BVR academics: Prison Reform Design Studio

Prison Reform Studio

Class: Theories of Justice & Open Challenges
Grade: 11th and 12th Grades
Teacher: Liz Latour and Yolanda Wilcox-Gonzalez

The Theories of Justice class and the Open Challenges class collaborated on a three-week Prison Reform Design Studio. The studio launched in late January with a trip to MCI-Norfolk, where—through the prison’s Project Youth Program— students heard from inmates and discussed topics like mental health access, prison reform, juvenile justice, rehabilitation, and dehumanization.

Going to the prison and hearing the stories was the most interesting part. Not only did it make the issues so much more real, but it also helped me create ideas for issues that I want to solve. — BVR student

After that trip, several criminal justice experts visited the classes to share additional perspectives:

  • Alkia Powell P’23, Boston District 5 City Council Candidate,  & Steven Tompkins, Suffolk County Sherrif, talked about youth violence prevention programs, incarcerated women, and rehabilitation.
  • Jodi Walker P’22 P’24, a former prosecutor, provided a view into criminal justice reform through the lens of the prosecution.
  • Meg Bergstrand ’19, ’21, shared her experiences volunteering at MCI-Concord, her work at the Massachusetts Correctional Center for Women, and her involvement with the documentary, College Behind Bars.
  • Professor Stephen Bright, currently a Harvey Karp Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, joined virtually to talk to students about his work with capital punishment, legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, conditions and practices in prisons and jails, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, and judicial independence
Alkia Powell P'23, Boston District 5 City Council Candidate,  & Steven Tompkins, Suffolk County Sherrif, talked about youth violence prevention programs, incarcerated women, and rehabilitation.
Steven Tompkins, Suffolk County Sherrif, and Alkia Powell P’23, Boston District 5 City Council Candidate.

Students were then challenged to identify an issue with the current prison model, come up with a solution, and create an actionable plan. They tackled topics like after-care, correctional officer training, drug policy and re-sentencing, prison design, and felon disenfranchisement.

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