“We don’t think about the experiences our young people go through before they come into contact with the system.” – Hernan Carvente
When Hernan Carvente was just 16 years old he was sentenced to six years in prison. He spent four years incarcerated in a maximum juvenile facility in New York State followed by two years on parole. He was charged with attempted murder for shooting a rival gang member. He ended up getting a 6 year sentence, instead of an 18 year sentence, because he committed the crime two days before he turned 16. His junior and senior years were spent in a juvenile prison.
While in prison, Hernan says it was one of his teachers who gave him the support and care that was pivotal to him turning his life around. “He was the first person to see beyond the gangbagger… he was the first person to see me as a human being, the first person to call me by my first name,” Hernan said.
In just a few years, Hernan said he went, “from being a gang-banging, illiterate, angry Latino kid to a college graduate”. Today, he has become a successful advocate of criminal justice reform and works with youth throughout the country to close youth prisons. Hernan shares his story with Linnea Blumen, age 15 and Shiza Ghanchi, age 15 who participated in an Indykids podcast workshop focused on criminal justice reform held at the United Nations International School (UNIS) in Manhattan.