Beyond the Bars Conference 2023 Recap

April 07, 2023

Find photos, videos, and more from the 2023 Beyond the Bars Conference: Seeding Justice

The 2023 Beyond the Bars Conference: Seeding Justice brought together people, organizations and movements working on indigenous peacemaking, and restorative, transformative, healing and reparative justice to develop solidarity, share analysis, exchange strategies and practices, and together build power to create the world we need. BTB 2023 was an opportunity to learn about how people and communities are taking up these approaches in their own communities, about the tensions and possibilities of working in relationship to systems, and to build connections between and among those already doing this work.

On the left, a group of people gathering in front of a big teal sign that says "Seeding Justice"; in the middle, a picture of a black shirt that says "beyond the bars" on it; on the right, eople at a registration table with teal Beyond the Bars programs

Friday Night

We kicked off the weekend with a celebration of our Women Transcending Collective Leadership Institute (WTCLI). WTCLI offers leadership development for women impacted by the justice system that includes: capacity building, legislative and advocacy tools, community organizing, and communication skills. The celebration included the graduating fourth cohort and welcomed in the new incoming fifth cohort. Alum from previous cohorts were also in attendance.

Collective Leadership member standing in a line in yellow shirts on stage

We were also joined by Senator Cordell Cleare, CSSW Dean Melissa Begg, Chesa Boudin, and others from Kathy's family. Chesa led us in a tribute to his mom, Kathy Boudin, who co-founded the Center for Justice and the Collective Leadership Institute and was passionate about supporting women coming home from prison. 

On the left, a picture of Senator Cordell Cleare smiling with the audience behind her; in the middle, a photo of Chesa Boudin hugging Cheryl Wilkins; on the right, CSSW Dean Melissa Begg speaking at a podium

In line with Kathy's work to bring women home, we were joined by several women from New Orleans who were recently granted clemency. 

On the left, a Black woman with long brownish blonde hair and glasses smiling as she talks into a microphone on stage; in the middle a white woman with light blonde short hair and glasses on her head, with her hand raised smiling while talking in a microphone; on the right, a Black woman with short dark hair and glasses, waving to someone from the stage

This included Gloria Williams, aka Mama Glo, who was the longest serving woman in a Louisiana prison before she was released after 52 years of incarceration. She gave some inspiring words and led us all in a dance.  

A group of people dancing on stage, some dressed in purple and white feathered headdresses. One is holding a tamborine.

Our Right/Write to Heal group also performed a piece which included women currently incarcerated in Maine, who zoomed in for the event, and who participate in the writing group every week. 

On the right, a Black woman, holding a microphone and pointing to herself while speaking; in the middle, a group of women from Maine Correctional Facility on the screen in a Zoom call sharing their writing pieces; on the right, a Black woman with a hat on holding a microphone and looking down and smiling
wide shot of the room/audience with a group on stage in yellow tshirts and a screen in the background that says "Women Transcending Collective Leadership Celebration:


On Saturday, we gathered for three plenaries full of incredible panelists who shared about the indigenous roots of restorative justice, what we can learn from them, and what tensions, and possibilities, exist in our current restorative and transformatives practices. The day ended with a group of breakout sessions.

Morning Plenary #1: Indigenous Peacemaking and Indigenous Worldviews

Panelists: Judge Abby Abinanti, Yurok Tribal Court; Fania Davis, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth; Dr. Manulani Meyer, University of Hawaii West Oahu / Pu’uhonua Society; Rae Nell Vaughn, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

Moderator: Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks, Tlingit and Haida Supreme Court / Sovereignty 360 / Life Comes From It

Two women on a panel at a table smiling with microphones in front of them

Morning Plenary #2: Learning the Lineages: Indigenous Peacemaking, Restorative,Transformative and Healing Justice

Panelists: Cara Page, Changing Frequencies; Christy Chapman, Pueblo of Zuni; Mike Milton, Freedom Community Center; Armand Coleman, Transformational Prison Project

Moderator: Sethu Nair, Center for Creative Conflict Resolution / Hidden Water

A Black man holding a microphone sitting at table in front of an audience in a classroom with an interpreter on his left and the other panelist on his right

Afternoon Plenary: Seeding Justice: Possibilities, Tensions, and Contradictions

Panelists: Robert Yazzie, Navajo Nation; Mimi Kim, Creative Interventions; Kumi Akua Owusu, How Our Lives Link Altogether! (H.O.L.L.A!); Danielle Sered, Common Justice

Moderator: Martina Kartman, Collective Justice

A man sitting a table speaking into a microphone with two women to his right and one to his left


On Sunday, we started the morning with a tree planting ceremony to remember our beloved co-founder Kathy Boudin. We then convened one plenary about addressing harm within our own movements. We then had a series of breakout sessions which included many practicing restorative circles together.

A group of people sitting in chairs outside around a tree

Morning Plenary: Addressing Conflict and Harm in Social Movements

Panelists: Shannon Perez-Darby, Building Accountable Communities Consortium / Just Beginnings Collaborative; John Page, Black Prisoners Caucus / The Village of Hope

Man and a woman sitting at a table in front of an audience in a classroom
A panel of people in a classroom conducting a workshop with screens behind them that are Zooming in some currently incarcerated men to participate

Beyond the Panels

Throughout the weekend, we had a healing room available for people to relax, receive massages, ancestral tarot readings, and more. We also partnered with The Confined Arts on a poster exhibition with submissions from many artists including people directly impacted by incarceration, prisons, police, and punishment. View the artwork here. In the lower level, our partners H.O.L.L.A (How Our Lives Link Altogether) set up an interactive museum of the history of our movements which included an acknowledgment and libations for those we have lost. There was also opportunity for organizations to table and meet people who are interested in joining their work. 

On the left, a woman sitting at a table smiling with a cover on the table that says "New Hour"; in the middle a table with a stick on it and picture frame of two people smiling; on the right, a picture of a woman giving a chair massage in the healing room

Thank you to all who joined us for an incredible weekend, and especially to all of our volunteers, Columbia staff, and partners who made this event possible! Thank you to Echoes of Incarceration for live-streaming the plenaries. Thank you to CSSW Dean Melissa Begg and Columbia School of Social Work for allowing us to use the building. And to all of our sponsors for your support. 

Pictures are from Johnny Perez at