While he was growing up, Bryan's grandmother was the undisputed matriarch of the family. She was his guide, his mentor, and the woman who, more than anyone else, set him on the path of educational and professional success. One of her many pieces of advice to Bryan when he was a boy was that you can't understand most of the important things in life from a distance; you have to get up close.
Bryan applies this advice to his own situation when he's studying at Harvard Law School. He feels that his academic studies have alienated him from those condemned by the criminal justice system. If he's to understand the numerous problems and challenges of that system he needs to get closer to the condemned, the very people who have been kept apart from Bryan and the rest of law-abiding society by their incarceration.