Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

August 2014

Welcome to the site of Building Bridges, 
Prison Action Network's newsletter! 
 If you would like to receive a copy in your email in-box every month, please send a note.

During the month we post late breaking news and announcements here, so please check back now and then. 

To enlarge the text size, try clicking your cursor anywhere in the text, and then press the command key with the + key.

The NYS Parole Board operates without oversight.
Click here to sign our petition asking Gov. Cuomo to establish a Commission on Parole


Late breaking announcements are arriving daily.  Please scroll down to read all of them, and return tomorrow when there may be more.



Posted August 27  -  from Center for NuLeadership








Posted August 25  -  by Prison Action Network

Alexander Hamilton's release at his August 19 Parole Board Hearing was announced in today's NY Law Journal.  www.NYLJ.com  Three female commissioners participated in the unanimous  decision.  Details will also be provided in the September issue of Building Bridges.



Posted August 23  -  by Prison Action Network
Support Oliver Koppell  
in Senate District 34 in the Bronx.

Dear Friend,  You live in NYS and you support criminal justice reform.  Those are two good reasons for helping Oliver win this election.  In fact, the need has gotten greater because Klein claims to be returning to the Democrats BUT says if the Republicans keep control he will boomerang right back to Skelos. Who trusts him? No one.  So this is a last ditch effort to get some funds for some last minute campaigning. 

In the beginning people thought Oliver's campaign was unrealistic and maybe it was just a little because Klein has more than $2,000,000 in the bank.  No one thinks so anymore. Klein is actually giving out discount coupons; he's paying for dinners and theatre for more than 1000 people. Who does these things?  People who are desperate. Klein does, so he is clearly running scared.  Oliver's campaign sees it in the street.  Klein actually had to import people and pay for their lodgings.  So if you can, please help.  

Donate $10 if you can, or more: www.oliverkoppell.com   But even $5 donations can add up to a lot, so don't worry if that's all you can afford.  He will appreciate it.  (Make sure to mention you are part of Prison Action Network, so he knows we're doing all we can.)  

Checks can be made out to Koppell for Senate and sent to 5911 Riverdale Ave., The Bronx, NY 10471  or online: www.oliverkoppell.com

This is our moment, if we seize it!  We may never have such an opportunity again!


Monday's'S (8/25)  KOPPELL CAMPAIGN NEWS!  
Former NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum supports Oliver Koppell:


"New York needs Oliver Koppell in the State Senate. With the election of more Democrats in the State Senate, I thought we would finally pass the Women's Equality Act--mandating equal pay for women, cracking down on sexual harrassment, prohibiting workplace discrimination and preserving women's access to reproductive health care. But it didn't happen because Jeffrey Klein let politics stand in the way. By aligning himself with anti-choice Republicans to increase his own individual power, Klein decreased the rights, protections and prospects for 10 million New York women and their families.
If you can volunteer for the campaign on Monday, September 8th
or Primary Day, Tuesday, September 9th, please contact
info@oliverkoppell.com
or   718-543-3333
social_facebook25.jpg  twitter_25.png





ZEPHYR TEACHOUT FOR GOVERNOR 
If she wins the primary, NYS will be rid of Gov. Cuomo.

Posted August 25  -  The NY Times writes about the Teachout/Wu
Campaign:     click this link to read the Times article.





Posted August 23 - from Zephyr Teachout /Wu Campaign
Democrat running for NYS Governor
Today (Sat. 8/23) I’ll be in Staten Island to honor the memory of Eric Garner
and draw attention to a topic that is often difficult to discuss.
Being a black person in America today means you have a higher
likelihood of being injured, shot, or killed by police.

 We’re joining the call of community organizations to publicly 
mourn Eric Garner’s death and put an end to these horrible encounters.

We can look at the Garner case through many different lenses.
It is a situation involving specific NYPD officers whose behavior must
be looked at carefully by the relevant authorities. However this case
is also emblematic of larger issues in policing that impacts young black
men in particular. We are also seeing the death of Michael Brown in
Ferguson, MO, as a milestone in how our country treats some of its citizens.
Earlier this week I released a policy statement on the militarization of police
and how body cameras can mitigate this kind of violence. But this
Saturday isn’t about policy, but standing and supporting the
communities most intimately affected with these issues, and to get
answers to what happened here on Staten Island to Eric Garner.
Sincerely,
Zephyr Teachout

 
Join us on Facebook and Twitter!
www.teachoutwu.com





Posted August 21 - from Western NY
Be an educated voter on Primary Day Sept. 9th

Attend a debate, bring your criminal justice questions, and don't forget to ask if they will sign the SAFE Parole Act, Senate Bill 1128, Assembly Bill 4108!
Monday August 25,  7 - 9 pm  
Democratic Primary State Senate Debate, 63rd Senatorial District:
A Democratic Primary State Senate Debate in the 63rd District will be held at Gloria J. Parks Community Center, 3242 Main Street, Buffalo, New York, on Monday, August 25th, 2014, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  The candidates appearing will be endorsed Democrat BETTY JEAN GRANT, an Erie County Legislator and a former Buffalo City School Board Member, and the incumbent, State Senator TIM KENNEDY
Professor JON LINES, of the Political Science Department, State University of New York College at Buffalo, will moderate the debate. Refreshments will be provided.  The details have been posted on Gloria Parks' online calendar at its website.

Thursday August 28, 7 - 9 pm
Democratic Primary State Assembly Debate, 141st Assembly District:
A Democratic Primary Assembly Debate in the 141st District will be held at the George K. Arthur Community Center, 2056 Genesee Street, Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, August 28th, 2014, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  The candidates who will be appearing are VERONICA NICHOLS, a Community Organizer, and ANTOINE THOMPSON, a former Buffalo City Councilman and New York State Senator. The incumbent, CRYSTAL PEOPLES-STOKES, has been invited but may not be available   

Radio and Cable TV Political Talk Show Host MARY DAVIS will be the moderator. There is ample free parking in the Community Center's parking lot and in the immediate area. Refreshments will be provided.  

For any additional information contact MARTY SAWMA: 
716-603-8640martinsawma@gmail.com.

If you're not from WNY, contact the League of Women Voters to find out if there's a debate in your district.   www.LWVNYS.org




Posted August 20 - from Zephyr Teachout
Today the Appellate Court ruled unanimously[1] to throw out the Governor's frivolous lawsuit against us. Despite the Governor's best efforts, there is going to be a primary on Sep. 9th!We won in court, twice now, but some people have asked: are we in it to win it?

You bet we are. And here's why we think we have a real shot:First, there are about 750,000 New Yorkers likely to vote in the Democratic Primary. Support for Gov. Cuomo among likely primary voters is incredibly thin. In contrast, our campaign supporters are fueled by the passion of parents and teachers concerned about their kids' schools, the energy of the anti-fracking movement, and voters appalled by Cuomo's abuses of power in Albany. Our supporters are spreading the word, creating campaign materials on their own, holding events and rallies, donating and volunteering for us.

Second, Cuomo's fundraising advantage isn't as meaningful as many think. What can you do with $35 million? If he buys television ads or engages in any large scale promotion of his own candidacy for re-election, the outcome might be similar to what we saw in Eric Cantor's district in Virginia. His spending helped turn out voters who wanted him gone.

Third, we have the big 'mo. Momentum. That means 4800 grassroots donors (about 3800 more individuals than the Governor has) and 1500 individual volunteers. Favorable articles in the press. Terrible news for Gov. Cuomo because of #Morelandgate, his refusal to debate us, and the culture of fear and corruption during his first term. We also have national endorsements from well known progressive Democratic brands like the PCCC, Progressives United, Lawrence Lessig, Bertha Lewis and more.

(If you want to learn more about our reasons for being optimistic read the detailed analysis posted on our site.)

So when someone asks you - does Zephyr Teachout really have a chance? The answer is - yes she does. Yes we do. Yes we can.




[1] http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/08/teachout-survives-a-second-court-challenge/

P.S. We've just released our first video ad, outlining the two futures that NY faces. Please watch and share with friends!








Building Bridges,  August 2014

Dear Reader,  

July was a very busy month for NYS advocates, and it looks like the momentum will be building from now until October.  If you’ve been looking for a way to get involved, many opportunities are presented in the following pages.
  
Stay well, stay strong, and keep the faith,   The Editor


In Memory
Edwin "Eddie" Ellis died on July 25th to the sorrow of a large community of activists, in  prison and out, from NYC and around the world.  He was a major force in the struggle to end mass incarceration.

A Homegoing Service for Eddie was held on Thursday, July 31, 2014 at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  

Last year the Center for NuLeadership announced the development of the Eddie Ellis Academy for Human Justice. Eddie was thrilled about the plan, and we are honored to build it. The planned Academy is an effort to embed Eddie’s vision of growing and sustaining leadership inter-generationally.We invite you to join us in carrying forth Eddie’s mission in shifting the justice paradigm from one of criminal justice to Human Justice.  For details, contact dpryor@centerfornuleadership.org 


URGENT!
Spread the word:  The last day for in-person registration to vote in the primary election, is August 15.  Using postal mail, your application needs to be postmarked no later than August 15th and must be received by the board of elections by August 20th. You can also register at the August 7 Candidates’ Forum.


Contents

1.  Alan Rosenthal Retires and as a mark of the occasion, the New York State Defenders Association selected Mr. Rosenthal to receive the Wilfred R. O'Connor Award at its annual conference.

2.  Abuse and Violence Behind the Walls -a series of programs presented by the Correctional Association in collaboration with the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.


3.  Sex Offender Recidivism


4. Calling for women’s stories of Isolated Confinement (Solitary/the Box).


5.  Share your story of barriers and triumphs in accessing higher education.


6.  Parole News includes review of Geranium Justice, status of Board members including 2 reappointments, adoption of Parole Board rules and regulations and more


7.  Report on rulings: Stop and Frisk litigation and Hamilton v Parole Article 78.


8.  Advocating for the SAFE Parole Act - join us on L.I. district visits.


9.  Prison Action Network endorsements for candidates in the Sept 9 primary.


10.  Moreland Commission research on corruption is cause of disbanding.


11.  Something old is new in Buffalo  - local jail requests Restorative Justice training.


12.  Police, Prisons, and Mass Incarceration: A Community Speakout for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation.


13.  2 million viewers visit YouTube to see John Oliver on Last Week Tonight expose our broken prison system.


14.  Reentry Council appointed by Gov. Cuomo.


15.  Time for just having fun:  PFA’s annual picnic Sunday Aug. 7.





1.  Alan Rosenthal, Tireless Advocate for Criminal Justice Reform, Retires and Receives NYSDA Award

CCA's Alan Rosenthal is retiring after 40 years working to make the criminal justice system more equitable and just. Additionally, as a mark of the occasion, the New York State Defenders Association selected Mr. Rosenthal to receive the Wilfred R. O'Connor Award at its annual conference. This award is given to a criminal defense attorney who exemplifies the client-centered sense of justice for poor people and people of color who face criminal charges, with persistence and compassion.

Mr. Rosenthal's career spans creating the first Prisoners Legal Services Project in New York State in 1972, while a law student at Syracuse University. He was recruited to help out on the defense of prisoners involved in the Attica prison uprising. He also founded the Syracuse University Lawyers Guild Chapter and continues to support law students who believe that lawyering is intimately connected to social justice.

After many years private practice, Mr. Rosenthal joined CCA in 2000 as head of our Justice Strategies Division. In that capacity, he advised our defender-based sentencing advocacy project, worked on policy research, and helped clients receive the best possible outcomes for pending court cases. Once interviewed about why he closed his private practice to join a not-for-profit like CCA, Mr. Rosenthal explained:

 "As corny as it may seem, I took Canon 8 of the New York Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility to heart. Canon 8 calls upon lawyers to assist in improving the legal system - to recognize deficiencies in the legal system and to initiate corrective measures. In my view the criminal justice system is an abysmal failure. The position of Director of Justices Strategies at CCA presented the opportunity to try to do something about it. I now work in an office where staff from many different disciplines work to promote a more just and humane criminal and juvenile justice system. Some of my fellow staff members have PhDs; others have served more than three decades in prison. We have clinicians working side by side with people whose life experience is the very credential that makes our work successful."

Mr. Rosenthal worked tirelessly to get the NYS Penal Law amended to include "reintegration" as a sentencing goal. He is one of the leaders in parole reform work. He spearheads CCA's work to eliminate criminal history screening in the college admissions process. As the Co-Director of Justice Strategies he has supervised and provided mitigation services in serious felony and capital cases. He has drafted legislation on "Racial Profiling and Data Collection," and "Citizen Review Boards." He authored the CCA publication Sentencing for Dollars: Financial Consequences of a Criminal Conviction, and Unlocking the Potential of Reentry and Reintegration, among other publications and papers.

Mr. Rosenthal was and is a ferocious defense attorney and working day and night to make sure he does the best for everyone he represents. He feels the awesome responsibility of having someone's life in his hands and does not dismiss even a year in jail as easy time. His representation is rooted in a fundamental respect for human beings as well as a deep and sophisticated understand that so many people in the criminal justice system start out as victims of social, economic and racial oppression. He sees lawyering as a tool in the struggle against those ills.

Mr. Rosenthal will continue to serve CCA in the capacity of Advisor on Special Projects and Counsel, focusing on projects that are now underway pertaining to the use of criminal histories in higher education and the Education from the Inside Out Coalition. Patricia Warth, currently Co-Director of Justice Strategies, will take over as the sole director of Justice Strategies.


2.  Abuse and Violence Behind the Walls:

The Correctional Association, in proud partnership with The Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, will be presenting a series of moving and inspiring programs devoted to the issues we all care so passionately about.

The Voices of Attica  July 31 and August 28
The Correctional Association (CA) is gearing to mount their Attica campaign with an intense focus on abuse and violence behind the walls.

The kick-off event for Attica Then and Now will take place September 13 at the Brooklyn Museum.

Voices of Attica are focus group discussions at the CA from 6-8pm on August 28
th from 6-8pm.  Speak out about your experience.  Join others like you in strategizing to end the abuses.  Lend your story to become part of “Voices from Attica”.   Help plan for the September 13 event about Attica.

For those interested please call 212 254 5700 or email Scott:  spaltrowitz@correctionalassociation.org

What’s Age Got to Do with It? Incarcerating Children and the Elderly Sept. 14 - What is it like for children and elders in the criminal justice system, and what can we change?


Unshackled: Women Speak Out on Mass Incarceration and Reproductive Justice, Sat. Sept. 20,  from 2 – 4 p.m.  - An afternoon of conversation and spoken word from formerly incarcerated women impacted by the intersection of mass incarceration and reproductive health issues.  Visit http://tinyurl.com/n8bexg2  to read New York Times article on shackling pregnant women.



3.  Sex Offender Recidivism

Contrary to popular belief, recent studies put the recidivism rate of sex offenders at 14% - the lowest of all categorical crimes except for murder.  Treatment is obviously effective.  However, when sex offenders face constant abuse by officers (not to mention harassment by prisoners), this limits the potential of effective rehabilitation.  The State should not hold the Sex Offender Counseling and Treatment Program at facilities with a history of abuse towards this population, which is just about all of them.  If we really want to put an end to sexual abuse in society, we need to provide a safe space for the treatment program.  Because of retaliation, many are afraid to file grievances, and so to voice your complaints of abuse of harassment by staff, write to the Superintendent of your facility, to the Inspector General, or to: NYS Commission of Corrections, Alfred E.Smith State  Office Building, 80 South Swan St., 12th floor, Albany NY 12210.
                                                                                       ~Anonymous NYS Prisoner



4.  Research study invites women’s stories of their experiences in isolated confinement: 

The Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of NY  invites you to participate in a research study about women’s experiences in isolated confinement. We would like to interview women who have spent more than 7 days in a row in a New York State prison or jail to understand how solitary affects women’s minds and bodies.

Women’s stories are often left out of the conversation about solitary confinement in the United States, and we want to make sure that the unique experiences of women are included. Currently, there is a lot of exciting advocacy being done to fundamentally change the way solitary confinement is used in NYS. The interviews will be used to support the important work that is already happening and to make sure that women’s voices are part of efforts to educate the public.

The interview takes 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs and covers topics such as your experience while in solitary confinement, your interaction with your family and with correctional officers while inside, and your experiences since reentering the community. 

The interview will be recorded and you will have an opportunity to have your story be a part of a radio documentary on women in solitary in New York. This is totally up to you, and you can opt out if you don’t want your story in the documentary.


If your schedule permits, the interview will be scheduled at the Correctional Association office in Harlem during a weekday, any time between 9 am – 7 pm.  If not, we will find another time and quiet place to meet near you, such as a church, your home, or a calm café.

If you would like to participate, or are interested in learning more about the project, please Call Annie Brown at 404-660-6392 or email womeninsolitary@gmail.com




5.  Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO)

“Share Your Story” video campaign will describe barriers and triumphs in accessing higher education during and after incarceration.  Please record a short video or audio submission about your or a loved one’s experience with this systemic issue. This is an opportunity for you to inform the general public about this systemic issue. Let your voice be heard! Learn more at: http://tinyurl.com/EIOshareyourstory.



6.  Parole News

No statistics this month; our statistician has taken the month off.  We’ll have June and July reports in the September issue.  

The NYS Board of Parole:  There are currently 13 commissioners listed on Parole’s website.  Milton Johnson has left the Board (we heard he resigned but that’s not confirmed).  Crangle and Alexander were reappointed and a report of their confirmation hearing appears below the list of commissioners.


Commissioner
Gov. who appointed
Date of appointment
Expiration of term
*Tina M. Stanford
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
6/19/2013
2/6/2019
*Walter Wm Smith, Jr.
Hon. George Pataki
12/17/1996
7/6/2017
*James Ferguson
Hon. George Pataki
4/12/2005
7/6/2017
*Christina Hernandez
Hon. George Pataki
6/14/2006
6/2/2017
*G. Kevin Ludlow
Hon. George Pataki
6/21/2006
6/20/2017
*Lisa Beth Elovich
Hon. George Pataki
12/13/2006
12/31/2019
*Sally Thompson
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
6/14/2007
5/4/2019
*Joseph Crangle
Hon. David Paterson
6/19/2008
6/18/2020
*Edward Sharkey
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
6/20/2012
6/18/2018
*Marc Coppola
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
6/20/2012
6/18/2015
*Ellen Alexander
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
6/20/2012
6/18/2020
*Gail Hallerdin
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
6/19/2013
6/18/2018
*Julie Smith
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
6/19/2013
2/7/2017


On June 17 the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction approved the reappointment of Joseph Crangle and Ellen Evans-Alexander to the Parole Board.  Building Bridges watched the hearing on the Committee’s website:
During the discussion Senators Gallivan, Nozzolio and Richie asked questions.  Senator G.Rivera, who also was present, asked none.

Joseph Crangle: In response to the questions he was asked, Crangle stated that as an attorney who had experience with specialized courts, he had gained a close perspective on drug crimes, domestic violence crimes, and mental illness.  He said video conferencing was going well, that the Commissioners are able to get a full view of the applicant’s body language.  (He said nothing about the applicant’s view of the Commissioners’ body language...).  Teleconferencing takes place in Syracuse, Albany, Poughkeepsie, Buffalo, Rochester.  The Commissioners still keep in touch with prison realities because Fishkill, Downstate, Marcy and Mid- State still have face-to-face meetings.  He added that because of the merger the agency now had more staff, giving the commissioners and the counselors time to get more training, so things were going smoothly.  He was confirmed unanimously.

Ellen Evans-Alexander:  Evans-Alexander also thinks teleconferencing is going well, it allows more time to look at the files because they are not having to drive from prison to prison.  Sometimes they have to go into a prison because the applicant is too ill to be moved to the room where the applicants go for teleconferencing.  Risk and Needs assessments are simply another tool they can use, one of many factors.  It’s used primarily to set conditions of parole.  She too was confirmed unanimously.


The Committee also considered nominations for the Citizen’s Policy and Complaint Review Council which is a part of the NYS Commission of Correction. Interested readers may request a copy of the report by sending an email with a detailed request.


Parole Board's Rules and Regulations Notice of Adoption 
Statement from the NYS Defender’s Association:

The Board of Parole's new guidelines governing parole release decision-making have now taken effect, as noted in the Notice of Adoption published in the July 30 issue of the State Register (beginning on p. 11). 


The Board adopted the guidelines (amending 9 NYCRR 8002.1, 8002.2, and 8002.3 and adopting a new Part 8001) without change, despite receiving over 200 comments during the 45-day comment period, from "inmates, families and friends of inmates, offender advocacy organizations, organizations that provide services to inmates following their release to community supervision, bar associations, attorneys, former members of the Board of Parole, members of the New York State Assembly and the general public." 
The Notice of Adoption sets forth the Board's assessment of public comment; among other things, the Board rejected comments suggesting that: the rule "specify the amount of weight the Board must ascribe to any one of the statutory factors," "the static statutory factors ... not be considered after an inmate has appeared before the Board on numerous occasions," and the "written procedures create a presumption favoring the grant of parole when the results of a risk and needs assessment indicate a low risk in the measured areas." 
The new rule is available on the DOCCS Rules and Regulations page and through the Department of State's New York Code, Rules and Regulations page 


[BB Editors Comment:  Does this leave any doubt that we must continue to fight for adoption of the SAFE Parole Act and other parole board reforms?]

Geranium Justice by former Parole Commissioner Barbara Hanson Treem 
A combination autobiography and insider’s view of the NYS Parole Board, Barbara Treem’s book confirms what we’ve always assumed: “it’s always safer to deny than to parole; it takes no courage and is the best route to job security.  One doesn’t want to find oneself in the headlines.”  the Board “sentences people to more time for what they may do than for what they have done”, and more....   Geranium Justice can be ordered through Amazon.com.



7.  Litigation:

Ruling in Stop and Frisk litigation
Southern District Judge Analisa Torres said police unions'
intervenor bids opposing the settlement between New York City and plaintiffs in stop-and-frisk litigation were untimely and the unions had "no significant protectable interests relating to the subject of the litigation that would warrant intervention.  


Hamilton v. NYS Division of Parole 
John Caher’s July 25, 2014 New York Law Journal article, Split Panel Upholds Parole Denial for Exemplary Inmate, provided the following information: 

The justices of the Appellate Division, Third Department, by a 3-2 majority, held that the court must yield to the discretion of the Board of Parole, in Hamilton v. New York State Division of Parole, 518301. Justice Christine Clark wrote the opinion for the majority which states that the courts should not interfere; “as long as the parole board considers the various factors it must take into account, it can place as much or as little importance on any of those elements.” 

Presiding Justice Karen Peters and Justice Elizabeth Garry strongly dissented.  


Garry said the majority established an "overbroad rule" in which it "wholly abdicat[ed] our critical judicial function" and closed the courthouse doors on a viable appeal. 

Justice Peters based her dissent on "significant errors of fact."  She said Ferguson - one of the 2 parole board commissioners who voted to deny parole at Hamilton’s August 2012 hearing - indicated he was not convinced that Hamilton was not the shooter, despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.  Peters noted that the Brooklyn prosecutor who tried the case submitted a statement asserting that "there was not a scintilla of evidence that [Hamilton] was the shooter" and that "no one involved in the investigation" ever believed that Hamilton pulled the trigger or was even armed. Peters also was critical of comments made by Ferguson when he implied that someone must continue to be punished for the death of this police officer and even if they weren’t able to punish the most responsible party, Hamilton must continue to pay that price in his stead.  Peters argued that the courts, "more than simply ratifying a decision made by the board so long as it adheres to the statutory mandates," have the authority and responsibility to "make some measure of substantive evaluation to assure that justice is served."

"No sound basis supports this individual's continuing incarceration," Justice Garry wrote. "While our review powers are limited, they should not be applied in a manner that is so inordinately deferential as to render the appellate review process a mere sham."  Hamilton is due for his next regularly scheduled parole interview this month.

8.  Advocating for the SAFE Parole Act 

Five concerned citizens, three of whom have a loved one who will someday be appearing before the parole board, visited Assemblyman Montesano at his Hicksville L.I. Office, to thank him for signing the SAFE Parole Act.  He explained that it was a matter of fairness; he signed because it was the right thing.  We talked about the bill, and how to get it passed in the Assembly, and left feeling encouraged by his willingness to help us strategize.  We are planning another visit to a Long Island legislator soon.  Contact us if you are in Senator Flanagan’s district (#2, includes Smithtown, portions of Brookhaven, and Huntington),  Senator LaValle’s district (#1, covers the Twin Forks of L.I. Including Manorville, Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, Southold, Montauk, or Assemblymember Fred Thiele, whose District 3 includes East Hampton, Southampton, and the southeastern portion of Brookhaven.


9.  Voting in the Sept. 9 Primary

Your vote in the upcoming primary election on September 9 could be what it takes to pass not only the SAFE Parole Act, but other much needed criminal justice reform bills.

Building Bridges endorses the following candidates in the September 9 primary election.  Some of them because of what they will add to the debate (A) in the run-up to the November 4 General elections, some because they are reputed to be progressive (B), some because they are NOT the incumbent (C) who has had the opportunity to support the SAFE Parole Act and other worthy legislation and didn’t, and best of all - those who signed the SAFE Parole Act (D).  There are many other politicians who do not have anyone running against them in the primaries, but will be challenged in the November 4 general election in November.  Unfortunately there also are some Senators who have no one running against them in either election, notably Nozzolio, Gallivan, O’Mara, Young, Robach, so they are guaranteed to be in office for another 2 years.  Time to consider running for office yourself in the next election cycle!

Office
District
Party
Candidate
Why
Governor
Statewide
Democrat
 Zephyr Teachout 
A
Lt. Governor
Statewide
Democrat
Timothy Wu
A
Senator
3
Democrat
Joseph Fritz
C
Senator
11
Democrat
John C. Liu
C
Senator
14
Democrat
Leroy G. Comrie
C
Senator
16
Democrat
Toby Ann Stavisky
B
Senator
18
Democrat
Debbie Medina
C
Senator
19
Democrat
Dell Smitherman
B,C
Senator
26
Working Families 
Manny Cavaco
B,C
Senator
28
Democrat
Liz Krueger
B
Senator
30
Democrat
Bill Perkins
B,D
Senator
31
Democrat
Adrianno Espaillat
B,D
Senator
33
Democrat
J. Gustavo Rivera
B
Senator
34
Democrat
Oliver Koppell
B
Senator
62
Conservative
Robert Ortt
C
Senator
63
Democrat
Timothy Kennedy
C,D
A= Add to the debate   B=Progressive  C=Not the Incumbant   D=Signed the SAFE Parole Act



10.  Corruption in the Capitol?

So you’ve heard the news about the Moreland Commission, which was established by Cuomo to seek out corruption in the NYS government?  It now appears that when they found corruption among businesses and organizations that had Cuomo as a client he asked the commissioners to pull the report and eventually disbanded the whole group.
  
If true, this could affect the elections coming up, where Cuomo is facing a Democrat in the primary on Sept 29, Zephyr Teachout - and a Republican, Richard Tortino in the Nov. 4 general election.  Where does it leave the Working Party who endorsed Cuomo? Where does it leave the deal with the Independent Democrats Cuomo promised the Working Family Party?  


Twists like this keep us hoping.  It may seem like a lost cause and then something totally unexpected happens.  So we’re holding out for a governor that appoints progressives to a Commission on Parole, will push for the SAFE Parole Act, and create an improved job description for future NYS Parole Commissioners.     Anything is possible, let’s envision the very best!


11.  Something Old is New in Buffalo

by Karima Amin

The “Open Buffalo” initiative was announced in January in the Buffalo News and at a press conference, sponsored by the Partnership for the Public Good, at the Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library.  We learned that the Open Society Foundation has awarded a two-year, $1.9 million grant, to four local non-profits, to “combat economic injustice and inequality in Buffalo.”  These four non-profits, PUSH-Buffalo, the Coalition for Economic Justice, VOICE-Buffalo, and the Partnership for the Public Good, have each selected “partners,” 13 in number, who will collaborate to improve life in Buffalo, a city overwhelmed by racism and poverty.  Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. is honored to be one of the chosen “partners” and we will be moving forward with our effort to improve conditions at the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility by introducing and implementing Restorative Justice Practices with an eye toward healing victims, their families, and the community-at-large while encouraging offenders to take responsibility.

To understand that something old is new in Buffalo, you need some background about “restorative justice.” What is it? If you ask five people, you may get five different answers.  “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior or an offensive act.  It is best accomplished through cooperative practices that include all stakeholders: victims, offenders, family and community members.”  Justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured.  Those most directly involved and affected by an offense should have the opportunity to participate in the response.  Repairing the harm is at the center of Restorative Justice, which is an umbrella term encompassing several different practices, among them: victim-offender mediation, group conferencing, conflict resolution, peacemaking circles and more.  Restorative Justice is thousands of years old but new to Buffalo.

At the July meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., three guest speakers shared information about restorative justice:  our Program Director, George BaBa Eng, a proponent of restorative justice for several years, received specialized training from Rev. Robert Spicer (RJ Trainer and Facilitator from Chicago) and advanced training from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. BaBa has written several scholarly essays on the topic and he shared historical information about the roots of RJ and our desire to bring restorative practices to the Erie County Holding Center. 

Pastor James Giles, Executive Director of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries and vice-president of VOICE-Buffalo, spoke about the various ways that the community can benefit with restorative justice impacting our quality of life. 

Mr. Andy Prinzing learned about restorative justice when he lived in Ithaca and worked as an instructional supervisor at the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University. He came to Buffalo in 2011 and became the assistant principal of the Buffalo Community Charter School where he saw how certain restorative principles could increase attendance and reduce suspensions.

Up-date:  PRP2 will take Restorative Justice into the Erie County Holding Center soon, within the next few months.  Jail Management is asking for it!  Nine of our folks have signed on to get training to be circle-keepers. BaBa and I are dee-lighted!  ~Karima

Our meetings are on the last Monday of the month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. Meetings are sponsored by the Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng. For more information: 716-834-8438; karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org; g.babaeng@yahoo.com.



12.  Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration to Present Community Speakout

by the New York State Prisoner Justice Network

The New York State Prisoner Justice Network, as its name says, is a network, which means our job is keeping different parts of our anti-incarceration and prison justice movements in touch with each other and helping to ensure that our collective voice for justice and against prison abuse is louder, more powerful, more far-reaching and more broadly representative than any one organization by itself.

Local organizations, and organizations focusing on specific justice issues, are the lifeblood of this broad movement for justice. Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI), based in Albany and less than a year old, is an NYSPJN affiliate working to create a voice for change in the Capital Region. During its first year, CAAMI participated in and helped with several statewide actions such as the Legislative Hearing on Parole in December and the Parole Workshop at the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Conference in February. In March, CAAMI hosted a team of speakers from the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, and then participated in the Campaign’s anti-solitary lobby day in May. CAAMI also took on the challenging task of providing the Albany logistics for the May 5th New York Against Prison Injustice statewide rally, march and day of action.

CAAMI’s next action – in just one short year of life! – will take place this fall (exact time and date to be announced, see next month’s issue of Building Bridges). It is titled, “Police, Prisons, and Mass Incarceration: A Community Speakout for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation.”

The idea for this event came from the Albany-based Center for Law and Justice (CFLJ), which will be a co-sponsor. During the past year, CFLJ launched a statewide petition drive to urge the Governor to appoint a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission to examine the impact of mass incarceration, particularly on communities of color. Models for a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation process come from countries such as South Africa and Chile that have suffered through violent and traumatic historical periods. CFLJ collected thousands of signatures and presented them at the Governor’s office in May. Members of the Governor’s staff met with representatives of CFLJ and promised to consider the points raised in the petition.


CAAMI wanted to support the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation campaign. CAAMI members proposed an event that would be a local pilot for a statewide Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation process. CFLJ accepted CAAMI’s proposal and agreed to co-sponsor the event. 

What would a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation process look like in this country, this state, or this city? After discussion, CAAMI decided that the heart of such a process is hearing the voices of those most impacted by the system – formerly incarcerated people and their families and communities. So the idea of a speakout was born. Two previous Albany events served as inspiration for the speakout concept: a Barbershop Dialogue on incarceration held by CFLJ and the North Country organization John Brown Lives! and the speakout on parole at the May 5th action day. At both of these events, people spoke spontaneously and from their hearts about the hurt and harm they had personally experienced from such injustices as lifelong job discrimination and repeated parole denials. 

CAAMI members also agreed that the most appropriate and effective solutions will come from these same people, families, and communities who have been harmed. Further, they wanted to ensure that policymakers, officials, clergy, faith congregations, and the public at large would hear and pay attention to both the problems and the solutions. Finally, they stressed that the outcome of change would be for the benefit of our city, state, and nation as a whole. They came up with a shorthand way of describing this: Truth=the problem; Justice=the solutions; Reconciliation=the common good.

CAAMI plans to invite people from all of these different sectors to participate in the program, both as prepared speakers and as spontaneous contributors – centering on the voices of those most directly impacted.

If you want to participate, have ideas or input to contribute, or want to be on the CAAMI listserv, please contact CAAMI: at nycaami@gmail. com or Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210.

And watch the September and October issues of Building Bridges for the time and place of “Police, Prisons, and Mass Incarceration: A Community Speakout for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation.”


13.  Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver 

an American late-night talk show airing Sundays at 11:00 p.m. on HBO in the United States, and available to anyone anywhere anytime on YouTube.

On July 20th, Last week Tonight focused on the ways America’s prisons are broken.  Over two million people watched it on YouTube.   While there were some parts we could criticize, there were very few, and in general it covered the issue thoroughly and accurately and with the sarcasm John Oliver is known for.    It was pretty amazing... 

The YouTube website describes it like this:  The story was a look at the racism and corruption inherent in the American prison system, and our national apathy toward it. And if you think that sounds terribly unfunny, you're right ... Oliver doesn't find it funny either. But don't despair: there's a puppet sing-along at the end of the segment.
And with so many Americans in prison, the largest percentage of them due to drug charges, even "Sesame Street" is having to run segments teaching kids how to cope with a parent going to jail. Oliver lamented the sad state of things, saying, "We now need adorable puppets to explain prison to children in the same way they explain the number seven or what the moon is."
However, as with anything, where there's a problem, there's a way to make money off of it. The U.S. has outsourced many of its prison services to corporations who promise to reduce costs while -- cough -- rehabilitating prisoners. And it's working out just beautifully, as long as you don't mind sugar in your C-sections and maggots in your food.
[that last sentence will make sense if you view the segment on YouTube.]


After dropping the bombshell that the United States has more people in prison than China, Oliver detailed the racial inequity in incarcerations, the horrid conditions in which prisoners live, thanks in no small part to privatization, and how most Americans are so disassociated from caring about prisoners, "prison rape" has become a common and acceptable punchline in mainstream media.




14. Governor Cuomo Appoints Advocates to Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration


Council to Provide Comprehensive and Data-Driven Solutions to Alleviate Barriers to Re-Entry Experienced by Formerly Incarcerated New Yorkers

The members are many of the veterans in our movement, and so we thought our readers would be excited to know we have a commission led by people we know and trust:


Rossana Rosado, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Board of Trustees Member (Chair)
Alphonso David, Governor’s Office, Deputy Secretary and Counsel for Civil Rights
Ann Jacobs, Prisoner Reentry Initiative at John Jay College, Director
Anthony Thompson, New York University School of Law, Professor
Brenda McDuffie, Buffalo Urban League, President and CEO
Danielle Sered, Vera Institute of Justice, Director, Common Justice
Elizabeth Glazer, New York City Office of Criminal Justice, Director
George McDonald, DOE Fund, Founder and President
JoAnne Page, The Fortune Society, President and CEO
Julio Medina, Exodus Transitional Community, Founder, Executive Director and CEO
Elizabeth Gaynes, The Osborne Association, Executive Director
Louisa Chafee, Governor’s Office, Deputy Secretary for Human Services
Marsha Weissman, Center For Community Alternatives, Executive Director
Paul Samuels, Legal Action Center, Director and President
Rick Jones, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Executive Director
Robert Burns, Monroe County Office of Probation, Chief Probation Officer
Sam Schaeffer, Center For Employment Opportunities, CEO/Executive Director
Thomas Abt, Governor’s Office, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety 
The following individuals will serve on sub-committees with specific subject matter focus and expertise:
Angela Jimenez, Special Advisor
Chauncey Parker, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Crime Prevention Strategies
Chris Watler, Center for Court Innovation, Harlem Community Justice Center Project Director
Glenn Martin, Just Leadership USA, Founder and President
Georgia Lerner, Women’s Prison Association, Executive Director
Jessica Roth, Cardozo Law School, Assistant Professor and National Center for Access to Justice, Board Member
Joanne Schlang, Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities, Executive Director
Leroy Gadsden, NAACP, Jamaica Branch President
Mary Kornman, Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Chief of the Bureau of Strategic Planning and Crime Control
Max Kenner, Bard Prison Initiative, Founder and Executive Director
Sean Pica, Hudson Link, Executive Director
Seymour James, Legal Aid Society, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice
Soffiyah Elijah, Correctional Association of New York, Executive Director



15.  Prison Families Anonymous will be holding their 6th annual picnic on Saturday, September 6, rain date Sunday, Sept. 7th.

Last year's picnic was a huge success and lots of fun.   Take time out from worry and stress and enjoy each others company.  Talk, network and have a good time for yourself. Bring your family. Mom, Dad, kids, Grandma, Grandpa, Grandkids, any one you would like to enjoy the day with at our picnic. Playgrounds are stationed all around the park.


This is a bring your own food picnic. We will have grills for you to use. We also have a “Share Table” if you would like to bring something to share such as snacks, desserts, salads, anything at all.  We realize some of you will be coming from great distances by public transportation so don't worry about bring perishables. We all bring enough for ourselves and others to put on the BBQ.
For information about the location please call or write  Prison Families Anonymous  350 Veteran's Memorial Highway Commack, NY 11725  631-943-0441





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