Friends in the Adirondacks (Friends) is a partnership between John Brown Lives! and the Harlem-based Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ) that seeks to ease the burden carried by families and individuals with loved ones incarcerated in North Country prisons.

With many of the state’s prisons located in and around this area, families and friends must often travel a great distance, at great expense, to visit a loved one and keep alive the vital ties that incarceration so often obliterates. Working with the AFJ, we open our homes and provide everyday hospitality to visitors—sowing seeds of friendship and bridging upstate/downstate and urban/rural divides that perpetuate the criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of black and brown people.

The idea for Friends came about in a conversation in 2016 with Soffiyah Elijah, AFJ founder and Executive Director, and JBL!’s Jeff Jones and Martha Swan about ways to support New York families, especially those victimized by a criminal justice system of mass incarceration.

Through Friends in the Adirondacks, JBL! works to make coming to the Adirondacks a welcoming, positive, and nurturing experience for people whose visits to the region are often marred by intimidating, hostile and belittling treatment. And through direct contact between Adirondackers and the family members of people in prison, we also strive to make the North Country a place for these visitors to find peace and enjoyment in the restorative beauty of our beautiful mountains, clean waters and wilderness.

In addition to our partnership on Friends in the Adirondacks, JBL! actively participates with AFJ in the statewide Justice Collective, adding North Country voices to calls for meaningful criminal justice reforms including an end to solitary confinement, parole and bail reform, compassionate release of the sick and the elderly who pose no threat to society, and the reunification of families.