The CA has been an important community resource as long as I remember. They maintain the perfect balance of advocacy, public information, and community building that has made them legendary in the circles of people that do criminal justice work.
This is a personal opinion and does not express the views of New York State's Unified Court System. I am a judge of the trial courts of the State of New York, assigned to the civil term, but I also preside over bail hearings in NYC Criminal Court about a half dozen times per year. I am also former chair of the New York chapter of the Women in Prison Committee of the National Association of Women Judges. In such capacity I have seen first hand the work of the Correctional Association, a unique organization with a 100 year old history. Mark Bennett, federal district court judge of Iowa, recently wrote an editorial criticizing mandatory minimum sentencing laws and their part in the current crisis in the prison system in our country , which incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any nation in the world. The Correctional Association through its mandate and cutting age problem solving advocacy, is tackling the crisis head on and forging a model for a truly just system of criminal laws.
The Correctional Association is probably the most exciting and participatory organization I have ever known. They are working on issues that affect the most marginalized people in our society. I have worked especially with their Women In Prison Project and cannot say enough about their vision for a safer and better life for those in prison, recently released and all of us. They are the one agency that is doing this work and they do it well. The CA makes sure that formerly incarcerated individuals have a voice and a way of advocating for the change they know makes the most sense. They have an impact on legislators and policy makers. Those individuals know that when the Women In Prison Project members show up that they know the issues, can speak well and are passionate about what the legislators and policymakers need to do. I am so pleased to work along side this great organization!
In reentry, I became involved with the Correctional Association when I was asked to present at Project Recconnect. As an Academic Counselor at the College Inititiative, a reentry program that assists formerly incarcerated people gain access to college, I provided information on how to pursue college, how to overcome the barriers, such as clearing up outstanding student loans, and provided a bit of inspiration because I too am formerly incarcerated who completed a graduate degree. That was the beginning of our relationship, but certainly not the end. I support such campaigns as, doemestic violence, bring back the bus, the rockefeller drug laws, and the women in prison project, just to name a few. And this is while I'm in reentry, while I was in prison, it was the Correctional Association who we wrote when rodents were taking of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and we needed something done. I have a long standing history with the Correctional Association and while my work has taken me to Columbia University our work together is looking to change unfair systems. I am on Team Correctional Association!!!
I have always been impressed with their initiatives geared toward criminal justice reform. Staff has passion, energy, efficiency and knowledge!
Still "a force for progressive change in the criminal justice system," I am most encouraged by the recent appointment of Soffiyah Elijah as Executive Director of the CA. The appointment of Soffiyah Elijah is emblematic, as well as signaling a recognition that while the CA mission has not changed since 1844, the communities most impacted by the criminal justice system today, in 2012, have.
The Correctional Association of New York has been around since 1845, created by the state legislature to visit prisons and to advise the legislature on needed reforms and policies. It is an institution that has evolved with time and has exhibited a spirit of independence that has made its work thorough, reliable, and essential. Their reports on prison conditions, their recommendations for changes, and their activism in the criminal justice arena, are straightforward and often at odds with a system in dire need of dismantling.