prison reform

1 Comment

For Over a Century, a Home For Women Who’ve ‘Sunk So Low’

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

Exterior of 10 Second Avenue, when it was home to the Isaac Hopper Home, 1930 (Courtesy of Women's Prison Association)

Exterior of 110 Second Avenue, when it was home to the Isaac Hopper Home, 1930 (Courtesy of Women’s Prison Association)

On May 31, 1848, Maria Seaboth, a 14-year-old orphan, showed up at the door of  the second location of the Isaac T. Hopper Home, a halfway house for women just released from prison at Tenth Avenue and 21st Street. Life couldn’t have been worse. She was destitute, homeless, and friendless and had been wandering from place to place, taking shelter in “various filthy and disgusting abodes,” the matron’s diary recorded as she observed the couple of dozen women in her charge.

Keep Reading »

No Comments

Folks Got Lit in Support of Literacy, One of Many Obstacles Facing Incarcerated Teens

L-R: Robert Galinsky, Andy Rourke, DJ CherishTheLuv, Keith Shocklee (photo: Shaun Mader)

From left: Robert Galinsky, Andy Rourke, Cynthia Malaran (aka DJ CherishTheLuv), and Keith Shocklee (Photo: Shaun Mader)

Last week Friday, a West Village photo studio was transformed into a hub of empowerment for #GalinskyLIT, an effort to  help fund libraries and education initiatives in NYC jails and prisons. But if the word “fundraiser” inspires images of gold-plated table spreads and celebrities in sparkly gowns posing in front of hot lights, well, you’ve got the wrong thing in mind. Instead of exclusiveness, this event embraced inclusiveness– and rather than simply serving and coordinating donations and programs for incarcerated teenagers from a distance, the organizers really listened to the underserved and too-often maligned group that it represents.

Keep Reading »

No Comments

Escaping Time Proves Pruno’s Not the Only thing Handcrafted with Pride in Prison

(Flyer via "Escaping Time")

(Flyer via “Escaping Time”)

Governors Island is more than just another out-of-the-way-ish New York City nook. After years of abandonment, the island’s only recently embarked on a steady climb towards reclamation and it remains largely stuck in the past, having missed out on years of the progress seen by the rest of the city while interned as an exclusive home for military officers, then a coast guard haven, before it was abandoned altogether in 1996, left to hang in an off-limits sort of limbo, with nature serving as its only developer.

Fresh off the ferry, you might be only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, but as you make your way inland, the Manhattan skyline starts to disappear, obscured by the super old Fort Jay, untrimmed trees, shrubs, and rolling grassy hills. The sirens fade into the background too, and time itself seems to slow down.

Keep Reading »

No Comments

Listen to Die Jim Crow, ‘The First Anti-Prison Album Recorded in Prison’

The UMOJA choir (Photo courtesy of Fury Young)

The UMOJA choir (Photo by Catherine Roma, courtesy of Fury Young)

“I need to get into a women’s prison. I need to get into another men’s prison. Maybe I can get into two women’s prisons, or three more men’s prisons,” Fury Young said, punching his open hand with his fist emphatically. “I don’t know, but I want to try and at least get into one more of each.”

I realized the Bushwick-based prison reform activist wasn’t really directing this statement toward me– instead he was drilling himself about what remains left of his enormously ambitious passion project. For years, Young has been at work on Die Jim Crow– an effort that, so far, has taken him to a State Prison in Ohio and to neighborhoods in New York City and Philadelphia with particularly high incarceration rates. Along the way, he has recorded and collaborated with musicians who, at one time or another, have spent time behind bars or are currently locked up. “It’s the first anti-prison album recorded in prison,” he explained.

Keep Reading »

No Comments

Christmas With the Deadbeats at Boss Tweed's Ludlow Street Jail

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

The exterior of the Ludlow Street Jail in 1895. (Source: Museum of the City of New York)

The exterior of the Ludlow Street Jail in 1895. (Source: Museum of the City of New York)

Christmas Day dinner at the Ludlow Street Jail in 1911 was outrageous. The Warden Thomas J. Rock served a lavish spread (turkey, sweet potatoes, celery, fruits, plum pudding, coffee, and even a Union-made cigar) and his prisoners, moved by their keeper’s kindness, presented Rock with something unexpected — a sixteen-inch silver loving cup, which they had managed to smuggle into the jail undetected. One prisoner, a lawyer locked up for failing to make alimony payments to his wife, stood to toast the Warden and gushed with sentiment.
Keep Reading »