Hart Image
September 23, 2020
On Thursday, September 17, 2020, the SPH Alumni Network held a webinar featuring University of Maryland alumnus Dr. John Hart, MS '12 (Marriage and Family Therapy), PhD '17 (Family Science). The webinar, "Restoring Promise: Disrupting the US Prison System," focused on the current prison conditions in the United States and Dr. Hart's ambition to improve them. Dr.Hart discussed his work on the Restoring Promise Initiative through the Vera Institute for Justice. This organization works directly with prisons and jails to address the root causes and consequences of mass incarceration in how it manifests in prisons and jails.
 
Dr. Hart highlighted how the US prison system disproportionately affects members of Black and brown communities and our substandard prison conditions. He described the prison conditions as cramped, unhealthy spaces that lack natural light, fresh air and healthy food. Dr. Hart compared our prison system and conditions to that of other countries. He explained that inmates have private enclosed bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, video games, and plants in the German model. In Germany, the average length of incarceration is one year. He explained how he and his team are focusing on creating housing in prisons and jails grounded in human dignity. This includes adding sofas, rooms for a barber to come in and cut hair, and an area for meditation. 
 
The webinar shed light on the systemic issues that are affecting Black and brown communities in inequitable ways.
 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

About Dr. John Hart

Dr. Hart is a Senior Research Associate who joined Vera Institute’s Restoring Promise Initiative in August 2019. As a part of his role, Dr. Hart focuses on the data collection program and the qualitative research agenda for the initiative. 

Prior to joining Restoring Promise, Dr. Hart was a Senior Research Assistant at the University of Maryland, College Park leading research and community projects examining mass incarceration of Black Men as a public health disparity and the re-entry experiences of young, Black fathers from prison into the communities. In addition, Dr. Hart is a clinician and has spent the last few years consulting with various jails and prisons in the D.C. Metropolitan area to provide psychoeducation to those incarcerated on topics such as co-parenting, relationship skills, coping and emotional regulation. 

He holds a Ph.D. in Family Science and an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland, College Park and a B.A from The George Washington University.