Transforming Lives was started by Cynthia Kling, Norah Hart and three men behind the walls who’ve been in prison 10, 20 and 40 years.
Cynthia Kling, who has worked for publications ranging from Newsweek to Conde Nast, volunteered for the Bard Prison Initiative where she became aware of how much more support inmates needed. According to New York’s Dept. of Corrections, there are about 50,000 prisoners incarcerated in New York State's prisons; only 300 of them are in the Bard Program – less than 1%.
Norah Hart, who has been a class action lawyer for 10 years, is keenly aware of the prosecutorial misconduct, false confessions, and corruption that flood the prisons. She is also very aware of the effect desperation can have on people of great intelligence facing incredibly tough situations. Her favorite quote is by Kahlil Gibran: “For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?”
The men behind the walls, who must remain anonymous for obvious reasons, are fully involved with this program. They understand what happens to prisoners who are not given American's promise of rehabilitation. They become isolated, lose touch with their families, get involved with gangs and, by the time they go back on the street, are in worse shape than when they came in.
According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a juvenile who goes to jail has a greater chance of becoming an adult prisoner than a child who does drugs or is sexually abused.
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