From One to Many - PPP to IPP

The Presbytery Prison Partnership (PPP) was started eleven years ago by then General Presbyter, Susan Andrews. Dr. Andrews realized that there were as many people incarcerated in the Hudson River Presbytery (HRP) area as there were congregants in its eighty-one churches. Today, close to twenty percent of the churches in the HRP are actively involved in some sort of prison ministry.
With the realization that people of all faiths have a moral and spiritual concern for those imprisoned, the Presbytery Prison Partnership is expanding its mission to include all faiths. As such, we will forthwith be known as the Interfaith Prison Partnership in recognition of those of all faiths who work together to make prisons a more humane, rehabilitative and restorative place for those who are incarcerated. We are stronger together. 

We very much want to thank all of the Presbyterian Churches who have donated to PPP over the years. A special thanks to the Hudson River Presbytery's Legacy Fund and the six Hudson River Presbytery Churches - Bryn Mawr Park, Yonkers; the Korean Presbyterian Church of Westchester, New Rochelle; Rye Presbyterian Church, Rye; Scarborough Presbyterian Church, Scarborough; The Union Presbyterian Church, Newburgh; and White Plains Presbyterian Church, White Plains - who made our work possible. The Legacy Fund and these six churches have, over the last three years, provided a major grant which allowed us to exist and grow the Prison Partnership program to is current level where it is emerging as an ecumenical program. We are forever grateful.
From Brazil to Malawi and Pakistan...
from Alabama to Bangkok and Vatican City...
the Call for Criminal Justice and Prison Reform is heard louder...
and louder.
Overcrowding, malnutrition, violence, mistreatment and inhumane conditions characterize many of the world’s prisons and jails, and an urgent call for attention is beginning to be heard around the world.

Pope Francis surprised the world, and gladdened many, with his announcement in August of the abolition of the death penalty. In addition, the United Nations is calling for global engagement by NGO’s and criminal justice professionals in the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Kyoto, Japan, April 20-27, 2020. 

In our capacity as UN NGO representatives for Citizen United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) and the International Prison Chaplains Association (IPCA,) IPP will work toward publicizing, and our own participation in, the Kyoto Congress. We will make the importance, and symbolism, of this conference in Kyoto on the 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima, known through United Nations Side-Events which we help to organize at the New York Headquarters in February of 2019 and 2020. IPP will also work, through European IPCA representatives, with the UN offices in Geneva and Vienna on Human Rights and Criminal Justice issues .

We are convinced that as the moral arch of the universe bends towards justice, so will the criminal justice pendulum eventually swing from a punitive to a restorative stance.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Join Us as We Go Back to the United Nations in February!

In February 2019 (mark your calendars!) IPP is scheduled to conduct its Third Annual Side Event at the United Nations New York Headquarters, in conjunction with the Commission on Social Development’s Fifty-Seventh Session. This annual session will address strategies for the eradication of poverty to achieve the very first of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (see chart above) established by the UN. The goal set as the first goal, the primary goal, by the UN is No Poverty . As in our previous UN events, the CURE/IPCA team will focus their presentations on the global fact that poverty is a key root cause of crime.
Details and invitations will follow later in the fall.

Forgiveness the Rwandan Way
5000 Men - 24 Toilets

IPP presented at the Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE's) Eighth International Conference on Human Rights and Prison Reform, held in Kigali, Rwanda, in May.

Over seventy delegates from eighteen countries attended CURE's Conference, with four of those delegates being from the New York area. The main topic of the conference was the concept of restorative justice, with expert speakers from Brazil, Sweden and the USA. Participants studied the history of the Rwandan genocide in the 1990's, where close to 1,000,000 (mostly) Tutsi's died in a 100 day killing spree by the Hutu's.

Visits were arranged to the National Genocide Memorial in Kigali; a rural Village where released offenders in the genocide live peacefully with families of the victims; and a maximum security men’s prison with five-thousand men imprisoned (with only twenty-four toilets) in poor but "tolerable" conditions.  

We witnessed that Rwanda has made giant strides in their forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation efforts. Although not perfect, there are vital lessons to be learned from Rwanda's emphasis on forgiveness, not only punishment.

Photo courtesy of Alan Pogue

A Malawi Missionary's Story - Despite Their Conditions, They Sing.

While in Rwanda, we met Stanley Chimesya, a very special Prison Chaplain from Malawi and the Malawi CURE Chapter Leader. Because he does not have a car, Rev. Chimesya rides thirty (yes, thirty!) miles on his bicycle to minister to those in prison. After touring the Rwandan prison as part of the CURE Conference, Rev. Chimesya remarked that the Rwandan prisons are like five-star hotels compared to the Malawi prisons. Inmates are given one meal a day of mush, if they are lucky. There are no beds in a Malawi prison. Inmates sleep on the floor so jammed together that if one person turns in their sleep, all inmates must turn in unison. And yet, somehow, despite their conditions, they sing.

Pictured: Hans Hallundbaek, Jeremy Garbat-Welch, Merle McJunkin, and Steve Holton
Malawi, Africa to Katonah, NY

At the CURE conference in Rwanda, we connected with several Malawi prison chaplains (see above), who work with Rev. Jeremy Garbat-Welch, a Presbyterian missionary in Malawi. Rev. Garbat-Welch came to the States to meet with the Presbyterian Church of Mt. Kisco, which has long supported his work. While here, Rev. Garbat-Welch took time to meet with us and two members of the IPP Advisory Council, Rev. Merle McJunkin of Antioch Baptist Church, and Rector Steve Holton of St. James Episcopal Church, to discuss prison work in Africa.

Sarmad Ali is an Advocate on the High Court LLB (HONS) (UK), LLM (UK); a Columnist for T he Daily Times-Pakistan , a recipient of the Champion of Right to Information Award-2016; a contributor of a chapter in the book entitled 'Private International Law' on Inter-country Parental Abduction edited in India by SAARC University and published by Springer-2017.
Mr. Ali is also an Executive Member of the Anti-Death Penalty Network (ADPAN)-Malaysia. Mr. Ali wrote an article in Pakistan's daily newspaper, The Daily Times, on the life of a condemned prisoner in Pakistan. He has also written an article on a new bill in the Indian Parliament on the death penalty.
The links to read these articles are below:

Meeting with our new NYS Senator

Jackie Kunhardt, Development Manager of RTA (right), and Hans Hallundbaek, IPP Director and RTA Board Member (left) paid a welcome visit to newly-elected NYS Senator, Shelly Mayer (center) to her office. The Senator wanted to learn more about prison issues, and the work being done in prisons, especially those in her district, District 37.

Senator Mayer was very helpful with ideas for engaging our efforts in the political arena, as well as funding suggestions. We look forward to keeping the Senator informed about our efforts locally and at the UN.

Following are four videos from The Marshall Project, Youth Empowerment Television, Adam Foss, and The Guardian. They will enrich you, make you think, make you cry, make you angry...make you feel. Each one is valuable and important.

The Marshall Project created and produced a vitally important film series - a must see!

A powerful new film series, “We Are Witnesses,” gives voice to those whose lives are enmeshed in the criminal justice system—the formerly incarcerated, crime victims, officers of the court, family members of victims and offenders, and more—and provides a rare 360-degree portrait of crime and punishment in America today.

The series is comprised of nineteen short films, each one of which portrays the human cost of mass incarceration. These films provide a unique opportunity for your community to watch together and discuss the ways that people can both witness and advocate for a just criminal system. Committed to criminal justice reform and mitigating mass incarceration, the Hudson River Presbytery is collaborating with The Marshall Project to share these stories to spark discussion and thought.

This article was provided by Olivia Heffernan of The Marshall Project.
The Digital Media Training Program of Youth Empowerment Television

Melvin McCray (standing rear, holding video camera) shared with us the good news that when one of his students, Christopher Padmore (seated center at right), spoke at our UN Conference in February, Christopher's filming of his experience made it onto PBS television! They included clips of various speakers at this UN Conference, organized by IPP.

Mr. McCray is the Director of The Digital Media Training Program, part of Youth Empowerment Television, of the Fortune Society. According to their website, "Youth Empowerment Television began in October of 2017. It is a twenty-two week video journalism program that trains men and women, between the ages 18 to 24 and who are participants in Fortune's Alternative to Incarceration Program, to become citizen journalists. The goal is to teach them to analyze the social, political and economic forces operating in their communities. By doing so, Fortune hopes to increase the success of their re-entry into society. The YET program is funded by grants from Trinity Church Wall Street and the Collegiate Churches of New York".

"A Prosecutor's Vision for a Better Justice System"

In Adam Foss' TED talk on our Criminal Justice system, he addresses the myriad of problems with our system, but also suggests convincing solutions. He points out that "it costs $109,000 in some states to lock up a teenager for a year, with a 60% chance that that person will return to
the very same system. That is a terrible return on investment".

Prosecutor Foss then queries, "Why are we spending $80 billion on a prison industry that we know is failing, when we could take that money and reallocate it into education, into mental health treatment, into substance abuse treatment and to community investment so we can develop our neighborhoods?"

The Trap
The Trap, a thirty minute documentary on the Guardian website, specifically addresses sex-trafficking inside U.S. women’s prisons. As described on their site, "The Trap investigates how prisons and jails across the United States have become recruiting grounds for human traffickers, who are targeting incarcerated women and trafficking them out of correctional facilities and into pimp-controlled prostitution".


 (Valhalla, NY) – Nory Padilla, the Director of Inmate Programs at Westchester County Jail, stated that, : “according to the Prison Policy Initiative, over 95 percent of all individuals in jails and prisons will one day return home. In New York State, approximately 40 percent of the 50,000-plus men and women in state prison do not have a high school education. Through robust educational services and over two dozen other inmate programs, Westchester County is actively trying to address this issue.”

On Wednesday, July 18, nine young people received their high school diplomas at a commencement ceremony held within the walls of the Westchester County jail.

Entering the jail’s chapel in their caps and gowns while ‘pomp and circumstance’ played, the graduates were greeted by County Executive George Latimer, County legislators, their parents, teachers and other mentors. To continue reading, click here.

This article was authored by Catherine Cioffi, Communications Director for Westchester County, NY.


registerNY is a voter activation initiative that expands the electorate by amplifying the voice of those impacted by incarceration. Jail detainees, parolees and families of the incarcerated in New York State are the focus of the plan to register, educate, advocate and increase voter access for vulnerable populations.

registerNY has a series of educational workshops scheduled throughout Bronx and Westchester counties to educate the community about the political process and the importance of civic engagement. We’re looking for faith and community partners to help support our efforts while simultaneously promoting social good and community building. If you are interested in joining our campaign to mobilize the formerly incarcerated and their families, we’d love to hear from you. We can be reached at 347-850-7223 or by email at

A Town and its Local Prisons Work Together for the Good of All

Chris Burdick (left), Supervisor of the Town of Bedford; New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald (middle); and Shelley Mayer (right), New York State Senator, hold a press conference to announce the formation of a joint Waste Water project between the Town of Bedford and our two local prisons, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and Taconic Correctional Facility.

Mass Incarceration's Impact on Families and Communitie s

The Alliance of Families for Justice and the Peekskill NAACP hosted a Regional Conference on The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Families and Communities in July.
Pictured at left is a panel presentation by The Alliance of Families for Justice. Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Alliance, is third from right.
When someone is incarcerated, it is not just that person who suffers. Their families, their communities, also pay a price for losing one of its members. As part of a statewide effort to raise awareness about how incarceration affects families, the Alliance and the NAACP will be holding additional statewide gatherings at the following locations: Ithaca in October 2018; Buffalo in April 2019; Adirondacks in May 2019; and Albany in June 2019. Look for one near you!
Pictured above are Hans Hallundbaek, Director of IPP; Jessica Nevins,
Director of Communications for the Peekskill Area Pastor's Association (PAPA),
and Archbishop Michael Champion, Ukrainian Autocephalous
Orthodox Church and President of PAPA.
Also in Peekskill...
Please join us on September 27 at Peekskill Middle School Auditorium at 6:30 PM for a showing of Dramatic Escape , a documentary film which follows prisoner-members of Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) at Sing Sing Correctional Facility as they mount a production of A Few Good Men. Panel discussion to follow. Free admission.
"Stunningly Stupid"

Thanks to Town of Bedford Board Member, Don Scott, we became aware of a policy whereby 2,000 volunteers, who also happen to be prison inmates, have been successfully fighting fires in California for years, yet are unable to get jobs as firefighters upon release. All are in agreement that these volunteers (inmates) have proven to be more than up to the task and have been exemplary firefighters, putting their lives at risk on a daily basis to save others.

Yet, "because prospective firemen are generally required to have EMT licenses, and because licensing boards are disinclined to issue those to people with criminal histories, there is little prospect of the prisoners continuing their work when they leave prison. Or, to put it another way, in the midst of a national firefighter shortage, regulations are locking out from the profession a set of experienced firefighters from doing a job that they are qualified for. Many jobs that prisoners do on the inside, such as barbering and hairdressing, are off-limits to those with a criminal history, because they require licenses in most jurisdictions. Those licenses serve to filter out such people."

Photo above: Robert Galbraith/Reuters in National Review, August 10, 2018

IPP Advisory Council Member, Rev. Peter Johnson, retires from Denton Presbyterian Church...

. .. and received his Doctor of Ministry degree on
the same day!
May 27, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, is one that Peter will long remember.
Not only was it his last service as Minister of Denton Presbyterian Church in New Hampton, NY, but he received his Doctoral Hood from his professor, and doctoral advisor, Dr. Jeffrey Arthurs. Dr. Arthurs is professor of preaching and communication at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, from which Rev Dr Johnson received his doctorate.
Our sincere congratulations to Dr Johnson!!!
New York State Council of Churches Convened in July 2018...and the New York State Attorney General Race is on...

One of four Democratic primary candidates, Letitia "Tish" James, made a well-received presentation at the New York State Council of Churches July Conference in Johnstown, NY on “Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide”. She is seen here together with NYSCC Executive Director Peter Cook and IPP Director, Hans Hallundbaek. Ms. James is the NYC Public Advocate.

The other three candidates in the Democratic primary race for Attorney General are Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, law professor Zephyr Teachout, and former Hilary Clinton aide, Leecia Eve. All four candidates have said that they will continue using the office to oppose Donald Trump. Research all four candidates and vote in the primary on September 13, 2018, and then again in the General Election on November 6, 2018.
Returning Citizen Success Story

Steven Bingaman, a graduate of the New York Theological Seminary's Masters of Professional Studies degree program at Sing Sing, is currently an M-Div student at Boston University. While in the Boston area, Hans met with Mr. Bingaman and Wren Colle, the Assistant to the Executive Presbyter at the Presbytery of Boston. Mr. Bingaman, Ms. Colle and Hans explored ways of bringing IPP's experience to the Boston area.
Recommended Readings
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson, referred to by Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times as "America's Mandela", is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, and a professor of law at NYU Law School. He has "won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color". His book is "a powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a call to fix our broken system of justice".

Refuge in Hell - Ronald Lemmert

 Without romanticizing the prisoners in his stories, the author--who served for many years as the Catholic chaplain at Sing Sing prison--humanizes them, offers a compelling picture of the reality of an oppressive criminal justice system, and describes the challenge and joy of proclaiming the gospel in such an environment. - Google Books

Father Lemmert explains, "The guys always told me that when they were in the Chapel, they felt like they were no longer in prison, because it was the only place where they were treated like human beings. The Chapel was their 'refuge' in the midst of the hell of Sing Sing. One of the chapters is called 'Life in Hell' and describes the horrific treatment and corruption that were rampant".
Lockdown on Rikers - Mary Buser

Winner of the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize for Non-Fiction
Mary Buser began her career at Rikers Island as a social work intern, brimming with ideas and eager to help incarcerated women find a better path. Her reassignment to a men's jail coincided with the dawn of the city's "stop-and-frisk" policy, a flood of unprecedented arrests, and the biggest jailhouse build-up in New York City history.
Committed to the possibility of growth for the scarred and tattooed masses who filed into her session booth, Buser was suddenly faced with black eyes, punched-out teeth, and frantic whispers from these inmates that they'd been beaten by officers. -


The Theater of War : What Ancient Tragedies Can Teach Us Today - Bryan Doerries

This is the personal and deeply passionate story of a life devoted to reclaiming the timeless power of an ancient artistic tradition to comfort the afflicted. For years, theater director Bryan Doerries has led an innovative public health project that produces ancient tragedies for current and returned soldiers, addicts, tornado and hurricane survivors, inmates, and a wide range of other at-risk people in society. -
Finding Manna - Debra J K Bronkema

Although not specifically on prison work, Rev. Dr. Debra Bronkema, Pastor of Pleasantville (NY) Presbyterian Church, has written a book that reminds us that we all have our own prisons in which we dwell.

Finding Manna is the story of Clare Wheeler, a young woman who feels lost in the middle of her own life. She chose to move far away from home after a broken romance and is living a life that looks successful on the surface. But underneath, she’s in a career that was picked for her, in a location that looks like paradise, but feels like solitary confinement. Through getting to know the guests at a place called Manna House, Clare begins to see the world through new eyes. She is stretched to view life through the lens of people who deal with poverty, addiction, immigration and emotional health issues - and those experiences change how she understands her life. __________________________________
AWARE - Daniel J Siegel, MD
A book about Compassion and Kindness

Dr Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. To quote from his recent New York Times bestseller, " In the field I work in, interpersonal neurobiology, we see compassion and kindness as the outcomes of integration. When we feel the suffering of another person, imagine how to help them, and then take action to reduce that suffering - when we are compassionate - we are linking to the differentiated person who is suffering. When we feel the joy and achievement of another and feel happy with their success, when we wish them well, we have empathic joy, another aspect of integration".

The Grace Baptist Church Prison Ministry Program is hosting an Interfaith Prayer Vigil to pray for all incarcerated people. It will be held at the Westchester County Jail's Pen Chapel on October 16, 2018 from 12 Noon - 2 PM.
For details, email Jen Lackard at
After many years of active engagement in the field of Criminal Justice and Prison Reform, IPP (formerly PPP) is grateful for its many partnerships formed over the years.
As we expand our activities in a national and international arena, we are especially appreciative of our partnerships with:

  • Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants. CURE is dedicated to.... operating thirty-eight chapters in the US and is active in more than twenty countries.
  • International Prison Chaplains Association. IPCA joins together over two-thousand prison chaplains in sixty countries.
  • Our sister organization, Rehabilitation Through the Arts. RTA has been operating successfully for over twenty years in five NYS prisons, including Sing Sing, Green Haven, Fishkill, Woodbourne and Bedford Hills Correctional Facilities.

It is through cooperative efforts that enduring change is accomplished.

If you would like to join us as a volunteer to help out with one (or more!) of our many projects, contact Sharon Griest Ballen at
There are so many opportunities to touch and change could work on our prison correspondence program, help to set up our annual event at the UN, form a literacy group to work with inmates who are illiterate, help with fundraising...the possibilities are endless.
INVITE US! your organization or place of worship to have a conversation or presentation on this life-giving ministry.

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We are 100% funded by donations. Please consider supporting our efforts by sending a check to Interfaith Prison Partnership of the Hudson River Presbytery, 655 Scarborough Road, Scarborough, NY 10510
Watch Out For...
We are very pleased to announce our new IPP Website, which will be up and running soon. This website is being developed with the support of Elena Falcone, Director, Public Innovation and Engagement, Westchester Library System; and Molly Falcone, a Master's degree candidate in Environmental Health at the University of Florida in Gainesville. We could not have done this without them. Our sincere thanks!
Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are, so said Jean-Jacques Rousseau in "The Social Contract".
Hans Hallundbaek, Director, Interfaith Prison Partnership
Sharon Griest Ballen, Assistant, Interfaith Prison Partnership; Editor, Newsletter