Debbie Boar and Linda Stele of the Harlem Community Justice Center, with Selina Fulford, a graduate of the “Raising My Voice” public speaking program
The Interfaith Center of New York and the Harlem Community Justice Center are partnering with Harlem faith communities to support parolees between the ages of 18-26, and their families, before and after release from New York State correctional facilities. Harlem congregations and houses of worship have been invited to offer family-oriented activities, services, and referrals to provide the parolees with a smoother return to society, and to support family reintegration.
The response has been profound – the need is clear, many faith communities are already involved and are willing to do more, and many others are ready to make a new commitment to this area of service.
We anticipate that support networks created through this project will additionally serve other Harlem residents returning home from experiences of incarceration.
42% of people on parole in New York City return to prison within three years.
Upper Manhattan is a key reentry area: 2,200 parolees return home every year. In Harlem there is a “Reentry Corridor” – a 7 block stretch where 1 in 20 men have been incarcerated.
Parolees in this initiative are between the ages of 18 and 26, and are coming home to Harlem through the Harlem Parole Reentry Court, which uses community-based services like drug treatment and job training as well as strict judicial supervision, to help formerly incarcerated persons successfully transition back to life at home.
Probation or parole combined with community-based treatment costs far less than prison, and we know that “informal social controls” – families, friends, and congregations are more effective in creating behavior change than formal controls -law enforcement.
Community-based support can make a difference that benefits people returning from prison, their families, and the community as a whole.
Help build a community circle of support for young adult parolees and their families.
There are many ways to help:
- Accompany parolees home from prison and welcome them back to the community.
- Accompany parolees to appointments, e.g. job interviews: giving moral support.
- Support parolees’ relationships with their children: create a kid-friendly play space that these parents can enjoy with their children, offer tutoring or other schoolwork assistance, provide child care when fathers or mothers have court dates or other appointments.
- Assist with job-readiness: mock interviews, resumes, networking.
- Hold support groups (and provide child care) for parents or partners of returning parolees.
- Organize outings for families or host a community meal.
- Connect parolees and their families to community services: through regular orientations, resource fairs, ongoing referral.
- Make your congregation a place of welcome for people returning home from prison and their families.
- Offer coaching: speakers, life skills, opportunity for reflection, etc.
If you are in the Harlem area, are interested in being trained in reentry work, are available to join us as we provide hospitality to parolees at Harlem Community Justice Center on Thursday mornings or afternoons contact Iman Boukadoum, 212-870-3515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project made possible through the generous support of the J.C Flowers Foundation with additional support provided by the U.S Department of Justice under the Second Chance Act (Grant # 2009-CZ-BX-0051).