Designing for Second Chances

  • PARTNER: Jeera Foundation

    GOAL: Design and prototype a proprietary bag line to raise social awareness of prisoner rehabilitation and sustain program initiatives dedicated to community empowerment

    APPROACH: By providing sustainable, high-impact rehabilitative programs, the Jakarta, Indonesia-based nonprofit Jeera Foundation is helping incarcerated individuals successfully transition back into society with much-needed job skills and training. Expanding their training to include skilled leather workmanship, the foundation created the Jeerabag program and partnered with Parsons School of Design students to create the first-ever bag collection that can be made by the inmates themselves and sold to generate revenue that supports the foundation’s vital mission. Together, Jeera and Parsons hosted a month-long design competition judged by a panel of faculty.

    OUTCOME: Grounded in the idea that design can create positive social change, Parsons students are critically engaged citizens who learn to apply the transformative capacity of design responsibly, creatively, and purposefully. Working closely with the Jeera team, including a current inmate who served as the partnership lead for the project, students were challenged to design a leather bag collection that's versatile, fashionable, accessible to a large market, and that can be replicated by participating inmates at every stage of production.

    Each of the collections reflected two themes: incorporation of traditional fabric and patterns as a celebration of Indonesia's many local languages and traditions; secondly, encapsulating the spirit of Jeera – the belief that everyone deserves a second chance to learn from their mistakes, to make positive decisions, and to be judged by what their potential is for the future rather than what they've done in their past.

    The winning designer, Hailee Grisham, was presented a cash prize as well as a signed certificate of achievement from the Minister of Law and Human Rights of Indonesia at a special reception in New York. In addition to being sold to support the foundation’s work, her designs, which bear the co-branded logo “Jeerabag x Parsons, by Hailee Grisham,” will be an official state gift presented by the President of Indonesia to other heads of states.

    The Jeerabag program has directly improved the lives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Indonesians. By teaching them practical work and life skills, the program has helped them regain their dignity, reduced recidivism, and has also had a positive impact on the lives of participants' family members and those in the community at large. Through this exciting creative partnership, students developed design solutions that help deepen our understanding of social and systemic issues and contribute to the efforts of a new global community, a strong reflection of Parsons’ socially engaged approach to design and sustainability.

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