Justice-in-Education Informational Video

The seminar in 401 Hamilton Hall focused on classic literary texts, including Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Othello, and W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk. But this was no ordinary summer school class, and its students were not traditional collegians.

The four men and three women sitting around the wooden table with their professor ranged in age from their late 20s to early 40s— and all had served time in prison. The four-credit course was part of Columbia’s Justice-in-Education Initiative, a program supported by a three-year, $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide education to current and former prisoners. In addition to the summer program on the Morningside campus, Columbia professors and students teach classes at New York City’s Rikers Island jail and inside state prisons.