save the dateJoin Milk Not Jails, Parole Justice New York and over 60 criminal justice groups that are Challenging Incarceration in Albany on May 10th, 2017 to Unite for Parole and Prison Justice. Demand systemic change to New York’s broken parole system and an end to mass incarceration. The day will include a rally and speak-out, a march through the Capitol, and legislative advocacy with your elected officials. We will unite to demand that Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature bring our friends and family members home!

We are organizing buses and carpools as well as legislative visits with your elected officials, so its important that you RSVP. You can RSVP on this form or by emailing the following information to

• Name
• Email
• Phone number
• Organizational affiliation (if any)
• Your state Senator
• Your state Assemblymember
• Whether you need transportation to Albany
• Whether you would like to participate in the planning committee
We need all the help we can get with this mobilization, especially from our friends and allies in upstate, suburban and rural districts! Join the Facebook event page and share it and this email with your family, friends and neighbors.

Thanks in advance for your help and support! We look forward to seeing you on May 10th!


Job and Training Opportunity  Application Due Date December 1

Milk Not Jails and Shadow Box Theatre seek formerly incarcerated individuals and culture workers whose lives have been directly impacted by incarceration for a training program / part time job teaching puppetry and storytelling to youth in New York City Detention Centers. Spanish language skills a plus.

The framework for the art making and classroom teaching is Identity, Purpose, Direction a problem-solving method designed b­­y Tychist Baker, one of our teaching artists and co-founder of Milk Not Jails, while he was incarcerated. Baker used this method to turn his life (and the lives of others) around, and to overcome challenges. Our workshops utilize this model to train students to be able to use it on their own. In the words of Baker, “Some people do not even identify that they have one foot in jail, and one foot out. Identity is about knowing first about oneself and what is around you. Purpose is knowing that your life has meaning, that you can do better. Direction is how you get over the obstacles you face.”

We also teach the art of puppetry. In our program puppetry is the form through which students catalyze their imaginations and tell new stories. Students physically build puppets, costumes, backdrops, scenery and stages. They rehearse and write scripts. As part of the program detained students are able to share these skills with siblings and loved ones on family days. Working with cloth, wood, paint, cardboard, music, poetic words, jokes and movement students consciously re-imagine, and re-build their identities.
This Winter MNJ/ Shadow box will train applicants in Identity, Purpose and Direction and puppetry techniques. Their goal is to cultivate a multi-lingual, cross class-race-ability-gender team of teachers who can share and expand the curriculum. The new cohort of facilitators will use their lived experience and art to empower students and their communities.

Timeline and Commitment:

  • Teacher Training: February 17 and 18 2017
  • Horizons teaching Residency: February 23 and 24 2017
  • Full team Planning Retreat: April 14, 2017
  • Horizons Residency: April 17 and 18 2017


  • 2 residencies ; 16 hours ; $50 per hr.
  • 2 training days , 8 hours : $30 per hr,
  • 1 planning retreat; 8 hours ; $30 per hr

APPLICATION FORM Please cut and paste this form into a Word Document or email.
Due Date for Application December 1 2016 5PM
Send to

Full Name:

Preferred Gender Pronoun (e.g., she, he, they):

E-mail Address:

Phone Number(s):

Date of Birth:

Languages Spoken:

Please answer all of the following questions (at least 2-3 sentences each)

What is your experience with team work?

What interests you about this job?

What is your experience working with youth?

What kind of art work are you doing now?

Recommendation from someone you have worked with before

Please provide us with the name and contact information of your recommender.

Recommender Name:

E-mail Address:

Phone Number:

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Episode 3: Mission Possible

picture letters albanyIt was a snowy weekend in Albany at the Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus. Busloads of prison families and criminal justice advocates made the icy journey to schmooze with politicians hoping to get something done. Milk Not Jails spent the weekend running after Senator Gallivan, the Republican leader of the Crime Committee, whose staffers gave vague, polite answers and no commitments. At a luncheon later that day we met Anne, who lives just down the road from the new Cobleskill dairy plant. At lunch, Milk Not Jails announced an upcoming action to demand passage of the SAFE Parole Act, a bill that would stop the parole board from repeatedly denying people’s parole applications due to the nature of their crime, something they cannot change. Anne approached us quietly afterwards. We exchanged information just before running to our separate buses.
Anne joined us the following week on a planning call but did not say much. Our plan was this: each group on the call would organize an event or action on the same day but in a different district to demand passage of the SAFE Parole Act. She didn’t have a political or support group to work with in her town, but she was interested in doing an event at her church. She joined us, and we spent the next month making flyers, press releases and installations of letters from people in prison that groups would use at their local events.
Two days before the action, Anne called to say that the local NPR affiliate had gotten her press release and invited her to do a radio segment. She was nervous and we scrambled around to give her a media training so that she would feel prepared. We tuned in and listened nervously to the interview. We shouldn’t have worried, Anne was passionate and articulate.
Later that spring, Milk Not Jails members met up with Anne again in person. This time, she was speaking at a rally about the parole system outside of Governor Cuomo’s office. It was thrilling to hear how much louder her voice had gotten in just a few short months.
Anne is now a central figure in this political process. In October, she did the impossible. She got a meeting with Senator Patrick Gallivan.
Anne wrote, “I originally set up an appointment with him about my significant other, Bill, who is incarcerated in his district. I ended up spending an hour with Senator Gallivan who was sympathetic and willing to listen. I think we could win the SAFE Parole Act soon if we had more people like me across the state visit with him. I asked him if I could meet with him again, and he agreed to meet in January 2015. Who else do we need to bring to the meeting to turn his sympathy into commitment?”
This year, we joined with Anne and many other people for a long, hard battle to pass the SAFE Parole Act this year. We did not win passage of the bill— largely due to the Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to hear our concerns. We have been collaborating with our allies to re-strategize for next year. In 2015, Milk Not Jails will launch a statewide campaign for the SAFE Parole Act, which will include an educational video series, a touring advocacy training for prison families, and a series of escalating actions.
We need your support  and your donation today in order to successfully continue and win this campaign tomorrow.
Want to get new episodes from Milk Not Jails every month? You can get them by making a donation today, which will make it possible to continue our work. Make a tax-deductible donation to Milk Not Jails and send it to Milk Not Jails, 497 Quincy Street, Brooklyn, NY 11221 or to on


subscribeWant to get new episodes of Milk Not Jails every month? You can get them by becoming a monthly sustainer today, which makes it possible to continue our work and bring you these stories.

Just landing here? Check out Episode 1.


Episode 2: The Master’s Tools

It took Milk Not Jails five months to get a meeting at the milk bottling plant in Delhi, NY. It might have been because the plant was in the midst of being sold by Dallas-based Dean Foods to Friesland Campina, a Dutch dairy company. Or could have been because they’re guarding some top secret recipes? Why else would their facility need to be more highly secured than any prison or government building we’ve ever visited?

FIG 13 P26The plant manager was as tight lipped as the security systems at the plant. We were there to look into contracting with them to process Milk Not Jails’ farmers’ milk as 1% milk, since schools and food pantries are required by New York State law to only offer low-fat dairy products to their clients. Making low-fat milk requires expensive machinery that only one of our farmers currently has. Until we have access to this machinery, our farmers cannot deliver milk to food pantries, public schools, or even for new moms to buy with their WIC checks at the grocery store.

Our meeting with the plant manager in Delhi foreshadowed every subsequent meeting at other dairy plants. These plants mix all of the milk they get from different sources and just change the packaging based on the brand they are bottling. Their clients do not care where the milk comes from, so the idea of working with the farmers in their area to make a local product made absolutely no sense to them. We searched long and hard for a milk plant. Late this spring, Diamond, a  Milk Not Jails member who is in prison, joined the search team convinced some facility out there could work.  In July, he sent us an exciting letter.  Apparently Woodbourne Correctional Facility used to have a factory to bottle milk from the prison farm for the mess hall. Maybe we would be able to bottle our milk there? We called Woodbourne right away, but we were too late. They’d sold off the equipment over a year ago after the state decommissioned the prison farm program.

We set aside our dreams of Milk Not Jails at every public school in New York for now and tried to focus on growing sales using the smaller-scale equipment our farmers already have.  Then, this fall, we got some good news! Lauren met some faculty from SUNY Cobleskill at a conference upstate. They were applying for a grant to build a brand new dairy plant on their campus. They were looking for letters of support and we organized our farmers to send in a stack of letters right away. On a follow-up call the next week Lauren asked for more details about the plant.

  “Well we already have some dairy processing equipment at the school and now we are raising money to build a new structure and get more equipment to make everything – cheese, ice cream, yogurt, you name it,” said the faculty advisor on the project.

     “Oh…what equipment do you already have?” Lauren asked.

     “We got a milk separator and pasteurizer at a Department of Corrections auction. I think about a year ago they were selling off all of the old prison farm equipment and we just grabbed it.”


Each year, Milk Not Jails sets ambitious goals—pledging to challenge the economic and political systems that are part of our daily lives.  We do this by empowering those most directly impacted by these systems with the tools needed to transform them. We are building political power with strange allies and in unusual places. This work takes time, especially since we are committed to working with communities to unravel the prison system and agricultural institutions. But we also see the impact intimately everyday as we build and test these new relationships. This month, we bring you three stories about our exciting work in different corners of New York State. Please make a donation today, so we can continue this necessary work.


Each year, Milk Not Jails sets ambitious goals—pledging to challenge the economic and political systems that are part of our daily lives.  We do this by empowering those most directly impacted by these systems with the tools needed to transform them. We are building political power with strange allies and in unusual places. This work takes time, especially since we are committed to working with communities to unravel the prison system and agricultural institutions. But we also see the impact intimately everyday as we build and test these new relationships. This month, we bring you three stories about our exciting work in different corners of New York State. Please make a donation today, so we can continue this necessary work.

Episode 1: Past + Present = Future

Se'onna brings the harvest from the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger garden to the people.

Se’onna brings the harvest from the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger garden to the people.

It’s uncanny how frequently our lives comes full circle, and how the different people and places we meet can grow into new possibilities. Perhaps these are some of the benefits of being part of a community, benefits that you can only earn with time.

Saquana began working at Milk Not Jails last winter as a Sales Associate. Part of her job includes taking orders from clients and preparing the invoices and schedules for Stephen, our driver, to make deliveries.  She was pleased to recognize the names of some of our clients, like Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, when she first joined Milk Not Jails.

“Oh I know them. I used to go there right after my baby father got deported and I was in the shelter.” While Saquana’s terrain is typically found inside the Milk Not Jails office, one day this Spring, Stephen need some help with deliveries and she was happy to join him on his route. When they stopped to make a delivery at the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, she stepped down from the truck to  give an  invoice to the Pantry Coordinator.  The two women  locked eyes and paused.

“I remember you,” said Ms. Dawson. Some people might have pretended they had no recollection of that hard time in their lives, but Saquana has no problem talking about the past. She’s been the victim of so many failed social service and criminal justice programs that there’s no shame in it.

“Oh yeah, I used to come here all the time with my daughter, Se’onna back in like 2004.” The two women proceeded to catch up on everything that had happened since that time while they loaded the milk into the pantry’s refrigerators.

“Oh gosh, Se’onna’s fifteen now? You know, we just finished accepting applications for our summer internship program, but I can extend the deadline if she’s interested.” Se’onna submitted an application and became a member of the Green Team this past summer. She became part of the compost team, which actually takes all of the rotten scraps of the food from the pantry and turns it into nitrogen-rich soil. Each week the Green Team travels to Rockaway to help another one of the pantry’s urban farms stake tomatoes and harvest greens. Her paid summer internship turned into a permanent position this fall. She can stay on through high school and, if she stays through graduation, she’ll be eligible for a college scholarship.

Who will Se’onna, Saquana and the rest of us at Milk Not Jails reconnect with next year?

Climate Justice Not JailsMilk Not Jails is fighting to end mass incarceration and is fighting for a more livable world. In that world, urban and rural New Yorkers work together to build a sustainable economy where once imprisoned people are employed and once struggling farms flourish. That is why we are part of the Peoples Climate March.

Mass incarceration reinforces environmental racism. In New York City today, Blacks and Latin@s make up 86% of arrests, confrontations which have recently escalated to police beating a young Latino man, and murdering an unarmed Black man. Meanwhile, in the South Bronx, Harlem, Bushwick, and South Brooklyn, people are twice as likely to die from air pollution, yet Mayor DeBlasio has made it a priority to arrest people of color just for walking down the street. We must create a world where everyone can march in the streets for climate justice.

New Yorkers are bound together by food and criminal injustice. When New Yorkers are arrested in food desert neighborhoods in Brooklyn, they are sent to prison in counties like St. Lawrence, Franklin and Clinton, which according to the USDA have their own rural food deserts. When New Yorkers in state universities eat the cheapest food available on the market, they’re getting same food as New Yorkers in state prison. Because these issues are interconnected, so must our struggle to create solutions to food and criminal injustice.

To change everything we need everyone. We need to reform parole so all eligible people in prison can return to their communities to parent, mentor, and organize. We need to end Dean Foodsdairy monopoly, so farmers can focus on defending farmland from development. To create climate justice we need to create a movement that sees all life as valuable and all injustice as an obstacle. Help us make that a reality this Sunday, September 21st at 10:30 am in the People not Prisons contingent meeting in front of the Natural History Museum on Central Park West. See you in the streets.

Read an interview with Stephen Pendarvis, Milk Not Jails' newest worker-owner!

Read an interview with Stephen Pendarvis, Milk Not Jails’ newest worker-owner!

Last week New York State’s legislature legalized medical marijuana, a huge feat that will open doors for more criminal justice change if we mobilize new allies now. While the legislature is on recess, Milk Not Jails will be organizing rural New Yorkers to demand parole reform and an end to racist marijuana arrests, and we need your support to do it.

To cover our operating costs, we need 100 people to make $20 contributions to Milk Not Jails each month through the end of the year.  Simply enter your donation amount—consider donating what you earn by working for one hour—and click on “make this recurring” to help us sustain our organizing efforts and to gear up for the fall elections cycle and the 2015 legislative session.

Milk Not Jails has been busy fighting for change and building an alternative to the prison economy.  This month Stephen Pendarvis joined Milk Not Jails’ dairy marketing and distribution cooperative as the third and newest worker-owner! Stephen drives the Milk Not Jails truck, delivering fresh dairy products to our dedicated customers. Read an interview with Stephen.

Monthly sustainers who sign up this week and pledge $15 or more per month will receive this hand-printed organic tote stocked full of propaganda!

Monthly sustainers who sign up this week and pledge $15 or more per month will receive this limited edition, hand-printed organic tote stocked full of Milk Not Jails propaganda!

We also moved! We’re partnering with Build It Green! NYC (BIG!NYC), which hosts our new cold storage facility. Milk Not Jails worker-owners and volunteers spent hours rebuilding a dilapidated walk-in refrigerated using reclaimed materials donated by BIG!NYC.

We just completed a pilot project with United Way of NYC, providing milk to their food pantries. We’re hoping to expand this opportunity, so please contact us if you know any food pantries in the NYC area that are interested in receiving fresh, New York-made dairy products for their clients!

With a new warehouse and office, new cooperative members, and new opportunities, we have a lot of plans for the coming months. Help us continue to make a political and economic impact in New York by becoming a monthly sustainer today!

In struggle,

Saquana, Stephen, Tychist and Lauren


Milk Not Jails

497 Quincy Street

Brooklyn, NY 11221

(917) 719-MILK


We put money in the hands of New York farmers and power in the hands of the criminal justice movement! Milk Not Jails is a cooperative business, owned and operated by formerly incarcerated people and upstate dairy farmers.

Milk Not Jails' newest member, Stephen Pendarvis, after a long day on the road.

Milk Not Jails’ newest member, Stephen Pendarvis, after a long day on the road.

This week, Milk Not Jails welcomed Stephen Pendarvis into our worker- and farmer-owned cooperative business. Stephen’s main responsibility at Milk Not Jail is to drive our truck throughout the five boroughs, making deliveries to a store near you and mobilizing people for change on the route! With a degree in Business Administration he’ll also be training us all in business development, so that we can make our social enterprise sustainable. Be sure to introduce yourself to him out on the streets. And read below a quick interview we did with Stephen will on the road yesterday.

Q: Stephen, tell us a little about yourself.

A. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I live in Brownsville right now, but I’m a Flatbush man. I have two children, 1 15-year old daughter and a 6-year old son. I spent probably too much time on the weekends at Chuck E. Cheese with my son.

Q: You have a business degree. How does that prepare you to be a cooperative owner here?

A: I went to college down in South Carolina. I actually thought I’d be an English major or study journalism, because I love to play with language and I’ve always been told I’m a good writer. But my mother pushed me into Business, saying it was more practical. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had the opportunity to use all that I learned in any of my former workplaces, so I’m excited to have more of a voice in Milk Not Jails’ short- and long-term business planning.

Q: How did your time in prison shape who you are today.

A: To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I’ve repressed a lot of my experience there. I was upstate in prison for about two and a half years. I think the prison was somewhere near Albany. It was not a good time for me, and it’s hard to be out and see so much substance abuse and homelessness that is responded to by the system with jail time.

Q: After you got out of prison you became a substance abuse counselor. What caused you to pursue that work?

A: Several years ago a cousin of mine, who had been a football player and been in the military, died on the streets. No one would touch him. I held him in my arms. He had been suffering from a drug problem and wasted away to nothing. I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at Milk Not Jails?

A: I’m looking to be part of the solution here too. I want to grow this company into one that trains good people to have good jobs, gives people second chances and has a bigger impact on the systems that have such a stranglehold on our community.


Title: Driver

Company: Milk Not Jails

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Milk Not Jails is a non-profit milk marketing and distribution company with a political mission. We are working to end upstate New York’s economic investment in the prison industry by expanding and strengthening sales and marketing opportunities for farmers that take a stand against a dysfunctional prison system.   Milk Not Jails is a cooperative business, meaning that our workers have the opportunity to become owners in the business as well. We are looking for an excellent driver to safely deliver our products to clients on time, represent the Milk Not Jails vision, and invest energy in becoming a leader in our business.

Job Responsibilities

  • Pick-up orders from farms at drop off points in NYC
  • Work with staff to pack orders for clients
  • Deliver orders to clients in Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn
  • Deliver payments to farms and collect payments from clients as needed
  • Communicate issues pertaining to orders and new potential client information to sales staff

Job Qualifications

  • Excellent driving record
  • Knowledge of commercial driving rules and regulations
  • Good sense of direction in 5 boroughs
  • Ability to problem solve quickly
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to enthusiastically represent the Milk Not Jails company mission and field questions from the public
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Self-starter
  • Proficiency with GPS units, a plus
  • CDL license a plus, but not necessary
  • Preference for those who are formerly incarcerated

Hours and Wages

This is a part-time position with the potential to become full-time. Applicants must be available to work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays as well as Saturday mornings. The start date for this position is mid-May 2014.

Hourly wage starts at $15 per hour, with opportunities for a raise and ownership after three months.

Application Process

Please submit a resume and cover letter describing a time, in a personal or professional setting, when an unexpected problem occurred and you solved it.   Send your resume and cover letter as attachments via email to or via mail to Lauren Melodia, 497 Quincy Street, Brooklyn, NY 11221.

Deadline: May 15, 2012

Questions? Contact us at (917) 719-MILK or

P1000162Last year, Governor Cuomo played the progressive community—promising to end stop-and-frisk policing and to increase women’s empowerment—and betraying all of us in the end. This year, we’re not going to let the Governor get away with just paying lip service to our demands. Join us now, and throughout 2014, for a series of actions to demand criminal justice and sustainable agriculture. We are stepping up our pressure, and we need your help to organize actions across New York State.

Our Priorities
Three Actions for Change

Our Priorities

1. We need SAFE Parole

Every year thousands of people locked up in New York’s prisons participate in educational and vocational programs to prepare themselves for their parole hearings, so they can return home. Tragically, the Parole Board more often than not denies people parole due to the “nature of their crime,” something they cannot change. We need a parole system that gives peoples a second chance and a set of tools to be able to return to their communities. The Safe And Fair Evaluation (SAFE) Parole Act will make the parole board accountable for its decisions, empower applicants to take concrete action to improve their readiness for parole, and reunite families across the state.

  • Download a factsheet on the SAFE Parole Act
  • Read the full text and legislative history

2. We need to Buy From Our Back Yard

The New York public school system purchases enough food and milk to feed over one million children every day. Today they purchase whatever food is cheapest, which is typically made by multi-national corporations and trucked all over the globe. Imagine the environmental and economic impacts if our public institutions purchased from local farms. The Buy From the Backyard Act will require 20% of food bought by state institutions, including schools, to be grown in New York State, and allows a 10% price margin above the bottom of the market. That means healthier food, a healthier environment, healthier local economy, and healthier kids!

  • Read the full text and legislative history

Three Actions For Change

We plan to build pressure through a series of coordinated actions across New York State. Please join us by organizing and participating in a local action in your community. Below are three actions we are planning. Check out additional resources here and contact us at or (917) 719-MILK.

1. Tell Your Story of Parole Board Neglect

Deadline: January 20, 2014     / /    More Resources Coming Soon…

This January, during the first week of the 2014 legislative session, we will deliver 500 letters to Albany from people in prison and their families about New York’s broken parole system. We will create a public installation in the Capitol Building to make sure our elected officials hear loud and clear the devastation our parole system has on the lives of families and make sure they no longer walk away from our demand for a solution – the SAFE Parole Act. Help us gather by participating in the following now:

Send a Letter Now: Write a letter about your personal experience with the New York parole system. Send one copy to Senator Gallivan and one copy to Milk Not Jails. Download a sample letter.

Ask for a Letter Now: Spread the word! Ask your friends, family and community to share their personal experiences or to send a form letter. Senator Gallivan is from the Buffalo area, so it is especially important that any friends you have from that area pitch in.

Deliver a Letter on January 21, 2014: Be sure to send a copy of your letter to Milk Not Jails and then join us as we head to Albany to hand deliver all 500 letters the week of Martin Luther King Day (Tuesday, January 21, 2013). We want the entire legislature to be aware of all of the heart-breaking stories that flooded Senator Gallivan’s office over the winter. Come with us to deliver your letter to Albany, along with all the other letters, and put them on display for the media and other politicians to see.

2. Outcry Over (non-local) Milk

Deadline March 31, 2014     / /    More Resources Coming Soon…

Organize a Class Project: Teachers and students—get together to organize a class project to explore the question, “Where does the food in the school cafeteria come from?” This project can take any number of forms depending on age and grade level: a video, a poster, a performance! We want to collaborate with you to develop a lesson plan. We can also come to your classroom to lead a brief discussion of the food supply chain in New York State.

Turn It In by March 31, 2014: Together, we’ll present these projects to key legislators in your local district and in Albany to demand passage of the Buy From Our Back Yard Act. Your students can win over the hearts and votes of their elected officials and make a difference!

3. Legislator Homecoming to Bring People in Prison Home

Deadline April 22, 2013    / /    More Resources Coming Soon…

Host a homecoming demonstration in front of your State Senator’s district office when they come home for the spring holidays. Every year the state legislature has a week-long recess when representatives return to their districts to celebrate spring holidays and connect with the voters. This year we’ll be ready for them. When they come home let’s demand that they pass the SAFE Parole Act so everyone can celebrate the holidays with their families! Welcome them with Passover or Easter treats while you let them know how difficult it is to visit your loved one for the holiday and how hard it is for them to qualify for parole.

Contact Us

MilkNotJails [at]