Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

January 2017


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 go directly to the January 2017 newsletter.

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Late breaking news: Assembly Member David Weprin is now Chair of the Assembly's Correction Committee, and Danny O'Donnell is now the Chair of Tourism.



Dear Reader,  

Election day caused me to be worried, and yes, scared.
But then I thought about all the good things that also had been happening.  Like The New York Times covering John MacKenzie’s story and the campaign he died for, which got picked up by other media outlets and ultimately re-energized the Parole Justice NY movement.  Next the New York Times began what appears to be a campaign to expose the systemic racism that infects our country’s politics and practices, while at the same time revealing - in great detail - the abuses taking place in our prisons and jails and the NYS Parole Board’s cruel and heartless practices.  The NY Times may not be your favorite, but it surely is a source read around the world, and it put our issues on the front page!   So I started feeling like Scrooge with all my negative predictions for the future.  I decided to stand back and watch before I freak out.  After all, these are exciting times, albeit hair-raising.  But I won’t stop fighting for justice.  (more good news arrived on-Jan 4 : Yesterday Federal Judge Robert Mariani ordered the Pennsylvania DOC to immediately give Mumia Abu-Jamal the life-saving antiviral medications that have a 95% cure rate!  Now if only Obama would release Leonard Peltier!.....

Just as I was making that resolution, another unexpected thing happened.  Remember how hesitant I was to put any faith in Governor Cuomo’s Clemency Project when he announced it last year?  I was sure no one charged with a violent crime would be deemed eligible.  So I didn’t encourage people to apply.  Well!  I am thrilled to say one of my friends who didn’t listen to me has had his sentence commuted.  And Judy Clark, who has thousands of people begging for her release, was granted clemency and a chance to see the Parole Board in the first part of 2017.  How is that for the beginning of the new year?!    So I wrote an apology to Governor Cuomo for doubting his word.  I really feel bad about it, and it’s a big reason for my New Year’s resolution mentioned above.  Especially to you, Dear Reader, I apologize if I contributed to your decision not to apply.  [The Clemency process is ongoing, so in Article 2 we are re-publishing the process for applying.  I encourage you to do it, and I pray you will succeed.]

          I wish for all of us a year of unexpected good fortune,  Your Editor


Table of Contents 

  1. Parole News - November releases; there were NO A1VO initial releases. 
  2. Governor Cuomo makes good on his Clemency Project promises.
  3. Cuomo did more...
  4. Safe Parole Act - SAVE THE DATE MAY 10th
  5. A blueprint for reducing Mass Incarceration in America
  6. Mass Incarceration and children’s outcomes
  7. Spending the Holidays in Solitary Confinement
  8. Dutch prisons suffer a shortage of prisoners
  9. 2017 might not be such a bad year for criminal justice reform 
  10. 2015 probation and parole statistics for persons in U.S.


1.  Parole News  November 2016 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES 
A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database
November 2016 - Interview Summaries
Type
Total 
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rates
Initials 
12
0
12
0%
31%
Reappearances
70
18
52
26%
30%
Total 
82
18
64
22%
30%

November 2016 - NO INITIAL RELEASES.

November 2016 - Reappearance Releases by Facility

Facility
Age at hearing
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Altona
56
28
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Bare Hill
46
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Cayuga
58
22
32-Life
Mrd 2
4
Clinton
52
32
18-Life
Mrd 2
3
Collins
68
36
18-Life
Mrd 2
3
Coxsackie
62
36
15-Life
Mrd 2
7
Fishkill
50
26
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Franklin
50
18
20-Life
Mrd 2
8
Great Meadow
54
22
4-Life
Mrd 2
8
Otisville
43
20
23-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
40
19
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Sullivan
63
26
21-Life
Mrd 2
11
Sullivan
69
34
25-Life
Mrd 2
8
Ulster
46
24
23-Life
Mrd 2
2
Wende
59
27
30-Life
Att Mrd1
3
Woodbourne
47
26
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Woodbourne
61
44
17-Life
Mrd 2
2
Woodbourne
43
25
17-Life
Mrd 2
3


November 2016 - Over 60 Age Summary
Age Range
Total seen
# Released
# Denied 
November Release  Rate
Year to Date Release Rate
60-69
13
5
8
38%
26%
70-79
5
0
5
0%
20%
80+
0
0
0
0%
33%
Total
18
5
13
28%
25%


November 2016 - ALL Parole Releases (including the A1VO’s reported above)
Type of Release
 Total seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date 
Release Rate
Initials
394
91
303
23%
26%
All other decisions
313
107
206
34%
33%
Total Interviews
707
198
509
28%
29%


Includes Merit Time cases


2.  Governor Cuomo lives up to his promises.  
Gov Cuomo pardoned and commuted the sentences of scores of New Yorkers on December 30, 2016.  

Excerpts from the governor’s website:
On December 30, 2016 Governor Cuomo granted 12 Clemencies, including five pardons and five sentence commutations, as well as commuting the extraordinarily long sentences of two individuals that will now enable them to appear before the Board of Parole. "These New Yorkers have spent at least a decade proving their rehabilitation, but have been unable to fully reenter society due to the stigma of conviction and the barriers that come with it," said Governor Cuomo. "New York is a state of opportunity and today, we are granting these individuals and others a second chance to live up to their full potential, provide for their families and give back to their communities. With these actions, we have taken one more step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York for all." 
He also granted first-ever conditional pardons to more than 100 New Yorkers convicted of crimes at ages 16 and 17.  First-in-the-Nation Action is offered to New Yorkers convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony at 16 or 17 years old and remain crime-free for ten years.  This marks the first round of executive youth pardons since the Governor announced this First-in-the-Nation Action in December 2015 and is the largest number of clemencies issued in any year since taking office in 2011.
By pardoning New Yorkers who committed crimes at a young age, the Governor is helping people who present little danger to the public while recognizing that those with an adult criminal record are often burdened with having a harder time to attain employment, get admitted to college, find housing, and become licensed in certain occupations. Pardons granted through this program are conditional, meaning that if a person defies the odds and is reconvicted, it will be withdrawn.
Any person eligible for this pardon is invited to apply through the Governor’s website, ny.gov/services/apply-clemency. Each person will undergo a careful screening process and agency staff will make a recommendation to the Governor to grant a pardon.
In addition to this general invitation to apply, the Administration has targeted outreach to candidates for the pardon, sending letters to eligible candidates for whom contact information could be found inviting them to apply for the pardon.
The Governor’s action continues his efforts to break down barriers for people with criminal convictions, which includes his creation of a Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration to alleviate barriers for those who have criminal convictions. This year, the Governor has accepted recommendations from the Council for executive actions, which include requiring the Board of Parole to account for an inmate’s current risk to public safety when making a release decision, and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to businesses seeking to hire formerly incarcerated New Yorkers.
Today’s conditional pardon grant for people who were convicted as 16 and 17 year olds reaffirms the Governor’s commitment to advancing the Raise the Age agenda and other criminal justice reform measures.
Last year, the Governor announced executive actions to remove minors from adult state correctional facilities, where they are likely to be victimized at higher rates, and may learn to become better criminals from older incarcerated individuals. As a result of the Governor’s Executive Order, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has transferred all female youths and all minimum and medium security classified male youths sentenced to state prison from adult facilities to the Hudson Correctional Facility.
As part of the Executive Order, DOCCS has also collaborated with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services to train staff and develop youth-based programs for younger offenders while also ensuring the safety of staff, inmates and the surrounding community. However, this is only an interim step as the Governor continues to call on the Legislature to pass his Raise the Age legislative package, which includes provisions to seal crimes committed at a young age after a person has remained crime-free for a period of time.
Governor Cuomo today issued sentence commutations to reward the rehabilitative efforts, and positive institutional records and adjustment of the following individuals:  Anthony Desmae, Matthew Hattley, Charlie Lee, 
Felipe Rodriguez, Valerie Seeley.
Governor Cuomo also commuted the extraordinarily long sentences of Judith Clark, and Jim Whitt, enabling them to appear before the Board of Parole within the first quarter of 2017: .   He also issued the following pardonsDeJuan Callender, Jessica Ennist, Kelly Jarrett, Anthony Papa, and Mitchell Pine.
The Pro Bono Clemency project announced by the Governor in October of 2015 is underway. Volunteer lawyers from the New York State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of New York, the New York County Lawyer’s Association, the New York City Bar Association, the Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York’s Pro Bono Project, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County have been trained in preparing clemency applications through a webinar program hosted by the Executive Chamber in January. Attorneys from these organizations are actively assisting individuals who are currently incarcerated in New York State prisons with their application packages. These efforts have resulted in a steady supply of high-quality clemency applications for the Governor’s Office to review.
Individuals interested in applying for clemency should visit Governor Cuomo’s clemency website – www.ny.gov/clemency - launched within the last year. The website is a central resource for those seeking to learn more about clemency, eligibility requirements, and the application process, including submitting application materials electronically. Family members and friends of individuals serving prison sentences are encouraged to visit the website and apply for clemency on behalf of their family member or friend.


3.  Cuomo did more...
Gov. Cuomo supports the Parole Board’s new rules and regs.  He has said publicly that the new rules would increase "transparency, fairness and accountability in the parole process." "Opening up the parole board's decision-making and instituting these new, commonsense guidelines will help ensure the work of those trying to rehabilitate their lives does not go unrecognized, and that those who still present a public threat will remain behind bars,".  While advocates are very aware of the shortcomings of the proposed rules, some of us are moved to think the Governor’s approval sends a message to the Parole Board that basing decisions solely on the nature of the crime is no longer acceptable.

On December 22, 2016, Governor Cuomo and NYSCOPBA tentatively agreed to a deal in which DOCCS staff will get a 2% raise in the next 3 years and provides for an overhaul to the disciplinary process for prison employees that includes a process for a fair evaluation of allegations of abuse and neglect by NYS DOCCS staff.  The agreement came on the heels of announcement by Cuomo that he was ordering an investigation into alleged racial bias in the prison system reported by the New York Times. The State Inspector General, Catherine Leahy Scott, is to recommend reforms to Cuomo for immediate action when she is done with her investigation. “This agreement fairly compensates the hardworking men and women who help keep our facilities safe, while at the same time provides the State the ability to appropriately discipline those that engage in the most serious misconduct,” Cuomo said in a statement.  New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association President Michael Powers said the union is pleased with the agreement. 


After Cuomo’s favorable actions in 2016, he ended the year by vetoing a bill that would have the State pay indigent criminal legal defense costs that now are shouldered by cities and counties in NYS.  He claimed the cost made it untenable. This is despite the Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright which ruled that having access to an adequate defense against criminal charges is a constitutional guarantee.  Critics of the veto argue that the current system is inequitable because each county has its own limits and ability to fund legal aid to the poor.  Cuomo argued the bill would require the state to fund much more than the criminal defense of the poor, largely for non criminal legal defense work such as services in family and surrogate courts.  Cuomo says he will work with advocates to find a better solution in 2017.

We urge every reader to write or phone Governor Cuomo to thank him for ALL of these things!  He needs to know he has lots of support from people in prison, formerly incarcerated and their families.  518 474 8390, Gov. Cuomo, NYS Capitol Building, Albany 12224.



4.  The Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act

SAVE THE DATE:  Wednesday MAY 10 !!  
Prison Action Network, as a member of Parole Justice -NY, will be joining with Challenging Incarceration in New York, a collaboration of many well-known advocacy organizations in NYS, to organize a joint collective day of action and parole advocacy.   Please mark your calendars and encourage your friends and families to do the same.  Building Bridges will publish details as decisions are made.

2017 PRIORITIZED PLATFORM FOR CHALLENGING INCARCERATION IN NEW YORK
The system of incarceration in New York continues to destroy people, families, and communities. Rooted in the ongoing legacy of slavery, Jim  Crow segregation, and ghettoization,  New York’s policing, jails, and prisons are at their core driven   by racism, dehumanization, and otherization.  Black people in particular are targeted for criminalization, policing, incarceration, and other state violence and torture.  These systems also target women, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people; Latino, Native American, and Muslim people; poor people of all backgrounds; and other marginalized people.  New York State must dismantle this racist and patriarchal incarceration system and reconstruct our State through caring and empowered communities with control over the decisions and resources that affect our own lives. 
As meaningful steps toward this necessary transformation, we call on New York legislators and the Governor to:   1) End Mass Incarceration;  2) Promote Community Empowerment;  3) End State Violence and Torture; and 4) End Structural Racism and all Intersectional Identity-Based Oppression. 
While we support a fuller platform of policy changes that would be important steps within each of these categories, this year we call upon New York policy-makers to enact and effectively implement all of the following prioritized measures in 2017:
1.  End Mass Incarceration: reduce number of prisons/jails, people incarcerated & lengths incarcerated:
Parole Reform; Safe Parole Act; Raise the Age; Bail Reform; Revamp all sentencing
2.  Promote Community Empowerment, Education, Reconstruction, and Control:
Voting Rights for All; Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) restoration, 
3. End State Violence and Torture, and Shift Away from the Punishment Paradigm: 
HALT Solitary Confinement Act; Close Rikers and Attica: 
4. End Structural Racism, Ensure a Focus on Women and LGBTI people, and Protect the Human Rights of All People – including Groups Disproportionately Harmed by the Punishment System:Racial Justice; Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act 




5.  Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law releases Fact Sheet: A Blueprint for Reducing Mass Incarceration in America  
 By: Lauren-Brooke Eisen
America has less than 5 percent of the world's population, but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners. Our criminal justice system drives and reinforces deep-seated racial inequity. It disproportionately punishes people of color, and is the greatest civil rights injustice of our time.
Politicians, law enforcement, advocates, and economists agree we need to end the era of mass incarceration. The Brennan Center’s new report, How Many American’s are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?, conducts an empirical analysis to document how many prisoners are behind bars without a justifiable public safety reason.
Mass incarceration exists because our lawmakers created it. Responding to rising crime in the 1980s and 1990s, states and the federal government enacted a series of laws that dramatically increased sentences for many crimes, and created entirely new ones. But today, crime has plummeted, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s. And, mass incarceration was not the cause. In fact, a majority of states reduced their prison populations while cutting crime.
This report is the first analysis providing a blueprint for how to safely and significantly cut our prison population. Considering a variety of factors — including seriousness of the crime, impact on the victim, intent, and risk of recidivism — we looked at how many people don’t need to go to prison in the first place, and how many are there for too long.
Our findings:
  • We estimate 39 percent of America’s total prison population (576,000 prisoners) are unnecessarily behind bars. 
  • Of those, 25 percent (364,000 prisoners), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration, such as treatment, community service, or probation. 
  • An additional 14 percent (212,000 prisoners) who have committed more serious offenses have already served sufficiently long prison terms and could likely be released within the next year with little risk to public safety. 
Together, if these prisoners were released, it could save nearly $20 billion annually. The savings could employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.
Based on these findings, we offer several recommendations to state legislatures and Congress to safely reduce the prison population, including:
  • Eliminating prison for lower-level crimes barring exceptional circumstances. 
  • Reducing current sentence lengths, starting with considering a 25 percent cut for six serious offenses.
  • Judges should have discretion to depart from these default sentences when necessary. Additionally, current prisoners should be considered on a case-by-case basis for retroactive application, and prosecutors should seek alternatives to prison when appropriate. The $200 billion in savings over 10 years could be reinvested into programs proven to prevent crime and reduce recidivism. 
Our goal with this report is to jump-start a conversation about how the United States can implement specific reforms that are audacious enough to truly end mass incarceration.  Our current approach isn’t working. Using prison as a knee-jerk reaction to crime devastates families and communities, significantly impacts the country’s economy, and — in many cases — isn’t guided by a public safety need.
The evidence-based suggestions in this report show one way to rethink sentencing that will reduce the system’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, keep hard-won declines in crime over the last 20 years, and save significant amounts of money. 



6.  Mass incarceration and children’s outcomes: Criminal justice policy is education policy
EPI (Economic Policy Institute) Report by Leoila Morsy and Richard Rothstein• December 15, 2016 [The following are excerpts from http://www.epi.org/publication/mass-incarceration-and-childrens-outcomes/  ]

Executive summary:
As many as one in ten African American students has an incarcerated parent. One in four has a parent who is or has been incarcerated. The discriminatory incarceration of African American parents is an important cause of their children’s lowered performance, especially in schools where the trauma of parental incarceration is concentrated. In this report, we review studies from many disciplines showing that parental incarceration leads to an array of cognitive and noncognitive outcomes known to affect children’s performance in school, and we conclude that our criminal justice system makes an important contribution to the racial achievement gap.

Key findings include:
  • An African American child is six times as likely as a white child to have or have had an incarcerated parent. A growing share of African Americans have been arrested for drug crimes, yet African Americans are no more likely than whites to sell or use drugs.
  • Independent of other social and economic characteristics, children of incarcerated parents are more likely to:
  • drop out of school
  • develop learning disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • misbehave in school
  • suffer from migraines, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and homelessness
Each of these conditions presents a challenge to student performance.
To improve their students’ outcomes, educators should join forces with criminal justice reformers to:
  • eliminate disparities between minimum sentences for possession of crack vs. powder cocaine
  • repeal mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offenses and other nonviolent crimes
  • encourage President Obama to increase the pace of pardons and commutations in the final days of his term
  • increase funding for social, educational, and employment programs for released offenders

Visiting a parent behind bars is stressful. There is usually no place to play. Waiting times can be long. Sometimes, physical contact between child and parent is limited or prohibited.  In combination, these are traumatic for a child.
After a parent is incarcerated, the remaining parent is likely to have higher stress levels than before his or her partner was incarcerated. The nonincarcerated parent is less able to pay attention to his or her child. Children of incarcerated parents are likely to be unsupervised more frequently than children of nonincarcerated parents. When a father is incarcerated, the remaining parent, the mother, may need to work longer hours, making her less available to her child.
Instability in their parents’ relationship as a result of the incarceration puts children at heightened risk of misbehaving in class to the point where they get suspended or even expelled, and these consequences frequently deteriorate into delinquency.
When children witness their parents’ disenfranchisement, it erodes their engagement in the democratic process and social institutions. When children see their parents marginalized from political participation by losing the right to vote, they are less likely to perceive government institutions as just, trustworthy, or deserving of their participation.
In the context of institutions that are meant to be socially supportive, like schools and churches, a parent’s incarceration is often kept hidden for fear of social stigmatization. Children of incarcerated parents therefore have fewer opportunities to benefit from resources that are important for social integration. Social relationships and systems are fractured, including the structures of family and home. Children of incarcerated parents experience greater residential instability, as the remaining parent typically can no longer afford the family’s previous housing and must either find a new, less costly, and usually less adequate place for the family to live; move in with relatives; or place children in foster care.48 These conditions also predict children’s misbehavior, suspension, and expulsion from school.49
Conclusion
Children’s cognitive and noncognitive problems, to which parental incarceration contributes, and the concentration of children of incarcerated parents in low-income minority neighborhoods and in segregated schools, create challenges for teachers and schools that are difficult to overcome. Because of its effects on children, the mass incarceration of African American men contributes to the relatively low average performance of African American children.
Ending the war on drugs and the resulting mass incarceration of fathers of schoolchildren should be a primary focus of school reform. The problem of mass incarceration for drug crimes, however, is not typically thought of as an educational crisis, and it is an issue that educational policymakers have little experience in confronting. How educators can add their voices to demands for an end to this war is a challenge that we should all begin to confront, if our other educational reform efforts are not to be frustrated by unjustifiable criminal justice policy and practice.
About the authors
Leila Morsy (l.morsy@unsw.edu.au) is a senior lecturer in education at the School of Education, University of New South Wales, and a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute.
Richard Rothstein (rrothstein@epi.org) is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a senior fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Color of Law (Spring 2017), exposing a forgotten history of how racially conscious government policy segregated cities from San Francisco to Boston.


7.  For Thousands in New York's Prisons, Christmas is Just Another Day in Solitary Confinement
By Victoria Law, Village Voice   click here for full article:
December 24, 2016

Nicholas Zimmerman will spend Christmas locked in his cell at Clinton Correctional Facility, the men’s state prison 20 miles from the Canadian border. Instead of opening presents with his family, he’ll wake to a breakfast tray slid through a slot in his door. He’ll spend most, if not all, of the day inside his cell. Maybe he’ll be allowed out for one hour where he can exercise alone in a caged yard. If he’s really lucky, he’ll also be allowed to shower.
Phone calls aren’t allowed in solitary, so Zimmerman won’t be able to wish his family a merry Christmas, or hear what gifts they exchanged, or even say, “I love you.” Mail call might bring him a card from his mother.
Zimmerman, who entered the system in 2002 on weapons possession, bail jumping and bribery, has spent 12 Christmases this way.
According to the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), Zimmerman is one of approximately 4,500 people who are spending the holidays in solitary confinement. On Friday, dozens of people rallied outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office calling on him and the state legislature to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, which would limit the use of isolation to 15 consecutive days and create alternatives to solitary confinement for people separated for longer periods of time.

Outside the entrance to Cuomo's Midtown office, they serenaded passers-by and staff with altered Christmas carols. “Support the bill to HALT confinement,” they sang to the tune of "Deck the Halls." “It’s your New Year’s human rights assignment.”
Among the carolers were men who served sentences in solitary. Tyrell Muhammad spent seven years in Special Housing Unit, or SHU, a cellblock dedicated to 23-hour isolation. Muhammad recalled that each Christmas the men in the cells around him hoped that mail call would bring a card. On Christmas Day, men would shout through their cell doors, reminiscing about past holidays with their families. “Those conversations last but so long,” he told the Voice. Now working with the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors prison conditions, Muhammad said that in solitary, “people lose touch not only with their families, but also with their mental health.”
Ken Bright spent two years in the SHU. That first Christmas, instead of carols, he heard men screaming through their cell doors. Prolonged isolation, accompanied by sensory deprivation, the lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to severe psychological issues, including anxiety, panic, insomnia, paranoia, aggression and depression.
The time locked away from human contact began to affect Bright as well. “I thought I was going to go insane,” said Bright, who now runs a reentry organization called the LIFE Progressive Services Group. “I did go insane at one point.”
Holidays in prison are hard, he told the Voice, but “it’s even worse in solitary. You have nothing. You can’t talk to other people, fraternize with other people, read books.”
No one knows the exact numbers in solitary throughout the state’s prisons and jails. That’s in part because the practice goes by several different names and not a lot of record keeping. There’s the SHU, where Muhammad and Bright were confined. According to the Department of Correctional and Community Supervision (DOCCS), 3,332 people were confined to the SHU at the beginning of December.
Then there’s keeplock, in which a person is confined either in a separate cellblock or in his or her own cell for at least 23 hours each day. No numbers are available for the number of people in keeplock, but Jack Beck of the Correctional Association’s Prison Visiting Project estimated their number at more than 1,000, based on past monitoring visits. “People can be in keeplock for months, not just a few days,” he said.
The numbers in local jails are even less known. While Rikers Island documents how many people are placed in segregation (and those numbers are decreasing in part because of policy changes prohibiting solitary for teenagers and young adults), Beck notes that no data is compiled from jails throughout the state.
What is known is that, regardless of the name, people spend 23, if not 24, hours locked inside a small cell. Some, like Bright, Muhammad and Zimmerman, spend years in isolation.
That’s what the carolers want to change with the HALT Solitary Act. They delivered the card to a staffer from Cuomo’s mailroom, who promised to make sure the governor received their card.
“You don’t have to isolate someone,” reflected Muhammad. “You can separate them [from others] and address the root of the problem. Putting them in solitary doesn’t get to the root of the problem.” Looking back at his own years in the SHU, he added, “I’m tired of seeing us destroyed.”


8.  The Dutch prison crisis: A shortage of prisoners
Netherlands’ prison system has been so successful at rehabilitating criminals that it has essentially ushered itself into obsolescence. While “The Dutch prison crisis: A shortage of prisoners” reads likean Onion headline to those of us stateside, the article makes clear that “tailor-made rehabilitation programs” paired with an emphasis on community programs and other alternatives to incarceration successfully shrank the country’s prisons and simultaneously made it safer: "If somebody has a drug problem we treat their addiction, if they are aggressive we provide anger management, if they have got money problems we give them debt counseling. So we try to remove whatever it was that caused the crime,” said one official. Fewer than 10% come back. 

Some persistent offenders - known in the trade as "revolving-door criminals" - are eventually given two-year sentences and tailor-made rehabilitation programs. Fewer than 10% then return to prison after their release. In England and Wales, and in the United States, roughly half of those serving short sentences reoffend within two years, and the figure is often higher for young adults.
Norgerhaven, along with Esserheem - another almost identical prison in the same village, Veenhuizen - have plenty of open space. Exercise yards the size of four football pitches feature oak trees, picnic tables and volleyball nets. Van der Spoel says the fresh air reduces stress levels for both inmates and staff. Detainees are allowed to walk unaccompanied to the library, to the clinic or to the canteen and this autonomy helps them to adapt to normal life after their sentence.
A decade ago the Netherlands had one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe, but it now claims one of the lowest - 57 people per 100,000 of the population, compared with 148 in England and Wales.
But better rehabilitation is not the only reason for the sharp decline in the Dutch prison population - from 14,468 in 2005 to 8,245 last year - a drop of 43%.  The peak in 2005 was partly due to improved screening at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, which resulted in an explosion in the numbers of drug mules caught carrying cocaine.
Today the police have new priorities, according to Pauline Schuyt, a criminal law professor from the southern city of Leiden. "They have shifted their focus away from drugs and now concentrate on fighting human trafficking and terrorism," she says.
In addition, Dutch judges often use alternatives to prison such as community service orders, fines and electronic tagging of offenders.
Angeline van Dijk, director of the prison service in the Netherlands, says jail is increasingly used for those who are too dangerous to release, or for vulnerable offenders who need the help available inside.
"Sometimes it is better for people to stay in their jobs, stay with their families and do the punishment in another way," she says from her brightly lit office at the top of a tower block in The Hague. "We have shorter prison sentences and a decreasing crime rate here in the Netherlands so that is leading to empty cells."But while recorded crime has shrunk by 25% over the past eight years, some argue that this results from the closure of police stations, as a result of budget cuts, which makes crime harder to report.
Other critics, such as Madeleine Van Toorenburg - a former prison governor and now the opposition Christian Democratic Appeal party's spokeswoman on criminal justice - blame the shortage of prisoners on low detection rates.


9.  Will 2017 Be the Year of Criminal Justice Reform?
It’s no wonder criminal-justice reformers woke up from Election Day 2016 with a sense of existential gloom.
Given candidate Donald J. Trump’s law-and-order bluster, his dystopian portrayal of rising crime and an ostensible war on the police, and a posse of advisers who think the main problem with incarceration is that we don’t do enough of it, the idea that justice reformers have anything to look forward to is at best counterintuitive.
It is reasonable to expect that President Trump and his choice for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, will dismantle at least some of what their predecessors leave behind. Based on what they have said, the Trump-Sessions Justice Department may well roll back federal oversight of troubled police forces, escalate the war on drugs, enlarge the share of the corrections business that goes to private companies, accelerate deportations of undocumented immigrants and use the threat of financial sanctions to challenge so-called sanctuary cities.
Some combatants in the fight for a less punitive approach to crime will probably redirect their energies to the states and localities, where most criminal justice is dispensed and where officials — in red states and blue — have proved more receptive to change.
But those inclined to look for silver linings may find one on Capitol Hill.
The current, expiring Congress began with a groundswell of bipartisan support to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, give judges more discretion to suit the punishment to the offense, invest more in alternatives such as drug and mental health treatment, and encourage programs that prepare the incarcerated for life after prison. In months of negotiations, a package of sweeping criminal justice reforms was whittled down and some new mandatory sentences were grafted on. Then Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, declined to bring it up for a vote.
I can think of four reasons the prospects of federal reform are actually better in 2017.
First, it is not an election year. Nothing makes members of Congress squirm like the specter of attack ads portraying them as coddlers of criminals. There is reason to think those Willie Horton-style gotchas have lost some of their potency, but the prospect tends to make members of Congress more risk-averse in even-numbered years. And the lobbying alliance in favor of reform has grown and diversified and offers supportive candidates some political cover. It now includes significant numbers of police executives and prosecutors, who say our tendency to over-criminalize and over-punish wastes money and human potential without making us safer.
Second, President Obama will be gone. Some of the resistance to this year’s sentencing bill was a reluctance to give the president a parting victory. His heartfelt embrace of criminal-justice reform in the final years of his presidency was — through no fault of his own — the kiss of death in a hostile Congress.
Third, at least one of the hard-core Senate opponents of sentencing reform will no longer be there. That would be Mr. Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama. True, as attorney general he will be in a position to encourage a presidential veto. But he will not be joining the obstructionists who this year never let a bill come to a vote at all. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, said in October that if his party leadership had brought the bill to the floor, it would have garnered 65 to 70 votes — enough to override a veto.
And fourth, the Republican leadership will be looking very hard for bipartisan successes to demonstrate that Washington is no longer in a state of ideological paralysis. On the short list of things Congress could do to reassure voters that government is back in business, criminal justice ranks near the top.
The subject attracts libertarians who have come to see the machinery of criminal justice as another example of overbearing government, conservative Christians who see the criminal justice morass as dehumanizing, fiscal conservatives who have noticed that incarceration is expensive, and policy wonks who see a “corrections” system that largely fails to correct.
As Jonathan Chait has pointed out in New York magazine, Democrats who join Republicans in ending the legislative impasse can expect to pay a political price. “Bipartisanship suggests high presidential approval, which leads to more success for the governing party in Congress and for the president’s re-election,” Mr. Chait wrote recently. “Helping the majority govern means helping the majority maintain power.”
He meant that as a caution for Democrats. If Congress works, Republicans will reap the credit. But for advocates of criminal-justice reform, therein lies an opportunity. They have a stronger hand to play than many of them think.
By Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The Times, is editor in chief of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that reports on criminal justice issues.




10.  The latest data from Bureau of Justice Statistics on parole and probation populations throughout the United States

BJS released this report, titled "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015," providing the latest official data on offenders under community supervision throughout the nation. Here are some data highlights from the report:
  • *At yearend 2015, an estimated 4,650,900 adults were under community supervision, down by 62,300 offenders from yearend 2014. "
  • *Approximately 1 in 53 adults in the United States was under community supervision at yearend 2015. "
  • *The adult probation population declined by 78,700 offenders from yearend
  • 2014 to yearend 2015, falling to 3,789,800. "
  • *Movement onto probation decreased from an estimated 2,065,800 entries in
  • 2014 to 1,966,100 in 2015. "
  • *Probation exits declined from 2,129,100 in 2014 to 2,043,200 in 2015. "
  • *The adult parole population increased by 12,800 offenders from yearend 2014 to yearend 2015, to an estimated 870,500 offenders. "
  • *Parole entries increased for the first time in seven years. Parole exits increased for the first time in six years.
  • *"Entries to parole increased from an estimated 461,100 in 2014 to 475,200 in 2015. "
  • *Exits from parole increased from 450,800 in 2014 to 463,700 in 2015.

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