Several people have asked me to link to this interview on the Green Rochester site. It was originally published on May 21st at http://rochesteraccent.com/post/50985296133/emily-good-announces-candidacy-for-monroe-county
Rochester Accent: What led you to run for Monroe County Sheriff?
Emily Good: In the fall of last year I began visiting a political prisoner in Attica. The process of entering the prison often includes bearing heartbreaking witness to families being denied visitation for petty, irregular reasons that are also frequently racist and sexist. The prison brought up deep feelings of injustice and suffering that I felt called to explore further, so I started reading more about the criminal justice system and alternative models.
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow really spurred me to take action, as did the letters I received from prisoners across the state responding to my unlawful arrest two years ago. The more I learned about the so-called correctional system, the more I saw its shattering impacts around me.
I spend some time at the local Catholic Worker house, part of a movement founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, whose mission to build a society in which it is easier for people to be good to each other resonates strongly with me. Visits to our county jail and state prison clearly demonstrate that we are not doing the best we can to build that society, so I decided to make an effort to change the way we approach law enforcement and incarceration.
Last weekend I visited the Attica Correctional Facility for a special summer picnic, a rare opportunity to visit with incarcerated friends and family in a somewhat relaxed outdoor atmosphere. I arrived at the prison at 8:30 in the morning and waited with other visitors for more than three hours in a small room-- with no books, music, or phone allowed to pass the time--until my number was called, then climbed into a van and passed through the enormous walls of the prison. A few minutes before noon my friend emerged; we enjoyed the sunshine and the food (for which each prisoner had pre-paid), and a scant two and a half hours later we were called back to be processed out. Luckily, I enjoyed some conversation while standing in line with another visitor, however the long wait time compared with the short visit time was still frustrating. Add the two hour drive time and you're looking at a pretty discouraging ratio of effort to reward.
However, the effort is still worthwhile. It is crucial. Visits are the bridge between the larger society and prisoners. They help maintain connection to the outside world and offer hope and a break from the cell block. Families or friends who visit incarcerated loved ones can be the best support network for a person's general wellbeing and also provide invaluable transitional assistance as the prisoner re-enters society. We should do everything possible to maintain nourishing family connections or whatever social support a person finds helpful while they are incarcerated.