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Who We Are

Kaia Stern, Co-Founder & Director

Kaia Stern is Director of the Prison Studies Project and visiting faculty at Harvard Divinity School and in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. Her work focuses on transformative justice, human rights and education in prison. Her first book, Voices from American Prisons: Faith, Education and Healing (Routledge, 2014) introduces the voices of people living, working and studying in U.S. Prisons and offers an analysis of penal confinement as well as avenues for reform. Kaia has taught at Sing Sing, Norfolk and Framingham prisons as well as Emory University, New York Theological Seminary, and the University of California. Her contribution to the Greenhaven Prison Program at Vassar College, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Vera Institute of Justice, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Interfaith Justice Project at The Riverside Church, Open Society Institute’s After Prison Initiative, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, Boston University’s Prison Education Program, Department of Justice’s Norval Morris Project and Truth Commission on Conscience in War has facilitated work with numerous schools and prisons in various states for the last eighteen years. Kaia is ordained as an interfaith minister, holds a doctorate in religion from Emory University, and a master’s of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School.

Bruce Western, Co-Founder

Bruce Western is Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. Western’s recent work has focused on the link between social inequality and the growth of prison and jail populations in the United States. His research finds that the penal system has become a common presence in the lives of poor Americans, with lasting effects on their life chances. As a quantitative social scientist, Western has also contributed to the use of Bayesian statistics in sociology. Western’s first book, Between Class and Market: Postwar Unionization in the Capitalist Democracies (Princeton University Press, 1997), examined the growth and decline of trade unions in capitalist democracies. In this volume, Western argues that unions declined in countries without centralized labor markets, union control over the administration of unemployment policies or strong working-class parties. In his second book, Punishment and Inequality in America (Russell Sage Foundation, 2006), Western asks what role incarceration plays in the increasing economic and racial inequality in America. He finds that rising rates of imprisonment among young black men without college education have caused a rift in African American society, and that those with less education are increasingly separated from those with higher education. The book also studies the key social and economic effects of mass incarceration: serving time in prison reduces earnings, skews statistics on wages and employment, and destabilizes families.

Catherine Sirois, Project Coordinator

Catherine Sirois is Project Coordinator of the Prison Studies Project and a research assistant at Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.  Catherine graduated from Harvard College in 2010 with a B.A. in Sociology.  Her undergraduate work focused on inequality and prison studies in the United States, with particular attention to the social consequences of mass incarceration.  As a student, she participated in the Prison Studies Project’s first class behind bars at MCI Norfolk in 2008.  Catherine has also worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone, where she assisted with the implementation of early childhood programs, and The Doe Fund, where she collaborated with Harvard professor Bruce Western on an evaluation of program effectiveness.  Most recently, she spent a year contributing to social justice initiatives in Uganda and Senegal.