Center for Justice receives grant from the NoVo Foundation’s Radical Hope Fund for new initiative, Women Transcending

The Center for Justice is excited to share that we have been granted funding from the Novo Foundation’s Radical Hope Fund for our newest Initiative, Women Transcending.

Women Transcending was developed by and for women impacted by mass incarceration. It is dedicated to ending the system of mass incarceration, criminalization, and retribution, replacing it with one centered on prevention and healing. Radical Hope funding will be used to support an education center providing the tools, training, skills, movement history, leadership development, peer mentoring, platform, and vibrant community that women need to become transformative social justice advocates. Participants will develop strategies to confront the criminalization of women, their families, and communities; support women returning home from prison; document the growth of directly impacted women’s leadership, and ultimately change the structure of justice in the United States and beyond.

You can read more about the Radical Hope Fund and the other grantees HERE


We at the center for justice are proud to say we were invited to attend the “Vote for Justice” event held in Washington D.C. This red-carpet affair was a celebration of awareness, and a commitment to stopping mass incarceration. There was entertainment the likes of African dance, singing, and panel discussions. As the show ended, awards were giving to those who play the most significant role in our fight against mass incarceration. As the names were called, and people filled the stage to receive their awards, it is astonishing to sheer number of people who are actively in this fight with us. They are names you never heard, faces you won’t recognize. All are dedicated to change. If not for events like this, we wouldn’t know how massive a movement we are a part of. This event is evidence that people all over the world are awake. The next morning a breakfast conference was held. Here minds collided, and ideas emerged about voter awareness, and how to educate voters about the stance politicians have taken concerning policies that directly effect their community.



Marshall Project “Life Inside” by Robert Wright of the Center for Justice

Congratulations to our own Center for Justice Research Assistant, Robert Wright, who recently published his first essay on the Marshall Project’s “Life Inside” and Vice’s website.  Robert has been with the Center for Justice since being released from prison in March. Since then he has contributed not only as a research assistance, but also by aiding in creating curriculum for college courses inside prison. Along with his vivid articles and essays that depict his experience with the justice system, he his fully committed to showing how the power of education is a more effective means of altering one’s behavior than is incarceration.


Getting Out of Prison Meant Leaving Dear Friends Behind

By Robert Wright


Creative Time and the Fortune Society presented Bring Down the Walls featuring the Center for Justice



Every Saturday for the month of May, in an old firehouse in Manhattan, an event was being held to bring people together who shared the same urgency for ending mass incarceration and overall injustice in this country.  Panel discussions were held in the afternoons by different organizations and people who either play a vital role in creating change or have serious concerns about the state of our judicial system. Our Justice in Education Scholars, Jay Holder helped organize and present panel discussions that featured The Center for Justice at Columbia University. Prof. Geraldine Downey, Pastor Isaac Scott, Jarell Daniels, Robert Wright, and Dr. Claudia Rincon all contributed to discussions that centered around prison reform and the enormous effect higher education has on the lives of those incarcerated.



“The High Costs of Low Risk” report by The Osborne Association

Osborne Announces “The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population”


In The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population, the Osborne Association recommends immediate steps to stem the rapid growth of Americans aging – and dying –  behind bars and reduce the roadblocks older people face returning to society.

Even as crime is at national lows and 36 states have reduced imprisonment rates, the number of older adults in prison, many of whom require specialized medical care for age-related illnesses, has only continued to grow. By 2030, people over 50 will make up one-third of the US prison population, putting an unsustainable pressure on the justice system as a whole.



Daily News features Justice In Education Scholar Leyla Martinez

Leyla set to graduate from Columbia University inspires her son to apply to college

Justice in Education Scholars Receive 2018 Change Agent Award

The School of General Studies Student Leadership Awards are given to individuals that have distinguished themselves with their dedication to leadership and service to the School of General Studies and/or the Columbia University community.

2018 Change Agent Award is in its inaugural year and is given to a very select group of GS students who have made outstanding contributions through their dedication to equity, inclusion, and social justice to the School of General Studies and the Columbia University Community.

GS Student Leadership Awards Dinner on the evening of Tuesday, May 1 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Rotunda of Low Library.






Leyla Martinez is a first-generation student at Columbia’s School of General Studies, where she is a senior majoring in Human Rights. She is also the President/Founder of the Beyond the Box Initiative (BTB), which is an organization for current and prospective students who have been directly or indirectly impacted by mass incarceration. Ms. Martinez has spoken at different Law Schools around the country about the effects of incarceration on women, children and communities. She has also been invited to speak on panel discussions at The White House, Google, UCLA, YouTube, Columbia University and more. Leyla is a member of the first Justice in Education (JIE) cohort and the first JIE Scholar to be accepted into Columbia University. She is a Program for Academic Leadership and Service Scholar, Gilman Scholar, Joey O’Loughlin Scholar, Mother’s Day Scholar, Women’s Forum Education Fund Fellow, Beyond the Bars Fellow, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability Fellow and Women’s Independence Scholar.




Pastor Isaac Scott is a formerly incarcerated artist and activist. As the Program Director for The Confined Arts, he is a leader in promoting justice reform and prison abolition through the transformative power of the arts. Since returning to society, he’s combined fine art and graphic design with his passion for the arts to accomplish goals that could not have been achieved without such a socially valued means of expression. Isaac’s passion for equal human rights runs deep as a result of being directly affected by the criminal justice system and its disenfranchising nature.

Today, Isaac is a 2018 Change Agent Award recipient from the School of General Studies at Columbia University, where he currently studies film and media as a Justice in Education Scholar. Pastor Scott is also the Arts and Communications Coordinator at the Center for Justice at Columbia University. His work includes research, public speaking, and managing the center’s public outreach. Isaac is studying filmmaking to pursue his ambitions for producing content that honestly represents the true lived narratives of stigmatized people. He believes that art, in every form, is effective in changing perceptions and conquering stigma. Through lived experience, Isaac personally understands the need for realistic representations of individuals like himself, who’ve been convicted of a crime in the past. Isaac also understands the healing power of the arts; it’s influential enough to transform both the artist and the audience. He is now in a position to assist those artists following behind him and to use his creativity in many ways to continue educating and promoting change.


Center for Justice Director, Geraldine Downey Receives Presidential Awards for Outstanding Teaching by Faculty

The Presidential Teaching Awards were established in 1996 as a way to honor the University’s best teachers. They are conferred based on the original criteria for the awards for faculty and graduate student instructors. To receive this award is a great honor, as it demonstrates commitment to excellent and often innovative teaching as recognized by the entire Columbia community. Click on the menu links at left to learn more about the selection process and eligibility criteria for the faculty and graduate student instructor awards.