Milk Not Jails, a non-profit that advocates for the support of local, upstate New York farms and the reform of the criminal justice system, has made its way to the City.
"[Milk Not Jails] is a tradition political advocacy campaign," said Brenden Beck, an organizer with the group.
Beck noted the non-profit has two immediate goals: first, to end upstate, rural New York’s dependency on the prison economy, which he said has prevented improvements to the State’s criminal justice system from being made.
The second goal, Beck said, is to revitalize and invest in New York’s agricultural economy as an alternative to the prison economy. "New York State used to be a predominantly agriculture and manufacturing state," Beck said. "We don't need to rely on prisons for jobs; let's rely on dairy."
So, the group partnered with upstate's Ronnybrook and Hawthorne Valley farms to provide milk, yogurt, butter, and cream to New York City-based buying clubs and 16 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) sites, including the Ditmas Park CSA, Beck said.
Dairy products are delivered by the Mail Not Jails delivery truck driven by Kevin Rutledge, who held six different jobs since his 2008 release from an 11-year incarceration before coming on to the team. "He knows, first-hand, a criminal record makes it hard to get hired," Beck said. "We were just hired to happy a super competent person for the job."
So far, Beck said, the program has been a hit, and Milk Not Jails has had the happy problem of too much support.
"Support has been overwhelming," Beck said. "We had to start turning [CSAs] away because we didn't have the capacity to supply."
By the fall, Beck said, Milk Not Jails plans to develop partnerships with local schools, cafés, and daycare centers, is currently in talks to supply milk to a college's cafeteria, and he's confident that the company and its mission will continue to grow.
"New York State has an option," Beck said. "It can peg its rural economy on an unjust criminal justice system, or on a growing, robust and healthy agriculture system, and we think most people would choose the latter."