Think Outside the Cell Foundation Welcomes Newark Mayor Cory Booker to Symposium on The Plight of The Incarcerated on Saturday, September 24

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Riverside Church expects 1,100 to attend including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York Times Columnist Charles Blow and CBS News 60 Minutes’ Byron Pitts -- Symposium’s Calls to Action Include Enlightened Policing Techniques and Humanizing a Demonized Population

Across the U.S., more than 730,000 men and women will be released from prison this year, criminal justice experts report. When they return home, the shadow of their incarceration typically follows, limiting their ability to find jobs, housing and to reintegrate with their families and communities.

“Members of this huge population are largely demonized, and defined solely by their bad choices. But if this nation doesn’t develop smart policies around their concerns, there will be a high price to pay,” said Sheila Rule, a former New York Times journalist and co-founder of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation. “The goal of the Riverside Church symposium is to begin to challenge the stigma and tackle the major roadblocks to equal treatment of the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones. We need a thoughtful conversation that is not based in fear.”

On Saturday, September 24, 2011, some 1100 registrants and speakers will participate in a day-long, free symposium. Think Outside the Cell: A New Day, A New Way will present a series of thought-provoking ideas and discussions.

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker will describe innovations in prisoner re-entry programs. Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer is also playing a key role.

"I can't think of a more urgent issue facing our City-and our society-than the question of re-entry for the more than 730,000 men and women who are released from prison each year," said Mr. Stringer. "It is imperative that we adopt policies affecting jobs, housing and other needs that make it easier, not harder, for this population to re-unite with their families and play a constructive role in our community. Re-entry is an issue that demands sustained and meaningful action, and that's why I am honored to be part of the "Think Outside the Cell" conversation at Riverside Church."

New York Times Columnist Charles Blow, 60 Minutes Correspondent Byron Pitts, Black Enterprise Anchor Marc Lamont Hill and former CBS News Correspondent Jacqueline Adams are participating, as is Joseph Robinson from his cell in New York’s Sullivan Correctional Facility. Robinson, a co-founder of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, is serving a 25-to-life sentence for murder. He is eligible for release in 2017.    

Other speakers include authors Michelle Alexander, Randall Robinson, Terrie M. Williams and Tom Burrell as well as Rossana Rosado, the publisher of El Diario, Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College, Dr. Khalil Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and celebrity chef Jeff Henderson.

The symposium is being co-sponsored by the Ford Foundation, The Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy, College & Community Fellowship, the Riverside Church Prison Ministry and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President.

Panels will focus on seldom discussed topics: the emotional and financial costs of prison, the stigma of incarceration, failed policies that have made the United States the world’s leading jailer, and new ways that communities can better serve a population that struggles to “reintegrate” into society.

"At The Fortune Society, we see first-hand the challenges men and women face after leaving prison,” said Glenn E. Martin, director of The Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy. “After spending decades behind bars, too many individuals re-enter their communities without homes, jobs and very little money in their pockets. It is beneficial to all of us that those individuals receive the resources needed to start on a new path and become productive members of our communities. This symposium not only enhances and amplifies the dialogue around this issue but also gives us the opportunity to explore solutions."

Said Vivian Nixon, executive director of College and Community Fellowship, "We at College and Community Fellowship see daily how lack of education hinders people from full and successful integration into the community after prison. This symposium will challenge others to think beyond the initial stages of re-entry and consider solutions that provide long-term stability to people who are released from prison and their families. If second chances and equal opportunity are truly core American values, access to education, jobs, housing, and health care must include access for people who have been in prison. These are the tools that have the greatest potential to change their lives and keep our communities safe."

Said Sheila Rule, “The incarcerated are one of the last populations that people openly demonize, but I have learned that once you whittle away at the stigmas, creative and extraordinary people are in our prisons. They are human beings, like the rest of us.”

Riverside Church is located at West 120th Street and Riverside Drive. Doors will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

To register, visit


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