Maria Gaspar, Rift, Rupture, Split, Digital Glitch of the Cook County Department of Corrections, Chicago, 2021.

Our Mission

The Center for Justice (CFJ) at UCLA works to end injustice and inequities on the basis of race, gender, class, sexual orientation and disability. We work to dismantle the prison industrial complex and racialized mass incarceration by expanding higher education, facilitating creative spaces, transformative practices, and movement building on university campuses, in system-impacted communities and correctional facilities.

CFJ forges a collaborative hub using critical pedagogy, culturally-sustaining and multi-disciplinary methods. Linking prisons, classrooms, and grassroots organizations, our work is guided by those who experience incarceration and are system-impacted. We recognize equal access to education is at the heart of systemic and structural change towards justice.


In 2015, women incarcerated at the California Institute for Women (CIW) wrote letters requesting a UCLA “Center for Incarceration Studies.” Their proposal called for higher education opportunities to cultivate critical thinking skills and develop innovative approaches to justice.

Since 2016, the UCLA Prison Education Program has provided courses in seven carceral facilities in Southern California. Our courses bring UCLA professors and students into prisons for classes and workshops with incarcerated students.

What We Do


Mass Decarceration

Ending the use of jails, prisons and detention centers to address social problems such as poverty, inadequate public education & substance abuse and replacing policing and surveillance with services for human justice.


Education and Research

Bringing together “inside” incarcerated and “outside” university students, faculty and community members for higher education through courses, workshops and research.



People directly impacted by mass incarceration, collaborating with artists from all media, and using the arts & culture to change the law.



Guiding and learning from the next generation of visionary artists, activists and scholars by centering justice and healing to transform our communities.


Movement Building

Imagining, creating and expanding local, national and global movements for a more humane justice system shaped by survivors of crime and mass incarceration.


Education and Research

Bringing together “inside” incarcerated and “outside” university students, faculty and community members for higher education through courses, workshops and research.

The Math

> 65%

return to prison

= 30%

return to prison

= 13.7%

return to prison

= 5.6%

return to prison

= 0%

return to prison

Contact Us


Rosie Rios

Managing Director, Prison Education Program

Rosie is a community organizer and proud daughter of immigrants. A graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work, her experience includes legislative advocacy, movement building, and serving the needs of people affected by the intersections of the criminal legal system and immigration, including those with severe mental illness and survivors of trauma.


Claudia Pena

Founding Co-Director

Claudia is an artist, attorney, activist and professor. Her intersectional scholarship focuses on trauma, resilience and healing. Executive Director of the national arts organization For Freedoms, Claudia teaches in Gender Studies, African American Studies and the School of Law at UCLA.


Bryonn Bain

Founding Co-Director

Bryonn is a poet, prison activist, actor, professor, hip hop theater innovator and spoken word poetry champion. The founding director of the UCLA Prison Education Program, Bryonn teaches in African American Studies, World Arts & Cultures and the School of Law at UCLA.