By Sarah Barrett
Going to jail at a young age starts kids off on the wrong foot. Rikers Island, the jail in New York City, has been called a revolving door because three out of every four inmates will return to Rikers again.
Efrain Hernandez, 29, wants to break that cycle. When he was younger he spent a year on the island. While he was away from home, his two best friends were murdered in the gang wars in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
When he came out he reconnected with Father Jim O’Shea who he had met as a teenager in an after school program. Together O’Shea and Hernandez opened a coffee shop to try to reverse the violence in their neighborhood. Reconnect Café opened in 2013 as a way to give local youth a job.
“Why can’t we put on the same block, a business!” Said Jim O’Shea. “And the business is the same job..if you sell drugs, well you’re going to sell apples now.”
He boasted that the business is self-sustaining, and now they have their sights set on new businesses for the neighborhood.
Check out their website here: www.reconnectcommunity.org