Beyond the Bars 2020 – Call for Artists


This year’s Beyond the Bars conference (March 5-8, 2020 in New York City) aims to explore the issue of strategies in challenging a carceral society. 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.

Beyond the Bars seeks to highlight the work of creatives that speaks to the mission of Beyond the Bars 10: Freedom Plans. If you are interested in sharing your art…

Apply here:

Application Due: February 7, 2020

Art Gallery: March 7-8
Open Mic: March 8 during lunch break

For questions or concerns, feel free to email [email protected]

Unfortunately, Beyond the Bars is unavailable to cover travel or provide an honorarium at this time.

If you are a performer that is unable to make the open mic but would like to be considered for future events, feel free to email [email protected] to be added onto a database.

Beyond the Bars 2020 – Request for Proposals

Beyond the Bars 2020
Freedom Plans: Strategies for Challenging a Carceral Society

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

The Beyond the Bars Team

Women Transcending Collective Leadership Institute – Apply Now!


The Collective Leadership Institute is inspired by our radical hope to strengthen the leadership of formerly incarcerated and directly impacted women, and expand their capacity to contribute to the women’s justice movement to end mass incarceration.

The Women Transcending Collective Leadership Institute (CLI) offers leadership development that includes:

Capacity Building
Legislative and Advocacy Tools
Community Organizing
Communication Skills

It also includes the history of different women’s movement, healing practices, and Participatory Action Research that will flow throughout the year.

One year commitment includes:

  • Three- 4 day in person learning sessions (Thursday evening through Sunday noon – dates TBD)
  • Two Beyond the Bars Conferences
  • Location: NYC – Center for Justice
  • Two webinars

The learning sessions and Beyond the Bars Conferences will take place in New York City.  The CLI is open to people from across the country.  All travel to New York City is paid for.

To Apply: 

If you are interested in becoming a part of the second cohort of CLI and want to be considered, please fill out the attached application and return to Latisha Morris at [email protected] no later than January 17, 2020. 

Collective Leadership Application



Learn How to Code: Free Columbia Program for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals




Justice Through Code (JTC) is a coding bootcamp that will serve as a gateway for formerly incarcerated individuals to explore potential careers in the technology sector. Taught over the course of ten weeks on Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, it will cover curriculum, developed by Professor Mattan Griffel of the Columbia Graduate School of Business, which focuses on teaching the fundamentals of programming in Python, as well as providing soft skills training and networking opportunities. Python is a popular programming language used by companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, and Reddit. It is used for all sorts of things like building websites, web scraping, data analysis, machine learning, and natural language processing. Python is designed to be easy to read and use, while still being very powerful, which makes it a great language for beginners to learn.


Click here to APPLY NOW

Throughout the course, various industry professionals will visit the classroom to familiarize participants with the technology industry. JTC will provide training and support from an industry-renowned soft skills specialist to assist participants in becoming competitive job applicants. It will include: resume assistance, interview prep, and personal narrative development.

Justice Through Code is a partnership between the Center for Justice at Columbia University, and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at the Columbia Graduate School of Business.

The class will begin on Tuesday, February 4th and will meet Tuesdays and Fridays from 6:00 – 9:00 pm, on the Columbia University Morningside Campus. Students will be expected to participate in office hours during the program and will be required to complete at-home video lessons and coursework in order to receive a certificate of program completion.

Program Completion Certificates will be provided by the Columbia Graduate School of Business.

Requirement for Participation:

  • Familiarity and comfort with basic computer skills
  • An email address or phone number for contact
  • Ability to attend all in class sessions


Program Details:

  • Our program is completely free for students


We encourage students to reach out to us if they want to apply but have concerns about their ability to participate or attend class session for any reason.

Click here to APPLY NOW

For more information about Justice Through please contact:

Aedan Macdonald – Program Manager – [email protected]

Beyond the Bars 2020 – Save the Date!

We are excited to announce the dates for Beyond the Bars 2020!

Save the Date!
Beyond the Bars
March 5-8, 2020

Mark your calendars! Join us for the 10th annual Beyond the Bars Conference where we will continue to convene, connect and build movement work to end mass incarceration and criminalization.  As in years past, the conference will be an extended time and place where issues of strategy are discussed, differences debated, mobilization around key issues takes place, and community is built and maintained. We look forward to seeing you in March!

Finding Freedom After Incarceration Through Education and Advocacy

Center for Justice staff member, Jarrell Daniels, journey to the Ivy league was featured on the General Studies website.

Jarrell Daniels, a New York native and formerly incarcerated teenager, enrolled at the Columbia University School of General Studies during the fall of 2019, not too long after completing a six-year sentence on Rikers Island. Since his release, Daniels has become a prominent advocate for criminal justice reform through public speaking, research, and mentorship efforts.

To read the full article click here.



LANGUAGE CONFERENCE *Recap, Videos, and More*

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the first annual justice conference for the From the Inside Out project. Hosted by Sue Fearless, founder of Fearless Women and Pastor Isaac Scott, the inaugural event explored linguistics and popular language that is used as a means of dehumanization. We appreciate you for spending the day with us, and to the many who tuned in via livestream.  

Continue reading

2019-20 Beyond the Bars Fellowship – Apply Now!

The Beyond the Bars Fellowship offers students and community members an interdisciplinary leadership development program to develop and deepen their identity, analysis, skills and network towards ending mass incarceration and creating a more just and safe world. Through seminars, workshops and guest lectures Fellows explore their own experiences and identities as people working for social change; gain a theoretical and practical understanding of mass incarceration; and are introduced to various models of social change including community organizing, legislative advocacy, messaging and communications and more.  In addition Fellows work together with the Center for Justice and the Criminal Justice Caucus to organize the annual Beyond the Bars Conference on ending mass incarceration and realizing social justice. The Fellowship is made up of both Students and Community members and our aim is to work collaboratively with the University and Community towards social change. 

Is the Fellowship Right for me?

We aim to bring together Columbia University students with the larger NYC community to create a diverse and rich learning environment that can be mutually beneficial to all Fellows. We encourage people impacted (directly and indirectly) by mass incarceration to apply. Please note that extensive experience is not a requirement.

What will you gain?

  • Leadership Development: Participate in regular seminars, workshops and guest lectures and deepen your understanding of yourself as well as develop your understanding of justice issues and your capacity to enact change.
  • Organizing Experience: Work collaboratively to help organize the annual Beyond the Bars Conference
  • A Community of Mentors and Colleagues: The Fellowship is an intentional and experiential learning community that will support your growth as a social justice advocate.

All applicants should meet the following:

  • Have a desire to be a part of group learning environment
  • Demonstrated enthusiasm for social justice.
  • Commitment to fulfill all requirements of the Fellowship

Columbia Fellows should be Current Columbia student enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate or graduate program.

Community Fellows are not enrolled at Columbia University. We encourage applicants who are not students or have not attended college to apply. Students from other colleges / universities are welcome to apply.


The priority application deadline is Monday August 19th.  After that we will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until Monday August 26th.

Application Materials

  • 1 page cover letter including:
    • Why you are interested in becoming a Beyond the Bars Fellow
    • What you hope to gain from the Fellowship
    • An assessment of your strengths and challenges
  • Resume / CV

To Apply

Email your application materials to: [email protected]

Application Process  

  • July 17th: Application Period Opens
  • August 19th: Priority Application Deadline
  • August 26th: Application Period Closes
  • August 22nd- August 30th – Interviews
  • September 7th: Accepted Applicants are Notified
  • September 20th: Fellowship Starts

Tentative Fellowship Calendar

The Fellowship meets most Thursday nights from 6:15-8:30pm starting September 19th going through to early April 2nd. 

Fall Dates

  • September 19th
  • September 26th
  • Oct 4th – Oct 6th: 3 Day Opening Retreat
  • October 10th
  • October 17th
  • October 31st
  • November 7th
  • November 14th
  • November 21st
  • December 5th
  • December 12th

Spring Dates

  • Saturday January 11th – Day long Conference Planning Retreat
  • January 16th
  • January 23rd
  • January 30th
  • February 6th
  • February 13th
  • February 20st
  • February 27th
  • March 5th-8th:  Beyond the Bars Conference
  • March 12th
  • March 26th
  • April 2nd: Fellowship Graduation
  • April 10th-12th: 3 Day Closing Retreat

Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Featured in The Crime Report Magazine

When These Young People Speak, NYC Justice Officials Pay Attention

The first eight-week program brought together a range of young New Yorkers—some formerly incarcerated—and New York City officials, law enforcement included, to collaborate in creating criminal justice reform policy proposals.

The co-founder, Jarrell Daniels, 24, modeled the program on the Inside Criminal Justice program–a partnership between the Manhattan DA’s Office, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and Columbia University, in which he took part toward the end of a six-year prison sentence he began at age 18.

Daniels observed that he had never had a constructive interaction with law enforcement officials until after he went to prison. “I started JAYC so that these interactions could happen before that, especially for black and brown youth in New York City,” he told the group.


Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Grand Summit

New Columbia Initiative Brings Together New York Criminal Justice Officials with Local Youth to Address Issues of Mass Incarceration

Jointly authored policy proposals to be presented at Columbia University’s Inaugural Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Summit on June 11th

In an effort to change current juvenile justice policy, the inaugural Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Grand Summit seeks to address some of New York City’s most challenging community issues surrounding mass incarceration.

The Justice Ambassadors Youth Council was developed by Jarrell E. Daniels in collaboration with the Center for Justice at Columbia University, Friends of the Island Academy, Brooklyn Outreach Network, New York Trinity and New Directions High Schools, as well as city officials from numerous city agencies

Mr. Daniels, Columbia University Justice-in-Education Scholar, Open Society Youth Activist Fellow and Annie E. Casey Youth Advisory Council Member, envisioned the Justice Ambassador program as a way to bring policy makers together with community members to improve the social challenges around issues of mass incarceration.

Justice Ambassador participants will be presenting projects they have developed over the course of an eight week program of joint seminars between the local young people and City officials.  The co-authored policy proposals show promising signs for future dialogue involving directly affected populations in shaping the policies that govern their communities.

Daniels, who is formerly incarcerated, was inspired to create the Justice Ambassadors program after spending time in a classroom alongside prosecutors during his time in prison. As he discussed in his recently aired TED Talk, it was through this experience that he came to believe that, “through education we will arrive at a truth that is inclusive and unites us in a pursuit of justice”.

The Justice Ambassadors Program components include:

  1. Personal Change – participants identify an aspect of themselves they wish to change.
  2. Community Change – students present at NYC youth centers to advocate for community change.
  3. Social Change – students and city officials co-author policy proposals to improve adverse social conditions.

Tuesday, June 11 marks the final component of the Justice Ambassadors Program, when the inaugural group of 10 youth participants present their co-authored proposals with officials from the Bronx Borough President’s Office, Department of Probation, NYPD, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorney Offices.

Please join us to witness the beginnings of a historic change in public policy developed in collaboration with the communities that are directly affected by it.

Event Details:

Justice Ambassadors Program Graduation and Policy Presentation | June 11th | 5-7 pm | Columbia Law School – Jerome Greene Hall Room 106 – 456 W 116th St. NY, NY 10027 | Press welcome | Invite Only

To confirm your attendance at this event please email: Geraldine Downey at [email protected].

Click here to download a copy of the Justice Ambassadors Grand Summit press release.