Over the last few decades, organizers and policymakers have been working to shift conditions of incarceration while also reducing the footprint of the U.S. carceral system, including by implementing policies to reduce restrictions and incorporate new forms of technology into jails and prisons to improve connection to the outside world. But while the introduction of tablets, phone calls, and other wearable tech may have benefits including more availability of educational modules and more family contact, these kinds of technologies may come with additional policies of surveillance: for example, the introduction of e-messaging or digital mail may coincide with policies that obstruct access to physical mail. Join our panel to discuss the role of technology in surveillance in jails and prisons. Part of the Surveillance, Criminalization, and Punishment  speaker series. Click here to register for the Zoom.

“Something Works” in U.S. Jails: Misconduct and Recidivism Effects of the IGNITE Program

New research by PCJ faculty affiliates Crystal Yang and Marcella Alsan (with co-authors Peter Hull and Arkey Barnett) shows that IGNITE (Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education), an innovative law-enforcement-led education program launched in the county jail of Flint, Michigan, reduces misconduct and recidivism. You can read more about their findings in this Harvard Law Today feature on their research.

In Spring 2024, we’ll explore the promise and peril of new forms of surveillance in the criminal legal system—how advances in technology may improve and/or hinder accuracy and efficiency in law enforcement; allow for reductions in physical barriers of incarceration and detention, while also enabling carceral infrastructure to seep from behind bars out into communities; and herald new discriminatory targeting, deepening or compounding existing inequities. We’ll be joined by academics, practitioners, and impacted community members to unpack cutting-edge technological advancements in criminalization and punishment—exploring improvements to the administration of justice and the reproduction of hierarchies of control and domination. Click here to register for the series on Zoom.

Research from Faculty and Affiliates


New Carr Center publication with essays by PCJ affiliates Sandra Susan Smith, Yanilda González, Frank Hartmann, Mark Moore, Khalil Gibran Muhammad & Julie Boatright Wilson.


New research by Sharad Goel looks at the promise of automated reminders to reduce the negative consequences of missing a court date.


PCJ Postdoctoral Fellow Jessica Katzenstein has written a new report looking at the contemporary surveillance programs that emerged in the post-9/11 landscape.


New research by Crystal Yang and colleagues looks at the employment impacts of retroactively reducing felonies to misdemeanors.


Sandra Susan Smith explores the ways in which pretrial incarceration affects job retention, job-seeking, and relative confidence in the ability to succeed in getting a job.


Harvard Law Professor Alexandra Natapoff explains the stark inequalities between the top and bottom of the criminal justice system in a lecture to celebrate her appointment as the Lee S. Kreindler Professor of Law.


A Forum event brought together advocates and activists from three continents. Read the HKS article about the event to learn more.


Interview with Sandra Susan Smith, Katy Naples-Mitchell and Haruka Margaret Braun on their research brief on jury exclusion in Massachusetts, Inequitable and Undemocratic.

News and Commentary

Harvard Researchers Say Jail Educational Programs Reduce Recidivism, Violence
Harvard Crimson, April 10, 2024
Featured: Marcella Alsan and Crystal Yang

Sheriff releases results of Harvard’s IGNITE study
WNEM, April 3, 2024
Featured: Marcella Alsan and Crystal Yang

‘If you don't name it and fight for it, you won't get there’
Harvard Law Today, March 27, 2024
Featured: Andrew Manuel Crespo

Could troubling police, media response to Stuart murder happen again?
Harvard Gazette, February 29, 2024
Featured: Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Black America as canary in coal mine of democracy
Harvard Gazette, February 26, 2024
Featured: Cornell William Brooks, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and Sandra Susan Smith

More News and Commentary

The Roundtable brings together leaders from across the Commonwealth, including community organizers, social/racial justice organizers, academics/researchers, policymakers, criminal legal system agency heads, and judges. The overall goal of the Roundtable is to profoundly influence future policies, practices, and procedures in Massachusetts that will help to eradicate sources of racial inequities and resulting disparities in the courts. 

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