History and Goals

Since 2019, BEJI has been an expression of Brandeis’s foundational commitments to social justice and democratic inclusion. This initiative was founded by faculty in Legal Studies and English with commitments to civil rights, community-engaged learning, and critical inquiry into the carceral system. Rosalind Kabrhel, Chair of Legal Studies, has taught Brandeis courses that included incarcerated youth as guest students and collaborators. Drawing from her experience as a law practitioner, she also teaches courses about the criminal justice system and provides experiences for students to learn first-hand about the collateral consequences of incarceration. John Plotz, faculty in English, has taught literature at MCI Concord and developed new partnerships between Brandeis and many community partners and state agencies. David Sherman, faculty in English, has taught literature and creative writing courses with youth and adults in several carceral settings since 2020. He co-taught a Brandeis course, Crime and Punishment: Justice and Criminality from Plato to Serial, in 2016 and 2018. He is currently doing research for a book, Literature in the Age of Mass Incarceration.

Over the past two years, BEJI has been engaged in an intensive process of program development with several community partners, and we have coordinated staffing with other Boston-area social justice programs related to carceral education. Our events on campus have helped raise awareness about the social harms of mass incarceration and inequities in the criminal justice system. And the BEJI reading group has brought together students, staff, and faculty to explore recent scholarly and political work that addresses carceral issues. In courses, community programs, and campus working groups, BEJI has built a coalition for collaborating on innovative programs of educational and carceral justice.