prison reform organizer
Barbara was studying sociology in a graduate program when she was asked to teach the subject in a new college program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in upstate New York, through Marymount Manhattan College. She learned a great deal from the students as she helped them navigate the challenges of life after prison, and particularly of getting a college education. These experiences led her to found the College & Community Fellowship. Having grown up believing that the court system was an avenue to justice, when she was a witness to mass incarceration, she realized this wasn’t always true and wanted her students to be able to have their stories and voices heard.
Interview conducted, taped and edited by Ruth Sergel
Video by Antony Wong
Posters about the honorees are by students from The Imagine Society, where young leaders work with adult mentors to help make the world a better place.
A student at the Green Hill Maximum Security Juvenile Detention Center made this poster about Barbara Martinson’s work.
[Click image to enlarge.]
A Statement from the Artist to Barbara Martinsons
From the football field with a million dreams, to a jail cell looking at life in prison. When I was 16 I was given 26 years to do behind bars. In my young mind I thought all my hopes and dreams were gone until I started reading and learning. I have seen that the only thing that I would always have was my mind.
Since I’ve been incarcerated I’ve made the most of the education available to me. I’m only a few credits from graduating with my Associates, I’ve become a certified flagger and fork lift driver, and I’m getting my personal trainer’s certificate soon.
I will always learn no matter how old because while behind bars the physical barriers are apparent but only after a lot of thought do the mental barriers become so. Whether barriers are mental or physical we have the choice to free ourselves from them.
“Education, the means of Liberation.”
Thank you for giving people their hopes and dreams again.
Resident, Green Hill Juvenile Detention Center