Our mission is to bring the general public into contact with members of the legal community in order to increase overall awareness of legal policy, and to facilitate discussion toward the reform of the criminal justice system. In Our Name is a semi-annual conference. The conferences are a gathering of concerned professionals, advocates and members of the academic and general community, to discuss the state of our criminal justice system, and a call to action for reform.
Sponsorship of retreat and conference by the community outreach division of First Fairfield Associates, LLC - Saratoga Springs, NY.
The first In Our Name, Restoring Justice in America, conference was held from Friday August 24th to Sunday August 26th, 2012 and was well attended and by all accounts was a productive and inspiring weekend. Our speakers generously gave of their time to present and answer questions from the audience and our guests had even further opportunities for discussion with them at meals, breaks and after hours at the lodge. The food, accommodations and setting at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center were superlative and we were especially pleased to see people from neighborhoods and communities from New York City to Albany, Syracuse and Rochester and throughout New England in attendance.
Sheila Rule was an outstanding moderator and gave ample opportunity for everyone to participate to the fullest and she provided special insights throughout the conference. Andrew Zarro followed with an insightful and moving welcome and Richard Langone opened the conference with an inspirational account of his long journey from custody to advocacy.
Rev. J. Edward Lewis and Rev. Joseph A. Caron spoke eloquently about the stark truths of the racial imbalances in our criminal justice, mass incarceration and prison systems and Mardi Crawford, of the New York Defenders Association, and Steven Downs, of the New York Civil Liberties Union, spoke passionately about defending justice for the poor.
Jeffrey Deskovic of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation provided a compelling, near spellbinding talk about his and other wrongful convictions and gave a very informative interview concerning the viability of the New York State Attorney General's recently established Wrongful Convictions Bureau.
Former New York City Police Detective Peter Fiorillo gave a startling account of the case of three young black men wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for the murder of an off-duty police officer.
Former New York State Division of Parole Chairman Edward Hammock gave us all an education on the state of our parole and prisoner re-entry systems and made us aware of the long road ahead of us in the areas of criminal justice, parole and sentencing reform. Mr. Hammock's presence was especially meaningful to the loved ones of incarcerated people in attendance.
Saturday night dinner was capped off with an hour long reading and recital from poet, teacher and advocate Cara Benson who presented her own work as well as the writings of current Mt. McGregor CF residents and poet Arthur Logan recited some of his current pieces, including, Dream Not For Today.
David Kaczynski, the Founder and outgoing Director of New Yorkers For Alternatives to the Death Penalty, was Saturday night's speaker and gave a moving, awe inspiring account of his family's ordeal in confronting the criminal justice system and his ensuing commitment to the cause of restorative justice and non-violent alternatives to crime and punishment.
Gordon Boyd, an In Our Name Coordinator and prison volunteer, and Dean David Karp, of Skidmore College, discussed mentoring in prison and Dean Linda Richardson and Father Dennis Tamburello of Siena College gave an inspirational account of Siena's college program offered to inmates at Mr. McGregor Correctional Facility, and their personal commitment to the cause.
Dean David Karp, of Skidmore College, and Duke Fisher, of Learning Laboratories,engaged the attendees in a discussion on Restorative Justice - Punishing without Destroying; the exercise involved feedback from an actual case in which a community came together to deal with a senseless act of destruction by a group of teenagers by mediating the offense instead of imposing traditional punishment.
Rev. Joyce Hartwell of the Artist All-Faith Center and New Age Cabaret, Rev. G. Tyrone Reedie of the Grace and Holy Innocents Church and Chaplain at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, author and teacher Dr. Mildred Smith Chang, community activists Saretha and Luis Sotomayor and Danielle Williams White concluded the conference presentations on a cautious but hopeful note, emphasizing the critical importance of viable prisoner re-entry programs and the obligations of society to enhance the process. The panel also addressed the need to educate the public about the effect of criminal prosecutions and incarceration on communities and families, especially those of color.
Formerly incarcerated people, present and former NYS DOCS and Parole officials, current staff members of the Albany County District Attorney's offices, Judith Brink and other members of Prisoners Action Network and students and staff of Siena and Skidmore Colleges were in attendance and were active participants in the conference weekend.
The weekend was concluded by moderator Sheila Rule with the assemblance of a list of specific proposed reforms and suggestions for a call to action.
The entire conference, including the interview with Jeffrey Deskovic, was filmed and edited and will be made available for broadcast on public access radio and television.
We will be pleased to provide community and advocacy organizations, schools, prisons and educators and libraries a full set of the DVDs, free of charge. Anyone wishing to obtain a set of the In Our Name DVDs should contact us at email@example.com or call Laura Manning at (518)581-7933.
Please sign on to inourname.org blog and participate by sharing your thoughts about the conference or any relatedÂ subjects which are of importance to you.
Our heartfelt thanks to all who participated in the first In Our Name conference and to our sponsors, who provided the scholarships and means for our participants and guests from the community to attend. We would also like to thank Skidmore College and Siena College for their special participation.
August 2012 Conference
The inaugural "In Our Name" conference featured some of the most distinguished advocates, attorneys, clergy, academics, artists and community group leaders in the criminal justice and prison reform movements and the topics they selected for presentation in the August conference were unique to each speaker's personal experiences.
Sheila Rule, our program moderator, has spent over three decades using her considerable credentials as a journalist in the pursuit of ethical paths to justice and was the principal organizer of a similar conference at Riverside Church in New York City last year. Sheila not only moderated the weekend but offered her considerable skills in synthesizing the presentations and keeping us all in theme.
Andrew Zarro convened the weekend conference with his talk on "Justice at Home". He combined his academic background in Restorative Justice with his own first hand experiences when his own family was made to confront the stateâ€™s criminal justice juggernaut and discuss how he personally met those challenges.
Richard Langone spoke about surviving justice and how as a 17 year old in prison for a murder he committed as a youth, he transformed his life through education, mentoring and spirituality to become one of the state's leading appellate lawyers.
Rev'd Joseph Caron and Rev'd J. Edward Lewis are present and former New York State prison chaplains with specific ministries in mentoring and helping the families of African American inmates in New York State. They spoke on "Justice in Black America" and examined the haunting issue of the disproportionate African American male population in New York State's prisons.
Mardi Crawford of the New York State Defenders Association and Steven Downs of the New York Civil Liberties Union discussed the crisis in New York State's indigent defense system and spoke about defending the poor. Both of these dedicated attorneys have great interest in and knowledge of a pending class action in New York Supreme Court, Hurrell Harring v. State of New York, the outcome of which could have a serious impact on the way society defends justice for the poor.
Jeffrey Deskovic of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation spent 17 years in New York State prison for a crime he did not commit and was exonerated by DNA evidence years after. Jeff has spent his time and money he received as compensation after his exoneration traveling the country sharing his experiences with the public about justice denied. Jeff told his story and about the work he and his Foundation are doing to prevent and rectify wrongful convictions.
Peter Fiorillo, a veteran homicide detective and investigator for New York County District Attorneys Frank Hogan and Robert Morgenthau, discussed the critical and dangerous investigative process and how the wide discretion investigators have in whether or not how and who to investigate can indelibly taint and interfere with a suspects right to a fair trial.
Edward Hammock Esq., former Chairman of the New York State Division of Parole, made a presentation on Executive Decision Making and the Politics of Parole and offered his vast experience as a decision maker and inmate advocate in discussing the present day trends and difficulties confronting inmates, parolees and their families as they try to maintain hope for release and reintegration with their families and communities.
David Kaczynski leads New Yorkers against the Death Penalty and is one of the nation's leading opponents of capital punishment. David has in the years following his brother Theodore Kaczynski's conviction as the so called "uni-bomber", been a voice of reason and reconciliation for the families of victims of violent crime in advocating for alternatives to the death penalty in capital cases. His Saturday night presentation was highly anticipated and a highlight of the weekend.
Gordon Boyd, a Saratoga Springs, New York businessmen and prison volunteer, along with Dean David Karp of Skidmore College gave a presentation on mentoring prisoners as a primary tool for rehabilitation.
Cara Benson, an accomplished and acclaimed poet and prison poetry teacher and advocate was joined by a former NYS prison inmate in reciting "Poetry from Prison" and speaking about rehabilitation through the arts.
Dean Linda Richardson, Ph.D. and Father Dennis Tamburello Ph.D., both of Siena College, shared their experiences in originating and continuing a Siena College program at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility in Wilton, New York and discussed the importance of education in prison as a means of rehabilitation and reintegration and Sienna's commitment to the cause.
Dean David Karp, Ph.D. continued with a presentation on Restorative Justice based upon his writings and experiences with on and off campus Restorative Justice programs and provided insights into how we can employ these ancient principals of punishing without destroying.
Rev. Joy Hartwell headed a discussion on society's responsibilities for prisoner re-entry and employment and was joined by other prominent figures in the field. Rev. Hartwell is a well-known pioneer in the prisoner re-entry cause especially concerning women prisoners in New York State. She is a multi-faith spiritual leader whose ministry is based upon the creative powers of the arts.
The conference ended with closing remarks from the weekend moderator Sheila Rule of The Think Outside the Cell Foundation who synthesized the weekends work and invoked "A Call to Action" for implementing solutions to the problems discussed.
In addition to attending the presentations in the "Great Hall" participants were able to meet and speak personally with these wonderful people at meals and breaks throughout the weekend. What a wonderful opportunity it was for all!
Our mission is to bring the general public into contact with members of the legal community in order to increase overall awareness of legal policy, and to facilitate discussion toward the reform of the criminal justice system.