The Initiative for Community Justice & Engaged Pedagogy creates transformative learning opportunities within and beyond prison walls. In order to support long-term productive exchanges between the university and community, the initiative also convenes dialogues and catalyzes applied research about critical issues through the lens of community justice and engaged pedagogy.
Supported by a generous grant from The Hearst Foundations.
There is a growing call to include more community-based perspectives in conversations and decisions about justice in the United States. Our approach to community justice points toward building up community collaborations, resources, strengths and capacity to resolve conflicts, address crucial human developmental needs, or prevent crime.
At the same time, in the current age of information-overload and specialized academic disciplines, there is a need for holistic and formative education. Our approach to engaged pedagogy builds on the rich history of human-centered Jesuit pedagogy and community-engaged liberal arts education at Boston College, to foster education that is relevant to people’s lived experiences and bridges the university and community in unique ways.
The Initiative for Community Justice & Engaged Pedagogy brings together these two key concerns to create transformative learning spaces, facilitate engaging conversations, and catalyze applied research projects.
Based on the widely successful national model of Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, the Lynch School of Education and Human Development partners with the Woods College, Sociology Department, and Suffolk County Sheriff's Department Education Division to offer a course that brings college students together with incarcerated men or women to study as peers behind prison walls. The core of the Inside-Out Program at Boston College is a semester-long academic course, meeting once a week, through which "outside" students (from BC's Chestnut Hill Campus) and the same number of "inside" students (incarcerated at the Suffolk County House of Correction) attend class together inside prison.
In addition to other occasional course offerings, the Inside-Out Program typically offers the course Inside-Out: Perspectives on Crime, Corrections and Justice (SOCY 3378 / ADCJ 3033 / APSY 3378) during the fall and spring semesters. Students who have completed the course are eligible to serve as Interns or Program Assistants who facilitate small groups for Inside-Out courses, pursue further academic study on topics related to Inside-Out, or help with research and logistics related to the program.
The initiative convenes a variety of public events, and continuing or professional education workshops, on topics related to community justice and engaged pedagogy such as:
Restorative and Transformational Justice minor at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development (LSEHD) consists of 18 credits, 12 of which may not simultaneously be counted toward the BC core or other major/minor requirements. The minor is designed to advance understanding of Restorative and Transformational Justice as a critical important tool.
Students will explore Restorative and Transformational Justice topics as they relate to Education, Applied Psychology, and Human Development, select electives from different departments and engage in social impact action project or Senior Thesis.
The College Pathways Program is designed especially for incarcerated students who will soon be released back into the community. The curriculum aims to help participants understand the college process from application to degree completion. Students will become acquainted with the inner workings, experience, and language of college. Topics covered include: the value of a college education, college application process and financial aid, selecting a major and courses, communication for success with professors and administration, setting personal and professional goals, balancing work and study, personal health and wellness, and key academic skills needed for college-level work. Each session is centered around a specific set of topics and involves: a short introduction to the topic from the instructor, completion of an in-class assignment, and group discussion. There are occasionally guest speakers.
“A university is inescapably a social force: it must transform and enlighten the society in which it lives.”
Initiative Coordinator Matt DelSesto '12 has published a new book, Design and the Social Imagination (Bloomsbury, 2022), that discusses the Inside-Out Program and models of engaged pedagogy.
Led by Matt DelSesto ’12, Boston College undergraduates are learning side-by-side with incarcerated students at a local prison, with mutually beneficial results.
The Initiative for Community Justice and Engaged Pedagogy was the lead organizer of a national July 2022 conference on the theme Ecologies of Justice. The hybrid event took place online and in-person at Evergreen State College in Washington State. It brought together researchers, practitioners, and activists working on issues related to prisons, jails, communities, environmental justice, and ecological sustainability.
In November 2021, Inside-Out Program Instructor and Coordinator Matt DelSesto were featured in season two of the Pulled Up Short podcast with former program participants David Sellers and Allison Pyo. Their episode “Are Prisons Separate from Society?” discusses some insights and experiences from the program with podcast host, and Lynch School of Education and HumanDevelopment Dean, Stanton Wortham.
In November 2020, Inside-Out Program Coordinator Matt DelSesto, along with former students Diannelle Chaparro and Allison Pyo, published a report on the Boston College Inside-Out Program titled, "Advancing Transformative Learning Partnerships."
The March 2020 issue of Common Ground (The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Newsletter) profiled the successful partnership with Boston College for the Inside-Out Program. You can view the article on page 8 of Common Ground at the Sheriff’s Department website.
In November 2019, the Boston College Inside-Out Program presented on the topic “Assessing the Rigor of Inside-Out Pedagogy” at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in San Francisco. The presentation explored the unique contributions that the BC Inside-Out Program can make to student formation.