for Prisoners Are People Too

 

by Karima Amin

It’s been said that June is a month chock full o’ celebrations…weddings, graduations, proms, Juneteenth, Black Music Month, summer solstice…and the list goes on. June 1 is when I celebrate my years on the planet and the month when we acknowledge another year’s work for Prisoners Are People Too, which was founded 9 years ago. Since June of 2013, much has been accomplished and we’ve had some disappointments too, but our successes far outweigh those people and things that would seek to divert our mission.

Our Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders is gaining strength with Sara Jablonski encouraging members to write to reformed offenders, giving them the strength and encouraging words that they need to hear from community. Our Program Director, BaBa Eng, just celebrated one successful and productive year of “freedom” after 36 years of incarceration. The Circle also encouraged Shawnon Mu’haimin Bolden (free since January 2014) and James Justice McMoore who will walk through prison gates in July.

As the “Open Buffalo” initiative gains a presence in the city, Restorative Justice is being seen more and more as a major part of making Buffalo a better place. Prisoners Are People Too is at the forefront of the drive to institute restorative practices in our courts, jails and schools, with Citizen Action, Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, and the Erie County Restorative Justice Task Force. More collaboration can be seen as VOICE-Buffalo helps us to organize for the restoration of the conditional release program, which worked successfully in Buffalo (1992-2005), giving formerly incarcerated people and opportunity to jump-start new and improved lives in the reentry process. Also, in working with the Erie County Restorative Justice Task Force, we are strengthening our position as restorative justice practitioners through a training process that is comprehensive and holistic. We have laid a foundation for bringing restorative justice to the Erie County Correctional Facility and the Erie County Holding Center.

Our collaborative work continued this year on April 16 with PRP2 members participating in the Milk Not Jails statewide action for parole reform. We stood in front of the Buffalo Parole office then marched to Sen. Grisanti’s local office. More collaboration occurred when 16 of us went to Albany, on May 5, to attend the New York State Prisoner Justice Network’s Day of Action Against Mass Incarceration. We showed up, joining about 500 others, with our signs and our voices, calling for parole reform, jobs not jails, an end to solitary confinement, better care and concern for aging prisoners, and more compassion and justice for our children, caught up in the criminal injustice system. A recent collaboration led us to work with Buffalo’s Teens in Progress, as we participated in a national week of action against incarcerating youth.

To find out more about what we are doing and to get involved with our work, please come to our next monthly meeting on Monday, June 30, 2014, at 7pm – 9pm, at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. For more information: Karima Amin, karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org; BaBa Eng, g.babaeng@yahoo.com; 716-834-8438.

“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)

Karima Amin is a longtime Buffalo Activist, Educator, and Storyteller as well as founder and director of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2).