Short Fuse Podcast #54: From Madison Avenue to Rikers Island

By Elizabeth Howard



Episode Summary

In this episode of the Short Fuse podcast, Elizabeth Howard is in conversation with Mark Goldsmith, who spent 15 years as a volunteer on Rikers Island, after a 35-year career in the cosmetics industry, and John Gonzalez, who was an inmate when he met Mark and is now a successful businessman. John talks about what it was like on the inside and the threat of being sent “up top.” Mark talks about working with the men to leverage their skills when they were released, which led to the creation of a not-for-profit organization, Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO). GOSO has helped thousands of young men pursue their goals for education, employment, and emotional well-being to create a new life for themselves beyond the criminal justice system.

Episode Notes

Mark Goldsmith, author of From Madison Avenue to Rikers Island: The Making of a Social Entrepreneur, is founder and CEO emeritus of Getting Out and Staying Out, a nonprofit that provides educational, vocational, job readiness, counseling, and other services to young men who have been incarcerated. Prior to his nonprofit work, Goldsmith was an executive in the cosmetics industry for more than 35 years, rising through the ranks at companies including Revlon, Yves St. Laurent, and Almay before starting his own company, Inventory Management Systems, specializing in trading excess inventories of well-known brand names for media time at similar values.

John Gonzalez was raised  and grew up in New York City (Washington Heights). He got involved with the wrong people, which changed the course of his life, and led him into the Criminal Justice System, from 1999-2005 on multiple occasions.  He met Mark Goldsmith in  2005 and got involved in Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO) which changed his life.

John went from Rikers, to 116th Street, where GOSO, was located. With Mark Goldsmith’s support he was able to find employment, get married and begin a new life. He bought his first house at age 23 in Portland, PA. He is now  operations manager for a trucking company, in charge of 30 trucks in the Northeast, and has maintained his sobriety and a clean record since 2007.

Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO).  The vision of GOSO is  world where neither a person’s race nor contact with the legal system determines their future. The mission of GOSO is to partner with people impacted by arrest and incarceration on a journey of education, employment and emotional wellbeing and collaborates with NYC communities to support a culture of nonviolence.

Elizabeth Howard is the host and the producer of the Short Fuse Podcast. For her, there are no barriers between her life, work, art, and writing. She seeks collaboration, flexibility, spontaneity and responsiveness in the projects she designs and completes. As the host of the Short Fuse podcast she draws individuals into lively and provocative conversations around the arts: dance, theater, literature, music, and film.

Alex Waters is a media producer and editor for the Short Fuse Podcast, a music producer, and Berklee College of Music student. He has written and produced music and edited for podcasts such as The Faith and Chai Podcast and Con Confianza. He produces his own, as well as writes music and records for independent artists such as The Living. Alex lives in Brooklyn. You can reach him with inquiries by emailing

The Short Fuse Podcast is produced by the Arts Fuse. Email:

The Arts Fuse was established in June, 2007 as a curated, independent online arts magazine dedicated to publishing in-depth criticism, along with high quality previews, interviews, and commentaries. The publication’s over 60 freelance critics (many of them with decades of experience) cover dance, film, food, literature, music, television, theater, video games, and visual arts.

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