Prison Relations Advisory Committee (PRAC)
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged on how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”– Nelson Mandela
The Town of Bedford is composed of 18,000 people, including the 1000 women who reside in both of our two NYS women’s prisons: Taconic Correctional Facility and Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.
The Prison Relations Advisory Committee (hereafter referred to as PRAC) was established by a unanimous vote on a Resolution to the Town Board in December 2019 after the successful Adopt-A-Prison event of that same year. The Adopt-A-Prison event was a joint venture of the Interfaith Prison Partnership Program, the Town Supervisor, and the Superintendent of both NYS women’s prisons in the Town of Bedford.
The purpose of PRAC is to
1. Advise the Town Government on Prison Issues in general, and specifically issues as they relate to our two women’s prisons; and
2 To give examples and choices to the community of ways in which they could each “adopt” their local prisons and the women within, with an emphasis on “we”, rather than “they” and “us”.
It is our mission to unite those on the outside with those on the inside of the prison walls; to “adopt our prisons”. We are composed of nineteen members who are committed to engaging and integrating the entire community of the Town of Bedford, regardless on which side of the prison wall one lives.
The first meeting of PRAC was January 2020. Almost immediately afterward, COVID-19 hit and we went full throttle to help our neighbors in prison by engaging the community to donate non-lye-based soap, masks, hot plates, plasticware – the list continues – in an effort to keep the women safe from the coronavirus. The “walls” between the prison and the community have become much more pliable as we see each other as the neighbors we, indeed, are.
PRAC consists of the following subcommittees:
Bright Hope – release bags for women upon release and going to live in a Homeless Shelter: Rev Dr Karen Blacks, Kathaleen Linares, Anne Lloyd
Correctional Facility Employment – Opportunities for the Bedford Community: MaryAnn Carr and Sharon Ballen
Masks for the women in prison during COVID: Anne Lloyd
Soap for the women in prison during COVID: Bobbi Bittker and Mark Sindeband. Sign Up here to volunteer
Sidewalk Development: Bart Tyler, MaryAnn Carr, Sharon Ballen
Social Media: Kathaleen Linares
Transgender Rights in Prison: Bobbi Bittker, Kitley Covill, Carol Parker, Jamie Tortorello-Allen, and Mark Davies(intern)
Sharon Griest Ballen, Chair
Interfaith Prison Partnership
Bedford Hills College Program
Associate Minister, Antioch Baptist Church
Bobbi M. Bittker
Bedford Town Councilwoman
Bedford Town Supervisor
Westchester County Legislator
Katherine Zapsky Teacher
Bard College Initiative
Rev. Siobhan Sargent
Director, Interfaith Prison Partnership (IPP)
Upper Westchester Muslim Society
Fr. Ron Lemmert
Retired Prison Chaplain
Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA)
Temple Beth Am
26-32 Parkway LLC
Columbia University Center for Social Justice & Returned Citizen
IPP Intern, Union Theological Seminary