Thank you for your interest in our Prison and Reentry Ministry. The challenges of Prison Reentry are close to home. Manhattan receives the largest number of parolees in the country, and an area of East Harlem referred to as the “reentry corridor” is within one subway stop north of our church. Men and women returning home from prison face daunting barriers and need broad support to successfully integrate back in to the communities they once offended. Our work affords volunteers the opportunity to make a real impact working directly with reentrants, strengthening our community and our parish.
Raising my Voice Recap
Raising My Voice is a leadership training program for formerly incarcerated individuals that helps participants develop public speaking skills, prepares them to serve as advocates for effective, humane reentry policies and practices, and fosters civic engagement. Over 12 weeks, participants meet at the church and learn to tell their story under the direction of the RMV facilitator assisted by CHR volunteers serving as coaches and. Each session begins with dinner at which the group reviews a video of an exemplary speaker then each 2 hour session addresses a different aspect of the program. Volunteers work in small group settings coaching participants to develop and practice their story. CHR hosts a graduation evening which includes dinner, friends and family participating and hearing RMV speaker stories.
To participate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The time commitment is flexible. Sign up for a single activity or engage in a multi-week commitment. Activities take place at Heavenly Rest, as well as in Harlem and occasionally at a correctional facility such as Sing Sing or Taconic (accessible by Metro North or carpool). Activities include:
- Participating in job readiness programs: including mock interview (we interview them), informational career interviews (they interview us), dress for success, and resume writing.
- Hosting meals to promote and restore family connections impacted by incarceration.
- Assembling “First Days Out” welcome home survival backpacks designed specifically by our partners.
- Hosting and supporting “Raising My Voice”, a public speaking course for prison re-entrants, who upon graduation will tell their redemption stories at various future engagements.
- Tutoring at a prison assisting women working toward college credit.
- Providing network and mentoring opportunities.
Our young ministry has enjoyed strong and rewarding partnerships with several not-for-profit organizations active in prison reform, education and reentry issues. Learn more about the meaningful work our ever-growing list of partners are doing in the community.
Here is a recap of recent past events. Upcoming events are listed on the Church of the Heavenly Rest calendar.
From Prison With Love ~ Crocheting Baby Blankets
The men at Otisville Correctional Facility involved in the NetworkSSI program, lead by one of their own, have learned to crochet and create baby blankets for infants born at NY homeless shelters and for Harlem Church baptismal candidates. Men formerly incarcerated at Otisville spoke at CHR’s Questioning Faith event. As part of Outreach Service Day, CHR parishioners and formerly incarcerated men worked together to join crocheted squares (made inside Otisville and at our upper east side church) into beautiful blankets. The conversation and fellowship made it an incredible experience. NetworkSSI (networkssi.org) runs educational programs at Otisville (and several other prisons). CHR contributes yarn supporting their crochet project. Network in the Community supports its participants with a wide range of reentry services.
Portraits of Reconciliation
When an individual’s last formal photo was a mug shot, a difficult step on the path to mass incarceration, CHR looks to provide a completely different photography experience. As part of a job readiness or welcome home event, CHR and our partners create a ‘pop up’ photo studio on location. An individual has their own photo shoot experience and an immediate 5×7 print in a card stock frame is produced.
For individuals still in prison, CHR supports the DOCCS program called ‘Celebrate Your Children’ in which fathers spend an unchaperoned visit with their children in a less formal setting from the typical prison visitation experience. CHR travels to different DOCCS locations providing reunited families with a portrait experience and immediate print.
Taking big steps like resume writing, attending mock interviewing and reuniting with family members in prison are important milestones of accomplishment.
The Moth: On February 18-19, 2017, the story telling group The Moth conducted its first-ever workshop for formerly incarcerated participants. The event, sponsored by our partner Circles of Support, provided twelve individuals a chance to tell their story. The Church of the Heavenly Rest hosted a dinner meal for the participants, their friends, and family at the final story presentation.
Raising My Voice: The Church of the Heavenly Rest hosts and supports, with volunteer mentors, 12-week Raising My Voice workshops. Raising My Voice (RMV) is a public speaking program for East Harlem prisoner reentrants, sponsored by our outreach partner Circles of Support. Through the course of the program, RMV participants develop self-confidence and public speaking and organizational skills, and inspire community support for criminal justice reform.
Second Annual Hudson Link Christmas Party: On December 18, 2016, the Church of the Heavenly Rest hosted a Christmas party for Hudson Link alumni, families, and CHR parishioners. Approximately 120 people attended. We celebrated an early Christmas together, sharing food, music, gifts, and a visit from Santa. Each family was offered a professional photo shoot experience and sent home with family portraits, courtesy of Angela James, parishioner.
Celebrate Your Children at Sing Sing: On April 8, 2016, in partnership with New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and Hudson Link for Higher Education, volunteers from Church of the Heavenly Rest helped to organize and run a Celebrate Your Children event at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. This first-of-its-kind event allowed incarcerated fathers a chance to spend one-on-one time with their children in a festive environment, while allowing primary caregivers to attend a separate special event offsite. Twenty-two incarcerated fathers and thirty-seven children shared an incredible evening of food, music and magic. Read the press release here.
KNOWJUSTICE HARLEM: On May 23, 2016, sixty-five Church of the Heavenly Rest parishioners and friends attended the KNOWJUSTICEHARLEM event at St. Philips Church in West Harlem. The highlight of the evening was keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. A group of four incredible reentrants, all graduates of the Harlem Community Justice Center, shared their stories. The event was sponsored by our outreach partner Circles of Support. Volunteers from the Church of the Heavenly Rest helped to staff the event.