At this week’s #BHeard Town Hall, Unlocked: NYC Post-Rikers, we invited a panel of experts to discuss how the closing of New York City’s most notorious prison will affect those within and outside of the criminal justice system. Is the closing of Rikers Island an opportunity to turn over a new page? How can we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, while keeping our communities safe?

Our newest documentaries are shining a much-needed light on the ways our criminal justice system can hit close to home. 

In Children With Promise, we profiled Children of Promise NYC, a “after-school program and summer day camp specifically designed to meet the needs, interests and concerns of children left behind by a parent serving time in prison.” 

As New York considers legalizing marijuana, it's time we examine how the drug plays a role in the city’s child welfare system—one that has the power to remove children from their parents and that investigates, almost exclusively, low-income families of color. #BHeard doc The New Jane Crow tells the story of two mothers who had neglect cases opened by the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) after their newborns tested positive for marijuana after they gave birth. 

The #BHeard initiative has always been a place for us to ask difficult questions, and invite the communities we serve to have their say. Our Town Hall events are a public forum for community members and thought leaders to examine the ways in which these issues impact New Yorkers along racial and economic lines. Topics like economic inequality, the war on drugs, and reparations for slavery and indigenous people are an integral part of these conversations.

As Black History Month comes to a close, we are looking toward a future that is still being written. It’s no secret that our criminal justice system overwhelmingly impacts Black and brown communities, and in our programming at BRIC we welcome this month as an opportunity to engage with ways that racial, economic, and social justice intersect.