We visit the Prison Visiting Project Correctional Association of New York, in Harlem. The director is Jack Beck, 65 years old and a lawyer. Eddie was addicted and a former incarcerated person. His bio:
Eddie-Yemíl Rosario Associate Director Prison Visiting Project Correctional Association of New York http://www.correctionalassociation.org Edward-Yemíl Rosario, Associate Director of the Prison Visiting Project, joined the CA in January 2012. Eddie monitors New York State correctional facilities that house men and advocates for the improvement of prison conditions. In addition, he carries out research on system-wide prison issues, engages in coalition-building and community outreach and writes reports to recommend reforms. Prior to joining the CA, he spent ten years at the Developing Justice Project, an innovative, community-based reentry model addressing the needs of men and women returning to their communities after incarceration. Eddie has served on the boards of the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Arthur Ashe Institute and for the past 20 years has worked in various capacities to bring about positive social change within historically marginalized communities. Eddie earned his Bachelor’s in Applied Psychology from New York University.
The office is in the middle of Harlem which always reminds me of our visits to Paramaribo and Curacao because of the loud music everywhere and – of course- the amount of bad maintained houses and people in the streets obviously belong to the group of have-nots in the world. Bad health, cheap clothes………in the richest town of the world….
We speak with Eddie and Jack, but also with several internships. A conversation like this usually takes one and a halve hour at the most, but we stayed three and a halve hours and I had the feeling that there was enough to share for many hours more. What an inspirational afternoon with people who immediately turned out to be allies! It is impossible to share all the subjects we touched but we talked about things like the problems they have with a system that is closed, inhuman and disrespectful and which tries to keep them out of the prison (despite their legal right to come in), the lies, the obstructions and manipulations. About recovery and why they do this work. About how to change the system, which strategies to follow, the destructie mechanisms within the prison. And the fact that a prison is just a continuation of the situation in society: you have to fight racism, exclusion and poverty and any other form of lac of solidarity, equality and human dignity in society to change the prison. Restorive justice only works in a restorive country!
Jacky is one of the interns and it is her last day. She is going to Nigeria for her next internship. Jacky ask me how you do that internationally: sharing knowledge. And I say that for me it is a must that partners are equal, that the exchange benefits both parties and that solutions used in one country do not wok in another country. Everybody has his own context and needs to go through his own process. But knowledge exchange really helps to learn to look at your own situation in a different way and it gives you a lot of inspiration and idea’s to find your own solutions! Jacky tells us that her brother committed suicide in jail. Later on she let us share a nice goodbye-cake with her. Jacky and me spoke very short with each other and she had to leave the meeting early, but I found our meeting impressive and very important. I wish Jacky all the luck!
I forgot the name of the young guy from law school who attends the meeting. At the end of the meeting he says:”Thanx for what you shared about recovery. The Buddhists say that life is suffering. Recovering is exactly the positive opposite of that.” I told him I like this remark very much and will take it with me. And that is why I write it down!
Running in Green Fort Park is a pleasure. I pass a guy, we greet and he joins me later to do a few laps together. Tells me about his thirteen year old son who plays football. And that he runs to avoid the diabetes a lot of his family-members have. It is a short but positive meeting. I experience that a lot of people are open and nice. Most of them are black and sometimes they turn out to have problems with the juridical system.
The meeting with John Flateau is nice. WE have breakfast in the canteen of the university. We speak about politics and public administration. He tells one of the reasons of less criminality and incarceration n New York is caused by the different attitude of young people towards drugs and the decision not to incarcerate people of demeanor behavior. John feels that this world is money-driven: the fact that our juridical system and prisons cost such an incredible amount of money makes people aware that this has to change. In New York only we talk about 60.000 incarcerated people and the system costs 2 billion dollars a year. John wrote a book about the prison industrial complex: the pervers mechanism that so many companies earn so much money in the locking-up-industry. Prisons cost more than higher education in the US!
John Flateau, Ph.D. Medgar Evers College http://www.mec.cuny.edu A Senior Fellow and co-founder of the DuBois Bunche Center, Dr. Flateau is a Professor of Public Administration, and he received his Ph.D in American Politics and Public Policy from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Dr. Flateau was Chief of Staff to Mayor David Dinkins; Senior Vice President of the NYS Urban Development Corporation; Dean of the School of Business, and Dean of Institutional Advancement at Medgar Evers College. He also served as a Commissioner, of the NYC Districting Commission; Advisor to the NYS Legislative Advisory Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment; Chairperson of the US Census Advisory Committee on the African-American Population; and Executive Director of the NYS Black and Hispanic Legislative Caucus. He is a generalist and strategic thinker, with expertise in urban policy, economic development, voting rights, legislative redistricting, census demographics, campaigns and elections, diversity management, and governmental processes. Dr. Flateau is a published author, media commentator, and public speaker; and strategist and advisor to federal, state and local officials; community and clergy leaders; minority and women businesses, corporations, and institutions; and immigrant, civil rights, non-profit and worker organizations.