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Prison Studies Project


The Prison Studies Project, in collaboration with Boston University’s Prison Education Program and the MA Department of Correction, brings together students from Harvard and students in prison. Each is part of a curriculum for college credit; classes focus on urban sociology, race, ethics, and transformative learning.


The growth of America’s prison and jail populations over the last 35 years creates an array of new challenges for public policy and provokes a variety of questions about the quality of American democracy and citizenship. The Prison Studies Project conducts research to address these challenges and questions.


The Prison Studies Project aims to raise public awareness about incarceration in America, promote a perspective on criminal punishment that emphasizes its connection to racial, class and other socioeconomic disadvantages, and inject into the public conversation a discussion of policy alternatives.

March 6th – “Dying while Black & Brown” Dance Performance

Feb 23, 2015
Join us Friday March 6th from 6-8pm for Dying While Black & Brown, a dance performance about capital punishment performed by the Zaccho Dance Theatre from San Francisco. A post-performance discussion will feature Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. First commissioned by the San Francisco Equal Justice Society, Dying While Black and Brown focuses on capital punishment and the disproportionate numbers of incarcerated people of color. The piece was created by Zaccho Dance Theatre's Artistic Director Joanna Haigood in collaboration with renowned jazz composer Marcus Shelby. It was created in response to the Equal Justice Society's campaign to restore 14th Amendment protections for victims of discrimination, including those on death row.

Report by Brennan Center: What Caused the Crime Decline?

Feb 20, 2015
On February 12, 2015 the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law recently released a report entitled What Caused the Crime Decline? The report centers on two central questions: Why has crime fallen? And to what degree is incarceration, or other criminal justice policy, responsible? The findings reveal that decreasing rates of crime over the past two decades in America was not due to harsher criminal punishment policies or increased incarceration.

MacArthur Foundation Invests $75M to Reduce America’s Use of Jails

Feb 12, 2015
On Tuesday February 10th, 2015, the MacArthur Foundation announced a new $75M initiative to reduce over-incarceration in America's jails. This new Safety and Justice Challenge intends to "change the way America thinks about and uses jails." A comprehensive report by the Vera Institute of Justice, "Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America," revealed that not only has jail population tripled since 1980, but the cumulative expenditures related to building and running jails increased nearly 235 percent. This initiative hopes to ameliorate those very real human and financial costs.

Harrowing New Report on History of Lynching and Racial Terror in America

Feb 11, 2015
Yesterday, the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, released a harrowing new reported entitled "Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror." This comprehensive study of twelve Southern states documents the names of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” from 1877 to 1950.
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