One of the largest problems that has plagued the United States for decades is the extraordinarily high rate of incarceration. The Osborne Association, an 80-year old criminal justice non-profit located in New York State, works to address this issue with an abundance of innovative programming that effectively reduces America’s reliance on incarceration and aids those formerly incarcerated to be productive citizens and family members. Although I have worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people since I was in elementary school, my internship at Osborne has exposed me to completely new ideas and approaches and has been very engaging. As a result of the discussions I had with my supervisors before my internship began, they have focused on ensuring that I would learn about how the organization is able to run smoothly and be so influential by working in Osborne’s Development and the Children and Youth Services departments.
Luckily for me, I was able to begin my internship with Osborne’s major fundraising event, which is called Lighting the Way. Lighting the Way displays Osborne’s incredible dedication and achievements with speeches and videos showing the power that people can have when they care about helping others and making their communities better places to live. In additional, about a week before Lighting the Way, I was surprised to find out that one of the members of The Osborne Association’s Board of Directors is related to a strong supporter of the WOW grants. This added to my feeling of connectedness to Osborne and their mission. Lighting the Way became the foundation of my internship because it showed the immeasurable impact that The Osborne Association’s innovative programs and crucial services have on New York and even across the United States.
For my internship I work in Osborne’s Bronx office on Mondays and Tuesdays and in their Brooklyn office on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In the Bronx office I have been focusing on development and fundraising. I am working closely with the Communications Director and the grants writing staff to better the website, attend critical meetings, and catalog the wide ranging publications that are vital for expanding various programs and services. So far, I have examined socialimpactexchange.org because The Osborne Association is one of the S&I 100. I participated in a phone meeting about Sesame Street’s new initiative highlighting the issue of parental incarceration to discuss the initiative (http://sesamestreet.org/incarceration) and Liz Gaynes, Osborne’s Executive Director, being selected as one of only eleven White House Champions of Change for Children of Incarcerted Parents (http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions), and I went through the majority of the publications that have been in circulation for the past two years. I have been really lucky in my timing because these are all major developments that impact incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families and children across the nation.
In the Brooklyn office I have been focusing on training to answer Osborne’s Family Resource Center hotline and answer mail from incarcerated people across New York state. I also conduct research for a training manual that Osborne has been contracted to prepare by the National Institute of Corrections for “televisiting”, a program that is sweeping the nation. The phone calls and mail have made me very sympathetic to the pain that families, especially children, go through because of the stigma and shame that is associated with incarcerated family members. This has pushed me to do what I can in order to ensure that the growth of televisiting will not be used to replace in person visits to jails and prisons but rather as a helpful supplement to keep those incarcerated connected to their loved ones. People are not aware of the devastating trend in jails across the America to get rid of visitation and only allow virtual visits, which will only lead to more issues for families impacted by incarceration and especially for their children. There are over 2.1 million people behind bars in the United States and 1 in every 28 children has a parent behind bars. This number is much higher for African American and Latino children. It is necessary to provide these children and their families with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, including access to their parents who they love.