One of the most popular Untapped New York articles has been about the prisons of New York City. This fall, Untapped will be partnering with Livingthedream.org and Fordham Law School to run a 6-week advocacy and legal workshop for some of Rikers Island’s incarcerated juveniles. The program started in summer 2009 and will commence again mid-October. As Janos Marton, Fordham Law graduate and Livingthedream.org founder writes, “Rikers Island is, for many youths, their introduction to the criminal justice system, and the awful experience that follows profoundly impacts their young adulthood. While some kids never opened up to us, others loved our program, which involved group discussions about legal issues ranging from gun control (in light of the Plaxico Burress shooting) to cannibalism at sea, to a fantastic mock trial the last week of the program. Some of these kids were sharp, savvy and charismatic, full of potential but for the path they had gone down. Many peppered me with questions about college, law school and making money during and after each workshop. One even explained to me how to fake collapsing in fear in order to pull a gun and shoot someone in self-defense. Let’s put it this way: there was never a dull moment.” The program has the full support of the Rikers Island staff, especially in the face of recent budget cuts.
This fall’s workshop will cover each citizen’s Constitutional Rights, focusing on the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th amendments of the Bill of Rights. We are even thinking of bringing in musical instruments for some of the sessions. Most importantly, Untapped and Livingthedream.org are looking for volunteers (legal background not necessary). While continuity is the best way to build up a relationship with these kids, even committing to two Sundays can be helpful. Fluent Spanish speakers would be helpful to deal those that speak little English and often feel left out of our discussions. The sessions will run between 9:30 and 11:30am. If interested, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Update: A recap on this year’s workshop!
For a more comprehensive look at last year’s Rikers Island workshop, check out Janos’ writeup on Livingthedream.org.