Justice in Education

The Center for Justice recognizes Columbia’s location in the heart of mass incarceration in Harlem, New York City, and aims to do our part to end mass incarceration by extending the academic resources at the university to the formerly and currently incarcerated. 

The Justice-in-Education (JIE) Initiative is dedicated to bringing credit-bearing college courses, workshops, and creative projects to campus, local prisons, and at the Rikers Island jail complex. Our programs open channels of communication and collaboration between Columbia faculty and students, communities affected by incarceration, and the public at large for a more just and socially conscious system of higher education.

JIE is a collaboration between The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities and the Center for Justice. Thanks to the generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are developing Columbia's capacity to:

  • Provide opportunities for education and leadership development to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women, and to youth from communities at the heart of the incarceration crisis. The programs begin with high school programs through graduate degrees. To date, more than 350 students have completed courses for college credit.

  • Integrate the study of justice more fully into Columbia curricula in ways that prepare students to embody the justice and equality and to learn about translating their passion for social change into effective action. To do infuse service learning opportunities into curricula, we aim to enhance justice-related components of existing courses, developing new courses and areas of concentration, and provide opportunities to engage in justice research and advocacy.

  • Change public and political thinking about the importance of access to higher education for the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated. In partnership with other colleges and community organizations, we support evidence-based advocacy for higher education in prisons and jails and for people returning home.

The JIE Initiative also includes a Scholars Program, which offers funding to cover tuition, local travel to class, books, and other costs associated with those completing coursework through the Initiative.  We leverage resources on campus to provide support services as needed, such as writing tutoring, academic advising, and peer mentoring. The program also assists Scholars in connecting with social and psychological services. Students who successfully complete the JIE gateway course are encouraged to work with the JIE administration to discuss their future education plans, including taking further classes free of charge at Columbia.

By providing a gateway to the university for directly impacted, the JIE initiative provides the opportunity for individuals, who like many of the Center for Justice’s JIE graduates, grow and develop into scholars that serve as community leaders engaged in shifting the negative narratives of the formerly incarcerated.

To learn more about the Justice In Education Initiative click here.