Feb 19, 2013

Harlem Reentry graduates 53 participants!

Last Thursday, February 13th, was one of my favorite days of the year. It was the day of Harlem Reentry's graduation, celebrating  53 graduates of the Harlem Community Justice Center's prison reentry programming, and the community of people, including their parole officers and HCJC reentry staff, who have supported them through the last year of their life.

The evening was jam packed with speakers, including DOCCS Commissioner, Brian Fischer, who  told the crowd that he hoped to "work himself out of a job."  Lloyd Williams, a reentry court graduate stole the show with a passionate storytelling of his journey towards and away from imprisonment and a lyrical plea for sustained change directed at the graduates.  A Harlem-based choir sung a gorgeous hymn reminding the graduates of a higher power's eternal devotion to them, and that they are never alone, even during their darkest moments. The night ended with each graduate approaching the podium to accept his certificate and to share words of thanks to everyone who had been there for him/her.

Mostly touching to me, (and a testament to the fact that that community supervision, when done right, can really work!) was the outpouring of gratitude to the graduate's parole officers, by none other than the graduates themselves. "Thanks for keeping on me every day," one graduate said, "It's what kept me focused and motivated."  In fact, a battle of sorts arose between the graduates, arguing playfully as they accpeted their certificate, that their PO was "definitely the best."  Not something you hear everyday!

I could tell you more, but wouldn't you rather read it in the New York Times?