I want to leave a legacy of humanizing this thing called justice.

August 30, 2018

I served 14 years in New York State prisons, and it was while I was incarcerated in the Woodbourne Correctional Facility that I discovered my passion for learning and for activism.

The year was 1996, and I met a group of older men who were lifers and long-termers.  They were involved with the New Prison Movement which was born out of the Attica rebellion of 1971, and had formed study groups called the Resurrection-Conciencia Study Groups.  They developed an analysis called The Non-Traditional Approach to Criminal and Social Justice that examined and explained the relationship between prisons and urban communities of color.  I became a student and then the facilitator of a study group and for the rest of my time inside I organized, I spoke, I read, I wrote, and I did advocacy from inside supporting some outside organizations like the Coalition for Parole Restoration.

Today I work as a Senior Intervention Manager for Common Justice.  Common Justice develops and advances solutions to violence that transform the lives of those harmed and foster racial equity without relying on incarceration. Locally, we operate the first alternative to incarceration and victim service program in the US to focus on violent felonies in the adult courts.  Nationally, we leverage the lessons from our direct service to transform the justice system through partnerships, advocacy, and elevating the experience and power of those most impacted.  We build practical strategies to hold people accountable for harm, break cycles of violence, and secure safety, healing and justice for survivors and their communities.  As a Senior Intervention Manager, I work with responsible parties in our alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program, a rigorous, cutting-edge response to serious felonies, including assault and robbery, based in restorative justice principles. If—and only if—the survivors of those crimes consent, Common Justice diverts the cases into a process designed to recognize the harm done, honor the needs and interests of those harmed, and develop responses to hold the responsible party accountable.  Those who successfully complete their commitments to those they harmed and the violence intervention curriculum don’t serve the jail or prison sentences.

Separate from my work at Common Justice, in my personal capacity, I am the Latino Affairs Producer/Co-host for “On The Count: The Prison and Criminal Justice Report,” a 60-minute talk, news, and interview program featuring criminal and social justice subjects on radio station WBAI, 99.5 FM.  It airs weekly on Saturdays from 11:00 am until 12 pm (ET).  I’ve produced several segments on solitary confinement, healthcare in prisons, the struggle to free Puerto Rican Political Prisoners, reentry, and the #CLOSErikers and #FREEnewyork campaigns, and moderated an all-Spanish language webinar on the #FREEnewyork and #JusticeLA campaigns.  I’m also member of Latino Justice PRLDEF, Justice Reform Collaborative which works to create a more just society by using and challenging the law to secure justice by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. The Collaborative is dedicated to promoting fairness, rights restoration and safety by using litigation, advocacy, community engagement, policy analysis and narrative change to make the invisible, visible to all – the concomitant plight of Latinos under a broken and racialized criminal justice system in America. Our program focuses on rights restoration, as well as policing, sentencing, bail and drug policy reform.

It’s been humbling and inspiring to meet all these wonderful people in the Leading with Conviction trainings.     Being humble is something I aspire to; it’s been my nickname for many years.   I need to remain grounded and focused in my life no matter where I am. I know I’m still a human being and nothing that I have is better than anyone else’s.   I’m looking forward to staying in touch with my cohort and hearing about the amazing work they’re doing.

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