Historic Harlem Court House

The Harlem Community Justice Center's Reentry Services are located in East Harlem

2013 Reentry Graduation starts with a song

The choir started off the celebration this year at the Reentry Court Graduation

Family Reentry Summer Celebration

During the summer, we host a block party and celebration for Reentry clients and their families

Reentry Graduation

Young man thanks his Parole Officer for keeping him on track

Harlem Reentry Graduation

Families join to celebrate the accomplishments of graduates

May 23, 2016

"A Don't Want Pity, I Want Results"

The New York Times has published a sobering account of mass shootings in America. It is a must read for those of us working to reduce violence across the country and those of us who need to understand the topic in more granular detail. According to the article, entitled "A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, But America Isn't Listening,"  shootings involving four or more victims occur each day in America on average. Yet, the 462 persons who died as a result of these shootings is only a fraction of the 11,000 killed by gun fire each year and rarely get noticed.

The title of this post is a quote from the daughter of a 56 year-old African-American man was shot and killed as a bystander in a feud between rivals. It speaks to the critical need for law enforcement and communities to work together to eliminate the scourge of gun violence and bring perpetrators of gun violence to account. The authors highlight that only half of the mass shootings they examined resulted in an arrest or conviction. A shockingly low clearance rate.

There is also the need for honest dialogue and action in communities where shootings are occurring at higher rates. In the African-American where, as the article highlights, half of all gun violence victims and attackers reside the need to confront the problem of gun violence is urgent. In New York City there are several efforts focused on reducing violence that show some promise. Two examples are the Save Our Streets programs run by our sister projects in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn. Recently the New York City Mayor's Office launched a new initiative focused on making the city's pubic housing developments with the most violence safer. Public housing residents in these developments experience more violence and shootings than the rest of the city. A stubborn disparity that has persisted even as overall crime has dropped to historic lows in New York since the mid-1990s.While in the early stages, the Mayor's Action Plan (MAP) is using data and collaboration in ways that research suggest can reduce violence and improve perceptions of safety in a community. Through targeted law enforcement, environmental design changes and improved maintenance and by building local collaborations with tenant leaders, local organizations and the police MAP seeks to drive down violence and shootings in public housing.

As we rightly debate the policies of mass incarceration and the terrible consequences of America's legacy of racism and indifference to communities of color, we must also keep in mind that community members, especially victims of crime, want results. They want both justice that is fair and justice that is effective. We can and must do more to end the senseless and preventable deaths and injuries that result from gun violence in America.

By Christopher Watler, Project Director- Harlem Community Justice Center

May 6, 2016

Multi-State Gathering of Faith Leaders Addresses Prison Reentry

The 8 State Prison Ministry Network kicked off its first conference exploring mass incarceration and reentry issues May 6-7, 2016. The gathering has drawn faith leaders and practitioners from New England and Mid-Atlantic states. The conference is focused on the trauma of incarceration and the impact of incarceration on jobs, housing and family. The conference seeks to support faith leaders who are committed to prison ministry and effective reentry.

The first panel focused on the stories of men and women who have experienced prison. Presenters spoke about their experience in prison and leaving prison. One presenter who spend over 15 years in prison described how his parole was awarded and then revoked because his release coincided with a politically charged debate about prison reform. When eventually eligible for parole no programs wanted him. A local pastor who ran a program for persons leaving prison took him in and has continued to support his reentry.

The second panel includes the family members of persons who are incarcerated. One presenter spoke of the shame and stigma associated with being a Latina and having a brother in prison. She spoke of the incredible support she had her mother, who passed five years ago,  have provided to her brother. "He is coming home soon and he is going to live with me," she said. She ended her presentation by declaring "she is her brother's advocate." A second presenter described how her husband went to prison in New York State for 20 years for stealing $18. This left her and their one year own son on their own. She would eventual go on to start a program to devoted to prison families --Prison Families of New York.

Apr 27, 2016

VIDEO RELEASE -Rethinking Reentry: How One Reentry Partnership is Changing Lives in Harlem

The Harlem Community Justice Center's Harlem Parole Reentry Court works in partnership with faith partners the Interfaith Center of New York and the Church of the Heavenly Rest, and the Harvard Kennedy School to support the men and women returning from prison to Harlem.This effort is supported by the J. C Flowers Foundation under its  Circles of Support partnership.

This week in honor national of #reentyweek we are releasing a video about our partnership. It is a good example of how local collaborations that engage faith partners, the formerly incarcerated and their families can make a difference. Enjoy the short video and please share it with others!

Click here to see the video or cut and past the link below:


National Reentry Week

National Reentry Week, April 24-30, 2016

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has declared this week (April 24-30, 2016)  National Reentry Week.  Reentry Week is more than a time to reflect on the 6,851,000 men and women who are in jail or prison or on probation and parole. It is a time to for action!

All across the country local communicates are organizing events to support men and women are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. For example, our sister project the Brownsville Community in partnership with the Brooklyn Defender Services is hosting a Re-Entry Town Hall this Thursday April 28th at the  Justice Center -- 444 Thomas S. Boyland Street, Brooklyn, NY from 12 to 4pm.

To follow Reentry Week happenings on twitter use the hashtag: #reentryweek

Jul 31, 2015

Mock Interview Night!

On the evening of July 22, 2015, a group of 20 or so volunteers sat at small tables in a classroom of the Dempsey Center, in Harlem. These volunteers-- members of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, located at 5th Avenue and 90th Street, and The Brick Presbyterian Church at 62 East 92nd Street-- were doctors and students and corporate headhunters and even professional opera singers. Across from these volunteers sat men and women, ranging in age from 16 to 70, had been recently released from prison.  

This was Mock Interview Night, a project of the Circles of Support produced in partnership with the Harlem Community Justice Center, Interfaith Center of New York, Network in the Community, and the J.C. Flowers Foundation. Designed to help participants hone their interviewing skills and increase their confidence as they navigate the job market, Mock Interview Night pairs formerly-incarcerated individuals with professionals in their communities. As the Community Engagement Specialist for the Harlem Community Justice Center, an organization that provides reentry programs and support for recently paroled men and women, I was awed and inspired by the depth of human engagement that fraternity that emerged from the evening.

After several rounds of interviews we all sat in a circle, sharing compliments and constructive feedback. It was clear that everyone felt that it was an incredible, and incredibly successful, evening. This was especially true for the two brothers who were in attendance; the younger brother had just returned home after 4 years in prison and his older brother was there to support him through the reentry process, not to mention to brush up on his own interviewing skills. They seemed overjoyed to be together, smiling and laughing often.

The Harlem Community Justice Center, a community court located in East Harlem, works to strengthen its neighbors and community by providing resources and opportunities to the families of those returning home from prison. Strong families support, and are in turn supported by, strong communities.

As we streamed out into the warm summer evening, exchanging our final “goodnights” and “goodbyes,” no one could doubt that the participants of Mock Interview night would succeed. And their success was emblematic of even greater things to come. 

By Thomas Edwards, Community Engagement Specialist and Nicolas Maiarelli, Circles of Support Intern