Yesterday, over 70 community members gathered at the Fortune Society's Academy (the "Castle") in Harlem, to participate in the first of four "Harlem Reentry and Public Safety" forums sponsored by The Fortune Society and the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in partnership with the Upper Manhattan Reentry Task Force. The forum, "A Community Approach to Reentry: Employment and Public Safety in Harlem," focused on the obstacles former offenders face when reentering the workforce and begun generating community-driven solutions to breaking down these barriers.
The forum was organized around a panel discussion, which included a group of incisive speakers offering diverse perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing reentrants. The panel was moderated by Reverand Alfonso Wyatt, Vice President of the Fund for the City of New York, and included:
Judy Whiting, Litigation Director at the Community Service Society of New York, who gave an overview of Article 23-A of New York Correction Law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of having a criminal conviction,
Vanda Seward, Director of Reentry Services for the New York State Division of Parole, who framed the barriers to employment for ex-offenders as a public safety issue,
Karl Williams, owner of Society Coffee and 76 Grove Street in Harlem, who offered an employer's perspective on the benefits and challenges of working with former offenders
an ex-offender and participant in the Harlem Reentry Court at the Harlem Community Justice Center who, after many rejections from employers who disregarded his credentials after learning of his conviction, is now thriving in his job in construction.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this forum a huge success! The next forum is Wednesday, March 17, 2010, topic TBA.