ROCKLAND PRISON JUSTICE pROJECT
WHO WE ARE
We are a group of Rockland County, New York residents and activists who:
• are very troubled by the growth and discriminatory impact of our nation’s prison system; and
• came together to raise awareness in our community and connect local residents to larger statewide and national advocacy efforts to improve the conditions inside prisons and make it more likely that individuals released from prison or jail are able to stay out once released.
We are also committed to raising awareness in our community and beyond about issues related to mass incarceration, such as: racial disparities in who is incarcerated, reentry challenges for those leaving prison and jail, aging populations in prison, and unjust parole policies, as well as candid explorations of the many lives affected by violent crime.
Finally, we are committed to learning about and raising awareness of alternatives to incarceration, such as restorative justice, that focus on reparation and reconciliation, rather than retribution and vengeance, in the hope that we may ultimately be able dismantle the system of mass incarceration.
We also provide support to MADE Transitional Services, as a model for reentry services in Rockland County.
The United States represents about 4.4% of the world’s population, yet it houses approximately 22% of the world’s prison population.
Today, the U..S imprisons more than 700 people for every 100,000 citizens, the highest per capita rate of incarceration of any country in the world. (Rwanda has the second highest rate with 527 people incarcerated for every 100,000 citizens.)
Our prison system is a racist system. African Americans and Latinos make up approximately 32% of the U.S. population, yet they make up 56% of all incarcerated people in this country.
African Americans are incarcerated at a rate that is more than 5 times the rate that whites are imprisoned.
The U.S. prison system is also the most expensive in the world. It costs Americans $80 billion every year.
Women are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population. In 1970, there were 14,000 women in U.S. prisons and jails. Today there are 215,000, an increase of 1,435%
Incarceration does not address the underlying issues of drug addiction and poverty, which are frequently the root causes of crime.
The way we treat people in prisons is inhumane and violates human rights.
Grassroots Advocacy: We organize community residents to support legislation through phone call action days, letter writing, petitions and visits to legislators. We try to connect to larger regional or state coalitions in order to amplify our impact.
Past Community Events: We’ve sponsored or co-sponsored a number of community educational forums:
September 20, 2015: A Conversation About Restorative Justice: How Communities and Individuals Deal with Violent Crime
March 6, 2016: Life After Life in Prison: Portraits of Formerly Incarcerated Women (Panel Discussion Artist Talk, and Exhibit of Photographs). Our Life After Life in Prison photography exhibit and panel discussion is covered in detail in this article in Nyack, News and Views.
November 13, 2016, we sponsored a panel discussion, Practices in Restorative Justice. Shailly Agnihotri of the Restorative Center moderated a conversation with Tarik Greene, of M.A.D.E. Transitional Services; Colleen Kelly, whose brother was killed on September 11 in the World Trade Center attack; Elaine Lord, the former Superintendent at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility; Keira Pollock of Center for Safety and Change; and Priscilla Prutzman of Creative Response to Conflict. The discussion addressed issues of restoration versus retribution, the need for those who have been harmed to confront their perpetrators, the myriad of issues related to aging populations in prison, and the need to address the roots of slavery as a means towards restorative justice among the African American community. Link to Nyack, News and Views article; Link to the LoHud article.
March 26, 2017: Islamophobia, Refugees, and the United States
September 16, 2017, we were at the Great Nyack Get-Together in Nyack's Memorial Park. We offered a virtual reality experience of a solitary confinement cell, 6 x 9: "What’s it like to spend 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6x9 feet for days, weeks, months or even years? 6x9 is the Guardian's first virtual reality experience, which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation."
January 15, 2018, we participated in the Unity Celebration sponsored by the Martin Luther King multi-purpose Center, Inc., in honor of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.