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.

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 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.


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.

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

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


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 8 MIT affiliates who instruct and coach students.


Martin Nisser

Martin is a 5th year PhD student in Computer Science at MIT. His work centers on democratizing technology, both hardware and software.


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.


Emily Harburg

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



Ishita Bhimavarapu


Bilkit Githinji


Anthony Bau


Sandy Jean-Charles


Austin Edelman


Lalana Kagal


Amena Khatun

Student Testimonials

"This course showed me that I can do whatever I set out to do no matter how difficult it might seem."

"I realized I CAN do it as uncomfortable as I thought it was. It helped me believe in myself and my abilities."

"I feel like I have a whole new area of jobs that I am qualified for and that is a wonderful new insight."

"Before I realized it I had my own website that I coded, built, and designed myself."

"This course gave me a change of heart and a lot more confidence to use these new skills in my career."

"This is an amazing course to take if you are trying to make a social impact on a subject that means anything to you."


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



Contact Us

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