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.
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 class includes dedicated lectures on CV writing, presentation 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.
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.
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.
Upon successful completion of our program, our Maine-based students are awarded college elective credit for WCCC's Computer Technology program.
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.
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.
"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."