Fall 2017 Prison Partnership Program (PPP) Newsletter!!
An Ecumenical Ministry Program by the Hudson River Presbytery 
"...he sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners" - Luke 4:18
In this Newsletter....
PPP has been involved in so much work that this Newsletter is a bit long...feel free to look at the headlines and pick which articles interest you...or, ideally, read them all!
In this Newsletter, you will find information on a day with Vice-President Al Gore; a Prison Visit to Sing Sing and one upcoming at Bedford Hills; the New York Theological Seminary graduation at Sing Sing; another upcoming UN Side Event; the formation of a Corrections' Officer Committee; the Role of NYS Public Libraries in Prisons;  a tribute to Theo Harris; Adopt-A-Prison presented at Big Tent and implemented in Bedford, with its first project being the Potter's Field Cemetery at Taconic and organic farming; the Angel Tree program; an invitation to join us in Rwanda; and much more!  
NYTS Graduation at Sing Sing  
As the result of an exemplary program at Sing Sing Prison, fourteen incarcerated men received their Master's degrees in Professional Studies from New York Theological Seminary in June.  And lives were changed, including those of the two men pictured below.
   
Don Scott, Member of the Board of the Town of Bedford 
                                              
Ken Waldemar, Chair, Adopt-A-Prison Program

"The entire experience was moving. We take so many things for granted, among them our freedom. To see what these young men have accomplished is inspirational. It is a wonderful program". - Don Scott, Town of Bedford   
Tour of Sing Sing
A Day to Remember

"What surprised me the most when listening to [Superintendent] Dr. Capra was his genuine desire to make Sing Sing a place of rehabilitation instead of just a 'holding pen'.  You hear so many horror stories of the prison system, and yes, there need to be a lot of changes.  But it's nice to know that there are some prisons that are at least trying to do some good things". 
                                                                           - Kyle Craig, Ossining Presbyterian Church 
 

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, PPP was able to arrange a tour of Sing Sing Correctional  
Facility for twenty people.  As well as the "general tour" of Sing Sing, PPP was able to arrange  two
Although less than an ideal photo, pictured are: Lisa Bowen, Rev Jack Cabaness,(Katonah Pres), Rev Bill Crawford (Larchmont Pres), Kyle Craig, Valerie Danielle, Adi Dehejia, Joni DiMauro, Rev Jeff Geary (White Plains Pres), Rev Hans Hallundbaek (Croton Falls Pres and PPP Coordinator), Rev Peter Johnson (Denton Pres), Jill Kim, Rev Dave Mason (Union Pres), Rev Gavin Meek(Interim General Presbyter), Heather Miller, Rev John Miller(Rye Pres), Mar-li Pitcher, Rev Jeniffer Rodriquez(Ossining Pres), Ron Sizemore, Rev Johah So(Korean Pres), and Ken Waldemar.
 
very special opportunities for those who want to learn more about Prison Ministry.  
 
 
The participants (pictured left) were able to tour a "housing unit", Cell Block A (pictured below), the largest cell block of any prison in this country. No one was unmoved by seeing four floors, piled on top of each other, of human beings in tiny cages.   
Cell Block A  
 
Peter Johnson, Pastor, Denton Presbyterian Church, described the experience of seeing this infamous cell block:
"I didn't see James Cagney or Wallace Beery, but I did see a lot of men behind bars at Sing Sing Prison. Entering Cell Block A, the largest cell block in the US, was a mind bending emotional experience as we viewed four stories of 6x9 cells in a space that was a football field long. 600 men, mostly men of color, live there. There is no such thing as a "country club" atmosphere when it comes to being incarcerated. You have to ask for permission to do everything!"

The other extremely unique opportunity given to those on the PPP Tour was a discussion with Dr. Michael Capra, Superintendent, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision,Sing Sing Correctional Facility.  It is extremely unusual for the "Warden" of a prison to come to speak with a tour group. In the introduction to this article, Kyle Craig spoke about his "take-away" from his time with Dr. Capra and how it gave him hope. 
...  
Gavin Meek, Interim General Presbyter of the Hudson River Presbytery,summed up why visiting a prison is an important thing for all of us to do:  "In my and our collective name, our nation incarcerates people for breaking the law. I believe our citizens should know something about that, including the programs and living conditions our society has for those incarcerated. This tour was very informative along those lines" 

 Upcoming Prison Visit for Clergy at BHCF 
On Thursday, October 12, twenty members of the Northern Westchester Interfaith Council (NWIC) and the Hudson River Presbytery (HRP) will be visiting Bedford Hills Correctional Facility 

What started out as a plan for members of the NWIC and the HRP to be given the  
opportunity to see Prison Ministry in person by touring Bedford Hills Correctional Facility soon became an even more unique opportunity.  The staff of BHCF welcomed the idea of a Clergy Visit and went to every effort possible to make it as seamless as possible, given that prisons are bureaucracies and have very clear guidelines from which there is no deviation.  They were welcoming of the idea and worked hard to ensure a good visit by all present. 

Then something unexpected and additionally wonderful happened.  There is a cemetery at Taconic Correctional Facility, which is located just across the street from BHCF.  Women and children who died in both prisons with no family and no one to "claim" them are buried in a potter's field on the grounds of Taconic (see separate article in this Newsletter).  The Clergy were invited and are being given the extremely unique opportunity to visit the Cemetery after their tour of BHCF.  There they will pray and have their hearts forever changed.  The new Superintendent of Taconic Correctional Facility,
Tanya Mitchell-Voyd, is interested in working with PPP to make the cemetery a place of dignity for those buried there.   
 
Those Clergy who will be touring the Prison: 
Ann Akers, First Presbyterian Church of Port Jervis 
Heather Brown-Huston, Bedford Presbyterian Church 
Heather Finck, Freedom Plains United Presbyterian Church 
Hans Hallundbaek, Coordinator, PPP and Minister of Croton Falls Presbyterian Church 
Stephen Holton, St. James Episcopal Church, North Salem 
Martha Jacobs, First Congregational Church, Chappaqua 
Peter Johnson, Denton Presbyterian Church 
David Mason, Union Presbyterian Church, Newburgh 
Merle McJunkin, Antioch Baptist Church, Bedford Hills
Dawn Morello, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Mt. Kisco (Intern Pastor) 
Jason Nevaraz, Temple Shaaray Tefilah, Bedford
Cari Pattison, Reformed Church of Bronxville
Nicole Schwalbe, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Mt. Kisco 
Elizabeth Smith-Bartlett, Larchmont Avenue Presbyterian Church
Sonia, Trew-Wisdom, Northern Westchester Hospital Director of Pastoral Care
James
Van Schaick, Pound Ridge Community Church
Ken Waldemar, Adopt-A-Prison

Kelvin Walker, Bedford Community Church 

Look for more to come and if you are interested in being a part of this very special work, let us know!  We hope to offer another Tour in the Spring.  We are deeply grateful to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and to Taconic Correctional Facility for welcoming PPP and these clergy members into their prisons.   


 



Another UN Side Event is being planned... 
Look for for information on an upcoming UN Side Event in Spring 2018!   
  
In February 2017, PPP was co-host of a side event at the United Nations entitled, "A Human Dignity and Faith Perspective on the Eradication of Poverty for the Incarcerated Population of the World".  This paper was submitted by the International Prison Chaplain's Association (IPCA) and Citizens united for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), two non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN.  Hans Hallundbaek, PPP Coordinator, is also the NGO representative to the United Nations for both CURE and IPCA.  The Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations came on board to also host the event.    
Photo of some participants at  our past UN Side Event. 
The event was so successful that the Humans Rights Coordinator of the Permanent Mission of Denmark recently approached PPP about doing another Side Event at the UN, including IPCA and CURE as co-hosts again.  The plan is for February 2018, but the date is yet to be determined. Contact sharon@hudrivpres.org to attend.

 
Big Tent - Adopt Your Local Prison Workshop 
PPP goes to Missouri 
 
 
   In July, four-hundred Presbyterians    gathered in St. Louis for the National Presbyterian "Big Tent" event.   
   
The Reverend Alonzo T. Johnson, Coordinator for Self-Development of People, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry out of Louisville, KY, co-presented with Hans Hallundbaek on "Adopt Your Local Prison" which addressed the way that our criminal justice system focuses on breaking, and not forging, community.  In its current form, our justice system separates a certain group - inmates (mostly composed of minorities, the disenfranchised, the poor, people or color, etc) - from others.  This is a global trend.  
 
Restorative Justice is a community-based justice system focused on the healing of broken relationships, in direct opposition to today's outdated, punitive model. In this restorative justice model, each jail and prison becomes a place for churches and ministries to engage in community outreach, healing and reintegration.  If we can adopt highways, why not prisons?     
 
Potter's Field at Taconic Women's Prison 
Another Project of Adopt-A-Prison 

There is a "unknown" cemetery in the Town of Bedford.   
 
It exists on the grounds of Taconic Correctional Facility. In this cemetery are the remains of 70-100 women AND children who died while in prison.
   
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The Potter's Cemetery of forgotten souls at Taconic Correctional Facility  
 
 
A Jewish Memorial Pillar in Potter's Cemetery 
  
PPP has been invited to assist the new Superintendent of Taconic Prison, Tanya Mitchell-Void, in refurbishing this cemetery.  As you can see from the photos, the cemetery has fallen tombstones, is overgrown, and is in need of much repair.  
 
Tanya Mitchell-Voyd, Superintendent of Taconic Correctional Facility,  
in front of the Catholic crucifix  
in the Cemetery
 
PPP and its Adopt-A-Prison Committee are working with local churches and the Northern Westchester Interfaith Council to return this resting place to a place of dignity .  Upon completion of the work, a Commemorative Service will be conducted. 
CURE Conference April 2017
PPP Presents in Costa Rica
   
The theme of the 7th International Conference on Human Rights and Prison Reform in San Jose, Costa Rica  in April was the Mandela Rules, which were adopted unanimously in 2015 by the United Nations.   The Mandela Rules, named after former South African President Nelson Mandela, give us the framework for the treatment of prisoners in the 21st century, as well as seeking to transform imprisonment from wasted time to an opportunity for personal development...resulting in substantially less crime.  

  
Ten panels with participants from 17 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, India, Japan, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda,  Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and Zambia) presented on different aspects of prison reform based on the Mandela Rules.

PPP's Coordinator, Hans Hallundbaek, who is also CURE's NGO Representative to the UN , co-presented "A New Local and National Community Initiative in the USA: Adopt Your Local Prison" at the conference, along with Alonzo Johnson of SDOP.  The highlight of the conference was touring El Buen Pastor Prison, the only prison for women in Costa Rica.   Sixty-seven percent of the women in prison are mothers.   
CURE's  2018 Conference is in Rwanda        The flag of Rwanda: blue, yellow and green stripes with a yellow sun in top right corner 
"A Different Model of Justice"    
PPP's Coordinator, Hans Hallundbaek, (lower right) is also the United Nations NGO Representative for CURE.  Hans will be leading a workshop at this Conference in Rwanda.  If you have interest in attending, please contact Hans. 
 
CURE International is putting together its next conference in Rwanda from May 21-25, 2018.  Out of the rubble of the horrific genocide which occurred there in 1994 has come a community forgiveness program and reentry process for those who committed atrocities during the genocide. 
 
The Gacaca court is a system of community justice inspired by Rwandan tradition.  Gacaca 
can be loosely translated to "justice amongst the grass".

By 2000, approximately 130,000 alleged genocide perpetrators populated Rwanda's prisons. Using the justice system Rwanda had in place, the trials of such massive numbers of alleged perpetrators would take well over 100 years.  During that time, Rwanda's economy would crumble as a massive amount of their population awaited trial in prison. For this reason they chose to adapt and create a large-scale justice system, which works alongside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in order to heal as a people and to thrive as a country.
 
We have lessons to learn from Rwanda's attempt at a healing response to violent crime.   Click here for CURE's website  
Union Theological Seminary Climate Conference  
Ministers' Training on Climate Change   
 
Back Row, third from Left:  Vice President Al Gore; fifth from Left, PPP's Hans Hallundbaek; Second Row: Karenna Gore, sixth from left. 
Vice President Al Gore speaking to ministers at the Climate Conference in NYC.
 
In June, Union Theological Seminary invited fifty clergy to a conference entitled "Ministry in the Time of Climate Change".  The conference was sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics, which was established by  Vice President Al Gore, and who was also a presenter at the conference.
 
 
Vice President Gore's daughter , Karenna Gore, who is the Director of the Center for Earth Ethics, organized the event.  We are all aware of the deep passion that her father has for this issue and he was an instrumental part of the event.  On a broader level, this conference served to remind us that we are all "imprisoned" by the issues of Climate Change and its effect upon the future of our world.   
  
Library Lending to Prisoners 
  
After all, the only reason we can offer correctional facility libraries Inter-Library Loan services is due to the generosity of member libraries. - Grace Riario, Assistant Director & Outreach Coordinator, Ramapo Catskill Library System 
   
A volunteer prison librarian in front of a window surrounded by summer reading programs reviews, written by the inmates.   
There are twenty-three library systems in New York State.  Each system has a connection with a number of Correctional Facilities and/or Jails.  The Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS) provides services to seven Correctional Facilities, one Federal Facility and three County Jails throughout its four-county geographical area.  As Kyle Craig, Reference, IT, and Special Projects Librarian at Blauvelt Free Library, further explained, "Our library system is involved with prisons  with both donated books and loans.  People in prison can get books through inter-library loan as if they were a member of any of our libraries, which is not something I think a lot of library systems do".

RCLS serves as a liaison for the Public Libraries and the Correctional Facilities.  The Correctional Facility Libraries receive donations from forty-seven Public Libraries that are also part of the Ramapo Catskill Library System.  Each Correctional Facility has a librarian whose primary job is to provide library services to incarcerated individuals.  In addition to enabling the borrowing of books, RCLS also enables a number of educational programs for inmates, such as Resume Writing and Book Discussions. 

But it may be the interloan service that is the most important service to which an incarcerated person has access.  The success of this service depends on the kindness of the public libraries in allowing their materials to travel to the Correctional Facilities.  The materials borrowed by the inmates are essential to the improvement of their literacy skills and enhancement of their educational opportunities.  Having library services is a privilege for an incarcerated individual.  They do not take this service for granted and for some, it is a lifeline.   

The service that the Public Libraries offer to people who are unable to access them due to their incarceration is essential to the quality of life these inmates experience.  Having the ability to educate themselves, be prepared for the changing world outside the facility, is crucial to their rehabilitation and their ability to reenter society. 

Still not convinced of the importance of this program?  RCLS has eleven letters from different organizations within Otisville Correctional Facility, addressing the important of this program in their lives: the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Puppies Behind Bars, M.A.N.T. - Muslin Community, Holy Name Society, The Rastafarian Community, The Quakers interfaith Meeting, the African American Organization, The Protestant Brotherhood and the Caribbean African Unity Organization.   
  
These testimonies to the impact of access to libraries for inmates are compelling and unequivocal.  Special thanks to Grace Riario for her help in writing this article.  
The Seven Steps of Reconciliation
 
At the July 26 Hudson River Presbytery meeting,   Loading
Emilie Trautman and Cathy Surgenor (pictured at right) 
and Hans Hallundbaek conducted a workshop on the fundamentals of the Espere Restorative Justice program on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, attracting more than forty HRP Clergy and Elders.   
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Angel Tree Program
 
 
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for some, and a very difficult time of the year for others.  Those who are parents know the joy of being able to give their child a gift for Christmas.  In addition to all of the others losses that parents in prison must face is the pain of being unable to give a Christmas present to their child.  Take a moment and imagine that feeling of sadness, pain, and further feelings of failure as a parent.  
Image result for angel tree 


But you can help!  Prison Fellowship developed the Angel Tree Program, which is a national initiative to give gifts to children whose parents are incarcerated during the Christmas season.  They are looking to recruit churches who are interested in giving this blessing to children and families affected by incarceration during the Christmas season.  Click here to register to become an Angel Tree Church   
 
Speaking of Angels....Theo Harris 
A GoFundMe page has been established for Author, Returned Citizen, and
our beloved former PPP Staff Member, the late Theo Harris 

Theo Harris, BA, MA, MPS, passed away on May 20, 2017 from the ravages of cancer.  He spent most of his life in and out of prison as the result of an ongoing battle with substance abuse. He looked back on his years in prison and considered them his "wilderness experience".  He believed that God was preparing him for something greater. 

 
  
He devoted his life on the outside to working for prison reform with many organizations, including the Hudson River Presbytery as its Prison Partnership Associate Coordinator, representing its eighty-four Presbyterian churches in the Hudson Valley.  He was married to the love of his life, his wife, Phyllis, had a daughter, Nya, one stepson and four stepdaughters.  Theo is and will be sorely missed.   
 
 
PAX CHRISTI'S 35th ANNUAL GOOD FRIDAY WAY OF THE CROSS  
On Good Friday, April 14, nearly 500 people walked in the largest public Christian peace witness in New York City. This Way of the Cross is a modern-day Stations of the Cross, witnessing for peace and justice in the streets of New York City.

The theme this year was "Jesus Calls Us to Active Nonviolence." 
 
At each Station, the participants reflected on their participation in a world still characterized by crucifixion.  Click here for a link to Pax Christi


PPP's Facebook Page   
Just a reminder that PPP has its own Facebook page, which we encourage you to have a look at, "Like", and to "Write Something" that you would like to post or share with others about the important work that we are all doing. 
 
We are very pleased to be sending the Fall PPP newsletter on Prison Ministry to you!!

Sharon Griest Ballen | Editor, PPP Newsletter | sharon@hudrivpres.org
Hans Hallundbaek, Coordinator | Prison Partnership Program (PPP) | hans@hudrivpres.org 
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