In Honor of Dr. Kathy Boudin

Melissa Begg
May 02, 2022

Dear CSSW Community,

I received word that one of our faculty, Dr. Kathy Boudin, passed away yesterday morning after a seven-year illness. I am shocked and greatly saddened by her loss. She has been part of our community since 2008, first serving as an adjunct professor and ultimately as an Associate Research Scientist and Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Justice at Columbia, working closely with colleagues Geraldine Downey and Cheryl Wilkins on promoting alternative approaches to justice and safety.

Dr. Boudin studied the impact of higher education on incarcerated women, recidivism rates and the life experience of people serving long sentences, the experience of adolescents with incarcerated mothers, and the role of peer support. Based on her own experiences with the prison system, she focused on strengthening mother-child relationships in prison, bringing back college to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility after the termination of Pell grants, and building a community response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In addition, Dr. Boudin founded the Coming Home Program at the Spencer Cox Center for Health at Mt. Sinai/St.Luke’s, providing health care for people returning from incarceration. She developed a restorative practice program inside prisons for long-termers, many of whom were sentenced as juveniles. She also developed policy initiatives to release aging people from prison and to reform the parole system. Her work always centered the participation and leadership from those who are most deeply affected by mass incarceration.

Dr. Boudin’s articles appeared in many venues, including The Harvard Education Review and the Journal of Corrections Education. She is editor and co-author of the book, Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in a New York State Maximum Security Prison. She was a superb moderator for last year’s lecture by Dr. Reuben Jonathan Miller on carceral citizenship, based on his book, Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration.

Dr. Boudin was an amazing colleague and a remarkable person. With every interaction, I was deeply moved by her frankness, humility, and wisdom. I am struggling to find the right words to describe her, so I will rely on her own beautiful words. After completing a long sentence at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, she published an article entitled Making a Different Way of Life, which began with the words “Remembrance and reconciliation remain a central part of my life.” She goes on to say “The past and present are always circling into each other, yet always containing the possibility of moving forward. My sorrow has been an energy for transformation and contains within it the possibility of a different future.”

Those words surely ring true now for many reasons – Dr. Boudin contributed so much to our community. Please join me in remembering her, and sending condolences to her family and friends.

In community,