About Us

Our Work

Brave Behind Bars is an introductory computer science and career-readiness program for incarcerated women. Based out of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT, and taught both online and in-person, our Summer '21 pilot program brought together 30 women from four correctional facilities across New England. Together, our students developed skills in digital literacy, web design, and career-readiness, building websites to help address some of society's most pressing issues.

Why It Matters

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the incarceration rate among women is growing even faster than the rate among men. 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 women 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.



A sample of websites designed by the Summer '21 cohort will be published below in September 2021.

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

Operating out of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT, Brave Behind Bars was launched by Martin and Marisa in September 2020. Since that time, we have partnered with correctional facilities, accrediting universities, the education non-profit Brave Course, and have been joined by 8 MIT affiliates who help instruct and coach students.

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Martin Nisser

Martin is a 5th 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 2nd year PhD student in Mathematics at MIT. She works on solutions to mass incarceration with TEJI via education and technology.

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.