For all you can learn about prison reading the New York Times, the Atlantic, or abolishprisons.org (har har), there is no substitute from hearing about prison from someone who has been – or is – in prison. This brief TED Talk by Ismael Nazario provides a window into his experience in jail and prison in New York state, including glimpses of the dynamic among Corrections Officers and incarcerated people.
Nazario is a reentry counselor with the Fortune Society, a completely fabulous reentry services and prisoner rights activism organization in New York City. What the Fortune Society does so damn well is walk their talk: they aren’t just an organization for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, they are primarily staffed by formerly incarcerated people. There is no population better qualified to coach people through reentry than people who have met that challenge and succeeded, and there’s no better way for the Fortune Society to empower former prisoners than to hire them. This is a win-win that more organizations should take advantage of.