Justice in Education Initiative, Riker’s Island

The Rikers Education Program (REP) provides opportunities for students at Rikers Island (ages 16-24) and Columbia University students and faculty to engage in college-oriented education programming with a focus on social justice issues.  REP works with Columbia faculty and graduate students as well as community partners to develop and implement a wide range of education programs that utilize a variety of approaches including social justice pedagogy, collaborative project-based learning modalities, restorative practices and more. REP seeks to increase access to quality education for students who are incarcerated, to develop culturally responsive education programming, to cultivate positive social emotional development and to support students to think critically about issues of justice and incarceration.

Graphic Intervention is a graphic design program that engages students in education through creative design using iPads and graphic design software. Each week, students are introduced to a visual communication strategy and a technical software skill. Social justice issues are integrated through themed assignments, with the goal of engaging a future generation of socially conscious and responsible citizen-designers.

Beats, Rhymes & Justice, a collaboration with Audio Pictures LLC., uses digital music production, lyric writing and media literacy to engage young people in producing and recording songs at Rikers Island.  Students learn to create and record songs using iPads and music production software and also critically examine a variety of works from hip-hop artists including Tupac, Nas and Kendrick Lamar.

RikersBot, a collaboration with the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities at Columbia University, is a coding workshop and an algorithmic storytelling project set in and about Rikers Island.  Students learn coding by creating an automated Twitter acount (Twitter Bot) and collectively write stories in tweet form.  The Rikers Bot project gives all participants a chance to have their voices heard, to learn to code, and to gain real-world experience in writing, editing, and producing a project.

Social Enterprise Assembly is a program that teams Columbia and Rikers Students together in teams to develop an idea and an abbreviated business plan for a social enterprise start up, a for-profit business that also contributes to the public good.  Students brainstorm what issues in their community they would like to address, what kind of business they would want to start and then combine the two to create the vision for a social enterprise.  Students learn the basics of a business plan and what it takes to start a business.

Reel Justice Works, a collaboration with the Critical Media Society and the Hip-Hop Education Center, hosts film screenings and critical media literacy workshops that teach students how to use visual media as a tool for both social change and personal development.  Students learn how to be critical consumers of media, get exposure to careers in the film industry and work to create pitches for feature films and documentaries.

Rikers Studio in Architecture and Urban Design, a collaboration with Columbia University architecture professors, brings the architecture studio to Rikers Island where Columbia and Rikers students explore the foundations of architecture, design and urban planning. Students work together to design, create, and re-imagine what a neighborhood can look like culminating in a presentation of their work to the Architecture professionals and classmates.

Poetic Music for Survival is a skill ­based social justice education course that brings together poetry and hip ­hop by women of color as a way to reflect, learn, and then produce original work based on the inspirations developed in the class. This workshop engages students through verbal and written expression to develop academic and rhetorical skills, as wells as technological skills such as sound editing and recording. These skills can be used in professional workplace environments and beyond. Students will practice analyzing poetry and lyrics, as well as write original poetry and set them to music, created and recorded on iPads.Writing for the I/Eye is a six­ week workshop that engages students in education through creative writing, in both visual and traditionally written forms. Each week, students are introduced to a form of creative writing alongside an artistic method of expressing the mediums of poetry, fiction, and creative non­-fiction. Additionally, they will keep a course ­long notebook in which they will free write, draw, color, and express themselves—techniques we hope they will continue to use after the course is complete. Research has repeatedly shown the therapeutic benefits of both free writing and artistic expression. Our goal is to maximize those benefits for our students by giving them multiple channels of self ­expression to use separately or together.