Correctional Association to Host Soros Justice Fellow Mujahid Farid

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From CA press release:


Soffiyah Elijah
Executive Director
Correctional Association of NY
212-254-5700, ext. 305

New York, May 24, 2013 – The Harlem-based Correctional Association of New York (CA), a non-profit prison reform organization, celebrated the Open Society Institute’s selection of CA staff member Mujahid Farid as a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow.  Farid, who has managed the CA’s Court Pens Monitoring Project since 2012, was one of 14 men and women recently chosen to receive the fellowship, which provides stipends to established and emerging leaders working to change the criminal justice system and end mass incarceration.

The fellowship, which is being hosted by the CA, will support Farid’s work related to the growing number of aging people in prison, a trend attributable to the War on Drugs in the 1980s and 90s and the nationwide trend toward harsher sentences.  Farid’s work will in part highlight prisons’ failures to appropriately address the geriatric and healthcare needs of aging people and the tremendous fiscal costs associated with keeping the elderly in prison. But for Farid, the main focus will be increasing opportunities for release.

“Some of the more egregious injustices of mass incarceration can be seen in the treatment of our elderly—from medical care to denial of parole or compassionate release,” explains Farid.  Older men and women released from prison have among the lowest recidivism rates and often serve as positive role models in prisons, yet few are granted release.  “These individuals are kept in prison not for reasons of public safety or their readiness to come home, but because it is a political advantage to keep them imprisoned and a political liability to grant them freedom.  As such, this issue lies at the heart of America’s system of perpetual punishment, and I am excited about being involved with a campaign to make a change.”

Farid is investigating potential mechanisms for increasing release rates for incarcerated aging people in New York, such as potential reforms to the state’s parole system.  Changing policy and practice relies upon changing opinions, however, and his fellowship will also focus on educating the community and the media about the issue and building mass support.  To this end, he is partnering with the CA’s Drop the Rock Coalition, which in 2009 played a leading role in securing significant reforms to New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws.  The Coalition recently voted to support the campaign as an extension of its prison downsizing work, and will serve as an important vehicle for community outreach.

Farid will likewise organize a group of individuals well-positioned to speak out on the issue: currently and formerly incarcerated elderly individuals.  “It’s important for the people most affected to have a voice in this campaign, not only to address fears but to demonstrate that they are human beings that can, if given the chance, make valuable contributions to their communities.”  Farid is reaching out to people in prison and contacts in the community who can speak about their experiences or contribute to the campaign in any way.

Farid’s selection marks the first time the Correctional Association has hosted a Soros Justice Fellow.  “Open Society Institute’s announcement brings me tremendous joy, and represents much deserved recognition for the work Farid has done and is doing,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Correctional Association.

During his more than three decades incarcerated in New York, Farid co-founded the Prisoners AIDS Counseling & Education program and helped design prison-based sociology and theology courses that allowed others to earn college-credited in prison. He also earned four college degrees and other certifications while in prison, including his paralegal certificate, New York State Department of Labor Certificate in Human Development Counseling, and New York City Department of Health Certificate in HIV/AIDS Counseling.

Farid came to work at the CA not long after his release in 2011.

“The fellowship adds a new chapter to Farid’s already remarkable legacy of advocacy on behalf of people in prisons,” said Elijah.  “He joins an impressive roster of fellows whom Open Society Institute has supported in bringing about positive change. We are tremendously fortunate to join and support him in this urgent work.”