Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

July 2015

Welcome to the site of Building Bridges, Prison Action Network's newsletter 

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During the month we post late breaking news and announcements here, so please check back now and then.  Scroll down now to read the July newsletter.

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July 5, 2015

Dear Reader,  We are pleased to bring you the latest edition of Building Bridges and we hope it will be useful in your quest for justice.                         The Editor      
Table of Contents
  1. Parole News;  NEW!  Monthly statistics now include age at time of confinement;  Cassidy , Hawkins vs Parole
  2. Legislation:  11 criminal justice bills passed in both houses and are now waiting for the governor’s signature
  3. NETWorks describes plans for passing the SAFE Parole Act in the next legislative session
  4. Family Empowerment Tour includes workshop to help families organize easy and effective legislative visits
  5. Proposal for determinate sentences, and the people it leaves out
  6. Parenting from prison, by Samuel Hamilton
  7. Prisoners are People Too!  PRP2!  celebrated several anniversaries in June
  8. Albany develops evidence-based process to reduce low-level arrests, recidivism, and racial disparities
  9. Alfred Woodfox, the last incarcerated member of the Angola 3,  is still in jail despite court order to release him      
  10. Calling All Organizations!  Please use the form at the end of this letter to add your organization’s name in support of the SAFE Parole Act 


1.  Parole News - May Release Rates, Cassidy, Hawkins prevail in Art. 78’s
MAY  2015 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database
May 2015 Interview Summaries
Interviews
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year-To-Date
Initials 
18
*13 
5
72%
39%
Reappearances
73
 18 
55
25%
24%
Total 
91
31
60
34%
27%
* includes 2 A1Drug offenses, one of which was  a Medical Parole

May 2015 Age at Parole Hearing Summaries
Interviews
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied 
Percent Released 
Year To Date Percent
60-69
12
1
11
8%
23%
70-79
8
1
7
12%
12%
80+
0


0%
0
Total
20
2
18
10%
20%


NEW!  May 2015 Age at Commitment Summary
Commitment Age Range
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied 
Percent Released
16-20
17
9
8
53%
21-25
36
10
26
28%
26+
38
12
26
32%
Total
91
31
60
34%


May 2015 Initial Release Rates  (!)
Facility
Age
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Clinton
38
21
20-Life
 Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
46
31
16-Life
Mrd 2
1
Marcy
47
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
43
20
25-Life
 Mrd 2
1
Otisville
42
23
22-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
60
27
37-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
48
32
18-Life
Mrd 2
1
Welsh Medical Ctr
73
51
40-Life
CSCS *
1
Woodbourne
34
17
18 - 36
CSCS *
1
Woodbourne
35
18
18-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
35
20
17-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
46
22
25-Life
 Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
51
27
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
* Criminal Sale of Controlled Substance

May 2015 Reappearance Release Rates
Facility
Age
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Collins
56
30
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
37
19
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Fishkill
44
20
20-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
47
22
22-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
52
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
6
Groveland
47
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Midstate
49
23
20-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
57
29
21-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
41
20
18-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville
39
23
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
42
25
17-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
49
28
20-Life
Kidnap1
2
Otisville
53
30
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Shawangunk
47
20
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Sullivan
49
27
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Wende
50
28
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Woodbourne
44
18
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Wyoming
72
32
25-Life
Mrd 2
9


Judge rules against the Parole Board for “focusing almost exclusively on the inmate’s crime”, in  Cassidy v. New York State Board of Parole, 2255/14

Excerpts from a NYLJ article on June 21, by Ben Bedell:  
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Sciortino said (on June 17th) that the parole board had "failed to correct the errors" which led her to vacate its 2013 denial of parole to Michael Cassidy.and order a new hearing before a different panel, which occurred in April 2015.
The second hearing, at which parole was also denied, was "not only a repetition of the earlier one, it is, in the sense of comport with the law of the case, even more egregious," Sciortino said in last week's ruling, adding that the parole board [compounded it’s previous errors] by going into excruciating detail and focusing solely on the underlying crime, and failing to proffer any explanation for its conclusion that petitioner's release would place the public in jeopardy, or would undermine respect for the law."
In denying parole the first time, the board said releasing Cassidy would "be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law."  Sciortino said in vacating that ruling that the board's reasons were "inadequate, arbitrary and capricious," because they "focused almost exclusively on the inmate's crime."   Sciortino said that parole determinations under Executive Law §259-i(2)(c)(A) had to be "future-focused risk assessment procedures."  [emphasis added]
At the re-hearing, the board said "more compelling" than Cassidy's good prison record was the "violent offense."Sciortino held New York State's Board of Parole in contempt for failing to abide by her previous order to give an explanation for denying parole to a convicted murderer "that did not simply restate the usual and predictable language with no specificity or other explanation to justify parole denial."
Sciortino ordered the board to grant Cassidy another hearing before a new panel within the next 60 days, and ordered it to pay his attorney $3,000.  On June 24, Michael Cassidy was again denied parole.        [The full article and a link to the decision can be found at www.NYLJ.com  or for those without a computer, from PAN with a SASE and the articles’s # and title and date of this issue]
In May, Justice Frank J. LaBuda of Sullivan County decided against the NYS Parole Board in an Article 78 appeal by petitioner Dempsey Hawkins.  In his decision, LaBuda scolded Lisa Beth Elovich, barred her from participating on Mr. Hawkins’s future hearings and described her questions as morbid.  Enough is enough,  said the judge in his ruling; “a parole interview is not supposed to be a retrial”.  The state has appealed.  A hearing is scheduled for July 6.  Building Bridges will continue to follow this story.


2.  Legislative report - Just hours before the 2015 Legislative Session adjourned, 11 criminal justice bills passed both houses and now await the Governor’s signature to become law.  
(There may be time to write the Governor in support or opposition:  The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, NYS State Capitol Building,  Albany, NY 12224) or at https://www.governor.ny.gov/contact )

Explanation:   S. stands for Senate, A. stands for Assembly.   -A,-B,-C indicates the number of revisions. 
Correction:  Contrary to statements in past issues, changes can not be made to bills from the floor.  Except in rare instances, no one changes the substance of a bill after it passes through a committee. 

The following bills passed both houses and will now go to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who will have 10 days upon receipt to sign or veto each bill. 

Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
A.3838-B/S.979-B

Aubry/Montgomery
Requires DOCCS to establish academic programs to prepare
people to complete the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and provides inmates with an opportunity to complete a GED prior to release on parole, conditional release, post release supervision or presumptive release.
A.1346/S4903
Blake/Gallivan
To adopt recommendations made by the United Nations Committee against Torture in the use of solitary confinement in New York prisons and jails.
A.7814/S.4905
Sepulveda/Gallivan
Grants the Commissioner of DOCCS the authority in certain cases to advance a person’s scheduled release date from a Friday to a Thursday, in order to ensure next day reporting to a community supervision location.
A.836/S.633
Gunther/Carlucci
This bill ensures that all officers and program services, mental health and medical staff with direct inmate contact receive mental health training each year.  The NYS commission on quality care and advocacy for persons with disabilities may provide such training.
A.1819-A/S.1608-A
Cymbrowitz/Bonacic
Directs the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to develop a notification procedure for mandatory reporting by sex offenders who have multiple residences.
A.7685/S.4780-A
O’Donnell/Gallivan
To provide for a mental incapacitation evaluation of an alleged parole
violator in the context of a parole revocation proceeding.
A.7972/S4906
O’Donnell/Gallivan
Continues New York's participation in the current Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ). The authority for New York to participate in such ICJ will expire on September 1, 2015, unless legislation is enacted to extend it. The primary purpose of ICJ is to provide uniform provisions for states to follow regarding the interstate sending and receiving of alleged or adjudicated juveniles, delinquents or status offenders who are on parole or probation or who have absconded, escaped or runaway from supervision. [If not continued, each transfer of a covered youth between New York and any other state in the country would require an arduous negotiation of the terms of that particular transfer and may not be approved.]
A.7656-A/S.5023-A
Nojay/Gallivan
Authorizes the Livingston county correctional facility to also be used for the detention of persons under arrest being held for arraignment in any local court in the county of Livingston.
A.7501-A/S.5428-A
Blake/Rivera
Requires DOCCS to provide forms to disclose medical information and mental health treatment information to inmates upon their arrival at a reception facility and each transfer to a new facility so that inmates may opt to appoint a family member or other person to receive such information.
A.6941/S.4757
McDonald/Breslin
Allows the director of probation in counties with a population of more than three thousand (1000 less than the number previously required)to be appointed by the county executive with the approval of the local governing body.


The 11th bill passed in the very last hours before adjournment, which was a big surprise to everyone.  It’s a bill that Prison Action Network has advocated for over the years.  Here is the morning-after report by the primary advocates, the Women in Prison Project, Correctional Association of NY:

On June 25, in the final moments before adjournment, the New York State legislature did the right thing and passed the 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill! “
This is a major victory in the critical and long-running fight to end the barbaric practice of shackling pregnant women. In 2009, NY passed a law that bans the use of restraints on women in labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery, and limits the use of restraints during travel to and from the hospital for childbirth.
As part of our recently-released 5 year study, Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Healthcare for Women in NYS Prisonsthe Correctional Association (CA) interviewed 27 women who gave birth after the 2009 law was enacted. We found that 23 of those 27 women were shackled despite the law and despite the widespread opposition to shackling among leading national experts on women’s health, including  the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Public Health Association, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the American Correctional Association, two of the primary national organizations providing prison accreditation services. 

As a result of the our findings, Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Nick Perry introduced a new anti-shackling bill this year. The  new bill strengthens enforcement of the 2009 law and expands anti-shackling protections to women throughout their pregnancy.   While this is a huge win, the fight is not over.  Governor Cuomo still needs to sign the bill and allow New York to move one step closer to justice for incarcerated women. 

Huge congratulations and a big thank you to the many currently and formerly incarcerated women who courageously spoke out, and to our amazing allies and partners in the Coalition for Women Prisoners who have worked tirelessly with us for years to fight for justice for incarcerated women. 
With gratitude and solidarity, 
the Women in Prison Project, Correctional Association of NY



3. NetWORKS, the monthly column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network

Renew your commitment to pass the Safe and Fair Evaluations (S.A.F.E.) Parole Act!
Where criminal justice reform stands: As this year’s session of the New York State Legislature closes, it is clear that reform of New York’s atrocious criminal justice system faces powerful pushback from regions that benefit financially from prisons, and also from law enforcement and other political forces with a stake in maintaining racist repression. On the positive side, our vibrant movements against incarceration and police brutality were more successful than ever at forcing criminal justice issues onto the agenda of the governor, the legislature, and the media. The criminal justice reform issues that had the most visibility and support this session but did not pass (Raise the Age, HALT Solitary Confinement, special prosecutor for police who kill, etc.) will build on their momentum and have a better chance next session. Between now and when the next legislative session convenes in January 2016, we can make the SAFE Parole Act one of those issues.

Where the SAFE Parole Act stands: At the close of this session, the SAFE Parole Act has six sponsors in the Senate and twenty-one in the Assembly!! Dozens of organizations have signed on to a statement to support it, and hundreds of individual activists, advocates, and families have written letters, signed petitions, and participated in demonstrations and other events. It has been promoted at meetings, workshops, and programs and has support and name recognition among incarcerated people, families, advocates, activists, faith groups, and legislators.

How the SAFE Parole Act came into being: People in prison, their families, and people released from prison urged outside supporters to respond to parole injustice and participated in writing the SAFE Parole Act. The New York State Prisoner Justice Network received more letters from people in prison on parole injustice than on any other issue. The overriding demand from incarcerated people was, “The Parole Board must stop denying us based on our original crime – the one thing we have no power to change!”  

Why we need the SAFE  Parole Act: The SAFE Parole Act, if passed into law, would require the Parole Board to evaluate parole applicants based on their prison history and their current risk to the community, not on their original crime. All the evidence confirms that people’s original crime is NOT a predictor of recidivism once they have served their minimum sentence. The Board would have to provide a path by which parole applicants could demonstrate their community readiness, low risk potential, good record, and rehabilitation, and would have to release them when they have fulfilled all of these requirements. Community well-being would replace revenge and punishment as the goal of the parole process.  

What we have to do to get it passed:  
(1) The national and statewide momentum opposing mass incarceration and police killings has created a climate which begins to make change possible. We have to be part of that momentum and help it grow – that is, our parole justice movement has to support and be allied with other movements challenging the criminal INjustice system. The New York State Prisoner Justice Network was formed to do just that, and has created a wide net of connections and communication among justice organizations statewide. 
(2) We supporters of the SAFE Parole Act have to make it more visible and better understood than it has been so far.  What we have done in the past year:
  • Formed a new coalition, Parole Justice Now! to promote the SAFE Parole Act
  • A statewide tour combining the educational video “The Nature of the Crime” with a workshop training families and advocates to effectively lobby legislators
  • A new website: www.parolejustice.org
  • A Petition in support of the Safe and Fair Evaluations (S.A.F.E.) Parole Act available online at our website
  • An organizational sign-on support letter to gather new organizations and renew the commitment of previous signers, available at the end of this letter.
What you can do right now: 
  • Gather more individual signatures on the petition
  • Recruit your organization to sign on to the above mentioned support letter: lifers/long termers,  faith-based, family, labor, advocates, community or any other concerned group
  • Set up a stop on the Family Empowerment Tour  [details below, Article 4]

Parole reform is key to undoing mass incarceration! It challenges the racially loaded narrative of “the worst of the worst” by demonstrating that people are not defined forever by the worst thing they ever did. It says that the lives of incarcerated people matter and that communities and families need and benefit from the return of their community-ready members. It insists that social problems can be better solved by social, economic, public health, and education programs than by punishment. It proves that valuing community well-being and valuing the lives of incarcerated people are not contradictory but are essential to each other.



4.  You’ve heard about the 2015 Family Empowerment Tour, haven’t you?
Parole Justice Now is going around the state showing a documentary film about the dysfunctional Parole Board and following it up with a workshop on how to plan a productive visit to the district office of your State Senator and Assemblymember, to persuade them to support the SAFE Parole Act.  

The workshop is not about learning how to debate the merits of the bill; that’s a losing battle and gets us nowhere.  It’s about telling our legislator how we’ve been affected by the decisions made by the Parole Board, which is a fact and not something the lawmaker can dispute.  We tell them our story and ask them to help us by passing this bill.  Prison Action Network has developed a method to make these visits easier and more effective, and we want to share it with everyone.

Call now to arrange a visit from the Family Empowerment Tour:  Prison Action Network at 518 253 7533  We are ready to help you host the film and workshop.

Once participants have taken the Family Advocacy training, they will be able to set up visits with their legislators whose support is needed to pass the bill.  It may take more than one visit.  It could require follow-up calls, letters, more visits.  But in the end, if we want fair parole hearings for our loved ones, or any other criminal justice reform, a big part of our strategy needs to be constituents’ relationships with their representatives.  Don’t think someone else will do it!  If your loved one doesn’t get a fair hearing in the future, you won’t want to think “if only I had worked harder to get the SAFE Parole Act passed!”  



5.  Judge Lippman Moves to Reform Sentencing for Most Felonies;  Lawyer Alan Rosenthal cautions against undue enthusiasm
Excerpts from article by Andrew Keshner, New York Law Journal   
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is promoting a fixed end for the sentences of some 200 felonies, acting on the proposal of a commission that said a "fully determinate" sentencing plan would make the state's criminal justice system more transparent. Lippman's proposal would convert sentences for all but a few remaining felonies—which carry mandatory life terms—to a pre-determined term with a minimum and a maximum time frame. The ranges were based on calculations of actual time served for the offenses over the past 12 years.  It allows for defendants to earn up to 5/7th of their sentence upon successful completion of accomplishments such as drug treatment or a high school diploma.

 "The current system makes little sense; it is a hodgepodge that has resulted more from historical accident than considered judgment," his statement said.  The proposal would "return judging to our judges, where it properly belongs," he said.

Read more: http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=1202727630754/Lippman-Moves-to-Reform-Sentencing-for-Most-Felonies#ixzz3bOk8Fcuk  or send Building Bridges a SASE for a copy. PAN,  PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206


Interesting statistics demonstrate how many people are left out of this proposal
Commentary by Alan Rosenthal 

The proposal calls for determinate sentences for all new non-violent sentences.  One cannot support this without understanding what determinate sentences are proposed.  From my perspective this proposal will at best keep the status quo with regard to how much time people will serve on particular charges.  In some cases it will be worse.

It also ignores the fact that all lifers and all people currently serving indeterminate sentences will be stuck with indeterminate sentences and the vagaries of the parole board.

Based up the most recent DOCCS statistics, 18% of all people in NY prisons are serving life sentences. (Yes that is breathtaking). That is more than 10,000 people.  That means that 2 out of every 10 prisoners in NY are serving a life sentence.  All total, 43% of all people in prison in NY are serving indeterminate sentences and they will all remain in the parole board pipeline.  That means that 23,263 people will not benefit from determinate sentencing and will continue to circulate through the parole board. 

If they are moving to determinate sentencing, at least in part because the parole board is broken,  then that leaves an awful lot of people to suffer under a broken parole board.  That is one small part of what is wrong with Judge Lippman’s proposal.
Alan Rosenthal, Counsel
Center for Community Alternatives
115 East Jefferson St., Suite 300
Syracuse, New York 13202       Phone (315) 422-5638 X227



6.  Parenting from Prison,  by Samuel Hamilton

In 1983, I was sentenced to life in prison for a crime that I deeply regret. When I was arrested, my daughter was six months old.  After a short stay in the Brooklyn House of Detention, I was moved upstate to Sing Sing Correctional Facility. And though it’s closer to the city than many prisons, it’s still a long way for a little girl to come see her dad. But I was fortunate.

Because of strong family support, I saw my daughter more often than many; I spoke to her on the telephone, and I wrote to her regularly.  Still, I had a life sentence, and I had to come to terms with what it meant to parent from prison—Was that even possible? Could I be an effective dad?  Working to keep a connection and relationship without being a drain or a burden to my family, I struggled on my own with these questions for a long time.  And then, just over 20 years ago, when my daughter was thirteen years old, I found some tools to help me answer those questions. To honestly address not just the increasingly hard questions she was asking me, and would come to ask me, as she understood the reason that I could not come home with her.  And I found a way to let the love that is possible in healthy relationships really go to work on me. And as my daughter grew up, I grew as a man and as a dad.

I got all this because of a program that the Osborne Association offered—and still offers at Sing Sing—FamilyWorks.  In FamilyWorks, I found people who didn’t just talk about my
right to be a dad, but talked about my responsibility to my child and to my family. And though my daughter didn’t like to talk a lot at the time, our relationship broadened and deepened as I opened more and more of myself to her.   For me, FamilyWorks—and the need to talk openly to my daughter Nykia—really was the start of asking and answering the questions that allow me to stand here today. It pushed me to understand and explain my irrational criminal thinking that took me away from her.

Osborne gave me the opportunity to take on what is hardest and most painful inside me.  It showed me how to create family connections even from behind the high wall of prison. And to experience unconditional love.

My daughter Nykia—who is celebrating her 33
rd birthday right now - and I thank Osborne for investing in our lives and making it possible for our precious relationship to flourish.

-  From a speech delivered on May 10 at the Osborne Association’s “Lightening the Load” fundraiser.


7.  A Month O’ Celebrations, by Karima Amin

The month of June always brings on thoughts of celebrations: graduations, weddings, birthdays….my own, my son’s, and my sister Wendy’s special day. For PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC., June is the month to celebrate our anniversary. This year on June 29, we celebrated 10 years of activism in this community.  June 10 was a day to remember BaBa Eng’s homecoming in 2013 after 36 years of incarceration. 

Juneteenth is a time for remembering the 1865 abolition of slavery in America. Buffalo’s two day Juneteenth celebration this year was the 40th such commemoration. I was privileged and honored to celebrate Juneteenth in Olean, NY with my drumming sisters, DAUGHTERS OF CREATIVE SOUND. On the prior evening in Buffalo, we remembered Black lives lost during our MA’AFA, a period of horrible atrocities perpetrated against people of African descent, beginning with the period of enslavement to these present days. It was a solemn occasion but it was also a time to celebrate the indomitable spirit of a people who refuse to be obliterated from the face of the planet. We placed flowers on the Niagara River and called the names of our Ancestors, never to be forgotten. We reminded people of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery except for those convicted of a crime.

As we celebrated 10 years for PRP2 and 2 years for our Program Director, BaBa Eng, and 68 years (!) for me, Karima Amin, we paused to reflect on our accomplishments since June of last year and our plans for the future. We affirmed our humanity and the humanity of those still enslaved in jails and prisons who we pray will benefit from our teaching, mentoring, and advocacy. 

Karima Amin, 716-834-8438; karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org

.



8.  Albany to Develop Innovative, Evidence-based Process to Reduce Low-Level Arrests, Recidivism, and Racial Disparities  
On June 25th a broad array of community stakeholders, which includes  the Albany Police Department, District Attorney, the Mayor's Office, the County Executive and Departments, the Albany County Sheriff, Central District Management Association, the Center for Law and Justice, and the Drug Policy Alliance signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – LEAD

Under LEAD, police officers may exercise their discretion and divert individuals for certain low-level criminal offenses like drug possession; instead of being arrested and going through the regular criminal justice process, the individual is referred to a case manager, who then facilitates access to a comprehensive network of social services.
Historically, a relatively small number of individuals in Albany with high needs demand a great deal of police time and resources. They cycle in and out of jail or prisons without ever having their underlying issues -- such as untreated mental health and substance use problems, housing, employment, medical needs –addressed. This cycle is expensive for taxpayers and fails to promote public safety and public health. Anchored squarely in a harm reduction philosophy, LEAD demonstrates that by linking an individual to a highly coordinated continuum of community-based care – including housing, counseling, job training, drug treatment, mental health services, and healthcare – it is possible to improve community safety and health without over-reliance on jails, criminal prosecution, or courts.
“Time and common sense have lead us to the conclusion that our traditional law enforcement response to the chronic public health issues people face does not work,” said Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares. “Best practices dictate that we move in a different direction where public health and public safety merge. We can no longer own the problem. Community assets must be leveraged to ensure the best public safety outcome. Safety is dramatically improved when the needs of people are being met.”
“Across the country, there’s a strong and growing bi-partisan consensus that it’s time to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration,” said gabriel sayegh, Managing Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance. “But it won’t be the federal government or the state governments that show us the way out of this failed war –it will be cities that show us the way. With this multi-sector group agreeing to collaborate to build a LEAD program, Albany is leading the way in New York to develop innovative approaches to advance community health and public safety.”


9.  Alfred Woodfox is still in jail

Alfred Woodfox, who has spent over 40 years in solitary confinement in Angola Prison, was ordered released on June 8 by US District Court Judge James Brady who ruled he also be barred from a retrial.  On the Democracy Now! radio show that day, when asked how he felt, Mr. Woodfox said he’d wait and see if they actually let him go.  How right he was to be cautious with his feelings.  

The State of Louisiana appealed and on June 9 the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay of release set to expire on Friday, June 12.

 Amnesty International USA launched a petition calling on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to honor Judge Brady's ruling.  

On June 11, eighteen members of the Louisiana House of Representatives voted unsuccessfully to pass a resolution (H.R. 208) urging Attorney General Caldwell to stop standing in the way of justice, withdraw his appeals, and let Judge Brady's unconditional writ and release ruling stand.

And on Friday, June 12, the Court responded by scheduling oral arguments for late August and extending the stay of release at least until the time that the Court issues its ruling later in the Fall.

When asked by a close friend, shortly after Judge Brady’s ruling, if he was satisfied, his answer was vintage Albert Woodfox: "I'm satisfied with who I've become as a result of all I've been through. But I'm not satisfied with the way things are in this world. I won't be satisfied until racism disappears in this country and Black people are treated like full citizens in the land of their birth. I won't be satisfied until poverty doesn't put entire generations into prison to live like I've had to live. I won't be satisfied until there's a different distribution of wealth in this country and capitalism is replaced by a system that supports and sustains the common good. Then...I'll be satisfied."



10. The Organizational Support Letter!

ORGANIZATIONS IN SUPPORT OF THE
NEW YORK STATE S.A.F.E. (Safe and Fair Evaluations) PAROLE ACT
TO REUNITE FAMILIES AND MAKE OUR COMMUNITIES SAFER

Thank you! to legislative sponsors of the SAFE Parole Act:
Senate: S. 1728 Parker, Espaillat, Hassell-Thompson, Kennedy, Montgomery, Perkins
Assembly: A. 2930 Aubry, Arroyo, Barrett, Brennan, Clark, Crespo, Fahy, Farrell, Gottfried, Hevesi, McDonald, Montesano, Mosley, O’Donnell, Ortiz, Perry, Roberts, Rodriguez, Sepulveda, Skartados, Thiele

WHY WE NEED THE S.A.F.E. PAROLE ACT
The Parole Board currently keeps thousands of people in prison who have served their time and are no danger to their communities, denying  parole based on the person’s original crime. This practice:
  • Disregards positive achievements, a clean record, remorse, low-risk evaluations, successful programs, family ties, strong re-entry plans, and all other indicators of change 
  • Focuses solely on the past, the one factor that the parole applicant can never change
  • Revisits circumstances that the court took into account when sentencing
  • Defeats the basic purpose of parole: a chance for rehabilitation and re-entry 
  • Bases public policy on revenge rather than community well-being
  • Ignores the evidence that long-term older prisoners have lowest recidivism rates 
  • By using subjective instead of evidence-based criteria for release, fails to protect communities 
  • Worsens public safety by discouraging rehabilitation 
  • Causes the repeated suffering of friends and families of the incarcerated person
  • Undermines communities and families, disproportionately communities and families of color, by keeping people in prison who would be assets if released

New York cannot achieve significant reductions in its prison population without ending punitive parole denials for people convicted of violent crimes who are low risk to re-offend.
  • 63% of New York’s prison population are convicted of violent crimes
  • From 2000 to 2011, New York’s 50+ years of age prison population increased by 64%; most are low-risk long-termers serving years beyond their minimum sentence due to repeated parole denials
  • The parole board saw more than 12,000 parole applicants in 2012;  its overall release rate was 20%

WHAT THE S.A.F.E. PAROLE ACT WILL DO TO CREATE PAROLE JUSTICE
  • The S.A.F.E. Parole Act requires the Parole Board to evaluate the parole applicant for re-entry readiness based on an extensive set of post-sentencing factors. 
  • If the Board denies parole, it will be required to give the applicant steps to achieve in order to demonstrate readiness for re-entry.
  • When the parole applicant has fulfilled all the requirements set by the Board, and has demonstrated community readiness and low risk, she or he will be released.

THE UNDERSIGNED ORGANIZATION CALLS ON THE LEGISLATURE TO PASS, AND THE GOVERNOR TO SIGN, THE S.A.F.E. PAROLE ACT!

Name of Organization_________________________________________________________________

Address____________________________________________

Email____________________________

Contact Person ______________________________________ Phone ___________________


Return to: Parole Justice Now!  parolereform@gmail.com33 Central Ave., Albany NY 12210


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