• Broken?

    A Symposium on Mass Incarceration in the USA

    sponsored by the United Nations International School and the Pulitzer Center


    Saturday, November 17th, 2018 from 10am to 3:30pm

    United Nations International School, 24-50 FDR Drive


    Free and open to the public, lunch provided


      The US has just less than 5% of the world’s population, but over 20% of its prisoners. There are over 2 million people behind bars but the number of people under the control of the criminal justice system increases to 6.6 million when those on probation and parole are included. Over 70 million Americans have criminal records, the same number as Americans who have four-year college degrees.


      According to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, mass incarceration is the most pressing racial justice issue of our time. As she and other civil rights activists, including Bryan Stevenson, have argued, slavery and Jim Crow have not ended in this country, they have simply evolved into a new racial caste system. There are now more men of color in prison, jail, on probation or parole in the U.S. than there were enslaved in 1850. In 2016, blacks made up 12% of the US adult population but represented 33% of the prison population. Hispanics made up 16% of the adult population, but accounted for 23% of prisoners.


      US prisons also hold more than one third of the world’s incarcerated women, the majority of whom are Black and Hispanic and have experienced physical and sexual abuse, poverty and addiction. For the over 650,000 people who are released every year, the collateral consequences of a criminal record make productive re-entry almost impossible and fuel pain, trauma and high recidivism rates.

      • How did it get to be this way? How did the US become the world's largest jailer?
      • Is the US criminal justice system broken or is doing exactly what it was designed to do?
      • Can a system that was designed by men who did not believe that everyone was equal, be just? And if not, how do we change it?

      At this one day event, participants will have the chance to discuss these questions with formerly incarcerated people, activists, and advocates who are at the forefront of criminal justice reform.


      Since 2015, students in the UNIS Human Rights Project have been exploring social justice issues related to America's criminal justice system through photography, journalism and oral history. They have trained with photographers and photojournalists and have met with academics, journalists, lawyers, service providers, policy makers, and human rights activists. Most importantly, they have met with over 40 formerly incarcerated people to hear and record their stories and to take their portraits. These photos and stories have been made into an exhibit called "Broken?" which will be on display at the conference. The symposium will end with students from the UNIS theatre department performing some of these stories. Many of the activists and formerly incarcerated people featured in the exhibit and theatre performance will be present at this event and some will be leading workshops throughout the day.






      10:00am Welcome and Presentation from the UNIS Human Rights Project and Pulitzer Center, Theatre, 2nd floor

      10:30am Keynote Speaker: Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Theatre, 2nd floor


      11:15am Coffee Break, Cafeteria, 1st floor


      11:30am Workshop Session 1


      • Women Behind Bars – Witness to Incarceration (506)

      • Guilty of Being Poor: Inequalities of Bail - Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (500A)
      • The US Cannot Incarcerate Its Way out of Violence - 696 Build Queensbridge Cure Violence (505)
      • What Does a Teenager Have to Do to Be Treated like an Adult in the Us? Commit a Crime. – Youth First Initiative (501)
      • Bad Hombres or Targeted Immigrants? – The New Sanctuary Coalition (507)
      • The War on Drugs - Drug Policy Alliance (500B)
      • Impact of Incarceration on Families and Children – Osborne Association (504)

      12:30pm Lunch, Cafeteria, 1st Floor


      1:30pm Workshop Session 2

      • Guilty of Being Poor: Inequalities of Bail - Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (500A)
      • Women Behind Bars – Witness to Incarceration (506)
      • The US Cannot Incarcerate Its Way out of Violence- John Jay College of Criminal Justice (505)
      • What Does a Teenager Have to Do to Be Treated like an Adult in the Us? Commit a Crime. – Youth First Initiative (501)
      • Broken Windows Policing – Police Reform Organizing Project (500B)
      • The New Jim Crow - American Friends Service Committee (507)
      • Reporting Incarceration: Media Representation and Humane Journalism - Pulitzer Center (504)




      2:40pm Pulitzer Center Journalist Speaker: Jaime Joyce, Theatre, 2nd Floor


      3:00pm Theatre Performance, Theatre, 2nd Floor








    • Keynote Speaker

      Theatre, 10:30am


      Khalil A. Cumberbatch currently serves as Associate Vice President of Policy at the Fortune Society, a reentry organization whose goal is to build people and not prisons.


      He previously served as Manager of Training at JustLeadershipUSA, a national non-profit dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by year 2030. He is also a lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work.


      Khalil spent six and a half years in the prison system and five months in immigration detention. In December 2014, he was one of two recipients to receive an executive pardon from NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to prevent his deportation from the United States.

    • Workshops

      Session 1: 11:30am-12:30pm

      Session 2: 1:30pm-2:30pm


      (Morning and Afternoon)


      "We have a system of justice in this country that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.” This is according to Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, A Story of Justice and Redemption. Nowhere is this more evident than in America’s cash bail system, which stacks the criminal justice system against those who are poor. Three out of five people in jail are unconvicted of any crime but are simply too poor to post even low bail to get out while their cases are being processed.


      A core principle of the US justice system is innocent until proven guilty. This should not depend on race or income, but when someone gets locked up, and can’t afford bail, they have two choices: plead guilty to the crime, or wait in jail until the backlogged courts can bring them to trial, which in many cases can take years. Pleading guilty can lead to a shorter sentence and the ability to go home, but those who do carry a criminal record for life. Poverty robs the poor of both the presumption of innocence and their right to a fair trial.


      This session will be led by representatives from the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, an organization that pays bail so that low-income individuals are guaranteed the right to a fair trial. It will focus on the bail system in New York City, and the ways in which the Community Bail Fund is working to address these issues. Participants will hear from those who have been affected by the injustices of the bail system and from those working to change it.

      WOMEN BEHIND BARS - 506 (Morning and Afternoon)


      Women make up 9.8% of the total US prison population. In 2016, the number of females held in jails and prisons stood at 213,722, an increase of more than 700% since 1980. The majority of women have been imprisoned for nonviolent offenses and have histories of physical and sexual abuse, poverty and addiction. Once inside prison, they continue to face inhumane and degrading treatment. Several human rights organizations have documented widespread misconduct by male correctional staff against women inmates, including: sexually offensive language, sexual assault, searches involving inappropriate touching and male staff watching while they are naked. Fear of retaliation prevents the majority from reporting the abuse.


      This session will be led by Evie Litwok. Evie describes herself as a "Formerly Incarcerated, Aging, New York, Jewish, Lesbian, Feminist and Child of Two survivors of the Holocaust." She is the Founder and Director of Witness to Mass Incarceration, a digital library of first-hand in-depth interviews with formerly incarcerated women and men. Evie has been in prison twice, both while in her 60s. She will speak about the trauma and abuse that women experience in prison and once out.


      (Morning and Afternoon)


      Ending mass incarceration in the US requires finding more effective ways of dealing with violence. In 2015, 54% of state prisoners were serving sentences for violent offenses. Research shows that prisons fail to transform those who have committed violence or protect those who have been harmed. Part of the failure lies in the fact that incarceration treats violence as a problem of individual pathology instead of as a problem of social context and history. Violence is driven by poverty, inequality, lack of opportunity, shame, isolation, and like a public health epidemic, violence itself drives violence.


      Cure Violence treats violence like a contagious disease and aims to stop it by treating it in the same manner as a public health crisis: by interrupting transmission of the disease, reducing the risk of those at highest risk, and changing community norms. Today the program is in operation in 15 US cities, including at 18 sites in NYC. In 2015, Cure Violence began operating in Queensbridge public housing, known as some of the most violent public housing in New York City. After the program began, Queensbridge went over 365 days without a shooting.


      The morning workshop will be led by K. Bain, the founder and director of 696 Build Queensbridge, which over the past 2 years has established itself as New York City's most effective cure violence site with unprecedented results in violence interruption activities and mediation endeavors. The afternoon workshop will be led by Sheyla Delgado, Wogod Alawlaqi and Laila Alsabahi, researchers from John Jay College of Criminal Justice who have been studying the impacts of the Cure Violence program in New York City.



      Nearly 50,000 youth are incarcerated in the US juvenile justice system. Boys make up 85% of detained youth and girls make up the remaining 15%. Youth of color represent a disproportionate number of those incarcerated, despite studies that show that they commit roughly the same level of juvenile crime as White youth. Black youth are 5 times more likely to be incarcerated than White youth, Native American youth are 3.2 times as likely and Latino youth are almost twice as likely.


      Many justice-involved youth have histories of abuse and failure by adults around them. This trauma is often exacerbated in juvenile detention where abuse is widespread. Several studies have shown that community programs that allow youth to build respectful and engaging relationships with adults and that emphasize treatment, education and job training are more effective at lowering recidivism rates than youth prisons.


      This workshop will be led by Hernan Carvente, a National Youth Partnership Strategist at Youth First where he works with young activists, ages 15 to 28, who lead campaigns in their states to close youth prisons and invest in community alternatives. Hernan committed a crime when he was 15 and spent six years in youth detention. He will share his story, talk about what inspired him to change, and his work.

      THE WAR ON DRUGS - 500B (Morning Only)


      The war on drugs was launched by President Nixon in 1971 and expanded in the following decades.While it failed to achieve its stated goal of reducing drug use, the war on drugs resulted in an explosion in the prison population. The number of people held in jails and prisons for drug offenses increased from 40,900 in 1980 to 450,345 in 2016. This is more people than were in prison or jail for any crime in 1980.


      Despite several studies that show that Blacks and Whites use drugs at roughly the same rates, policing and sentencing disparities are striking for drug offenses. Between 2015 and 2018, Black people in NYC were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of White people and Hispanics were arrested at five times the rate of Whites, according to a 2018 New York Times investigation.


      This session will be led by Anthony Papa, an anti-drug war activist who was sentenced to two 15-years-to-life sentences for a single, nonviolent drug offense. Tony is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations at the Drug Policy Alliance and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

      BAD HOMBRES OR TARGETED IMMIGRANTS? - 507 (Morning and Afternoon)


      "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” President Trump launched his presidential campaign with these words in June 2015. Immigrants have long been scapegoated for many of America’s problems. They’re often dubbed criminals but it is a myth that immigrants increase crime in the US. Immigrants are incarcerated at a lower rate than native-born Americans and as immigration has increased in the US, crime has decreased.


      The US maintains the world’s largest immigration detention system through a federal agency called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2018, ICE detained over 39,000 immigrants, the second year in a row that the number hit a record high. In April 2018, a new zero-tolerance policy was announced to increase criminal prosecutions of people caught illegally entering the US. As a consequence, over 3,000 children were separated from their parents at the border, which has led to devastating consequences for these families.


      This workshop will be facilitated by representatives from the New Sanctuary Coalition. The New Sanctuary Coalition advocates for immigration reform and supports immigrants and families who are resisting detention and deportation.



      The problem of parental incarceration is so widespread in the US that “Sesame Street,” a popular children’s television program, introduced a new muppet whose father is in prison. Nationwide, 2.7 million children (1 out of every 28) have a parent behind bars. There are 1.1 million incarcerated fathers and 120,000 mothers of minors in US prisons. The majority of incarcerated parents are detained in prisons located more than one hundred miles away from their families. The impacts on children are devastating. Parental incarceration is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” since children of incarcerated parents are more likely to suffer from trauma, anxiety and depression, as well as stigma and shame.


      This session will be led by Whitney Hollins and Vivette Dukes from the Osborne Association. The Osborne Association offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives through programs that serve the community by reducing crime and its economic costs. The session will focus on how the incarceration of a parent impacts children and families.

      BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING - 500B (Afternoon Only)


      Broken windows policing is based on the theory that cracking down on minor offenses in urban environments decreases serious crime by creating a sense of order and authority. In New York City, “fixing broken windows” took the form of arresting hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers for minor violations. In 2015, the highest category of NYPD arrests was for fare evasion: there were over 29,000 cases with 92% involving people of color.


      Critics of broken windows policing argue that it leads to racial discrimination and profiling. Its defenders argue that the NYPD “targets behavior, not communities of color” and that broken windows policing is the main reason for the drop in crime. But a 2016 report by the Investigation Office of the Inspector General for the New York City Police Department, which analyzed NYPD summons and arrest data from 2010 to 2015, found no direct link between an increase in misdemeanor arrests and a related drop in felony crime.


      This session will be led by Robert Gangi of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). The workshop will focus on the discriminatory and abusive practices of the NYPD that routinely and disproportionately fuel the incarceration of people of color from New York City's low-income communities.

      THE NEW JIM CROW - 507 (Afternoon Only)


      Over 70 million Americans have criminal records, about the same number of Americans who have four-year college degrees. Formerly incarcerated people face around 45,000 collateral consequences, ranging from legal discrimination in voting, employment, professional licensing, housing and child custody rights, to the inability to access welfare benefits, student aid and food stamps.


      Nationally, 7.4% of the Black population is disenfranchised, compared to 1.8% of the non-Black population. The unemployment rate among the formerly incarcerated is 27%, almost 7 times higher than the national average of around 4% in 2018. The formerly incarcerated are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. These consequences are at the heart of a system of legal discrimination that litigator and legal scholar Michelle Alexander refers to as the “new Jim Crow” in the United States.


      Participants in this session will take part in an interactive role play called “Meet the Crows” facilitated by Lewis Webb, Jr., Director of Healing Justice in the American Friends Service Committee’s New York Office. His work focuses on decreasing New York’s prison population by mitigating paths to incarceration and increasing opportunities for release through sentencing and parole reform.



      How do we form our ideas about incarceration? What stories do we see and which do we miss? In this Pulitzer Center workshop, we will look beyond the headlines to consider where and who our news comes from, and how good journalism can help communicate the under-reported stories of incarcerated people in a way that connects with diverse audiences and encourages action. Participants will hear from a journalist who reports on criminal justice and experience hands-on activities exploring and evaluating recent news stories about incarceration issues.


      The Pulitzer Center is a nonprofit organization that supports in-depth engagement with global issues, including mass incarceration, through journalism and education programming. This session will be led by Jaime Joyce, executive editor of TIME for Kids and a three-time Pulitzer Center grantee, and Hannah Berk, from the Pulitzer Center education team.


      Theatre, 2:40pm


      Jaime Joyce is executive editor at TIME for Kids, TIME magazine’s news edition for students. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Washingtonian and on BuzzFeed and NPR, among other places. She writes on a range of topics, including arts and culture, criminal justice, education, food and health.


      One of her recent projects centers on the children of the incarcerated. 2.7 million kids—that's 1 out of every 28—has a parent in jail or prison. Jaime's project explores how children and parents can stay connected during a period of separation and shows children impacted by a parent’s incarceration that they are not alone.


      Jaime taught elementary school for seven years and holds master’s degrees from Bank Street College of Education and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


      Theatre, 3pm

      The theatre production was devised and will be performed by UNIS high school students. It is based on interviews with formerly incarcerated people, activists working on reform and people who work inside the criminal justice system.

    • For more information on the UNIS Human Rights Project, on how you can bring “Broken?” into your school, university or organization and on related curriculum and speakers on mass incarceration, contact Abby MacPhail: amacphail@unis.org


      For information on bringing journalists who have reported on mass incarceration into your class, contact Hannah Berk: hberk@pulitzercenter.org



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