IEC is a group of New York University community members (students with and without criminal records, faculty, alumni, and public supporters) working to end discrimination against formerly incarcerated NYU applicants and applicants with criminal records. We are founded on the principles that education is a human right, and that we as members of the NYU community have an active obligation to expand that right while working for racial and economic justice.  Our vision and efforts are centered around the voices and experiences of directly impacted people, families and communities.


We are demanding that NYU “Abolish The Box,” and remove the question on NYU applications that asks applicants to disclose their history within the criminal punishment system. We are working to end detrimental stigmas surrounding directly impacted people through activism and peer education.   We are contributing to the national effort to challenge our institutions to reckon with racial and economic injustice.  We are demanding they end policies that sustain the carceral continuum and keep formerly incarcerated people tied to the criminal punishment system.


Higher Education should be accessible to everyone, particularly for those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised.  

Education is a human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and has countless benefits for individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.   

While the box is in place largely in the name of campus safety, there is no empirical evidence to indicate that criminal history screenings increase safety on campus. [1]

A third of colleges and universities in the U.S. don’t collect or use criminal histories on their applications and their campuses are no less safe then those who do. [1]

The majority of crimes committed on college campuses are first time offenses, not by people with prior criminal records.

Criminal history screenings exacerbate existing racial and economic disparities.

Mass Incarceration in the United States is deeply tied to the nation’s history of racial and economic injustice disproportionately impacting people of color and those living in poverty.[2]

Because racial bias occurs at every stage of the criminal punishment system, from arrest to parole [2], screening for criminal records cannot be a race-neutral practice.

Study after study shows that a college education dramatically reduces recidivism, increases opportunities for employment and improves economic security.

Nationally, 43.3% of formerly incarcerated individuals are likely to return to prison within three years of release. The recidivism rate drops dramatically with access to higher education [3]:

Masters: less than 1% / Baccalaureates: 5.6% / Associates: 13.7%

Abolishing the Box will increase public safety and  student diversity; racially, economically and the diversity of lived experiences.

 Approximately one-quarter of U.S. adults have a criminal record.[4] A lack of interaction with and continued discrimination of this stigmatized population deepens misconceptions about the nature of the criminal punishment system and those affected by it.   

Students who have been formerly incarcerated bring a vast array of knowledge and lived experience and often a desire to improve their communities.

There needs to be a groundswell to abolish the box in order to make real gains towards racial and economic justice. In addition to changes made within individual institutions, we also need to abolish the box on the Common Application: this requires that students across universities organize together to abolish the box.


  1. Attend a future IEC meeting to become more involved in the campaign.  Email us at:  incarceration2education@gmail.com to find out our next meeting date or check our website.
  2. Follow us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/IECforchange
  3. Ask, does the application for your school ask about criminal history? If yes, consider starting a campaign at your school to “Abolish The Box.”
  4. Learn more about mass incarceration, its devastating impacts on communities of color, its implications for educational access and the importance of higher education for all, particularly for those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised

Sign our petition