If you are a young person charged with a crime in New York, you can end up in a lot of places: jail, prison, a group home, or a probation program. Carnegie Hall just unveiled a nationwide initiative. Its goal: bring more music and arts programs to kids and young adults who end up in the court system. Lindsey Kortyka has the story.
KORTYKA 1: Artists and advocates from all over the country are gathered at Carnegie Hall. They are there to talk about juvenile justice reform. People pass around a microphone and share personal experiences about working with youth caught up in the system. Taylor Code Maxie, Jr. is a Teaching Artist at Street Poets, Inc. in Los Angeles.
CODE: I came through the program as a young kid when I was 16 years old. I was in prison. That was really the first time through that creative process where I really rolled up my sleeves and dug deep into my own story and started connecting the dots.
Later that day when conversations wrap up, everyone turns their attention to Rob Pollock, who looks to be in his early 20s or late teens. He is a guitarist and singer.
The group is meeting to come up with a plan to bring more music and arts programs to detention centers across the country. Carnegie Hall is partnering with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth on this project. Pollack imprisoned as a young adult at Sing Sing Prison. While there, he learned to play music through a program hosted by Carnegie Hall. He says the music changed his life and he believes it will change young people’s lives, too.
POLLOCK: The dreams that we often want are dreams that are unattainable but like learning how to enjoy collaborating with people and the creative process itself, I think if you can teach that to someone you are giving them a gift that’ll have wings. It really is cool, it’s kind of magical.
Carnegie Hall hopes to help keep youth from returning to detention once they have been in. Meanwhile, the optimism in the room is obvious, but there is also underlying skepticism. Tamara Williams works with victims of trauma, including youth. She says that the focus should be on preventing jail time for kids and teens.
WILLIAMS: They are being reactionary and saying oh, well how do we stop people going back to jail? That’s not a solution. It’s a start
While it was evident that no one at the forum thinks that music and arts can solve all the problems youth face while in detention, there is hope that it will change the system for the better.
Lindsey Kortyka Columbia Radio News.