years in prison where he was enrolled alongside prosecutors in a unique class called Inside Criminal Justice. The seminar course, a combined effort between the Center for Justice at Columbia University, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the District Attorney of New York (DANY) Academy, continue to inform Jarrell’s  work since his release.

Congratulations Jarrell!



Research and Film Volunteer Opportunities 2019-2020

Research Opportunities

The Center for Justice is looking for Research Assistants to work within different sectors of the From the Inside Out project, which is an action-research-based multidisciplinary project that advocates for the use of humanizing language and representative imagery and depictions of people in prison to decrease punitive triggers in the US criminal justice system, as well as to change the existing negative narratives of people in prison and those formerly incarcerated. The core hypothesis of this project is that the widespread pejorative labels and depictions of people touched by the criminal justice system—in both real life and the media—dehumanize incarcerated populations. This tendency contributes to the maintenance of punitive attitudes, abusive penal policies, a general desensitization to prison malpractices and, ultimately, a reluctance to the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society. Thus, targeting negative label use and misrepresentations of people in prison could have the impact of reducing dehumanization and its detrimental consequences for the lives of whose who are or have been affected by the prison system.



Justice Scholars Video Series

Justice in Education Scholar program will be producing short documentaries for the Justice-In-Education website. The aim of these videos is to highlight both the individual work and successes of past and present scholars, and some of the unique experiences of the JIE program itself. We hope these will not only showcase the strength of the program, but serve as an extension of its objectives by offering a platform for scholars to shape their public presence in new ways.

The videos will be approx. 3-5 minutes in length, requiring about 2 hours of your time for filming. Content will include your conversational responses to a series of off-camera prompts/questions, and if possible, feature documentary-style material which could show some of your interests, current projects, or social justice work. The videos will be published on the JIE website, with a link that can be easily shared via email and social media as you like.

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Beyond the Bars 2019 Recap: Videos, Programs and More

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 9th annual Beyond the Bars Conference, this year focusing on the incarceration and criminalization of women and girls, as well as their families and communities, inclusive of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.  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!





  • Coming Soon!