Lang Center
for Civic & Social Responsibility

Bridge in Chester

Urban Inequality & Incarceration

The Urban Inequality and Incarceration (UII) program at the Lang Center seeks to explore intersections of identity, place, and policy and their connections to the carceral disparities present in our local and global communities. Its current work centers on incarceration and includes transformative Inside-Out Prison Exchange courses at the State Correctional Institution in neighboring Chester; research on the impact of incarceration on children who have an incarcerated parent; Swarthmore Black Alumni Urban Fellowships; and educational initiatives on campus. Through this engaged scholarship, UII hopes to foster opportunities for deep learning, grounded action, and social change. This initiative is directed by Associate Professor of Political Science Keith Reeves ’88.




  • Swarthmore Black Alumni Network (SBAN) Summer Internships—These opportunities are for students (first-years–juniors) who are interested in working, learning, and conducting research in an urban setting in conjunction with the UII program. Contact: Arto Woodley 
  • Volunteer with Books Through Bars | Contacts: Iris Chan ’17 and David Tian ’17


Inside-Out Prison Exchange Class Policy Projects: Weekly classes involved detailed analysis of vast social science, criminal justice, and policy literature, the writing of several papers, as well as enlightening discussions in small and large groups. During the final weeks of the class, the Inside and Outside students worked together on several Group Policy Projects. The objective was to “link academic learning to real-world problem solving.”

Spring 2016 Projects

  • Re-entry Transportation Guide

    For individuals who return home to the community after a stint in jail or prison, the challenge of transportation (to find legitimate work, attend a job-training program, maintain appointments, etc.) is an immense and often daunting one. The group’s task was to research what a “re-entry transportation guide” would look like for Philadelphia. One additional—and important—caveat: The group had to incorporate a plan/strategy that engaged SEPTA.

  • Philly Re-entry System

    With nearly 1 in 5 Philadelphians having a criminal record, this group’s task was to create a “revamped” re-entry system for Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney. Mayor Kenney had suggested eliminating bail for low-level drug offenses. More specifically, the plan had to delineate: What was already in place? What improvements with regard to practices, policies, and procedures were necessary? In addition, the manual had to address every aspect of re-entry and reintegration (i.e. community resources; “friendly employers”; faith-based institutions and organizations; case management; parole and probation conditions and staffing; drug organizations; case management; drug and mental-health treatment providers; and other appropriate partnerships). The revamped system had to include a plan for those who do not have a high school diploma to obtain their GED and/or to successfully complete a professional certification/competency while at SCI–Chester to use upon their return home.

  • Miller v. Alabama

    This group designed a resource manual/guide for those incarcerated who fall under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Miller v. Alabama (some 300 individuals from Philadelphia and seven at SCI–Chester). The manual had to include: 1) a flow chart for individuals who fall under the Miller ruling that assists them in navigating the practical implications of the decision; and 2) “best practices” of public defender systems (i.e. the State of Delaware’s) that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania could adopt.

  • After-School Youth Programs

    Research indicates that children and young adolescents with parents who are incarcerated are at high risk of being incarcerated themselves. This group’s task centered on the following questions: Why are they at-risk, and what can we do about it? The group was tasked with designing a holistic after-school program with the following components: 1) an analysis of why these students are at a high risk of being incarcerated, as well as an overview of the main challenges faced by youths with an incarcerated parent; 2) a concise literature review of the types of youth programs that exist and those best practices; and 3) a thorough description of a holistic after-school program for children with incarcerated parents.

  • Computer Programming, Re-entry, and Entrepreneurship

    By 2020, researchers estimate that there will be 1 million unfulfilled computer-programming jobs in the United States. This group’s task was to address the following question: How do we best move returning citizens into this entrepreneurial space—and what should a curriculum look like? The group did not have to delve into the technical aspects of computer coding/programming, but the project was tasked with addressing the following components: 1) a map of programming jobs—that is, where are they, and what kinds of jobs and projects are available? 2) an outline of the challenges of re-entry, especially regarding the barrier of legitimate employment; and 3) an outline of what a pilot project (to be launched in the Summer 2017 at SCI–Chester) might look like. The group was also asked to consider possible prison bureaucratic challenges; student recruitment; quality control; a general outline of training program components (i.e. digital literacy, soft skills); and connections to potential jobs.

What We’re Reading & Watching


Keith Reeves

Keith Reeves

Associate Professor of Political Science and Department Chair
Trotter 310