A part of the impetus for the change is due to the behind-the-scenes work of people like Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, a small woman with fuchsia glasses.... Epoch TimesUPDATED: August 31, 2014
At last night's (Friday, Aug. 29) ICE meeting we talked over old times about Loretta and Gene, two education fighters for social justice for their entire lives. They had been founders of ICE and were sorely missed. (Oh what would they be doing over in Staten Island over the recent events - they would be in the midst of the battle over some of the open racist crap coming out of some teachers.)
We had to meet in Staten Island when Gabby was born in the summer of 1975, just before the major upheaval of the massive budget cuts and strike to come. I remember at a meeting at the Priscos in late Aug or early Sept, Loretta standing on the stairs and burping the 2 week old Gabby.
In elementary school, Horowitz-Prisco once advocated for her cafeteria to offer peanut butter and jelly as an alternative to hot lunch. Her parents were schoolteachers and political activists for equal opportunity in education. From a young age, Horowitz-Prisco realized that children are a silent group, in terms of political power.Thus, Gabby came into the world in the midst of a very active period for her parents and their friends and she has never stopped.
By the way, Gabby went to NYU Law and was one of legendary constitutional scholar Derick Bell's favorite student, even co-teaching classes with him.
I had the honor of sitting next to Bell's widow at Gabby's wedding.
She was one of the honored speakers at the dedication of an edition of a New York University Annual Survey of American Law.
Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for sending this.
This Is New York: Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Director of Juvenile Justice Project on Protecting Children
Nazario was one of the many minors in New York who are imprisoned with adults each year. In 2008, there were 3,570 youth under the age of 18 who were admitted to jails in New York City, according to government data.
New York is one of two states that prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Around 100 teenagers are housed in solitary confinement at Rikers Island at any given time, reported the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Earlier this month, the United States attorney in Manhattan released a report documenting Rikers prison guards’ disturbing brutality, including an incident that resulted in the skull fracture of an inmate.
The crime and punishment discourse has shifted from the conventional wisdom that prisons are not supposed to be nice places. Media coverage of the issue has sparked a public outcry, leading to the recent resignation of Florence Finkle, a top investigator at the New York City Department of Correction.
A part of the impetus for the change is due to the behind-the-scenes work of people like Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, a small woman with fuchsia glasses.
Art Therapist, Attorney, ReformerHorowitz-Prisco is the director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correction Association (CA), an independent nonprofit that advocates for prison reform.
At dinner parties, she talks about children in solitary confinement.
“It’s not everyone’s favorite party conversation,” she said. “But I don’t stop. We need to talk about these things.”
Day in and day out, Horowitz-Prisco is speaking publicly, researching, analyzing bills, or testifying at City Council hearings.
The CA is the only private organization in New York that has unrestricted access to prisons.
The organization was one of the first to address the crisis of AIDS in prisons in the ’80s. In recent times, it was involved in the passing of legislation such as the Safe Harbor Law, which prevents sexually exploited children from incarceration for prostitution.
The walls in her office are plastered with drawings from children. A meditation crystal rests on her desk to balance the bleak nature of her work. One may wonder why this former aspiring art therapist from Staten Island, turned attorney, turned policy analyst, cares so deeply about prison reform?
(Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
In elementary school, Horowitz-Prisco once advocated for her cafeteria to offer peanut butter and jelly as an alternative to hot lunch.
Her parents were schoolteachers and political activists for equal opportunity in education. From a young age, Horowitz-Prisco realized that children are a silent group, in terms of political power.
“Children don’t vote or have a lot of spending power. They don’t lobby. They don’t always have advocates for them the way other groups do. But I really think humanity rests on this. The cost of not caring for children is our collective well-being, the fate of a planet, a society, our ability to be happy,” she said.
She decided to become an attorney during an experience in college, when she volunteered at a shelter for runaway and homeless teenagers.
There, she felt that lawyers and judges were in power.
“I felt that decisions made about their lives were not consistent with their own sense of where they would be safe,” she said.
So she became a lawyer. She worked for the Legal Aid Society and also the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked to expose the FBI’s surveillance of religious, political, and ethnic groups.
In the end, she decided to come to the CA to work on policy reform, where she met Nazario.
(Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
The Human Capacity to ChangeAfter Nazario was released from prison, he became a case manager for the Raise the Age campaign, which argues that psychologically, adolescents are still children, and placing them in the adult criminal justice system has perverse effects.
“He’s a young man that I now work with as a peer,” Horowitz-Prisco said. “Just because a child or an adult makes a mistake, it doesn’t mean that we should perpetually punish them for the rest of their lives.”
For two years, Nazario worked with at-risk youth from ages 12 to 17. He is currently doing similar work with Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides resources for youth and formerly incarcerated people.
“No one is solely the worst thing they have ever done,” she said.
Video: Why are New York’s youth being lockeup like adults?
Warning: Some images may be disturbing.
This Is New York is a weekly feature that delves into the life of an inspiring individual in New York City. Read a new feature every Saturday online, and every Friday in print. See all our TINYs here: epochtim.es/TINY