About Us

Brave Behind Bars is a college-accredited 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, and our 2023 program has grown to support 55 incarcerated men and women from 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.


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. Topics include Bootstrap, flexbox, CSS grid, responsive design, branching statements, loops, and functions.

The class includes dedicated lectures on presentation preparation 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

Project websites from students have covered issues including parole reform, gun violence, and addiction. Two publicly available websites from our 2022 cohort covered challenges and solutions to addressing Food Insecurity in the United States and High School Equivalency Programs. Further examples of capstone projets are embedded below.

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

Accrediting Partners

Upon successful completion of our program, our students receive college credit from one of the below accrediting partners.

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology

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.

Georgetown University

Our DC-based students are awarded college credit for Georgetown's Computer Science program.

Washington County Community College

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 2021 with the support of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT and MIT CSAIL, and incorporated as an independent nonprofit in 2023. Since then, Lee Perlman, Carole Cafferty, and Zia Faruqui have joined our Board of Directors, and we have been joined by two dozen affiliates who instruct and coach students.


Martin Nisser

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


Marisa Gaetz

Marisa is a 4th year PhD student in Mathematics at MIT. She works on solutions to mass incarceration via education and technology.


Emily Harburg

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


Lee Perlman

Lee Perlman is the Founder and Co-Director of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT. He has been teaching in correctional facilities since 2012.


Carole Cafferty

Carole Cafferty is a Co-Director of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT. She has over 30 years of experience working in correctional facilities.


Zia Faruqui

Zia Faruqui is a United States Magistrate Judge. He was previously a federal prosecutor in St. Louis and Washington D.C.



We are grateful for our amazing team of coaches, who bring a wide array of perspectives and professional experiences to the table. Our 2023-2024 coaches include undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members from various universities (including MIT and Harvard), professional software engineers, and formerly incarcerated graduates of our program.


Faraz Faruqi


Bilkit Githinji


Chris Hays


Jessica DeJesus


Parker Malachowsky


Veronica Nutting


Yashaswini Makaram


Georgy Guryev


Isabella Karn


Justin Wang


Ben Lehmann


Ufuoma Ovienmhada


Connor Leggett


Katrina Bridges


Nehemiah Emaikwu


Nikhil Vytla


Steven Johnson


Matthew Perron


Nisha Chandramoorthy


Christian Allinson


'Brave Behind Bars': Reshaping the lives of inmates through coding classes

August, 2023

This segment, shown on NBC and MSNBC Morning Joe, discusses the mission of our program and shows footage from a day of class at the DC Jail.

They're locked up in D.C. — and learning how to code from MIT

September, 2022

This article from The Washington Post highlights the perspectives of some of our students on the day of the 2022 final presentation webinar at the DC Jail.

Brave Behind Bars: Prison education program focuses on computing skills for women

January, 2022

This article from MIT News highlights Martin's perspective on our 2021 pilot cohort, which brought together 25 women from four correctional facilities across New England.

When prison education went virtual, an MIT program reached new incarcerated students

January, 2022

This article from GBH News explains how TEJI shifted to virtual education during the COVID-19 pandmeic, as well as how Brave Behind Bars arose from this tranisiton.

Contact Us

We would love to hear from you! Please fill out the form below.