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Although we are excited to have our fellows back on campus and working in Byerly Hall, Harvard Radcliffe Institute programs remain primarily virtual as we continue to monitor the coronavirus pandemic. See Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Updates.

Law, Education, and Justice Working Groups

Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s Law, Education, and Justice (LEJ) working groups center dialogue and give students the opportunity to engage deeply and build community around important topics within LEJ. 

During the 2021–22 academic year, the groups are Religion and Punishment and Telling Our Stories: A Writing Workshop Focused on Letters. Both groups are led by Kaia Stern, practitioner in residence at Harvard Radcliffe Institute, cofounder and director of the Prison Studies Project at Harvard, and lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Religion and Punishment will take place at Nashua Street Jail (a local jail for men) and be co-facilitated by Anissa Medina ’23. Telling Our Stories will take place inside South Bay House of Correction (a local jail for women and men) and be co-facilitated by Dharma Seda González ’23 and Hudson Vincent, Preceptor, Harvard College Writing Program. 

Meeting Time: 9–10:30 AM ET, Thursdays, September 30–December 2, 2021
Location
: Nashua Street Jail (200 Nashua St, Boston MA 02114)

Religion and Punishment will bring together select Harvard students with students from the I-Can Academy, located inside Suffolk County’s Nashua Street Jail. Our focus will be on the intersections of religion (broadly defined) and law in the United States. Specifically, we will consider how persistent religious and racial ideologies—notions of sin, evil, and otherness; definitions of who God is and what constitutes humanity— are linked to penal policy and shape our relationship to crime and punishment. We will draw from community voices, legal documents, scripture, academic texts, media, and narrative sources. Questions for consideration include: What do we mean by religion and public policy? How do our creation stories shape belief systems? In what ways are crime and punishment gendered and racialized? How does religion inform our understanding of the prison/abolition? 

In addition to asking rigorous questions about the relationships between religion, punishment and penal policy, a primary goal for the working group members is to discern our own ways of knowing. Students are expected to attend all meetings and to participate fully. Participation consists of careful review of assigned material in preparation for sessions, discussion, group work, and student presentations. The working group will spend its time doing collaborative work and in-session writing as well as being in dialogue with guest presenters and one another. All sessions will be discussion-based, and most will be led by students. 

Note: This working group is capped at 7 Harvard students and is not for academic credit. Our hope is to have this working group in person. However, given the current public health crisis, we may have to pivot to virtual learning. Similarly, given the jail's schedule, the meeting times are subject to change. During the application process, please check this page intermittently, as all changes will be reflected here. 

Meeting Time: 1–2:30 PM ET, Tuesdays, September 28, 2021–December 7, 2021 
Location: South Bay House of Correction (20 Bradston St, Boston MA 02118) 

Telling Our Stories will bring together students who are incarcerated at the South Bay House of Correction and select Harvard students to develop our voices through letter writing. We will approach letter writing both as a form of self-expression that supports socio-emotional health and as an essential vocational skill that improves our relationships with our loved ones, our co-workers, and the larger world. This writing workshop will develop our abilities to communicate effectively about our experiences and engage meaningfully with the people in our lives.  

The working group will meet for eight weeks and will draw from community voices, popular media, academic publications, and literary texts to understand letter writing as a tool for human connection, truth-telling, and societal change. Students will write, read, and otherwise engage with various forms of letters throughout the workshop, including thank you letters, cover letters, love letters, advocacy letters, and letters to one's past or future self. We plan to work with staff from the Schlesinger Library to delve deeply into their archives, which include the letters of Angela Davis and Miriam Van Waters. Questions for consideration include: Why do we tell our stories? How can letters help us tell our stories? Who is our audience? Is letter writing still relevant in the twenty-first century? How can letters from the past help us understand the present? Can letters hold space for multiple historical truths? How can letters help us create our future together? 

We will spend our time in conversation with each other, working together in small groups, reading and writing in class, and speaking with guest presenters. Students are expected to attend all meetings and to participate fully. All sessions will be discussion based and most will be led by students. 

Note: This working group is capped at 7 Harvard students and is not for academic credit. Our hope is to have this working group in person. However, given the current public health crisis, we may have to pivot to virtual learning. Similarly, given the jail's schedule, the meeting times are subject to change. During the application process, please check this page intermittently, as all changes will be reflected here. 

How to Apply

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2021–2022 academic year.

Program Details

Contact Kaia Stern. 

A note on trauma: Bearing witness is part of creating transformative and beloved community. Students should be aware that the content that will be covered in this working group is distressing. We encourage all participating students to seek out the facilitation team as well as mental health resources such as:

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