In an effort to give Holding Our Own's network members an opportunity to get to know each other just a little better, we will be spotlighting a couple of our members each month. We hope that this will help provide you with more opportunities to connect, collaborate and leverage your resources. Women in the spotlight will also be interviewed and videotaped (if willing and interested) by Mary Richmond for showing on local public access television (thanks, Mary). You can also find these Spotlights on Holding Our Own's "News" page. Do you want to be next? We hope everyone will participate at some point. Email email@example.com and we will set up an interview.
Meet Veronica (Roni) Minter!
Roni is the founder of Sistas Healing Old Wounds (SHOW) Inc., an agency dedicated to ending recidivism, addressing trauma issues, and creating long-lasting changes in the lives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. SHOW also seeks to provide capacity building, technical assistance and trainings for service providers. The agency uses its advisory board made up of all formerly incarcerated women to create interventions that will benefit incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. In addition, SHOW operates a support line that provides emotional support and linkages and referrals to services for formerly incarcerated women who are having difficulties and challenges. Recently, SHOW received a grant from the AIDS Institute to provide "dignity bags" to women upon their release from Schenectady County Jail. The bags contain personal care and hygiene items as well as linkage information for services. Roni hopes to soon branch out beyond Schenectady County Jail and provide the dignity bags to more women upon their release.
As a formerly incarcerated woman, Roni used her past experiences to do what she was called to do in creating SHOW, Inc. She draws inspiration from every time she connects with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and is motivated by seeing such a lack of services for what she says is a forgotten population. Asked about the future for SHOW, Inc., Roni explains that she would like to see the agency go national. “I see it becoming a collaborative effort with already existing organizations to bring about the strengthening of women caught in the vortex of incarceration.”
In addition to her work with SHOW, Inc., Roni is also currently organizing a youth-led youth summit for Fall 2012 to address issues of violence in the Capital Region. The summit will be all-inclusive, with the participating youth developing their own workshop sessions on various topics. Roni was in part inspired to organize the summit after seeing the pain of her teenage stepdaughter's friends over the violent deaths of their friends, particularly the murder last spring of Albany teen Tyler Rhodes. Her motivation for the youth summit also comes from what she sees as an increase in violence amongst girls – violent behavior that she fears will lead these girls to incarceration – and the lack of services and interventions to address it. “We need services, intervention, anger management for teens,” says Roni. Roni also recognizes the challenges facing young girls. “From youth interventions to adult incarcerations no one knows what to do with the women. These girls are in a part of their lives, as teenagers, where the trauma is occurring and this trauma will ultimately shape their future.”
As part of the Holding Our Own Network, Roni hopes to connect with people who are good with organizing, who know how to make an idea go national, and who are interested in helping to organize the youth summit. Amongst many other resources and skills, Roni offers group, workshop and seminar facilitation skills, creativeness, resourcefulness, and a whole lot of energy.
S.H.O.W. SUPPORT LINE: (518) 330-6390
Laura is a young but seasoned activist whose primary work is currently with the New York State Prisoner Justice Network (NYSPJN). There are approximately 90,000 people currently incarcerated in New York's prisons and jails – people of all ages, sexualities, genders, abilities, and documentation statuses, with the overwhelming majority being people of color and of low income. Dozens of organizations in New York State address issues of concern in regard to prisoners, their families, and those impacted by the criminal justice system. The mission of NYSPJN is to bring these prisoner justice organizations together and work to create “a statewide movement for change, justice, compassion, and more human and humane solutions to social problems in place of reliance on incarceration.”
As part of her NYSPJN work, Laura just finished organizing and participating in a Prison and Parole Justice Day held on May 22 at the NYS Capitol and outside the NYS Parole Board offices. The day included conversations with reform-minded legislators and a march and rally to demand fair parole policies. As Laura explains, the event was planned “to highlight the injustices of mass incarceration and the egregious amount of time people spend behind bars.” Laura feels passionate about prisoner justice because she feels that this work is on the front line of many issues, such as classism, racism, and sexism, and because mass incarceration does not actually help solve the violence that communities experience. In addition, as a family member of formerly incarcerated persons, Laura knows first-hand the impact that incarceration has on individuals and their families and she also notes that she knows some of the benefits incarcerated people used to receive in prisons, such as education, which they no longer receive.
Laura sees key intersections between prisoner justice work and feminism, noting that women are a fast growing prison population and that the burden of prisons falls heavily on women on the outside as women are overwhelmingly the ones who provide the support networks for incarcerated family members. In addition, Laura notes the connection between responses to violence against women and mass incarceration. “Violence against women has been used as an excuse for a prison population, which has a long history dating way back,” Laura explains. Yet, despite an exponential increase of men in prisons that created the largest prison population in the world, the US still has much higher rates of sexual assault then countries who incarcerate less. There is a false correlation between mass incarceration and safety for women. “Women's quest for justice is actually impeded when their only option is to rely on a system that is riddled with blatant racism and hypocrisy. I want to encourage women to be on the front lines of figuring out an alternative that works for us – that is for us and by us.”
Laura is eager to have conversations about these connections with others in the Holding Our Own Network, to talk with women about their feelings around incarceration, and to possibly work on new collaborations. Talking about new opportunities to collaborate, Laura says, “I felt devastated by Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin, but I felt very good about the response and outrage that more people are realizing now. It feels like prisoner justice is getting coverage in ways it hasn't before and that there is now a level of mainstream recognition of the foul state of the justice system.”
In addition to her prisoner justice work, Laura is also a board member of the Social Justice Center, a member of the Occupy Albany Women's Caucus, and an Urban Planning student at SUNY Albany. She is excited to cross-support and network with other women interested in feminism and social justice. In addition to her vast knowledge around prisoner justice, Laura brings with her to the network: event advertising/promoting skills (particularly via social media); support, via the Social Justice Center, for grassroots activist groups that need a 501c3 for grants and other resources; and carpentry skills!
On the web: Social Justice Center
Social Justice Center on Facebook
NYS Prisoner Justice Network on Facebook