Honoring the Penniless and Forgotten: A Man’s Reflection On Hart Island
It is estimated that more than one million people are buried in New York City’s Hart Island, the city’s public cemetery, and the final resting place for unclaimed, penniless or unidentified individuals.
For the better part of its 150-year history, the island was closed off to the public. The only visitors allowed to witness the burials were the gravediggers themselves. Because the Department of Correction managed the island, the burials have long been the job of incarcerated people.
Casimiro “Cas” Torres was one of them. In the late 1980s, he was arrested for robbery, and sent to Hart Island to bury and disinter bodies.
Almost three decades later, he came to StoryCorps to keep their memory alive.
Cas Torres in his late teens, around the same time he was imprisoned and transferred to Hart Island.
This story aired July of 2021, when jurisdiction of Hart Island transferred from New York City Department of Correction to the City’s Human Resources Administration and Parks and Recreation, formally ending the practice of using inmates to carry out the burials.
Top Photo: Cas Torres at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on January 30, 2015. By John White for StoryCorps.
Originally aired July 16, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Second Chance
“When I spoke to you it was the first time I got to truly understand the seriousness of what I did.”
Darius Clark Monroe & David Ned
For 15 years, StoryCorps has brought people together to talk about things that might otherwise seem difficult to talk about — like in this conversation.
A high school honors student in 1997, Darius Clark Monroe wanted to help his family get out of financial trouble. So he robbed a bank in Stafford, Texas at gunpoint with two of his friends.
During his time in prison, he decided to apologize to the people who were inside the bank on that day, including customer David Ned. Seventeen years later, they sat down at StoryCorps to talk about what it meant to both of them for David to offer Darius forgiveness.
We’re presenting this conversation through One Small Step, StoryCorps’ new national effort to encourage people to engage in difficult conversations. Join us.
Support for One Small Step is provided by The Rockefeller Foundation; The Corporation for Public Broadcasting; The Einhorn Family Charitable Trust; The Charles Koch Foundation; The Righteous Persons Foundation; and Present Progressive Fund at Schwab Charitable.
Para subtítulos en español, haga click en el ícono de YouTube en la esquina derecha, y escoja “Spanish” bajo la opción de “settings” y “subtitles/CC.
Tyree Hicks and Jamel Massey
Jamel Massey (below right) and Tyree Hicks (below left) met at the Institute for Transformative Mentoring at The New School. They were both first arrested when they were teenagers, and they now mentor people from their own neighborhoods, including those who were formerly incarcerated. While serving a sentence for manslaughter, Jamel met a mentor who he credits with helping change the direction of his life.
Jamel and Tyree’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with the Institute for Transformative Mentoring, a professional training program focused on the development of Credible Messengers working in the social services fields throughout New York City.
Released May 11, 2017.
Asad Kerr-Giles and April Kerr
In 2012, Asad Kerr-Giles was a college-bound high school senior when he was wrongfully imprisoned. After going to a school fundraiser party, Asad heard gunshots. The next day, he was picked up by police and charged with the shooting. He spent the next 28 months on Rikers Island before being acquitted. At StoryCorps, he spoke with his mom April Kerr about his time in jail.
Asad and April’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with Friends of the Island Academy, a non-profit that supports and brings opportunity to youth during and after their time in New York City jails.
Released May 5, 2017.