As Rikers Island population drops, Queens Public Library offers workshops to help former inmates re-enter society


When the de Blasio administration pledged to reduce the prison population in city jails in order to close down Rikers Island and move the inmates to borough-based jails, the results were impressive. New Yorkers entering the city jail system has declined by nearly half in the past six years from 11,000 in 2014 to around 7,000 today with a projected population of nearly 3,300 by 2026, according to City Hall.

Now, Queens Public Library is launching No Barriers Tech, a series of workshops seeking to introduce formerly incarcerated and justice-involved New Yorkers to new technologies and provide them with information on career paths within the tech sector. The 15-week series will be held at QPL’s Queensbridge Tech Lab, located at 10-43 41st Ave. in Long Island City, with the first workshop scheduled for Tuesday, March 3.

The series will introduce participants to topics such as music creation and production, graphic design, photography, Google and Microsoft products and web-based coding. Designed as a stepping stone to employment, the workshops will also provide strategies for breaking in the tech job market.

“Many of our justice-involved patrons struggle with reentering society and the lack of a job can be a major setback to leading successful and fulfilling lives,” QPL Director of Community Engagement Kim McNiel Capers said. “We hope that this program will serve as a stepping stone, helping them develop the high-demand tech skills needed in today’s job market and increasing their chances to realize their full potential.”

QPL’s Queensbridge Tech Lab will host the workshops. (Courtesy of QPL)

Anyone interested in enrolling in the series is welcome to attend an open house Tuesday, Feb. 18, from 2 to 5 p.m. It will feature tech demonstrations and guest speakers, including Mathieu Jean-Pierre, founder of Galore Urban Tech, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching coding.

The series adds another valuable resource to QPL’s correctional services, which also includes a video visitation program allowing families to connect with incarcerated loved ones without making the trip to the Rikers Island jail complex, library services at Rikers, giving inmates access to books and other reading materials, and the See You on the Outside program at the Queensboro Correctional Facility, helping inmates prepare to successfully re-enter society by honing their jobs and coping skills.

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