James Kirk

The Columbia School of Social Work

Dr. James has over a decade of leadership experience in various social service fields. He is a well-respected writer, educator, clinician, and speaker on issues pertaining to social justice. His primary research focuses on deconstructing issues of mass incarceration – specifically as it pertains to trauma, cognitive development, culpability, and the examination of systems that perpetuate racial injustice under the guise of the “criminal justice system”.

Dr. James recently founded and co-leads EVOLVE, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration through the utilization of transformative education. He completed his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2013. His dissertation titled, “The Invisible Epidemic in Social Work Academia,” examined the complex phenomena of mass incarceration through a historical and contemporary analysis. He concluded by developing curricula for Master level students to increase awareness, activism and holistic practice in the milieu. Courses developed from his dissertation have been implemented at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. During his doctoral studies at UPENN, Dr. James developed and directed the Goldring Reentry Initiative (GRI). The primary goals of the GRI are to reduce recidivism for individuals transitioning from Philadelphia jails, and to train clinical and macro level social work students to work with incarcerated individuals (pre and post release). The GRI then developed “Breaking Down Walls” – an annual conference held for activists, practitioners and community members in Philadelphia aimed at creating a dynamic dialogue to thus inform a socially just response to what Dr. James believes to be one of, if not, the greatest social-injustice issue of our generation.

Dr. Kirk Anthony James is also formerly incarcerated — He was entrapped as teenager, and sentenced to “Life in Prison” under the then New York State Rockefeller Drug Laws.