Saturday, May 12th


The second Saturday of Bring Down The Walls examines the expansion of punitive and carceral practices, and the ways they have been codified to extend beyond prison walls – through policies on immigration, surveillance, drug laws, and bail. We introduce some of the campaigns and organizations focused on dismantling these practices.

Please note that Bring Down The Walls is an organically evolving communal space. Times may shift and programs added throughout the run of the project. Check back regularly for the most up-to-date schedule.

School Is In Session

2:20 – 2:30 PM


Welcome to Bring Down The Walls! Join us as we introduce the framework and themes for the day’s conversations, exchanges, and debates.


Mapping the Prison Industrial Complex

2:30 – 4:00 PM / Big Room
Ronald Day, Casimiro Torres


How has the prison system evolved into an all pervasive industrial complex? Extending well beyond the confines of physical detainment facilities, the criminal justice system is driven by an overlapping set of bureaucratic, political, and corporate interests which capitalize on the proliferation of imprisonment, regardless of actual need.


Ronald Day is Associate Vice President at the Fortune Society, a Justice Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Justice, and an adjunct instructor at John Jay College for Criminal Justice. He previously served as the Director of Workforce Development for the nonprofit Osborne Association.


After spending several years in and out of the criminal justice system, Casimiro Torres collaborated with Fortune Society founder David Rothenberg on the theater production of The Castle, which follows four individuals’ journeys leading to incarceration, and the obstacles they faced upon release. Torres also serves on the Board of Directors at the Fortune Society.


Rikers Debate Project: Face Off

2:30 – 4:00 PM / Small Room
Felix Guzman, Camilla Broderick


The Rikers Debate Project Fellows take on the most pressing issues in the field of criminal justice advocacy, such as voting rights, the “raise the age” campaign, solitary confinement, and bail reform.


The Rikers Debate Project is dedicated to teaching people at Rikers Island the skills of competitive debate.


As an intern for Rikers Debate Project, Camilla Broderick represents the organization at public functions and teaches classes on debate technique. Camilla currently attends Hunter College and was a Justice-in-Education scholar at The Center for Justice at Columbia University.


Felix Guzman is an activist whose focus is supporting programs dedicated to successful re-entry following incarceration. He is a member of the Rikers Debate Project and credits much of his personal growth to the skills learned as a part of the organization.


Legal Action Center

3:00 – 6:00 PM


Legal Action Center will be providing help with a variety of issues, such as: how to apply for Certificates of Relief or Good Conduct, whether to obtain a copy of your NYS RAP Sheet and how to do so, information about one’s rights when seeking a job or license with a criminal record; information about NYC’s Fair Chance Act – the “ban the box” law, initial screenings for sealing eligibility, and other reentry services. More information here.


Incarceration Now: Immigrant Detainees

4:15 – 5:45 PM / Big Room
Abou Farman, Albert Saint Jean


The U.S. currently maintains the world’s largest immigrant detention system, locking up more people for potential deportation than ever before as the fastest rising arm of mass incarceration. The current administration has given Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seemingly unfettered authority to remove entire populations from our country. What are the ramifications of those actions and how can we fight back?


Abou Farman is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research and a member of the New School Sanctuary Working Group. He is also an artist, screenwriter and producer. His work on Dogtown Redemption was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award.


Albert Saint Jean is an organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration, an education and advocacy group comprised of African Americans and black immigrants from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.


The Making of an Abolitionist

4:15 – 4:45 PM / Small Room
Pilar Maschi


This session chronicles the journey of one woman who turned her own experience of incarceration to fuel her career as an organizer and a prison abolitionist.


An organizer for Critical Resistance, Pilar Maschi is a proud queer Boricua mom who raised her now college-bound daughter in the South Bronx. She is a NY-born house head, former club kid, and DJ. As a formerly incarcerated, queer, anti-establishment abolitionist, Pilar uses her power to fight for the liberation of all people most impacted by the prison industrial complex.


Campaign Step Up with Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, and Coalition for Women Prisoners, and Release Aging People in Prison, moderated by Scott Paltrowitz from the Correctional Association of New York

4:45 – 5:45 PM / Small Room


Take action! Numerous New York City based campaigns are challenging the prison industrial complex and supporting those most affected by it. This weekly series will connect you with various local campaigns and present opportunities to join their work.


Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) seeks to reform of New York’s use of solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation in state prisons and local jails.


Coalition for Women Prisoners is a statewide alliance of over 1,700 individuals and 100 organizations dedicated to making the criminal justice system more responsive to the needs and rights of women.


Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) works to end mass incarceration and promote racial justice by getting elderly and infirm people out of prison.


Behind The Music

6:00 – 6:45 PM / Small Room
Phil Collins and Collaborators


Hear the classic house covers from the Bring Down The Walls benefit album, and the story behind the project from the artist and his collaborators.


Economics of Bail

6:00 – 7:30 PM / Big Room
Derrick Cain, Marvin Mayfield


In a justice system where you are “innocent until proven guilty,” why are so many people languishing in jail simply because they cannot afford bail? The stated purpose of bail is to guarantee a suspect’s appearance at trial; the application of bail laws points to a different purpose that penalizes the poor and rewards the rich. This panel explains the intricacies and inequalities of the bail system.


Derrick Cain is the Manager of Client Services at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. He works to provide support and services for individuals incarcerated on Rikers Island, to overcome the challenges that stem from their contact with the criminal justice system.


Marvin Mayfield is a campaign leader for Just LeadershipUSA’s #FREEnewyork and #CloseRikers campaigns. Unable to pay his bail fees, Mayfield was detained for 11 months at Vernon C. Bain Correctional Facility, the floating jail anchored off the Bronx’s southern shore, nicknamed “The Boat.”. Mayfield now campaigns against the facility’s inhumane conditions, and advocates for its permanent closure.


Policing Freedom

6:45 – 7:30 PM / Small Room


Returning home from prison is not the end of most sentences. While over 2 million people are currently incarcerated in the U.S., over 8 million are serving sentences outside in the form of parole or probation. This session explores the added challenges parole and probation have on reentry and how we can support reform efforts.


Ballroom Freedom School

7:45 – 8:45 PM / Big Room
Michael Roberson, Robert Sember


The LGBTQ+ community, especially trans folk of color, are hypervisible and hypercriminalized by law enforcement. The Ballroom Freedom School is a collaborative project building greater political literacy within the community, while helping and to help further autonomous, indigenous processes that promote freedom from homophobia, transphobia, racism, class oppression, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. The founders will discuss how the LGBTQ+ community is uniquely vulnerable to criminalization and incarceration.


Michael Roberson is an advocate, activist and leader within the Black LGBTQ House Ball community, where he is the founder of House of Blahnik, Maasai and Garcon. He is also a public health practitioner, founded The Federation of Ballroom Houses, and is member of Vogue’ology, an initiative by and for members of the African American and Latino/a LGBTQ community in New York City.


Robert Sember is an artist, scholar and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts at the Eugene Lang College at the New School. He is a member of the sound art collective, Ultra-red, which collaborates with constituencies involved in migrant rights, fair housing and anti-racist struggles. He established Vogue’ology, an initiative by and for members of the African American and Latino/a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in New York City.


Say What You Mean, Mean What you Say

7:45 – 8:45 PM / Small Room
#CloseRikers campaign with JLUSA


Inspired by the day’s exchanges and call to action, school wraps up with sign-making and rally training. Join criminal justice organizers as we crank up the music and march on the streets, activating Manhattan’s civic center.


Led by directly impacted communities and in partnership with 150+ organizations, the #CloseRikers campaign fights to close the Rikers Island Jail Complex & transform NYCs criminal justice system.