Beyond the Bars 2020 - Request for Proposals

January 27, 2020

On our 10th year of the annual Beyond the Bars Conference, we are excited to gather with a broad range of activists, organizers, practitioners, students, educators, faculty, impacted people and community members, to grapple with movement building strategies for challenging a carceral society.

We are also excited to invite proposals for organizing workshops for Sunday March 8th.  You can click the link below to learn more about this year's conference as well as the request for proposals. 

About Beyond the Bars 2020


On our 10th year of the annual Beyond the Bars Conference, we are excited to gather with a broad range of activists, organizers, practitioners, students, educators, faculty, impacted people and community members, to grapple with movement building strategies for challenging a carceral society.  Decades of organizing and research have shown us that issues of incarceration and criminalization reach far beyond prisons, jails, police and the criminal legal system, and have created a society in which surveillance, criminalization, punishment, detention and incarceration have become a primary tool of governance and social control. Not just in the U.S., but increasingly internationally. We know that those at the margins, that include people of color, women, people who are undocumented, and people who are LGBTQ, are the most targeted, and their leadership is and has been central in our collective journey to a just society. 


This year’s conference, Freedom Plans: Strategies for Challenging a Carceral Society (March 5-8, 2020) aims to explore the issue of strategies in challenging a carceral society.  Our conference is now 10 years old, as is the book, The New Jim Crow.  While our movement legacy extends far beyond the past decade, in the past 10 years the movement against mass incarceration has grown significantly. While at the same time, the total number of people in jails and prisons in the U.S. has decreased very little. The movement challenging prisons, jails and police is larger than ever, and yet detention of people who are undocumented has increased, criminalization of activism is on the rise, and people across the globe are likewise challenging policies and systems of inequality, including prisons and police. The growth of the movement has birthed many possibilities, as well as many challenges. Today, and throughout history, our movement has catalyzed exciting and powerful efforts to disrupt both the roots and the branches of incarceration and criminalization. It is our hope that Beyond the Bars 10 will be a generative space to surface and explore where the movement stands today, discuss a range of strategic issues, and further our freedom plans towards transforming the society in which we live.


We hope that Beyond the Bars 10 will contribute to our collective movement efforts in the following ways:


  • Learn from the strategies and experiences throughout the history of our own movement and that of others

  • Surface and examine critical issues that our movement is currently facing, including differences in visions and strategies, the ever growing size and diversity of people and organizations within the movement, liberatory reforms, abolition, and more. 

  • Consider the role of electoral politics, the 2020 election, and people in positions of state power, in challenging a carceral society

  • Make visible the existing solidarity across movements and borders, and support new solidarities

  • Highlight and consider the role of particular movement efforts and strategies such as  participatory defense, jail closure, transformative justice, reparative justice, reform oriented prosecutors, ending death by incarceration and more.


Request for Proposals for Organizing Workshops 


Columbia University’s Center for Justice, the Beyond the Bars staff and the Beyond the Bars Fellows invite you or your organization to submit a workshop proposal for 2020 Beyond the Bars Conference.  


Sunday March 8th, 2020, the fourth day of the Beyond the Bars conference will feature a collection of organizing workshops. These sessions are designed to facilitate learning about relevant issues, skill sharing, and the development of tools for advocacy and organizing to actively engage in justice work. In addition to teaching new tools for advocacy and organizing, the intention is that workshops will connect participants to opportunities for continued engagement beyond the conference, in particular in grassroots campaigns. We are particularly committed to highlighting the voices and organizing led by: people of color, women, queer and transgender people, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, young people, and people directly impacted by incarceration and the criminal legal system.


We ask that workshops are: 


  • 75 minutes in length 

  • Is relevant to the conference theme, Freedom Plans: Strategies for Challenging a Carceral Society, and provides relevant information 

  • Is engaging through active participation from participants and or provides participants a tangible tools or resources 

  • Builds a generative space for ALL participants 


We are interested in proposals that facilitate learning about the issues, skill sharing, and the development of tools for advocacy and organizing around a broad range of issues related to challenging a carceral society. These include but are not limited to:


  • Strategies to build solidarity across movements and / or across issues 

  • Strategies to decrease the number of people incarcerated and / or criminalized

  • Building coalitions to organize, advocate and support people impacted by incarceration and criminalization

  • Campaigns and initiatives related to ending mass criminalization, incarceration and supervision

  • Approaches to prison abolition 

  • Restorative and transformative justice

  • Practices and tools that support a healing  for people who have been impacted by incarceration and criminalization 

  • Strategies to end the incarceration and criminalization of women and girls 

  • Organizing around the experiences and needs of LGBTQI, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people under correctional control 

  • Strategies to challenge immigration policies and supports for people who are undocumented 

  • Addressing and supporting people in the community who are impacted by the incarceration of family members 

  • Criminalization of survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and forced sex work

  • School to prison pipeline and the criminalization of young people

  • Participatory strategies like participatory defense, court watch, and participatory action research

  • Skills in community organizing 

  • Skills in legislative advocacy 


To submit a proposal, complete this form by 5 p.m. on Friday, February 7. 

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected].