Public forum and panel discussion

Hyde Park community member Paul Donnelly is facilitating a public forum and panel discussion:
Topic: Preventative Measures To Costly Incarceration

Date: Thursday, June 30, 6:00 -- 8:00 PM
Location: Hyde Park Town Hall, 4383 Albany Post Rd., Hyde Park

Panelists include: 
  • Assemblyman Frank Skartados
  • Dr. Roger Christenfeld
  • Honey Minkowitz, Mediation Center of Dutchess County
  • Albert Cook, New Paltz High School Teacher

Priority on schools and education, not jails

It's time to end the 'school-to-prison pipeline'

The recent phenomenon of high-stakes tests along with cutting school funding has led to teacher layoffs and overburdened counselors, which puts stress on students, parents and teachers alike. It has left administrators and teachers unable to manage students effectively and has resulted in excessive suspensions, expulsions and even arrests of millions of public school students across the country.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon disproportionately affects students of color and those with disabilities. This tragic combination of pushing kids out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice system now has a name: The “school-to-prison pipeline”.

Sadly, this process is happening right here in Dutchess County. Eighty-six percent of students in the Poughkeepsie City School District live in poverty and more than 77 percent of the students at the high school are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Concurrent with those stark facts, Dutchess County is set to build a $192 million jail in the City of Poughkeepsie.

As a U.S. history and government teacher, I often bring up current events to make history more relevant to my students. After the jail’s bonding was passed by the County Legislature, my students asked me why a new, larger jail would be built at a time when Poughkeepsie’s schools in the city are threatened to be closed due to poor performance.  When I asked my largest class of 27 students how many of them had a family member that is currently incarcerated or has been incarcerated, all but one raised their hands.

Nobody wants to appear weak when it comes to crime, however, the United States currently has more than 2.3 million people behind bars — more than any other country in the world. In fact, over the last 30 years, the jail population has skyrocketed by 400 percent. For example, 41 percent of American juveniles and young adults have been arrested by the time they turn 23. Once convicted and in the criminal justice system, their lives deteriorate. Convicts are ineligible for state aid, student loans, public housing or food assistance, and often become socially disconnected from community and family support structures. So, in addition to having high rates of recidivism, convicts also have high rates of suicide and homelessness.

It is time to rethink our approach to criminal justice. The current system is not only expensive, costing approximately $75 billion a year, but it also bears an incredible social cost. A cost to people whose lives are changed forever, as well as their families, communities and, ultimately, ourselves. The way we treat criminals is a reflection of our society. “Wars on crime” and “wars on drugs” are really just wars on people. So, instead of locking people up and forgetting about them, the new thinking involves alternatives to incarceration.

A few options the county should look into to lower the numbers of those incarcerated, particularly juveniles, include: speeding the case processing system by hiring another county judge (on average an inmate waits about 52 days until trial), greater investment in outpatient mental health counseling and investing in youth employment programs.

This country has made significant strides to broaden the scope of participation in government for women, immigrants, African-Americans, Hispanics and, recently, the LGBT community. However, during the last 40 years, mass incarceration has created a new caste system that has targeted mostly people of color. Once people are swept into this system, they are then stripped of the rights supposedly won by the civil rights movement. Dutchess County ought not perpetuate such a wrong. It is time put a priority on schools and education for the youth, not jails and incarceration.

Paul Donnelly has worked as a teacher in the Poughkeepsie City School district for 11 years. He also is an instructor for Vassar College's Urban Education Initiative.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing"

Saturday June 18, KINGSTON and NATIONWIDE. A Celebration of Juneteenth takes place here today at the New Progressive Baptist Church, 8 Hone St. promptly at 5 p.m. 

Appearing will be Professor A. J. Williams-Myers, famed civil rights photographer Jim Peppler, and the Redwing Blackbird Theater performing a short mask and puppet show. All are invited. (Information, Odell Winfield, [914] 388-3092). 

Juneteenth is also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth and is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in most states. 

The holiday is observed primarily in local celebrations. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs and Lift Every Voice and Sing, and readings by noted African-American writers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations may include parades, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, and reenactments. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was originally a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938), now often referred to as the "Black American National Anthem." For a 3 minute 32 second version of this powerful song (with lyrics) go to

“three black teenagers” turns up prisoners’ mugshots

'Three black teenagers': anger as Google image search shows police mugshots

A simple Google image search highlighted on Twitter has been said to highlight the pervasiveness of racial bias and media profiling.

“Three black teenagers” was a trending search on Google on Thursday after a US high school student pointed out the stark difference in results for “three black teenagers” and “three white teenagers”.

Kabir Alli of Virginia posted a clip to Twitter of himself carrying out a straightforward search of “three black teenagers”, which overwhelmingly turns up prisoners’ mugshots.

“Now let’s just change the colour ...”

He and others erupt in laughter when the result for “three white teenagers” show stock photos of smiling, wholesome-looking young people.

May 23rd at 6pm

White Privilege Forum Part One B – May 23rd at 6pm
At the New Progressive Baptist Church, 8 Hone Street, Kingston, NY
For info contact Odell Winfield at 914-388-3092

First Professor A.J. Williams-Myers will talk about the History of Racism then the Panelists Peter Heymann, Break Through Career and Life Coach, ENJAN member and Undoing Racism presenter, along with Tracy Givens-Hunter, former Southern Dutchess NAACP Criminal Justice Chair, Board Member ACLU of Lower Westchester, and Undoing Racism presenter, will lead an interactive discussion with the audience. Minister Rita Worthington of New Progressive Baptist Church, known to many as speaking out against the unequal treatment of black youth, will be the moderator.

The intent of part One B of the forum is to continue to raise awareness of what white privilege and institutional racism are and show how they affect us all. Again please look at Chapter Six of Michelle Alexander’s pioneering bestseller, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, will serve as a focal point of the discussion. “Perhaps the time has come to give up on racial bribes and begin an honest conversation about race in America. The topic of conversation should be how us can include all of us”, p. 257.

Unitarian Universalist Event

Contact: Barbara Stemke
845 339 3207

Mariposa & the Saint:
Play exposing harms of solitary confinement comes to Kingston

- Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director of U.S. Prisons Policy & Program
National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Kingston, NY (Friday, May 20, 2016) – Julia Steele Allen, an award-winning playwright and activist, announced the play, Mariposa & the Saint, will come to Kingston, NY. Mariposa & the Saint: From Solitary Confinement, A Play Through Letters is based entirely on letters written between Sara (Mariposa) Fonseca and Allen while Mariposa was held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a California women’s prison. The play is directed by Noelle Ghoussaini and performed by Julia Steele Allen and Ray Huth.

The event, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, located at 320 Sawkill Road, Kingston, will consist of consciousness raising entertainment with the performance of the play Mariposa & the Saint followed by a workshop exposing the harms of solitary confinement in the United States. 
Doors open 30 min. prior to each performance. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $10-$15 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds, formerly incarcerated come for free.

Friday, May 20, 2016- Kingston at 7PM: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, 320 Sawkill Road
(Please note, due to the Washington Ave. entrance to Sawkill Rd. being closed, please use Rt. 209 and the Sawkill Rd. exit and go south on Sawkill to 320 Sawkill Rd.)  

Final Day of Hunger Strike


FIVE-Day HUNGER Vigil and Rallies to 
Demand Justice FOR SAM HARRELL

April 21 will mark one year since Sam was beaten to death at the Fishkill prison in Beacon, NY.

Sam was a beloved husband, brother, uncle, and friend to many who live in Kingston, NY.  He was diagnosed bipolar and was serving time in Fishkill prison on a drug charge.  The week of April 21, 2015 he was released from two weeks in solitary confinement, had not been given his proper meds, and had an episode where he believed his family was coming to get him and prepared to leave.  As many as 20 COs handcuffed him, beat him, shouted racial slurs, and threw him down a flight of stairs.

A year later those COs are still on the job and nothing has been done to prevent anything like this from happening again.

To honor Sam and support critical changes in the prison, ten members of Sam’s family plus more than a dozen friends and supporters, including Soffiyah Elijah, one of the nation’s most important voices in prison reform, will be fasting for five days, starting on the year anniversary, April 21.

Join Us!!!

NYC Commemoration Ceremony &
Final Day of Hunger Strike 
Monday, 4/25, 4-6
The plaza in front of the State Office Building,
125th and Adam Clayton Powell

The Harrell Family          Soffiyah Elijah of the Correctional Association
Senator Bill Perkins          Truthworker Theater Company
Hip Hop Artists Mister Five and Mysonne          Poet Tiffany Van Dyke
Rabbi David Ingber          and more…

Please share the FB event page:

For more information:

On Sat, Apr 16, 2016 at 1:35 PM, Kavitha Rao <> wrote:
Hi Connie,

sorry for the delay.  here's the press release and I'll send the flyer in the next email:

5-Day Hunger Vigil and Events to Commemorate
Year Anniversary of Murder of Samuel Harrell

Ideal points of media coverage:
Saturday, 4/23, 2-4pm – Rally in Beacon, NY
Monday, 4/25, 6am-noon – The family is available for live interviews, by phone or on-site in NYC
Monday, 4/25, 4-6pm – NYC Commemoration Ceremony
We are happy to arrange in-person interviews and live phone interviews throughout the vigil.

Beacon, NY location: Memorial Park, west side near Matteawan Rd.
NYC location: State Office Building Plaza, 125th and Adam Clayton Powell

BACKGROUND:  Harrell, a 32-year old black man suffering from bipolar disorder, was serving an 8-year sentence on a drug charge. Four days after completing two weeks in solitary confinement and not receiving his proper medication, Harrell mistakenly believed his family was coming to pick him up and he prepared to leave. As many as 20 corrections officers handcuffed him, beat him, shouted racial slurs at him, and threw him down a flight of stairs.  No disciplinary action has been taken against the COs involved, and no changes have been made in the prison.

THE HUNGER VIGIL: 10 members of the Harrell family, plus dozens of supporters, including Soffiyah Elijah, the Executive Director of the Correctional Association, will fast for five days to honor Sam and to seek critical changes at the prison: accountability for the COs who killed Sam, a body camera program, cut-backs in the use of solitary confinement, and additional training for COs.


“Prison Guard ‘Beat Up Squad’ Is Blamed in New York Inmate’s Death,” New York Times, 8/18/15

Other coverage included Democracy Now!, The Huffington Post, The New York Daily News, The Albany Times-Union, The Poughkeepsie Journal, The Daily Freeman, and more.


Thursday, April 21 - The Harrell family will begin fasting in North Carolina where Sam is buried, while some of their friends and supporters in New York will begin their fast with a candlelight ceremony outside the Fishkill prison in Beacon.

Friday, April 22 – Sunday, April 24 – The family and may of the other people fasting will spend three days camped out at Memorial Park near the Fishkill prison.  Hundreds of people will flow through the vigil site where there will be numerous portraits that have been painted of Sam, a replica of a solitary confinement cell, speakers, music, poems, workshops, interactive art, theater, and more.

Saturday, April 23, 2-4pm – There will be a spike of hundreds of additional people at the Beacon site for a rally featuring Sam’s family and friends, social justice singer Taina Asili, gospel singer Ralph Williams, Rabbi Brent Spodek, Red Wing Blackbird Theater, the New Progressive Baptist Church Choir and Praise Dance, poet Tiffany Van Dyke, and more.
Monday, April 25, 4-6pm – Hundreds of people will participate in a commemorative event in Harlem to close out the hunger vigil, featuring Sam’s family and friends, Soffiyah Elijah of the Correctional Association, Senator Bill Perkins, rappers Mysonne and Five, poet Tiffany Van Dyke, Rabbi David Ingber, and more.

CONTACT:   Jeff Golden   Beacon Prison Action   845-764-7112