April 3, 2024
Prison Education Initiative

The UMass Amherst Jail Education Initiative (JEI), with offices in the Department of WGSS, welcomes two new assistants: JEI Graduate Assistant Lara Sabra (PhD candidate in Anthropology) and PEI Undergraduate Assistant Cristiana Cordone (double major in WGSS and STEPC).

Lara Sabra is from Beirut, Lebanon where she was actively involved in several state-opposition groups and civil society organizations centering on secularism, democracy, and social justice. Her dissertation in the Department of Anthropology will examine prison systems and state violence in Lebanon by focusing on the lived experiences of people who are incarcerated and how they attempt to resist, overcome, or live with their predicament.  Lara works with Laura Ciolkowski in the Prison Education Initiative’s "Teaching and Learning in Carceral Spaces" project (WGSS 398/698), where she works with students in the Franklin County Jail and the Hampshire County Jail and also helps to support our fall semester cohort of UMass tutors in jail.


Cristiana Cordone is a senior WGSS and STPEC double major with an Afro-American Studies minor. Since coming to UMass, Cristiana has worked with the Prison Abolition Collective (PAC) and the Mutual Aid Project (MAP) on campus. This is her second year as a tutor in the “Teaching and Learning in Carceral Spaces” project in WGSS and in fall 2022 she was enrolled in “Imagining Justice,” a WGSS “inside-out” course that Laura Ciolkowski teaches in the women’s jail in Chicopee.  This semester Cristiana is our inaugural Undergraduate Assistant for “Imagining Justice” in the Hampshire County Jail.


Please stop by the JEI office in the Department of WGSS (W418 South College) to meet Lara and Cristiana!

Lara Sabra and Cristiana Cordone

Meet our new JEI intern, Olive!

The UMass Amherst Jail Education Initiative (JEI) welcomes Olive Jaros, our Spring 2024 PEI Intern based in the Franklin County Jail and House of Corrections.  Olive is a second-semester senior Psychology and BDIC major with a focus in sustainable community development. She completed her training as a tutor in jail through Professor Laura Ciolkowski's WGSS 398: Teaching and Learning in Carceral Spaces project.  In WGSS 398, Olive had the opportunity to work with students in jails in Franklin County and Hampden County. This semester she will be focused on developing educational programming and providing academic support to students incarcerated in Franklin County who are studying for their HiSET diploma.

Olive Jaros