Founded in 1979, Providence House has helped previously incarcerated ladies transition returned to society through housing assistance for forty years. It operates a 15-man or woman transitional housing facility in Brooklyn, located in a former convent, and companions with other community agencies throughout four other transitional housing places, inclusive of one in Jamaica.
Danielle Minelli Pagnotta, who labored for more than a decade at New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, took over because the company’s government director in 2017. In addition to her function at Providence House, Pagnotta is likewise a member of the Women’s Community Justice project and a Queens resident.
The Eagle spoke together with her approximately the campaign to close the Rose M. Singer Center — also called Rosie’s — at Rikers Island, wherein fewer than 500 girls are presently detained, the wishes of previously-incarcerated women and the way the ULURP technique for figuring out land use could have an effect on girls currently housed at Rikers.
Disclaimer: This interview become conducted on Tuesday, June eleven earlier of the ULURP Public Hearing.
Eagle: Tell me a little bit about the task of housing women who’re coming off of Rikers and why it’s important to have supportive housing centers for them.
Danielle Minelli Pagnotta: We’ve been working with girls popping out of prison for a long term and what we’ve located is that the ladies coming off of Rikers have many complex needs, particularly round mental fitness services and trauma. Women coming off of Rikers have been there for shorter amounts of time and are still very related with their communities and so we paintings to sincerely join people right back to the ones households. Our plan and our intention is to interrupt the cycle of trauma that they experience once they’re on Rikers and from time to time in which they’re coming from.
Right now, we have a capacity to take 15 girls in a transitional placing and we accomplice with other ATI [Alternatives to Incarceration] applications who are doing this type of court docket-mandated collaboration. We’re actually simply offering the housing. We see this as a crucial want. We don’t suppose that a person need to ought to sit on Rikers because they’re homeless and don’t have someplace to move, so we are able to offer that housing as they paintings to transition lower back into the community.
What are some of the roadblocks for final down the Rosie’s and the way are you looking to recommend for Rosie’s being closed?
Historically, Providence House is a provider-based totally employer and we have our fingers a touch bit in advocacy, however I like to think that we’ve virtually stepped into it a touch bit extra in the beyond couple of years. I suppose that you may provide direct service and that’s vital but you furthermore may want to recognize the systemic demanding situations that your populations are facing.
We have wholeheartedly joined on with the Beyond Rosie’s marketing campaign and are advocating very directly with the city — the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice — for a standalone facility for girls that the town has now decided to enforce. I think that’s very much a part of the Beyond Rosie’s marketing campaign’s urging: we would really like to look a greater centralized girls’s facility and are still trying to push for that. There are a couple of ability buildings inside the town. You’ve probable heard about the Lincoln Facility that the nation is ready to release that we suppose could make for an amazing setting for girls. But I assume in phrases of barriers at this point, it’s truely simply time and bringing up. What’s interesting is that that is a definitely unique moment within the metropolis in which there’s a variety of strength round criminal justice reform, and also getting people into community settings. And so I suppose a number of it is just going thru the ULURP system that’s happening right now, and getting those buildings approved.
I wanted to talk to you about the ULURP system and the way it relates to Queens. The Borough President is going to be holding a forum on Thursday. What’s happening with that and what’s the significance of this step of the ULURP method?
I turned into really at the 2 network board meetings that addressed the same topic and I’m planning to be there on Thursday. As a Queens resident, it’s vital to me to have the ability to say that I suppose community-based totally settings are so much extra essential. Providence House is honestly targeted on households and a lot of what occurs to human beings when they’re sent to Rikers is set their distance from their families. If [the jail is] in Kew Gardens, it could take an entire day to get through the clearance to peer your loved one and that point far from family, whether or not you’re a person or a girl, pretty frankly is absolutely adverse to someone’s life. They may want to lose jobs, they could lose connections to their children. So I’m going to be going to the ones meetings to similarly endorse for the fact that community-primarily based jails are critical to maintain people toward their houses, in particular whilst they may now not actually have been convicted and that can help preserve them tied to their groups extra.
Overall, the ULURP manner is critical. We stay in a town that has to let these items play out — and anybody is entitled to their voice, whether it’s in settlement with mine and my stance or now not. I’m glad that the community board and the borough president and the council individuals are all tied into this manner. I sense that that’s a beneficial system for the metropolis to go through and that human beings have a danger to explicit their reviews.
Within this context, there’s some extraordinary companies advocating for some different things. You have for example the No New Jails individuals who are very adamant approximately having no new jails constructed, manifestly, and then you definitely have then again the Close Rikers campaign which does seem to aid the borough based totally facilities. What do you are saying to the human beings in that No New Jails group who are very outspokenly in opposition to the borough-primarily based jails plans?
Providence House helps remaining Rikers as speedy as viable and the fine way to do that proper now is to open community-based settings to get people into the styles of programming and offerings that they need. Anything else might be prolonging keeping Rikers Island open. In phrases of the women, there are so few ladies there — less than 500 at this factor — that we assume the Rose M. Singer Center may be closed inside the next yr or two. Any different stance could be prolonging what we all agree — on each facets of the fence — is a honestly terrible place for humans to be positioned.
If there’s this opportunity of final Rosie’s in the next yr or so, what does that appear like, that procedure of truly shutting it down and moving these girls to any other facility?
That’s where I could turn to the platform of the Beyond Rosie’s marketing campaign. We think that the populace may be parceled out in order that many human beings can be going to community-based totally applications just like the one which I defined earlier that we run. There are folks that have mental health desires that could need to visit a one-of-a-kind setting. With a number of the bail reform efforts that got here through and as that rolls out, we’d see numerous that population just released until their trials come to fruition. So, I assume there’s quite a few opportunities to peel off special populations and simply whittle the populace right down to in all likelihood a collection of girls that’s fewer than one hundred, and that’s why we are pushing very tough for one putting for ladies. It doesn’t make feel to situate fewer than a hundred girls throughout four male-based jails. Women have very specific desires; we don’t need some thing generation of a ladies’s prison to be an afterthought or an add-directly to a male based facility. It’s critical to us that there’s trauma and gender-knowledgeable programming there; that there’s a nursery; that there’s suitable intellectual health services and behavioral offerings; that there may be areas only for ladies; that their children can come and pass in a greater seamless manner than they’re currently doing on Rikers. So, that’s sort of the concept of what the next couple of years can seem like.
One factor that’s been within the news currently is the dying of Layleen Polanco, a trans girl who changed into discovered useless at Rikers. Do you notice that as maybe every other momentum-constructing second that’s passed off that would push for Rikers to be closed even sooner?
I suppose any demise whilst someone is interior is a tragedy. I believe the information are nevertheless to be determined and I’m fascinated, glaringly in what the investigation will find. I’m hoping that it doesn’t support a number of the terrible things we’ve visible in Rikers’ past, but I can’t surely touch upon what passed off. If there has been something negative that took place there, then yeah I assume that that would help push the bar alongside to close Rikers even faster, however at this factor it doesn’t appear like there’s readability about what simply befell.
Do you suspect there has been sufficient interest paid to the ladies who’re presently detained at Rikers Island?
Our awareness is ladies and in order that’s what I can talk to. We’re on this hopeful moment in which there’s plenty of attention general on what’s been going on at Rikers. We’ve got a City Hall and a Mayor that is supportive of last it down, and I think each person will say this: it’s a unprecedented possibility for our network that gained’t come around once more in this lifetime. This is our risk to get crook justice right inside the town. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to see this through.