We Are New York Values

Criminal Justice Reform


Mission: In 1979, Avenues for Justice first reached into some crowded Manhattan criminal courtrooms and found kids who might turn their lives around if they only had a second chance. What AFJ did next was unheard of. We presented the courts with an option: instead of sentencing youth to jail, judges could send them to AFJ for counseling, training, education and employment assistance.  That simple tactic -- keep kids out of prison -- has saved the lives of hundreds of young people every year for more than three decades. At a time when the U.S. incarceration rate is the highest of any nation in the world and a cycle of arrests and imprisonment has become the norm within many low-income communities, AFJ has bucked the trend to become one of history's most successful and cost-effective crime prevention programs. 

Website: http://avenuesforjustice.org/about/volunteer
Email: info@avenuesforjustice.org
Phone: Elizabeth Frederick 212-349-6381

What volunteers do:

  • artists, educators, and assistants help with weekly art projects.

  • tutors help students with school work, and prepare them to take Regents tests in history, English, math, and science

Borough: Manhattan

Mission: The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) believes that a thriving multiracial democracy requires racial, social and economic justice for all. African Americans and black immigrants are stronger together and we can win by becoming leaders in the fight against structural racism and systemic discrimination. BAJI was formed to bring Black voices together to advocate for equality and justice in our laws and our communities. BAJI educates and engages African American and black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice. 

Website: http://blackalliance.org/programs/baji-nyc/
Email: http://blackalliance.org/contact-us/
Phone: 347-410-5312

What volunteers do:

  • attend monthly meetings and plan campaigns and events to advance a collective vision for transformation (current campaigns include Safety Beyond Policing; Freedom Film Series; Private Prison Divestment; ICE-free NYC)

Mission: Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners, prisoners living with HIV/AIDS and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing. Our goal is liberation. We have a radical view of the fight for justice: We are feminist. We are anti-racist. We want queer liberation. And we are against capitalism. Prisons are part of the system that oppresses and divides us. Abolition is our goal, and our strategy for action. Any advocacy, services, organizing, and direct action we take will remove bricks from the system, not put up more walls. We want revolution. And we will work on reforms too, even if they are only small steps at ending the suffering caused by prisons. Our work is based in the experience of people who are or were in prison. We also raise up the voices of formerly incarcerated people as our “free world” members of the Leadership Circle. We know that those most hurt by the violence of the prison industrial complex have the knowledge of how to tear it down.

Website: http://www.blackandpink.org/chapters/new-york-city/
Email: nyc@blackandpink.org
Phone: N/A

What volunteers do:

  • become a pen-pal for an incarcerated LGBTQ prisoner

  • help match new penpals and answer questions

  • help out at regular mail-processing events

  • support advocacy for criminalized LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS in New York

  • educate the public about prison abolition


  • extensive support and information for penpals available on website

Mission: Members of the Books Through Bars Collective have different beliefs about the American prison system — some of us are abolitionists, and some are pro-prison-reform. But all of us are startled and angered by how difficult it is for people in prison to access decent educational reading material on the inside. We believe literacy and access to reading material is a human right. Connecting those behind bars to books and other resources is an important harm-reduction strategy. The violences of prison are many. The denial of access to education and contact with the outside world is one. With our work, we aim to address educational inequity. Prisons have slashed educational programs and the federal government still denies Pell Grants to those in prison. We provide education, but NYC BTB also bridges a gap between the incarcerated and the “free” world. Our work decreases isolation and empowers those behind bars by providing resources and community. Many prison libraries are understocked and out of date. For those with low literacy levels or limited English-language skills, the obstacles to resources are redoubled. We have often received letters written on behalf of cellmates with these language barriers. Many envelopes contain requests from multiple people because each person cannot afford the postage to send their own letter. Requesters often seek educational materials, such as English-language dictionaries, GED, writing, math, or Spanish-language books. Our books, we are often told, enjoy wide circulation among those inside. Our recipients tell us that the books we send are cherished and greatly improve their quality of life. Moreover, we strive to connect people in prison to radical literature—prisons intentionally preclude access to such resources. Many of the incarcerated who write to use request books on indigenous resistance and history, queer and trans sexuality, feminism, and more. Our work facilitates community-building on three levels: 1) incarcerated person to incarcerated person, building lifelines and communities through book and information sharing; 2) incarcerated person to “free” world, connecting those behind bars with a community of activists on the outside; and 3) “free” world to “free” world, with our packing sessions serving as a space for volunteers to gather and connect their activist, abolitionist, and/or reformist visions and projects.

Website: http://booksthroughbarsnyc.org/wp/index.php/volunteer/
Email: btb@abcnorio.org or http://booksthroughbarsnyc.org/wp/index.php/contact/
Phone: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • help match request letters with donated books and package them to be shipped


  • mailings take place Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.; Sundays from 2 p.m - 5 p.m.

  • calendar on website lists all upcoming volunteer dates

Borough: Brooklyn

Mission: The goal of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) is sweeping reform of New York’s use of solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation in state prisons and local jails. Isolated confinement involves confining people in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day without meaningful human contact, programming, or therapy. This practice is ineffective, counterproductive, unsafe, and inhumane, and it causes people detained in these conditions to deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially. Despite these facts, New York utilizes isolated confinement at rates well above the national average. Think Outside the Box/Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement brings together advocates, formerly incarcerated persons, family members of currently incarcerated people, concerned community members, lawyers, and individuals in the human rights, health, and faith communities throughout New York State to reform New York’s abusive isolated confinement policies and practices. Sweeping reform of New York’s use of isolated confinement is a critical milestone on the path toward New York fully embracing evidence-based incarceration policies that are smart, progressive, and humane.

Website: http://nycaic.org/action/
Email: caicny@gmail.com
Phone: Scott Paltrowitz at 212-254-5700

What volunteers do:

  • attend monthly meetings in person and by tele-conference

  • plan and engage in actions and vigils, including a monthly action on the 23rd of each month (representing the 23 hours a day prisoners spend in isolated confinement)

  • participate in workshops and trainings

  • advocacy, including town halls with legislators and lobby days in Albany

Mission: The mission of the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES) is to increase public safety through innovative services that reduce crime and incarceration, improve behavioral health, promote recovery and rehabilitation, and create opportunities for success in the community. We believe public safety is best protected through alternatives to incarceration that combine accountability and support with empowerment and opportunity.

Website: https://www.cases.org/other-ways-to-help/
Email: n/a
Phone: 212-553-6300

What volunteers do:

  • serve on community advisory board to help youth identify effective community-improvement projects

  • career speakers

  • mentor high-risk youth

  • mentor program graduates on jobs/careers

Borough: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan

Mission: Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), founded in 1981, is a leader in community-based alternatives to incarceration and policy advocacy to reduce reliance on incarceration. We provide direct services to communities in New York City, Syracuse and Rochester, engaging approximately 2,500 youth and adults annually who would otherwise be incarcerated. The great majority of our participants are African-American or Latino/a and come from poor or low-income communities. In addition to direct services, CCA aims to bring about a more just and humane criminal justice system. We have achieved success in persuading the State Legislature to adopt "reintegration" as a goal of sentencing; in reforming New York's drug laws; and in realigning New York's juvenile justice system so that more youth are placed in programs in their home communities, rather than detention or incarceration. We are currently leading a national campaign to reduce barriers to college admission for people with criminal records. In an average year, CCA successfully diverts 100 adults and as many juveniles from costly incarceration, saving New York State millions of dollars. Our work reduces the collateral consequences of incarceration, strengthens families and builds safer communities.

Website: http://www.communityalternatives.org/help/volunteer.html
Email: ccachapel@communityalternatives.org
Phone:  718-858-9658

What volunteers do:

  • mentor

  • tutor

  • be a buddy

  • be a community-justice advocate

Borough: Brooklyn office

Mission: The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. We do that by combining cutting-edge litigation, advocacy and strategic communications in work on a broad range of civil and human rights issues: abusive immigration practices, corporate human-rights abuses, criminalizing dissent, discriminatory policing, drone killings, government surveillance, Guantanamo, LGBTQI persecution, mass incarceration, Muslim profiling, Palestinian solidarity, racial injustice, sexual and gender-based violence, torture, war crimes, and militarism.

Website: https://ccrjustice.org/home/get-involved/jobs
Phone: 212-614-6464
Email: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • monthly mailing of jailhouse-rights guide to prisoners

  • general office tasks

Borough: Manhattan

Mission: The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is an independent think tank founded and developed by formerly incarcerated professionals working to create new paradigms for achieving Human Justice, a concept developed by CNUS in 2012 to transcend the traditional criminal and social justice paradigms. The mission of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is to influence socio-economic, criminal and juvenile justice policy by providing research, advocacy and leadership training to formerly and currently incarcerated people, their families, communities, allies and criminal justice professionals for the purpose of: increasing public health and safety by creating viable alternatives that challenge and change overreliance on incarceration-punishment policies and practices as a solution to socio-economic urban and rural problems; reshaping the media portrayal and public opinion of people with criminal records by humanizing their popular image and offering language alternatives to counter current negative stereotypes, beliefs, misinformation and myths; and promoting active participation in criminal and social justice policy decisions, discussions and deliberations by the people whose lives are most directly affected and who have a legitimate stake in the outcomes.

Website: http://centerfornuleadership.org/about/volunteer/
Phone: 718-484-5879
Email: Info@centerfornuleadership.org 

What volunteers do:

  • answer phones, maintain calendar(early mornings and during the day, M-F starting at 10 a.m

  • respond to prison correspondence letters (requires a confidentiality agreement

  • data entry of criminal records, specifically rap sheets

  • academic research, pulling articles and journals based on topics chosen by staff

  • policy research on health care, education, criminal justice, employment, interactions between administrative agencies and young people of color

  • general maintenance (light painting, garbage removal, general cleaning)

Mission: No person imprisoned or those released following confinement should lose the rights and attributes of citizenship. Each sentence for a crime committed is a temporary measure aimed at meeting certain societal goals and must ultimately be aimed at reintegration into the community. No person should be perpetually punished. Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc. works to achieve the restoration of all the rights and attributes of citizenship among people in prison or jail and those who have been released in collaboration with other community and faith based organizations at each of the overlapping phases of the community integration process. This work includes advocacy on all levels, preventive efforts targeting at-risk youth and efforts to the strengthen individuals, families and personal relationships affected by experiences with the criminal justice system. Our work is predicated upon genuine care, concern and respect for those in prison, those at risk of incarceration and their families. We sincerely desire that those in prison not have their lives and minds permanently stained by crime or the criminal justice system, hoping that following encounters with the criminal justice system we may assist in their transformations and engaging the society in which we all live as productive citizens.

Website: http://citizensinc.org/how-you-can-help/volunteer/
Email: info@citizensinc.org
Phone: 347-626-7233 x1

What volunteers do:

  • fundraise

  • prison outreach

  • administrative assistance

  • special events committee

Mission: Founded in 1844, the Correctional Association of New York (the CA) advocates for a more humane and effective criminal justice system and a more just and equitable society. In 1846, the CA was granted authority by New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the public. The only private organization in New York with unrestricted access to prisons, the CA has remained steadfast in its commitment to inform the public debate on criminal justice for nearly 170 years.  The CA utilizes its unique legislative mandate to expose abusive practices, educate the public and policymakers about what goes on behind prison walls, and advocate for systemic, lasting and progressive change. Working in collaboration with a broad base of stakeholders and advocates, the CA works to build the power of the communities most negatively affected by criminal justice policy and decrease the state’s use and abuse of incarceration as a response to the socioeconomic problems facing our communities.

Website: http://www.correctionalassociation.org/ways-to-get-involved
Signup form: http://tinyurl.com/zzuqmkh
Phone: 212-254-5700
Email: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • leadership training program to become an advocate

  • data entry

  • event support

  • translate (English to Spanish)

  • community organizing

  • photography

  • graphic design

  • video editing/production

  • administrative work

  • other opportunities available based on skill set

Mission: Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. Critical Resistance’s vision is the creation of genuinely healthy, stable communities that respond to harm without relying on imprisonment and punishment. As PIC abolitionists we understand that the prison industrial complex is not a broken system to be fixed. The system, rather, works precisely as it is designed to—to contain, control, and kill those people representing the greatest threats to state power. Our goal is not to improve the system but to shrink the system into non-existence. Critical Resistance (CR) is building a member-led and member-run grassroots movement to challenge the use of punishment to “cure” complicated social problems. In all our work, we organize to build power and to stop the devastation that the reliance on imprisonment and policing has brought to ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Website: http://criticalresistance.org/chapters/cr-new-york-city/our-work/
Phone: 212-203-0512
Email: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • monthly meetings to write to prisoners

  • ongoing advocacy for prison abolition

Mission: Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society’s vision is to foster a world where all who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated will thrive as positive, contributing members of society. We do this through a holistic, one-stop model of service provision. Our continuum of care, informed and implemented by professionals with cultural backgrounds and life experiences similar to those of our clients, helps ensure their success. Fortune serves approximately 6,000 individuals annually.

Website: http://fortunesociety.org/
Volunteer signup: https://www.volgistics.com/ex/portal.dll/ap?AP=1856019289
Phone: 212-691-7554
Email: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • conduct mock interviews

  • tutor

  • assist with resumes and online job applications


  • generally 9-5 on weekdays in Long Island City

  • professionals in culinary arts, solar energy, construction, and community organizing particularly helpful for participants in transitional work program

Borough: Queens (also has Manhattan locations)

Mission: The Gathering for Justice is a social justice organization founded by Harry Belafonte in 2005.  Led since 2010 by Executive Director Carmen Perez, The Gathering utilizes Kingian nonviolence as a social application for change and civic engagement. The organization is unique in that we provide direct services, engage artists and cultural leaders as foot soldiers in grassroots mobilization, and consult and advise on legislative and policy initiatives while organizing in local and national communities – all to sustain and build this Movement, the essence of which is grounded in the Movement for Racial Equality. Since 2013, The Gathering, and our social justice task force Justice League NYC, have been building justice initiatives on multiple fronts. Our work includes leading policy initiatives for police accountability; bringing in individuals and groups from diverse communities to organize as a ‘family coalition’ in order to capitalize on our combined power and build the agenda for sustained black and brown liberation; being the catalyst for the re-introduction of federal legislation to end racial profiling and stop the militarization of law enforcement; engaging a serious and sustained effort for Raise the Age in NY State; and creating a blueprint – in the form of a substantive list of demands – for criminal justice redress and accountability for NY City and State.

Website: http://www.gatheringforjustice.org/volunteer
Email: nyjusticeleague@gmail.com
Phone: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • research committee (research laws, policies, and statistics related to ongoing/future Justice League campaigns)

  • direct action committee (organize protests and marches)

  • communications committee (relay information to and update the public on Justice League campaigns, actions, and issues facing our community)

  • outreach committee (social media, recruit new volunteers)

  • policy committee (draft policy and do research for ongoing/future legislative campaigns)

Mission: Hour Children® was named to acknowledge the important hours that shape the life of a child with an incarcerated mother – the hour of their mother’s arrest, the hour of their visit, and the hour of her release. Children’s mission is to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children successfully rejoin the community, reunify with their families, and build healthy, independent, and secure lives. To accomplish this, Hour Children provides compassionate and comprehensive services and encourages all to live and interact with dignity and respect. Hour Children’s vision is to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration.

Website: http://hourchildren.org/?page_id=858
Email: lmanzione@hourchildren.org
Phone: 718-502-8689

What volunteers do:

  • daycare (weekdays, 7:30-6)

  • afterschool program (weekdays, 3-6)

  • mentor teens (Tuesdays, 5-7)

  • working women re-entry program (weekdays, 9-5)

  • help in food pantry (M, 1:30-5, Th 3:30-6, Fri 10-12:30)

  • help in thrift shop (daily, 10-7)

  • tutor children (weekdays, 3-6)

  • tutor women (weekdays 9-5)

  • social media/office support (weekdays, 9-5)

  • mentor child of an incarcerated woman (training session required, 1-year commitment of four hours/month)


  • application/background check required

Borough: Queens

Mission: The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The Innocence Project's mission is to free the staggering number of innocent people who remain incarcerated, and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

Website: http://www.innocenceproject.org/volunteer/
Phone: 212-364-5340
Email: info@innocenceproject.org

What volunteers do:

  • data entry

  • clerical

  • plan events

  • fundraising

  • research

  • writing

  • web development

  • video production

  • accounting

  • journalism

  • advocacy/legislative policy

  • graphic design

  • lawyers and law students assist legal department

Borough: Manhattan office

Mission: Liberation Prison Yoga’s mission is to serve prisons and jails, bringing trauma-conscious yoga programs to incarcerated women, men, LGBTQ, youth, staff, and those whose lives are affected by incarceration; to train yoga instructors to work inside the prison system; and to educate the public about trauma-conscious yoga.

Website: http://www.liberationprisonyoga.com/become-a-volunteer/
Email:   liberationprisonyoga@gmail.com or  http://www.liberationprisonyoga.com/contact/
Phone: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • coordinate programs

  • provide administrative assistance

  • research grants

  • maintain social media

  • web design

  • fundraise by dedicating proceeds of yoga classes to the program

  • teach yoga in jail or prison


Before teaching yoga in jail or prison, teachers must:

  • complete a weekend Trauma-Conscious Yoga Training Workshop

  • attend one of the program’s community classes and teach one community class

  • submit application and resume

  • teach two classes inside jail or prison with one of the directors

  • teach two classes inside jail or prison with a senior teacher

  • spend time as a second teacher before running a class

Borough: Manhattan, Bronx, and upstate/Connecticut locations

Mission: The mission of Legal Information for Families Today is to enhance access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, community education, and compassionate guidance, while promoting system-wide reform of the courts and public agencies. LIFT was launched inside Manhattan Family Court in 1996, providing on-the-spot help at a table in the lobby where we answered questions and distributed original “know your rights” publications. Today, LIFT operates innovative, award-winning programs in the Family Courts and in the community, all of which share the goal of promoting positive outcomes for families and children. Education and information sites are located in the Family Courthouses in all five boroughs and provide litigants with immediate help in navigating the courthouse, filling out documents, and assessing whether they need more in-depth assistance. Hotlines operated by telephone, email, and live chat, allow LIFT's staff to answer questions from anyone with a Family Law case in New York- including elderly, disabled, and otherwise homebound individuals; military members deployed overseas; and incarcerated parents. Family Legal Centers are also located in the Family Courthouses in all five boroughs. Here, litigants are teamed up with a LIFT staff attorney to receive in-depth assistance and one-on-one attention, including accompaniment to appointments. Parenting Workshops and Mothers Support Groups, which LIFT operates alongside community organizations, focus on improving participants' ability to effectively parent, while also increasing knowledge of important topics such as health, nutrition, and financial budgeting. 

Website: http://www.liftonline.org/about/get-involved/volunteer-lift-empower-families-access-justice
Phone: 212-343-1122
Email: volunteer@LIFTonline.org

What volunteers do:

  • law students, recent law school or college graduates, and retired lawyers staff family-law hotlines 4 hour/week

  • non-lawyers distribute and explain LIFT literature

  • translate LIFT materials into Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Tagalog, Urdu, or Yiddish (minimum 1 hour/week)

  • computer/administrative tasks (4 hours/week)


  • extensive training available for all volunteers

Mission: In 1999, Soren Gordhamer began teaching yoga, meditation and mindful martial arts in the adolescent unit at Rikers Island, the city’s largest jail. His scope quickly expanded to include Jobs Corps centers, New York City Department of Juvenile Justice detention centers for youth ages 10-16 in the South Bronx, and ‘locked’ group homes operated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. The organization’s leaders developed a comprehensive curriculum, in which each session is theme-based and includes yoga, meditation and discussion relating to life skills. Our work has shown that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can teach youth with behavioral difficulties to: use stress management tools that decrease anxiety and depression; manage anger and frustration; develop positive relationships with family, friends, and community; and self-reflect in order to gain control over their actions and change unhealthy behaviors.

Website: http://www.lineageproject.org/get-involved/volunteer/volunteer-application/
Phone: 646-479-3996
Email: gabrielle@lineageproject.org

What volunteers do:

  • train youth in mindfulness practices at jails/detention centers, alternative sites, sites for suspended students (20-hour training required)

Mission: Our mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy, equality and due process of law for all New Yorkers. We believe that all New Yorkers have inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government or by majority vote. They are: 1) Freedom of speech, press, petition and assembly. Even unpopular expression is protected from government suppression and censorship. 2) Freedom of religion. Each of us has the right to exercise his or her own religion, or no religion, free from any government influence or compulsion. 3) Privacy. We have the right to be free from unwarranted and unwanted government intrusion into our personal and private affairs, papers and possessions. 4) Due process of law. We have right to be treated fairly by the government whenever the loss of liberty or property is at stake. 5) Equality before the law. We have the right to be treated equally regardless of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, disability or socio-economic status. The NYCLU fights for civil liberties and civil rights through a multi-layered program of litigation, advocacy, public education and community organizing. Our clients are men and women, rich and poor, gay and straight, black, white and brown, young and old, religious and atheist, able-bodied and living with a disability, citizens and immigrants. When we vindicate their rights, all New Yorkers benefit.

Website: http://nyclu.org/content/our-advocacy-program
Volunteer sign-up form: https://action.aclu.org/secure/volunteer-nyclu
Phone: 212-607-3300
Email: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • online activism

  • grassroots lobbying

  • community organizing

  • lobby with NYCLU in Albany (next day of action March 13, 2017)

  • monitor protests

  • writing/journalism

  • research

  • help fundraise

  • graphic design

  • multimedia support

  • translate (Arabic , Chinese , French, Hindi, Korean, Kreyol, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Urdu)

  • photography/videography

  • education

Mission: Osborne has an 85-year history working with currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and children and families affected by incarceration. The Osborne Association offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives through innovative, effective, and replicable programs that serve the community by reducing crime and its human and economic costs. We offer opportunities for reform and rehabilitation through public education, advocacy, and alternatives to incarceration that respect the dignity of people and honor their capacity to change. Osborne offers a wide range of direct services to justice system-involved people and their children and families.

Website: http://www.osborneny.org/about/volunteer/
Volunteer signup form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeJ48yVGX4yzPjCt24aCWGI8luM0wlY7WotO8hO5FClIpzoPQ/viewform
Email: mpowell@osborneny.org
Phone: 718-707-2600

What volunteers do:

  • children's education and field trips

  • young adult education and college prep

  • adult education

  • socialize with older adults/seniors

  • job readiness and career prep

  • health education and outreach

  • advocacy

  • event planning

  • fundraising


  • application and reference required

  • in-person or online volunteer orientation required

  • commitment can be one-time, full day, full weekend, weekly, or monthly

Desired skills include:

  • arts/crafts

  • cooking/culinary arts

  • computers/technology/social media

  • construction/carpentry

  • education/tutoring/teaching

  • finance/fundraising

  • performing arts/theater

  • photography/video/film

  • writing

Borough: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan (and in correctional facilities)

Mission: PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. The Prison Writing Program sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, and provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates.

Website: https://pen.org/mentoring-program
Phone: 212-334-1660
Email: penmentor@gmail.com

What volunteers do:

  • mentor prison writers through correspondence (minimum of three exchanges between mentor and writer)

Mission: The Petey Greene Program supplements education in correctional institutions by preparing volunteers, primarily college students, to provide free, quality tutoring and related programming to support the academic achievement of incarcerated people. The Petey Greene volunteer experience will inspire our alumni to advocate and take on leadership roles that will re-imagine the criminal justice system. We envision a world in which all incarcerated people have access to high quality academic programs.

Website: http://www.peteygreene.org/nyc
Volunteer application: http://www.peteygreene.org/volunteerapplication
Email: nyc@peteygreene.org
Phone: n/a

What volunteers do:

  • provide one-on-one support for incarcerated youth and adults preparing for GED/TASC, pre-GED, CUNY assessment tests

  • work alongside Board of Ed faculty in high-school classrooms on Rikers

  • support incarcerated students in pre-college math, writing, and college-level writing

  • support ESOL students


  • all volunteering is aweekly commitment for a full semester (except for exam periods and vacations), generally in two-hour blocks

  • background check required; clearance can take 1-3 months

  • volume of applicants is high, and you may be deferred to the next semester if there are no openings

  • requirements vary by location but all volunteers must be over 18, and in some cases over 21 and must have government-issued ID; some locations require a completed bachelor’s degree

  • tutoring at Edgecombe Mondays and Wednesdays 6-8, Saturdays 9 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., and 12:30 p.m-2:30 p.m.; tutoring at MDC Brooklyn Monday Friday, 8 a.m. -10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. and Mondays 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; tutoring at MDC New York Monday-Saturday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m, as well as 5:45 p.m.- 7:30 p.m. on Tues Wed, Thurs; tutoring at Rikers Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. with some flexible hours evenings and weekends

  • transportation reimbursed

Mission: RTA's mission is to use the transformative power of the arts to develop social and cognitive skills that prisoners need for successful reintegration into the community. RTA serves 200 prisoners at any one time, teaching in at least one facility every day of the week, year-round. More than 30 arts facilitators travel to remote prisons in 3 New York State counties to teach a wide variety of artistic media. In RTA's latest development, we have begun to follow participants as they are released to the community to nurture the creative experience they found so meaningful inside. Our first project is to develop a play about the many challenges of reentry.

Website: http://www.rta-arts.org/volunteer
Phone: 914-232-7566
Email: info@rta-arts.org

What volunteers do:

  • help with props, costumes, sets (outside of prison)

  • work in prison (requires advanced arts training and extensive background checks)

Mission: THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL is working to end systemic discrimination against formerly incarcerated people who struggle to reintegrate into communities across this nation. This discrimination denies millions of willing and capable men and women the essential building blocks of stable lives—including employment and housing—and relegates them to being drains on society for the rest of their lives. THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL seeks to improve this bleak landscape through a unique combination of research, advocacy, storytelling and coalition-building that we believe can bring about lasting changes in attitudes, laws, policies and practices.

Website: http://www.thinkoutsidethecell.org/volunteer
Email: http://www.thinkoutsidethecell.org/contact-us
Phone: 877-267-2303

What volunteers do:

  • research grants (10 hours/week)

  • public relations and community outreach (10 hours/week)

  • search-engine optimization (10 hours/week)

  • create video blogs, documentaries, shorts, new media/digital productions (15 hours/week)

  • manage social media (10 hours/week)

  • develop and host radio blog on criminal justice (5 hours/week)

Mission: Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY) is a statewide grassroots membership organization building power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war and mass incarceration, along with the organizations that serve us, to create healthy and just communities. We accomplish this through community organizing, leadership development, public education, participatory research and direct action.

Website: http://www.vocal-ny.org/members/become-an-ally/
Phone: 718-802-9540 or Jeremy Saunders at 917-676-8041
Email: info@vocal-ny.org or Jeremy@vocal-ny.org

What volunteers do:

  • support public-health harm-reduction project (needle exchange)

  • advocacy and community organizing (phone banking, outreach, rallies and events)

Borough: Brooklyn

Mission: WPA works with women at all stages of criminal justice involvement.  We promote alternatives to incarceration and help women living in the community to avoid arrest or incarceration by making positive changes in their lives.  Inside prison and jail, we are a source of support to women and a resource to them as they plan for release. After incarceration, women come to WPA for help to build the lives they want for themselves and their families in the community.

Website: http://www.wpaonline.org/about/individual-volunteers
Phone: 718-637-6815
Email: info@wpaonline.org

What volunteers do:

  • baking instructor

  • beadwork instructor

  • sort donated clothing

  • other opportunities likely in the future

Borough: Manhattan office