An Inconvenient Truth: The Bail System

What is bail?

Bail is the idea that someone accused of a crime pays the court an assigned amount of money which is then returned to the individual when they show up for their trial. The monetary value assigned is typically dependent on factors such as the nature of crime, and the accused financial standings. Bail is only offered to those who have been determined as being not an immediate threat if released back into society.

What is the problem with bail?

Bail disproportionally affects the poor population. Often times, bail is set too high for them to be able to afford it meaning they have to wait in jail until their trial. If they had more money, then they could be released. This has created a system where thousands of people are sitting in jail simply because they cannot afford the court assigned amount of money.

What are the consequences of this?

There are severe consequences no matter what choice someone who is accused makes. A majority of people simply plead guilty. They never see trial, but they choose to just put in this plea in order to be released and try to resume their normal lives. However, being seen guilty of a crime has negative consequences from being barred from voting, being unable to collect government aid, and being discriminated against in job searches. Yet, choosing to remain in jail until trial also has devastating consequences. It could take a long time for an individual to get to trial, and at that point they may have lost their jobs, and their family relations may become extremely strained.

So why do we have it?

The intent behind bail is that is gives people more incentive to show up for their court date. If they want their money back, they have to actually come on the right day. Due to all the factors involved in the bail system it is hard to argue whether or not it is effective. However, it is absolutely fair to say that it affects the poor the most, and it forces many people to fell like they have to plead guilty whether or not they actually committed the crime.

What are the alternatives?

There are many alternatives to this system. In fact, many other countries operate fundamentally different when it comes to this process. The most logical solution is to actually abolish the system in its entirety. A vast majority of those who are accused show up for the trial date, and do not get rearrested. The penalty would simply shift from losing a certain amount of cash to facing time in prison for skipping your court date.

What can you do?

There are many ways to help fight for bail reform. One is to contact your local legislators and tell them you support reform. Governmental policy has to change in order to guarantee that no one sits in prison because they simply do not have enough money. If you would like to get even more hands on, a grassroots initiative called NYC Mass Bailout has begun freeing women and children from jails such as Rikers that are only there because they don’t have the means to pay bail. Their website is and you have the opportunity to volunteer your time, or if possible donate money to help free those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves.


Welcome Back!

Welcome back to a new year filled with many civic engagement initiatives!

The Center for Civic Engagement focuses on active citizenship for students both on-campus and within the surrounding areas. The Center organizes events, forums, conferences, debates, and more, to promote discussion and change around a plethora of issues ranging from nonviolence, social justice, globalization, and so much more.

A key way that the CCE is able to connect to the community is through partners that help promote positive change in Hofstra’s surrounding area. One example of this in action is through the Herstory Writer’s Workshop. They are a non-profit focused on bringing unheard voices into the public sphere. Every Tuesday, students come in from Long Branch High School to talk and write about a topic they may have never gotten the chance to explore before. This fosters a supportive community as well as provides an outlet to express something that once would have remained private.

Fellows, interns, and volunteers also work with other community partners to support positive change. These organizations include, but are not limited to, the Hempstead High School Initiative which offers a program in which Hofstra students tutor students attending Hempstead High; the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition, a grassroots community group that addresses issues facing the Uniondale community; and Homecoming Farms, an organic farm run by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville.

CCE is also currently working on an on-campus event: the 16th annual Day of Dialogue. The event is themed Born Free and Equal: Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It will be held on Wednesday, October 24th from 9am until 9pm. Panels, discussions, and forums will examine how current laws reflect the provisions outlined in the declaration. Some events include a simulation of a prison solitary confinement cell, discussion about the morality of the current U.S. immigration policy, and a lecture about the current state of affairs in the Middle East which talks about how cross-border cooperation could advance the possibility of peace in political turmoil.

Numerous other events are planned or are already in the works, so to remain up to date please follow us on Facebook (@hofstracce), Twitter (@hofstracce), and Instagram (@hofstracce).

Thank you and we look forward to a great semester!




I can’t count the number of times that Americans have called for gun reform in my lifetime. I’ve grown up with the Internet, I’ve seen the hashtags and viral posts that appear in the wake of mass shootings. Over time I’ve become more callous. Surely after Sand Hook, after Pulse, after Las Vegas, over and over and over again, we swear that there will be change. But nothing substantial ever happens. So how have a group of high school students done what a nation hasn’t been able to? They’ve created a movement that doesn’t look like it will be going away any time soon.
On February 14th, 17 people died in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Days later, the faces of several teenage survivors were a common sight on many news networks. Cameron Kasky wrote an op-ed for CNN saying, “We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I’m asking — no, demanding — we take action now.” Emma Gonzalez spoke at a rally, her rallying cry of “We call BS!” eliciting cheers from the crowd. Jaclyn Corin organized a trip to the Florida state capital, Tallahassee, where 100 students went to confront lawmakers and demand stricter gun laws. From their efforts the Never Again MSD movement was born. They are adamant that they aren’t calling for a gun ban, but rather they aim to regulate semi-automatic weapons and the mechanisms that can make these guns fully automatic.
While politicians are trying to tell them that this is the time to mourn, not to rehash an old debate, the students have decided that the time to talk about what happened and what can be done will be on March 24th, when they plan to march on Washington DC. The power this group of high school students have was given to them in the wake of tragedy, but they’re not letting their fellow classmates and teachers become a statistic. The march will be called March for Our Lives, and already many other marches are being organized across the country. The GoFundMe page set up by Cameron Kasky to help fund the march raised $1.8 million of its $2 million goal in three days.
The students of Stoneman Douglas High School spent the week that was supposed to be their President’s Day break organizing and leading a national movement. No one can say that they’re “just kids” anymore. They’ve survived things no one should ever have to experience, but from their grief a national movement was born.

It Starts in the Schools: How Participating in the HHSI Defined My College Career

By Angelica Beneke

Earlier this semester, I described what I was doing every Tuesday and Thursday to the Catholic campus minister and a fellow senior. I said I go over to tutor students at Hempstead High School and have done so ever since the program was launched my sophomore year in 2015. I’m always excited to talk about the initiative with other people and every chance I get, I talk about it. I don’t do this to show off or be superior in any way. I genuinely love this program and I think it’s awesome an opportunity like this exists through Hofstra.

Interestingly enough, the fellow senior gave me the strangest look as if I told her I secretly had two heads. She then repeated “Hempstead High School?” and went on to explain how it used to be such a great school when her grandfather went there years ago, “but now it’s . . .” She said more, but I tuned her out in that moment out of reflex. Her “that’s too bad” tone and her interjection had said it all to me. Why willingly go volunteer at one of the worst schools in in the area where there are better volunteer opportunities? She didn’t intend any ill will, I’m sure.  But, as someone who has been super involved with the high school and the Hempstead High School Initiative since its inception, I was bothered by that comment then and, as I type this, I’m still bothered by it now.

Yes, Hempstead High School has an alarmingly low graduation rate compared to schools such as Garden City High School. Yes, Hempstead High School, much like Hempstead itself, has a certain reputation associated with its minority student population. Yes, I could have decided to look for other and “safer” volunteer opportunities instead of tutoring at Hempstead High School and being exposed to metal detectors not unlike those at an airport.

But, I didn’t. And I don’t regret being adamant about volunteering consistently at this school.

It’s often said that consistently volunteering changes you. I did volunteer quite a bit during my time as a student in an all girls’ Catholic high school back in Houston, Texas and those experiences, especially volunteering at elementary and middle schools, did change me for the better and made me more aware of the reality of America through the eyes of education.

Volunteering at a high school as a college student has not only reaffirmed that, but it has also opened my eyes to how those society deem as lazy, unintelligent, and uncaring because they can’t pass some state tests are actually some of the brightest, most motivated, and most hard-working individuals who only need someone to give them a chance, not drown them with more tests when they don’t meet ridiculous test standards.

I know there are more tutors than just me who are in this program, but I feel that if I wasn’t a tutor at Hempstead High School, who else would be giving these kids a chance? I may not always know the answers to the problems they have to work on, but, to them, I represent the fact that college is an option, that someone cares that they get a wholesome education, and that someone believes in their potential not just as a student, but as a person.

This worldview is something that motivates me not just to volunteer outside the program but to do my best in everything I do – classes, extracurriculars, friendships – and just give people the chances that they need.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ve had all positive and perfect experiences while volunteering at this school. I have struggled with trying to motivate these kids to do their homework or work on practice problems for the Regents when all they would rather do is talk among themselves about their plans for the week. In fact, I have only recently figured out ways to keep them on track whenever this happens. Plus, English isn’t exactly the most popular subject that people want to work on, especially in high school. As a result, sometimes, I’ll be awkwardly sitting at a table by myself while other students needing assistance in other subjects are being helped.

But, when these moments arise, I’m reminded I’m not alone in this initiative, thanks to the spectacular Ms. Darien, a science teacher at the school who is Hofstra’s liaison with the high school. I’m not exaggerating when I say she’s one of the reasons (after really wanting to help these students, of course) I kept coming back to this program. I could tell from day one that she genuinely cares about the high school students and the tutors and their success not only in this program, but life in general. I can’t even begin to say how many times she’s had my back throughout my time as a HHSI tutor.

Yes, I volunteer at Hempstead High School. Yes, I absolutely love it and am sad that next semester will be my last semester with the program. But, I have no doubt the program will grow exponentially after I graduate Hofstra and Hempstead High School will no longer be seen as the school for the delinquents, but a school full of smart, talented, hardworking, and witty students.

Top 3 Reasons I Should Not Have Attended a PWI: A Black Girl’s Experience at Hofstra U

1.) We may as well get it out of the way now….The Food
It’s amazing to me how there can be so many different places on campus to get food and yet I still find myself going hungry most of the time. The only things I find that I can eat consistently are the salmon, the sushi, and the boxes of frozen Buffalo wings that are sold at Dutch. Occasionally, I’ll have the shrimp or fried rice from the Asian cuisine place. As you can imagine, it gets tiring to eat the same foods all the time. Especially considering I’ve been here for four years. Why am I so limited in what I eat, you ask? If I’m being honest, my experience has been a torturous lack of flavor/taste in the foods offered at this school.
Being Nigerian on top of all that, things are even harder because Africans are so horribly underrepresented in terms of the food on campus. I’m definitely not (I repeat, NOT) asking for them to attempt to make jollof rice or anything like that, but surely they should at least be able to offer plantains every week (if not every day) instead of once every blue moon. I can’t help but feel like if I’d gone to an HBCU, there’d at least be more plugs (connections) to food that I would actually enjoy if not from the school itself then from the students.

2.) My Teachers Hardly Ever Look Like Me. And Neither Do My Classmates For That Matter.
One of the biggest gags/jokes/scams about this school is how much administration LOVES to push the narrative that the school is soooo diverse and yet…WHERE?? As was mentioned before, I’ve been attending this school for four years now. I can count how many black professors I’ve had in that time. Four…I am a senior and I’ve only seen four professors that looked like me. Four. On top of that, out of those four professors, only one of them is within my department (English). There is only ONE black professor in the entire English department. The only reason I even had the other three black professors was because I took all the African Studies courses that I could (The African Novel, African Dance, and The Revolution Will Not be Televised). The fact of the matter is, I shouldn’t have to take courses specifically geared towards the African/Black experience in order to feel represented among the faculty. I know we’re no longer considered children but representation still matters.
On the other side of that, is my peers. At the beginning of every semester, I walk into a class for the first time wondering if I will yet again be the only black student there. The answer is usually: yes. I’ve asked myself if it’s because of the classes I take (mainly literature, creative writing, and philosophy) but I’ve found that even in my general education classes, there’s usually less than 5 of us. My friends in other majors have also reported having the experience of being the only black student in most of their classes.

3.) Campus Culture in General
I want to start this off by saying that the black clubs here (ASA, NAACP, BSU, CSA, and CWC) really put on some great events. As president of the ASA, I can personally attest to how difficult it is to not only put on an event but to actually get a strong turnout as well, no matter how much advertising that is done. I know HBCUs are not perfect and not every black student who attends one will go to every black event held but I’ve seen the crowds they have at their ASA/BSU/NAACP/etc. events. It’s embarrassing to invite speakers here and only have 10-15 people in the audience. I’ve gone to other schools and witnessed how involved their black students are and can’t help but wish I could relate.
Aside from the clubs aspect, there’s also Greek life. The fact of the matter is, there’s hardly a D9 (Divine Nine) presence here. Out of the five fraternities that are considered D9 (Kappas, Alphas, Iotas, Ques, and Sigmas), we currently only have one still active on campus (Alphas). The sororities are a little better in that, out of the four D9 sororities (AKAs, Deltas, Zetas, and Sigma Gamma Rho), there are two (AKAs and SGRho) currently active on campus. At least as far as I know. Even within the chapters that are here, their numbers are small compared to the number of people in other chapters (which of course is not their fault).
It’s all just frustrating because I’ve seen the potential that all these (very important and necessary) orgs can have at other schools, especially HBCUs, and we just don’t have those numbers here.

Through the Eyes of a CCE Fellow: Partnership Strides

Since I became a fellow with the Center for Civic Engagement, I have been amazed at what I have been able to do as part of the team, and as an assistant to a community partner. For the past two and a half months, I have been working alongside GUAAC (Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition) whose mission statement reads: aspires to inspire neighbors to unite to build a better greater Uniondale community.

My job as a fellow is to assist GUAAC in reaching their goals as an organization that looks to better the Uniondale community. Since I started working with GUAAC, I have learned that getting a job done is not always easy. Sometimes, in fact many times, there can be hurdles in the way. The important thing to do is to recognize those hurdles and move forward. So far, we have been making progress. We are working towards empowering Uniondale residents in an effort to better the community overall.

Once a week, I meet with GUAAC to discuss strategies, plan agendas, and find ways in which we can unite to be a voice for the Uniondale community. In working with GUAAC, I am able to showcase various skills that are useful for any career. Knowing how to brainstorm, execute, and facilitate are all skills that are needed once you reach the workplace.

The best part of becoming a fellow with Hofstra University’s Center for Civic Engagement is the idea that I am playing my part to create REAL change on campus and in the neighboring areas.

Code Pink Conference

A few weeks ago, Emily Rubino and Kate Alexander- the two point people for Peace Action New York State- took me and another Hofstra student, Adam, to the “Divest from the War Machine Summit” hosted by Code Pink in Washington D.C. I have always been against war and in my freshman year of college I became involved with the Peace Action chapter at my school. I now hold the position of treasurer for this club.

When the president of the club, Emilie Beck, asked me to go to this summit I immediately said yes. Everything that Emilie has told me to see, go to or join has exceeded my expectations, which are usually pretty high. The summit consisted of a 9am-5pm session on Saturday and a shorter session on Sunday morning. Honestly, I am still digesting everything I learned from that weekend. The urgency and passion in every speakers voice was impossible to ignore. The hurt and suffering pulled my heart from my chest hearing from Gina Best who had lost her daughter to the militarized police force in the United States despite the fact that her daughter had served over seas. This grandmother now has a hearing impaired grandchild due to the bombs thrown at the car of an innocent patriotic and veteran American family.

Hearing from experts in all fields share their loses and wins while working to divest from war I gained a lifetime of inspiration. People like Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans will forever represent to me the activist that I seek to be.

I was exposed to Jarrett Smith, an example of a mayor from a city just outside of our nations capital who has committed to making Takoma Park a Nuclear Free Zone. He was so well spoken and a true representation of what a politician so devoted to peace looks like.

We heard from a man named Larry Wilkerson, a republican who was part of the system and now actively protests the unprecedented greed and violence that war today represents. It moved me to see that the humanity is still there.

You can’t help but wonder how many others who are a part of endless war wish that they could speak out. These inspirational speakers have changed my activism career and my outlook on life forever. They reminded us that we should learn from other movements and to remember to include everyone when creating the world without war.
There is an unbelievable amount of money spent on pointless wars. What changed for me at this Code Pink conference was the ability for you and I to divest our money and to encourage banks, universities, and mayors to divest. Remember that once these billions of dollars are divested, the money must be used.

I want to share with you all something that kept coming up while I was in D.C. and that was to change the vocabulary we use. Using the word military rather than defense; focus rather than target. Call it what it is. A man named Vijay Prashad coined the term and I am obsessed with Capitalist planetary Destruction rather than climate change. They asked us to please remember that this movement is not a new movement, which many have been working long and hard for change. These people are movement ancestors.
Right now the fabric that we live on is making a killing on killing and the summit that I attended told me what to do about it. The organization Code Pink has inspired me tremendously. They asked me, and I will ask you, to divest from war. You can go to and pledge. And my hope is that you will and that you will convince others to as well.