It’s sad, because it feels like there are people all over the world who can sympathize with us, but not in our own community.
Whitey never wanted to get married. He said if you are going to be a criminal, don’t get married. It is not fair to the family and kids.
As it now stands in most states, people who dial 911, drop a friend off at a hospital, or otherwise try to get care for someone in the midst of a drug overdose are subject to prosecution for use, possession, or distribution. No national figures exist for how often callers are arrested, but users are attuned to the stories that show up in the media with some regularity, says Meghan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance, pointing to a recent case in which an overdosing woman and a man who called an ambulance for her were both arrested. “That sends a chilling, disturbing message to all people who will one day witness an overdose,” Ralston says. “It says, ‘Don’t call 911 because you and the victim will be arrested.’ ”
You can tell the economic story of New York’s Catskill Mountains region over the last century through the patch of land my maternal grandfather grew up on. Max and Minnie Lebowitz, my great-grandparents, who immigrated from Hungary, moved up to the country to escape the Lower East Side’s infamously crowded conditions and grind out a meager existence on a 62-acre farm. The sparsely populated village of Fallsburg, N.Y., where my grandfather was raised, was storybook-typical: a one-room schoolhouse that you had to walk miles in the snow to attend and a local sheriff who looked the other way as local preteens illegally drove cars to get to the faraway high school and drove tractors on their parents’ land.
Over time, the farm, which had begun taking in summertime boarders escaping New York City’s oppressive humidity, morphed into the Lebowitz Pine View, one of the hotel resorts of the famed “Borscht Belt”—so named for the density of observant Eastern European Jewish enclaves. Tennis courts and a swimming pool were constructed, my grandfather returned every summer to run the kitchen, and my mother and her cousins reminisce fondly about stirring up trouble there.
But by the 1970s the resorts were falling on hard times. Cheap travel opened up more exotic destinations, air conditioning allowed people to stay in the city, and women entering the workplace shortened summer vacations. Upstate New York was left with dim economic prospects, except for one thing: prisons. As urban crime escalated, politicians and judges responded with longer prison sentences, and New York City was generating more prisoners every year but had no space to house them. New York state’s prison population has spiraled upwards from less than 13,000 in 1970 to more than 70,000 today. So in 1983, the state took over my family’s property and shuttered the resort to build access roads to Sullivan Correctional Facility, a maximum-security addition to neighboring Woodbourne Correctional.
The private prison industry’s reliable mix of housing state and federal inmates and illegal immigrants—a model that helped to fuel two decades of growth—is no longer a surefire way to get rich. “There are only so many places you can find people,” says Martin F. Horn, a former commissioner with the New York City Department of Correction and a lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.