Emily Burkhard & WNYT Staff
Updated: July 03, 2020 11:45 PM
Created: July 03, 2020 07:09 PM
ALBANY COUNTY - Protestors gathered in Albany County Friday for what they're calling a "freedom tour."
Organizers said they wanted to kick off the three-week event just before Independence Day to symbolize that not everyone gets to celebrate their freedoms. That's particularly true for members of the Black and Latinx communities, who represent disproportionate percentages of inmate populations.
Activists began the protest the City of Albany with three clear goals in mind.
"Where we are right now at the Albany criminal court is where that all starts and where wrongful prosecution happens,” statewide organizer for VOCAL-NY Luke Grandis said. “So we're here today to speak out on the need to defund police, invest in communities, to hold law-enforcement officials and correction officers accountable."
The protest then moved to the Albany County Correctional Facility in Colonie, where a few speakers shared their personal experiences as inmates there.
Tasheca Medina was pregnant when she was an inmate. She shared concerns about the quality of prenatal care, nutrition and relationship development between mother and child, as babies are removed from their mother's care shortly after being born.
"It doesn't have just an immediate impact it has years of impact because my son was separated from me and he is 16 right now and he still goes through separation anxiety,” Medina said. “Like he calls me numerous times throughout the day And I blame that on him being snatched out of my care you know at such a young age within a couple of days of birth."
Lukee Forbes criticized the fact that the county charges inmates hefty fees to make phone calls and buy food and hygiene supplies, but doesn't offer educational or trade school programs to help inmates build skill sets for after they're released.
“They're not correcting anything add education to this, let's really talk about things that will really change things,” Forbes said. “I'm tired of the fluff, I'm tired of the rhetoric of the runaround. Things change when you actually change."
Jamaica Miles agrees, more community conversations aren't needed, legislation and policy changes need to happen next.
"We have community leaders that have already had those conversations, we have personal stories that have been shared time and time again on your station and others,” Miles said. “What more evidence do you need that we know what we need, but to prolong actually giving us what we need by having a conversation about it?"
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple released this comment in response to the protest:
"I feel they are targeting the wrong facility. We have worked hard to lower our census and today we are at 30%. If you remove the boarders we are at 20% county inmates. we have even renamed the facility and started countless programs to reduce recidivism and release healthy productive citizens as well as started a homeless shelter.”
Learn more about the Capital Region Freedom Tour on their Facebook page.
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