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.
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.
Core technical skills
The class includes dedicated lectures on presentation preparation and public speaking. Students are also introduced to relevant technology-facing career paths by guest lecturers.
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.
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.
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.
Our DC-based students are awarded college credit for Georgetown's Computer Science program.
Our Maine-based students are awarded college elective credit for WCCC's Computer Technology program.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.