Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC), supervised by Professor Martha Rayner and Kaela Economos, the Clinic’s Social Worker, travelled to the correctional facility in Otisville, NY to attend a day-long Parole Summit. The extraordinary thing about this conference is that it was sponsored and planned by the Lifers and Long-Termers Organization — incarcerated persons at this facility. According to Rob Wasserstein and Bernie Olshansky, two of the students, it was both an intellectual and emotional experience. When they first arrived, the students sat in the gym in small groups with the incarcerated men and women and talked with them about their core mission: the Four Rs — Responsibility, Remorse, Reconciliation, and Rehabilitation. Later, the conversation shifted around getting people to think about the issue of parole. A moving dramatization put on by members of the organization followed in which they played real roles that addressed issues of showing remorse and forgiving yourself. The students said this part of the agenda was “particularly remarkable.”
The afternoon session centered around speakers and open discussions about Restorative Justice. Several people involved in the criminal justice system spoke or attended, including a judge of the Court of Appeals, the Brooklyn District Attorney, Chair of the Board of Parole, a Member of the Board of Parole, and a representative of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.