Prison-to-community forum for the formerly incarcerated

The NAACP Brooklyn Branch co-hosted a “Prison to Community” self-empowerment forum and fair Thursday, May 19 to address recidivism and help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Held at the Bedford Stuyvesant Multi-Service Center in Brooklyn, the NAACP partnered with the 79th Precinct Community Council, Brooklyn’s Community Board 3, District Attorney Charles Hynes and the New York State Department of Corrections & Community Supervision.

It featured a presentation by Dr. Niaz Kasravi, NAACP senior manager for criminal justice programs. Information booths were also available to help formerly incarcerated individuals maintain and improve quality of life, and voter registration was conducted on site.

“It is our vision that by participating in community forums, it will allow us to further educate the community at large of the needs of those returning from prison, stated Vanda Seward, director of Statewide Reentry Services.

“The findings of the NAACP’s new report, ‘Misplaced Priorities’, showed the need for increased spending on education and decreased spending on incarceration,” stated Kasravi. “Working with the NAACP Brooklyn branch, we will examine ways to reinvest funds currently being poured into a broken criminal justice system into our education system and other programs that serve to strengthen our communities.”

“Misplaced Priorities” examines escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children. The report uncovers a disturbing connection between high incarceration rates and poorly performing schools. Released in April, it is part of the NAACP’s “Smart and Safe Campaign,” an initiative designed to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.

“We need to be ‘smart on crime’ rather than ‘tough on crime’ and address soaring incarceration rates in this country,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

“Failing schools, college tuition hikes and shrinking state education budgets are narrowing the promise of education for young people all across the country. Meanwhile, allocations for our incarceration system continue to increase, sending our youth the wrong message about their future.”

“We believe it is essential that members of our re-entry population are given the tools they require to become productive and engaged members of our communities” said Karen Boykin-Towns, president, NAACP Brooklyn Branch, “Working with Community Board 3, the 79th Precinct Council, District Attorney Hynes, and the New York State Dept of Corrections, we will continue our re-entry initiative to educate and re-establish a population.”

“As a lifelong member of the Brooklyn community I am committed to addressing the needs of our community through dedicated grassroots organizing,” stated Dr. Kim Best, the 79th Precinct Council president. “My involvement with the 79th Precinct allows us to focus on the young men and women who need our attention as they return home from incarceration and incorporating that need with those in the community seeking understanding on process and safety.”

“Engaging New Yorkers civically and encouraging their active participation in our democratic process is critical to the vitality of our city,” stated Onida Coward Mayers, director of voter assistance for the Campaign Finance Board.

“Re-entry for many is actually a ‘Nu-entry’ in that for the first time they will be accessing traditional services in a non-traditional manner,” stated Dr. Divine Pryor, Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. “The Nu approach is to recognize the need to introduce (not re-introduce) men and women to a set of practices, behaviors and expectations that they are unfamiliar with and then fully support them as they struggle to overcome barriers in making a successful integration into the larger society.”

Dr. Divine Pryor served as moderator of a panel discussion on how we can best assist our young men and women re-enter our communities and become productive members of society.

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