Beyond the Gates is an ongoing effort at Harvard to realize the broad mandate for education in prisons as a form of educational justice and a method for transforming higher education to better address the needs of a society that incarcerates more people than any other in world history.




Elizabeth Hinton is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Hinton's research focuses on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the 20th century United States. She is the author of the award-winning book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America, as well as articles and op-eds in the Journal of American History, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Review, and Time.


Garrett Felber is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Mississippi. He is the co-author of The Portable Malcolm X Reader (Penguin Books, 2013) with Manning Marable and is currently working on a manuscript titled "Those Who Know Don’t Say": The Nation of Islam, Black Nationalist Politics, and the Carceral State (University of North Carolina Press). Felber helped found Liberation Literacy, a racial justice group inside Oregon prisons, and spearheaded the Prison Abolition Syllabus.


Kaia Stern is cofounder and Director of the Prison Studies Project. Her work focuses on transformative justice and education in prison. Her first book, Voices from American Prisons: Faith, Education and Healing was published by Routledge (2014). Recognized as a national leader, she has facilitated work with numerous schools and prisons in various states for the last twenty-five years. She is currently a Faculty Fellow in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University and faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she leads the Transformative Justice Series.


Elsa Hardy is a doctoral student in African and African American Studies with a primary field in History at Harvard University. Her research interests include domestic labor, black family life, and the social history of mass incarceration. Elsa holds a B.A. in African American Studies and Hispanic Literature and Cultures from Wesleyan University. Prior to graduate school, she completed a Fulbright in Rio de Janeiro and worked as an on-site coordinator at the Wesleyan Univeristy Center for Prison Education (CPE).


Elizabeth Ross is a doctoral student in African and African American Studies with a primary field in History at Harvard University. In Fall 2018, she will begin working toward a J.D. at Harvard Law School. Her research interests include African American history, mass incarceration, and prison education. She graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A in African-American Studies. Elizabeth is the recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship and the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship.




TUESDAY    |    MARCH 6    |    6-8PM
Sponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center’s Mellon Seminar on Violence and Non Violence



Michelle Jones is a first-year doctoral student in the American Studies program New York University, and a Research Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. In addition to her scholarly work on women, race, and incarceration, Ms. Jones is an artist and a playwright.


Steven Hahn is a professor of history at New York University and a specialist on the history of the American South and the comparative history of slavery and emancipation. His book A Nation Under Our Feet received the Pulitzer Prize for history (2004). In fall 2017, Hahn taught a social foundations course, “Slavery, Race, and the Making of America,” at Walkill Correctional Facility through the New York University Prison Education Program (NYU PEP).


Jose Díaz is a Latino Studies major at NYU. As a student, he is seeking to discover the narratives that intersect between, race, class, and gender, and how these links could provide the nexus for social parity within social movements. Jose is also a student ambassador for New York University Prison Education Program (NYU PEP).


Paul Henry Grice is the Executive Director of Liberation Literacy, a vanguard to change oppression in Grice's home city of Portland, OR. He strives to encourage, strengthen, and give a voice to those forgotten about.


Catherine Sirois is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. Her research examines the relationship between social policy and poverty in the United States, particularly the consequences of criminal justice policy on health and wellbeing.


Darren Mack is a social justice advocate and activist. He graduated from Bard College through the Bard Prison Initiative with a degree in Social Studies in 2013. He is now a full-time graduate student studying Community Organizing & Policy at Silberman School for Social Work.


Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought.


MONDAY    |    MARCH 5    |    4-6PM
Sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research



The Reverend Vivian Nixon is Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship (CCF), an organization committed to removing individual and structural barriers to higher education for women with criminal record histories and their families. She is a co-founder of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO), a collaborative effort to increase access to higher education for justice-involved students.


Tyrone Werts holds a BA from Villanova University and is a founding member of the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program Think Tank, a partnership between Graterford Prison and Temple University. He currently serves as the International Think Tank Coordinator. Werts is founder and president of The Lifers Public Safety Initiative and sits on the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males.


Jay Jordan has worked at the intersection of social justice and politics throughout his career. He served as one of the lead organizers for the Campaign to Ban the Box for the city of Los Angeles and co-founded Faith in Action, a group of crime survivors in the Westmont area of Los Angeles working to transform their community. Jordan currently serves as the Second Chances Project Director at Californians for Safety and Justice.


Cheryl Wilkins is Senior Program Manager at Columbia University’s Center for Justice, where her work focuses on overcoming the damage that mass incarceration has left on families and communities. Ms. Wilkins has served as an academic counselor for the College Program inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, and as Associate Director for the College Initiative, a reentry program that assists men and women when they pursue higher education upon release.


Khalil Gibran Muhammad is professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He is the former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Khalil’s scholarship and teaching examines the broad intersections of race, democracy, inequality and criminal justice in modern U.S. History.



In 2011, following the release of a landmark report on the forgotten connections between Harvard University and slavery, President Drew Faust said: “Harvard must do its part to undermine the legacies of race and slavery that continue to divide our nation.” One of the most tangible of those legacies is mass incarceration. The Harvard Prison Education Program is an effort to grapple with this history.

Harvard University’s relationship to prisons dates back to 1833, when the Divinity School began sending tutors into local prisons. Ever since, members of the Harvard community have worked to improve and transform the conditions in the Massachusetts prison system. Most notably, in the 1920s, Harvard College alumni Howard Belding Gill developed the community prison -- an approach to incarceration that didn’t involve exploitative labor, striped uniforms, or solitary confinement. Gill realized his vision at the Norfolk Prison Colony, which he arranged like a college campus. Prisoners participated in cooperative self-government with staff. They ran a radio show, newspaper, and jazz orchestra. And they had access to an extensive library.

Yet of all the programs made available for prisoners at Norfolk, the debate team (which at one time included Malcolm X) was its most successful. By 1952, Harvard had participated in eight debates against the Norfolk team. By 1966, the team's' record was 144 wins, 8 losses. Despite these successes, cuts to educational programming in the late 60s forced the Norfolk Prison Debate Society to disband. In 2016, the Society was resurrected. On Wednesday, March 7th, as part of our programming for the “Beyond the Gates” conference, the Norfolk and Harvard debate teams will face off for the very first time since the Norfolk Debate Society’s revival.

Debate was just one way Harvard interacted with the prison. Beginning in 1934, a Harvard law professor helped create a student assistantship program in which graduate students spent a summer living, teaching, and learning at Norfolk. Renowned Harvard professors such as Gordon Allport and Richard Cabot also brought classes to the prison on a regular basis through the 1950s. Meanwhile, Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) began offering classes at Norfolk and the Framingham Reformatory for Women. The Phillips Brooks House has maintained a presence at both Norfolk and Framingham prisons ever since. Hundreds of students at both institutions have received instruction from PBHA tutors on subjects ranging from leathercraft to philosophy to comparative theology.

These important efforts of alumni, faculty, and PBHA stand alongside the university’s harmful relationship to incarcerated people. Harvard’s complicity in slavery is again mirrored in the exploitation of prisoners. During World War II, as scientists sought medical innovations for the American military, professors at Harvard Medical School injected cattle blood into Norfolk prisoners as a potential substitute for human blood plasma. The so-called “Norfolk guinea pig experiment” ended when these injections killed two people. And in the early Sixties, Harvard professor Timothy Leary led the Concord Prison Experiment which administered LSD to prisoners and college students.

Harvard’s educational offerings inside prisons had been largely been limited to student tutoring from 1833 until 2008, when Professors Bruce Western and Kaia Stern launched the Prison Studies Project. Western and Stern taught a sociology class at Norfolk, which brought twenty college students from Harvard’s main campus to Norfolk prison so that students could learn together. Stern went on to teach five more such classes -- three at Norfolk and two at Framingham -- before funding ran out.

President Drew Faust recently championed equal access to education as a civil right. “Education,” she wrote, “liberates the mind, even when the body is oppressed.” One way to realize this is to expand the rich tradition of Harvard education in Massachusetts prisons by offering accredited classes with Harvard and incarcerated students, and to commit to opening the campus to post-incarcerated students and staff. Today, Harvard is falling behind many of our peer institutions -- Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, NYU, and Wesleyan -- that offer university courses inside of local prisons. As Faust writes, “to open the gates” is “to close the gap.” Beyond the Gates is a call to realize this vision.


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