About Us

Brave Behind Bars, based out of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT, is an introductory computer science and career-readiness program for incarcerated people. Taught both online and in-person, our Summer '21 pilot cohort brought together 25 women from four correctional facilities across New England. In Summer '22, we expanded our program to include 40 men and women from six correctional facilities across the eastern United States. Together, our students develop skills in digital literacy, web design, and career-readiness, building websites to help address some of society's most pressing issues.

Highlights from our Summer '21 cohort's website showcase.

Why It Matters

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the incarceration rate in the United States has more than quadrupled in the last four decades. These high rates are partly caused by recidivism: those who are released from prison almost always return. Educational programs have been shown to drastically reduce recidivism, but educational opportunities fall below demand and often don't equip students with marketable skills. At Brave Behind Bars, we address this challenge by helping incarcerated people develop the technical skills and self-efficacy needed to thrive post-release.

Curriculum

Brave Behind Bars is designed to teach incarcerated students the fundamentals of webprogramming, building self-efficacy and digital literacy in the process. It has three main parts: core technical skills, career-readiness, and a capstone project.


Core technical skills
The curriculum teaches participants the fundamentals of HTML, CSS and Javascript. We also introduce students to Bootstrap and version control using Github.

Career-readiness
The class includes dedicated lectures on CV writing, presentation and public speaking. Students are also introduced to relevant technology-facing career paths by guest lecturers.

Capstone project
Students apply the taught material to build a website centered on addressing challenges to affect social impact in their communities. Topics include domestic violence and addiction.

Sample capstone projects

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WhyNow
Women In Recovery
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Stop Domestic Violence
There's Always Help
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Hey Sister!
Awareness to Action

Partners

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology

Upon successful completion of our program, our Massachusetts-based students are awarded college credit for BFIT's "Web Design 1" course, which is a part of BFIT's Computer Information Technology program.

Brave Course

Our curriculum was developed by Brave Course, a non-profit which specializes in running coding bootcamps for young women. Brave Course also helped provide teaching staff for our Summer '21 pilot program.

Washington County Community College

Upon successful completion of our program, our Maine-based students are awarded college elective credit for WCCC's Computer Technology program.

Our Team

Brave Behind Bars was launched by Martin, Marisa, and Emily in September 2020. Since then, we have been joined by two dozen affiliates who instruct and coach students.

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Martin Nisser

Martin is a 6th year PhD student in Computer Science at MIT. His work centers on democratizing technology, both hardware and software.

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Marisa Gaetz

Marisa is a 3rd year PhD student in Mathematics at MIT. She works on solutions to mass incarceration with TEJI via education and technology.

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Emily Harburg

Dr. Emily Harburg is a co-founder of Brave Course, an organization dedicated to helping women build coding skills for social impact.



Coaches

 

We are grateful for our amazing team of coaches, who bring a wide array of perspectives and professional experiences to the table. Our 2021-20222 coaches include undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members from MIT and Harvard, professional software engineers, and formerly incarcerated graduates of our program.

 
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Faraz Faruqi

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Bilkit Githinji

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Catherine Deskur

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Chris Hays

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Emily Mu

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Anthony Warnick

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Ishita Bhimavarapu

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Jessica DeJesus

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Joseph

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Liana Owen

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Linda Dolloff

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Linette Maliakal

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Parker Malachowsky

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Randi Williams

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Varshini Subhash

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Veronica Nutting

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Yashaswini Makaram

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Yena Paek

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Austin Edelman

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Lalana Kagal

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Amena Khatun

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Sandy Jean-Charles

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Anthony Bau

Sponsors

We are incredibly grateful for our sponsors, who make our work possible.

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Contact Us

We would love to hear from you! Fill out the form below, or contact us directly at bravebehindbars@mit.edu.