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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.

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Incarcerated LGBTQ Artists Get a Gallery Show Curated By Diane Von Furstenberg’s Daughter

Jim S, "Cynosure"

Jim S, “Cynosure”

The obstacles faced by the more than 2.3 million incarcerated people in the United States today are enormous, and the consequences of the prison system are felt by whole communities, families, and the 5 million children who have at least one parent either currently or previously imprisoned.

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Week in Film: a Handmaiden’s S&M Tale and Prison Twelve Ways


The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
Friday November 4, 7 pm and 9:15 pm and through Wednesday November 9 at Anthology Film Archives: $11

This documentary explores the far-reaching consequences of incarceration across the United States, without ever setting foot inside the prison proper. It’s a fascinating take on the impact of the prison system from a different perspective than the one we’re used to, in which the cameras are literally being behind bars. Instead, the subject is approached through absence and invisibility, from the parallel infrastructures that bring food and supplies into penitentiaries to women prisoners fighting forest fires in California.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Going to the Gym Feel Like Prison? That’s Actually the Idea at ConBody Bootcamp

Coss Marte ( Photo by Kavitha Surana)

Coss Marte ( Photo by Kavitha Surana)

Enter the basement of 294 Broome Street and you’re faced with a row of lockers and “mug shots” under bright lights. Jail cell bars open into a sparse studio with a graffiti mural of two figures escaping through a barbed wire fence. It almost feels like the police are about to take you in for questioning. Instead, this is where ConBody trainees “do the time” with prison-style bootcamp workouts.

The decorations are more than a gimmick. It was in solitary confinement that Coss Marte first dreamed up ConBody. He saw it as a chance to transition from busted drug dealer to a legitimate entrepreneur, helping provide jobs to other former inmates in the process.

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