Geraldine Downey


Director, Center for Justice; Robert Johnston Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology – Columbia University.

Dr. Downey has worked on and taught about issues related to incarceration since the 1970s. This work included a study of the first cohort of youth placed on probation in Ireland, co-directing a Mother-Child Visitation at Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Michigan, and teaching in several prison college programs, including Sing Sing, Bedford Hills and Taconic Correctional Facilities in NYS.

Professor Downey has been chair of the Columbia Psychology Department, Vice-Provost for Diversity Initiatives, Vice-Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of Social Sciences. She is a member of the Faculty Working Group of the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, the Faculty Steering Committee of the Holder Initiative for Civil and Political Rights, and the University Task Force on Just Societies. She is a recipient of the American Psychological Association Mentor Award.

Her work on the causes and consequences of social exclusion and rejection is internationally recognized and she has received funding from NIMH, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the W.T. Grant Foundation. She is currently studying how identities of hope (e.g., the student identity) can transform the narrative about people deemed rejectable (e.g., people with a criminal conviction). For Geraldine’s talk on education in prison see:

Geraldine Downey’s Talk for Why Education Matters: Talks@Columbia.