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 race, inequality, mass imprisonment, 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; Social Justice Impact Legal Internships (sponsored by SBAN, Chester Youth Justice Project, and the law firm Keller, Lisgar, & Williams, LLP.); and other student based learning such as directed reading and thesis opportunities. Through this engaged scholarship, UII aims 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. 
  • Volunteer with Books Through Bars


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.”

  • Miller v. Alabama
    The 2017 Politics of Punishment class worked collectively to design 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 included: 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. Students worked in three groups to create a male and female resource guide, as well as a background/historical context resource guide. 

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.

Directed Reading Opportunities: In addition to Swarthmore’s standard courses, advanced students have the opportunity to design a directed reading under the supervision of an instructor. Recent examples include students learning more about the legal system by assisting Atty. Stefanie McArdle-Taylor to gather and prepare mitigation materials for clients impacted by the Miller v. Alabama decision. Another small group of students built upon their experiences in POLS106: The Urban Underclass & Public Policy seminar to write a journal article on incarceration and contextual mobility. 

What We’re Reading & Watching

Urban Inequality & Incarceration Contact

Keith Reeves

Keith Reeves

Professor of Political Science
Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility
Trotter 310