Mission and History

Addressing Mass Incarceration in California through Research, Teaching, and Service


The UC Davis Beyond the Barriers Initiative strives to support and recognize formerly incarcerated and system impacted students, faculty and staff and their important contributions to campus life and research initiatives. BTB seeks to enable successful educational and life experiences for formerly incarcerated and system impacted students through raising awareness, identifying resources and creating connections and opportunities campus wide.  It will support this endeavor with innovative research that centralizes and addresses the challenges that mass incarceration and the over-reliance on imprisonment has presented in the state of California and the US. 

Carceral system-impacted people are part of the UC Davis community.

From 1982 to 2013, twenty-four state prisons were built in California. Over that same period, Infographic on Incarcerationonly one single new University of California campus was built.  As of December 2018, approximately 239,000 of Californians are held in prison, jail, or juvenile halls, and there are over 8 million Californians with past criminal records. The impact of the carceral system on millions of Californians is now recognized as issue to be reconciled by changing laws, policies and social practices have led to a critical  imbalance in the well-being of the state.   

Being incarcerated or just having been arrested or convicted can have lifelong consequences on someone, and their whole family. Everything from connecting one's academic achievements to current work, to navigating a campus after missing years of adolescence, financial and monetary instability, to overcoming past trauma are all issues that make it harder for someone entangled in the justice system to succeed on campus. 

UC Davis is home to a number of formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students, faculty and staff who have and our community needs to do what it can to help eliminate barriers and challenges to their academic success, achievement and future endeavors.  



Beyond the Stats: Students Organize to Connect UC Davis’ carceral system impacted community.  

In 2016, a group of formerly incarcerated students created a community of students and faculty called Beyond the Stats, or BTS. The name represented the group's determination not to be defined -- or confined -- by statistics that predicted failure. With faculty advisor Ofelia Cuevas, BTS published a quarterly literary zine, created and taught courses reflecting their experience and the structures of imprisonment  and have provided a safe space to connect, reflect and support one another at Davis. For more information on Beyond The Stats, view the club's Facebook page.

Beyond the Barriers: a Campus Initiative

In 2018, Assistant Professor Cuevas formed an advisory board comprising faculty, staff, administrators, students, and experts. With the Office of Undergraduate Education, the initiative built a website and began to create partnerships across campus with college advisors, the Undergraduate Research Center, and more. With the institutional support of UC Davis, we have created Beyond the Barriers, a campus wide initiative that seeks to ensure the success of formerly incarcerated and system impacted students through an integrated support and research structure. 

The initiative advances the teaching, research and service missions of the University of California by:

  • Building a community that recognizes the particular needs of formerly incarcerated students who are now working to achieve their academic goals at UC Davis; 
  • Connecting students, faculty, and staff who have been impacted by the criminal justice system, and create a network that can provide them academic and social support;
  • Gathering, supporting and producing relevant research being conducted on campus by and for formerly incarcerated and system impacted people
  • Contributing to our university’s and the public’s knowledge of California’s history of incarceration and the extensive impacts that this phenomenon has had on our communities.

We welcome contributions in the form of:

  1. Adding your name to our community if you have been system-impacted
  2. Sharing any research or teaching you are doing with and by system impacted individuals and the impacts of and resolutions to the over investment in prison building in California and the US.
  3. Connecting us, or sharing this website throughout the campus and the community who may need support or be interested in the work of this community.

To get started, reach out to system-impacted@ucdavis.edu