Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Partner to Conduct Clinic on the Criminal System

CAMBRIDGE - Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and The Educational Justice Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced a new partnership to expand education around racial equity issues in the criminal system. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office will facilitate two clinics to educate students about prosecutorial work and the daily functions of the court system with the goal of tasking the participants to develop innovative solutions to improve data management, increase transparency and view outcomes through a racial equity lens.

“In Middlesex County we have deepened and expanded our commitment to racial justice in our prosecutorial work,” said District Attorney Ryan. “One of the most critical components of that work is education. I am excited about this partnership which will allow us to interact with students to provide them with a comprehensive overview of what we do day-to-day and also provide them a view into our broader policy work. MIT educates some of the best and brightest minds in the world and this partnership will allow us to access that talent to develop new ideas to increase transparency, accountability and to enhance the restorative components of the system.”

As part of the curriculum, students will hear personal perspectives from prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and others with first-hand experience. They will learn about both data management systems in law enforcement and some of the practical challenges which arise in collecting and reporting that data to the public. Participants will complete relevant reading and journal assignments and, as a final project, will present proposals to improve specific areas of the current system. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office will then work with students to review their proposals and use them to inform the work of the Office.

“The goal is to broaden our community collaborations around our work.Through conversations in the classroom and by reviewing the reflective work of the student’s final assignments, we will increase the diversity of ideas and perspectives coming together to improve our criminal system,” said District Attorney Ryan.

Lee Perlman, Founder and Co-Director of The Educational Justice Institute at MIT (TEJI) gave the MIT side of the equation: "I've been bringing MIT students into prisons and jails for years to take class alongside incarcerated students. I've seen how life changing it is for MIT students to not simply read about, but see with their own eyes a sector of the criminal justice lifecycle, and meet some of the people most affected. Our partnership with DA Ryan's office is the next step in this proximate education - they'll get to see the real workings of a DA's office that is striving to improve justice outcomes, meet the people doing the work, and participate in creating processes to assure equal justice.

Carole Cafferty, an advocate for justice-involved people for over thirty years, and currently the co-director of TEJI, added: "Socially engaged academic opportunities such as these allow MIT students to hone their empathy skills and use their intellectual gifts to directly improve people's lives. Our partnership with DA Ryan and her team will provide students with firsthand experience while contributing to solutions for complex social justice challenges within our communities.” The winter class starts on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 and the spring semester course starts on February 2, 2022. This course will be taught by Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, Assistant District Attorney Aliya Khalidi, and MIT alumnus, Assistant District Attorney Michael Berry, in conjunction with Carole Cafferty of The Educational Justice Institute and MIT Professor Lee Perlman.

This partnership builds on past work of the Office to explore and implement best practices in prosecutorial work. In June of 2021, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office hosted an Inaugural Data Summit that brought together thought leaders and experts in data management to explore best practices nationally. You can watch the two-day summit here.