On February 18th, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson, Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, and Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright sponsored the “Voices from the Formerly Incarcerated: Reform and Re-Entry” Workshop as part of the 46th Annual New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc’s Conference Weekend.
The workshop featured panelists: Donna Hylton, founding member of From Life to Life; Cesar Sosa, Senior Director of NY Therapeutic Communities, Inc.’s, a residential program; Tyrell Muhammed- project associate of the Prison Visiting Project of Correctional Association; Serena Liguori, Executive Director of Herstory Writers Workshop, Kyle Leonard; and Theresa Sweeney from Justleadership USA and Fortune Society.
The dynamic group shared their personal experiences with the criminal justice system and how their incarceration moved them to become advocates working to reshape legislative policy, assist the formerly incarcerated successfully re-enter the community and eliminating barriers to break the cycle of mass incarceration.
The panelists shared a commitment to the ultimate goal of dismantling the prison industrial complex and replacing it with a humane system dedicated to genuine rehabilitation and reentry.
The issues discussed included legislation to assist victims of domestic violence, the need for programs in correctional facilities, access to higher education opportunities, the need for increased diversity on the New York State Board of Parole, parole and restrictive mandates that can trigger violations and lead to recidivism.
Special guests included Judge Betty Staton, Esq., Executive Director of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Legal Services; Christina Hernandez, Director Of Re-Entry Services for the NYS Department Of Corrections And Community Supervision; Audrey Thompson, Brooklyn Region Re-Entry Manager for the NYS Department Of Corrections And Community Supervision; Elaine Lord, former Superintendent of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility; Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of Alliance Of Families For Justice; Erin George, Advocacy Coordinator for JustLeadership USA; and Lu-Shawn Thompson, wife of the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
At the end of the workshop, Senator Montgomery, speaking from the heart, left the audience with these final thoughts, “These people are really giants….they have built organizations….some of the brightest people that I’ve met are in prison.”
To learn about the workshop, download the event program. For more information about Senator Montgomery's criminal justice legislative agenda, visit https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/velmanette-montgomery/legislation