On April 28th several organizations from around the NYC metropolitan area gathered here in Brownsville to take part in a Re-Entry Town Hall as a part of National Re-Entry Week
Sir Isaac Newton once said “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” All too often, societal barriers and new opportunities become life-long blockades that seem insurmountable for individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system in this country. Although efforts, in the realm of criminal justice reform have been the a focal point of much needed change, we as a community must take every opportunity to create pathways that not only open doors but stabilize the foundation on which those doors stand.
Brooklyn Defender Services in Collaboration with the Brownsville Community Justice Center sought to create a space for dialogue, resources and empowerment for our returning citizens. The goal of the townhall was to ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals and their families have access to a wealth of information and support services that ultimately would afford them with an opportunity to re-acclimate back into their respective communities. Topics ranged from finding housing to applying for Certificates of Relief/Good Conduct
Members of the community asked poignant questions about navigating the various systems upon being released. Additionally, Powerful presentations were given by a host of community partners including Fortune Society who is a leader in serving the community by providing housing, employment services, education programs and a plethora of other needs-based supports. Lawrence Harris of Green City Force shared a compelling personal testimony about returning home after serving 14 years in prison. “I took advantage of the community-based organizations and resources that were made available to me and Green City Force was the first organization to give me a shot!” Lawrence is currently helping to re-build communities. He brought a group of youth corps members that he now mentors through Green City’s energy efficiency project. Derek Slaughter of the NY Commission on Human Rights discussed the importance of combatting discriminatory practices in employment, housing, economic status and other public arenas. Jasmine Bowie and Felicia Henry of the Brownsville Community Justice Center presented on working with incarcerated youth and re-entry programs. Reverend Eddie Karim Legislative Aid to Assemblywoman Latrice Walker delivered words of encouragement and wisdom to our community.
This town hall is one step to building a “bridge” between returning citizens and home!