Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Friday, September 08, 2017

September 2017



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 with the reason for your interest.




During the month we post late breaking news and announcements here, so you may want to check now and then.  Scroll down now to go directly to the August 2017 newsletter.




Building Bridges
the monthly newsletter of Prison Action Network

Dear Reader,  
It’s been a busy summer.  We thought we were taking a relaxing vacation;  it turned out to be exciting as well. This newsletter is late because of both.  Meeting up with the March for Justice, hanging out with a just released friend, and re-connecting with Ernest Henry, the Host of Voices Beyond the Wall, all of them in Poughkeepsie, were some of the latest things that filled many of the hours in a day. 
In Albany we’ve been meeting and planning for the 5 days when the March will arrive in Albany and participate in events held in their honor, and to educate new people to the need for criminal justice reform culminating in a RALLY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS on Wednesday Sept 13, at 5pm [when the State Workers will be getting out of work and hopefully stop for a while to find out what’s going on! ]  Anyone able to get to the West Capitol Park in Albany, who wants to stand up for the human rights of people in prison is invited to join us in celebrating the committed advocates who walked 5-15 miles a day in dedication and love for our beloved ones behind bars. Soffiyah Elijah will be one of the Speakers at the Rally, and by then there will certainly be more who joined on the way,  to share their message..
We’re heard some amazing stories from our readers about their parole hearings and if you can listen to Voices Beyond the Walls every other Sunday (next program is on September 17th, starting at 3pm) you may hear some of their stories. WVKR 91.3 FM or on line at  www.wvkr.org  3:00 PM.- 6:00 PM.
We’re trying a new format with the statistics at the end.  Hopefully you’ll read the preceding articles also.
There’s Hope, are you ready?!  Your Editor 


Table of Contents 

Sorry for the messy formatting; the URL is stronger than the editor.....
  1. NetWorks, What is the absolute opposite of utter freedom?
  2. The Silverback LawFair Report: Federal Civil Immigration Detainers.     
  3. Aubry, Sanders, and Weprin support the movement to end solitary 
  4. “Violent Offenders”, Parole Commissioners should be evaluating how they’ve changed and how they’ve improved. Otherwise, what’s the point of having parole at all?
  5. June Parole Releases:  Current Parole Commissioners
  6. The folks Marching for Justice are more than half way to the Capitol, where they will spend 5 days
  7. The American Bar Association opposes the imposition of mandatory Minimum sentences
  8. Cuomo is encouraging upstate businesses to hire qualified people with criminal convictions
  9. High school senior writes about his father’s parole denial and its impact on him

1.  NetWORKS, The monthly column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network 
The Cry of the Loon

ooooOOOWAAAOOOooo…..

I lie in bed in a cabin on a lake in the deep woods of Maine. Out the
window I see the moon, twice, gleaming in the dark sky and shimmering
on the water. Over the water, echoing in the stillness, the cry of the
loon, unimaginably wild, draws me into her wilderness world: the wide
lake, the massive mountain towering over it, the vast sky, the dense
forest, the bright moon, a lifetime lived in a universe of utter
freedom and elemental beauty.

I hold H’s strong gentle hands in mine across the wide steel counter
that separates us…that has separated him from everyone who loves him
for 42 years. 
Guards watch our every move. Bars clang in the distance.
The sign on the wall warns me that if I wear revealing clothing,
“cross visit” (speak to anyone besides H), or touch each other too
much, my visit will be terminated.

I say to H, “How do we convey the day to day agony of prison to
someone who has never experienced it? …the petty humiliations, the
ugly walls and bars, the moment by moment hostility, the strip
searches and chains, the control of every movement…”
And H replies, “Imagine you are in a space and you can’t get out.”
As I lie in bed in the Maine woods, listening to the cry of the loon,
H’s words echo over and over in the darkest corner of my mind. Every
claustrophobic bone in my body turns to ice. What is the absolute
opposite of utter freedom?
oooOOOWAAAAOOOooo….
Imagine you are in a space and you can’t get out. 


2.  The Silverback LawFair Report
Federal Civil Immigration Detainers
By Anpu Unnefer Amen
After being sentenced to a conditional discharge for harassment in the second degree, a violation which constitutes a less serious offense than a misdemeanor, the defendant Mr. Mario Mendoza was held by the NYC DOC which refused to release him based on an Immigration Detainer issued prior to the disposition of his case.  

The Immigration Detainer or Notice of Action was signed by an Immigration Officer and indicated that the Dept of Homeland Security (hereinafter DHS) made a determination that “there is reason to believe that Mr. Mendoza is an alien subject to removal because he…has a prior misdemeanor conviction or has been charged with a misdemeanor for an offense that involves violence, threats, or assaults …or a controlled substance.” People ex rel. Swenson v.  Ponte,  46 Misc.3d 273, 274-275, (Kings County2014).

These particular detainers (I-247 detainers) request that the department of Corrections hold individuals up to 48 hours beyond the time that they would otherwise be entitled to be released, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.  They are issued pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 287.7 promulgated by (DHS) to implement the provisions outlined in 8 U.S. C. 1357(d). 

 The problem with all of these technical terms is that there is no Federal or State statute, law or regulation that gives the Department of Corrections or local law enforcement authorization to make an arrest.  These detainers are civil in nature and are issued based on the belief of the Federal authorities that a particular individual may be “civilly removable from the country.”

It is not uncommon these days to listen to the news and hear the attorney general or the President trying to intimidate states that make up this country by threatening to withhold Federal funding from the states that do not enforce federal civil immigration detainers and arrest removable aliens for the Federal authorities until they are able to take them into Federal custody and execute the removal process.  However, it is not common knowledge that most of the states are refusing to go along with it because the process they are seeking to implement is illegal.
Mr. Mendoza successfully argued that his detention amounted to an “illegal seizure” under the Fourth Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  No person can be detained where probable cause is lacking.  Further, no one can be lawfully detained in any NYS prison, any country jail within NYS, or any State under these circumstances.  The United States Supreme Court has already declared that, “[a]s a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States,” and that the Federal administrative process for removing someone from the country “is a civil, not criminal matter.”

Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387,396,407 (2012).     Next Month:”Miranda rights revisited”


3.  Solitary Confinement:
Several Queens lawmakers lent their support to the movement to end the torture of solitary confinement in New York state prisons last week.

During a rally at the state Capitol in Albany, nearly 300 activists — including Akeem Browder, the older brother of the late Kalief Browder — met with nearly 100 legislators to urge the passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act in an effort to establish humane and effective alternatives.

“Inhumane solitary confinement needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. We need a comprehensive statutory solution like the HALT Solitary Confinement Act to remedy this problem,” said state Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jeffrion Aubry (D-East Elmhurst), the lead HALT sponsor.

“The research is out there and the numbers are clear: Targeted rehabilitation programs are more effective at reducing recidivism, than punitive, and sometimes arbitrary, solitary confinement,” Aubry said. “We need the HALT Solitary Confinement Act passed into law to ensure all New Yorkers are protected from the torture of solitary confinement. This act includes essential reforms and it’s time that we pass these much-needed reforms into law.”

Despite recent modest reforms, New York state holds nearly 4,500 people in isolation in its prisons and jails, according to Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, the rally organizer. The United Nations recognized the need to reform these practices when it adopted the “Mandela Rules” prohibiting solitary confinement exceeding 15 days.

“Long-term solitary confinement amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, and has been shown to cause physical, emotional and psychological damage,” state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) said. “We need to rehabilitate inmates so that they can become productive members of society and are less likely to commit future crimes. There can be no benefit to locking someone away in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day without any meaningful human contact or therapy.”

Solitary confinement is an issue increasingly on the public agenda with Pope Francis, President Obama and U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer having all spoken out against the practice. Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), the chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Corrections, said the practice is not only inhumane, it is also bad public policy.
“Removing the social aspect of an incarcerated individual’s life does nothing to help that inmate re-integrate back into prison upon release from confinement or back into society upon release from prison.”

Social justice advocate Akeem Browder started the Kalief Browder Foundation after his brother committed suicide in 2015. Kalief Browder suffered from depression following three years on Rikers Island, much of it in solitary confinement. While he was never officially charged with stealing a backpack at the age of 16, he went through the ordeal because his family could not afford the $3,000 bail.

“With solitary confinement and its practices, specifically against those that are most vulnerable and most marginaliz­ed,” he said, “we must be vigilant and hard-pressed to demand justice so as to stop more tragic, disheartening loss of life like my brother, Kalief Browder.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.


4.  Why So Few Violent Offenders Are Let Out on Parole
A Q&A with Georgetown University professor Marc Morjé Howard on parole boards’ incentive to keep inmates in jail
By Maura Ewing  August 29, 2017.  The Presence of Justice

Condensed from an already condensed article:
In recent years, national discussions of criminal-justice reform have largely revolved around non-violent drug-related convictions—as illustrated by the hundreds of federal inmates that Barack Obama granted clemency to at the end of his second term. In a sense, these offenders are low-hanging fruit: They are arguably the most politically palatable inmate demographic, and many lawmakers can champion their cause with limited risk. The opposite is true for violent offenders, whose release from prison has been taboo since at least the 1988 presidential campaign. Willie Horton, the convicted murderer who committed a series of violent crimes while on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison in 1986, was featured in an ad that year painting Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis as soft-on-crime. Dukakis, who as Massachusetts governor had endorsed the furlough program, lost the election, relegating violent offenders to the fringes of public debate for the next three decades.

Yet Marc Morjé Howard, the director of Georgetown University’s Prison and Justice Initiative, argues that meaningful reform hinges on this group. He alleges that parole boards are full of political appointees, who worry they’ll risk their jobs if they grant freedom to the wrong person, and so thousands of rehabilitated inmates are left stuck in prison.

Maura Ewing Interviewed Mr. Howard: 
What would happen if people who have been convicted of violent crimes were more easily let out of prison?:

Howard: I’m talking about formerly violent offenders. I’m talking about people who may have been dangerous in the past, [but] who are no longer a threat to public safety.  I do think sentencing is too severe in this country. We give people these crazy sentences, in many cases, of longer than the natural life span. When they’ve reached the minimum threshold of their sentence—say, 25 years of a 25-to-life sentence—I think we should be evaluating how they’ve changed and how they’ve improved. Otherwise, what’s the point of having parole at all?

I think parole boards should be depoliticized. I think they should be taken out of a political electoral context, where there are direct consequences for political officials who think “Why take that chance? Let’s just keep everybody locked up.” There should be an individual assessment of each person’s readiness to succeed when they get out.

Most people don’t realize how many crimes are committed by young stupid men or boys. There is a lot of brain science showing that people calm down with age.  

Changing parole for violent offenders alone won’t solve all the problems.  The purpose of prison, and the activities and programs that are made available to people in prisons, should be to [facilitate] transformation and change, [rather than the] mindless warehousing done currently in most facilities in the U.S.

The RAND Corporation did a major study in 2013 on the effect of prison education, which found that education contributed to a 43 percent decline in recidivism—even when someone didn’t get a degree, but was just getting higher education beyond a GED, which is the minimum that prisons must provide. RAND estimated that every dollar spent now on prison education will save four to five dollars in terms of cost of future incarceration.

[This article Georgetown University’s Prison and Justice Initiative, is part of the project,“The Presence of Justice,” which is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

Sorry but the parole board stats don't easily translate to this blogspot.  Contact us for an email of a complete list of the releases and denials

5.  Parole News - June 2017 Release Rates - Current list of Commissioners and their terms
Current Parole Board Commissioners 
Member
Appt’d by
Date confirmed
Reappointed
Term Expires
Tina Stanford, Chair
Cuomo
6/19/13

2/6/19
Walter William Smith
Pataki
12/17/96
6/19/17
7/6/23
James Ferguson
Pataki
4/12/05
6/20/12
7/6/17
G. Kevin Ludlow
Pataki
6/21/06
6/20/12
6/18/17
Sally Thompson
Spitzer
6/14/07
6/19/13
6/16/20
Joseph Crangle
Paterson
6/19/08
6/20/14
6/16/20
Ellen Evans Alexander
Cuomo
6/20/12
6/20/14
6/18/20
Marc Coppola
Cuomo
6/20/12`
6/16/15
6/18/21
Edward Sharkey
Cuomo
6/20/12
6/20/12
6/18/18
Otis Cruse
Cuomo
6/16/15
6/19/17
7/6/23
Tana Agostini
Cuomo
6/19/17

8/31/19
Erik Berliner
Cuomo
6/19/17

6/18/22
Tyece Drake
Cuomo
6/19/17

8/31/19
Caryne Demosthenes
Cuomo
6//19/17

6/2/23
Charles Davis
Cuomo
6/21/17

8/31/19
Carol Shapiro
Come
6/19/17

6/8/2022







PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001  unofficial research from parole database


The initials are missing....as are a lot more.  Please contact us for the rest.

Type
Total 
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to date release  rate
Initials 
20
8
12
40%
32%
Reappearances
64
20
44
31%
34%
Total 
84
28
56
33%
34%
Facility
Age at hearing
Age at Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Auburn
51
22
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Bare hill
53
25
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Clinton
41
23
15-Life
Kidnap 1
3
Clinton
48
21
1-Life
Mrd 2
3
Eastern
61
23
15-Life
Mrd 2
13
Fishkill
43
28
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
73
31
20-Life
Mrd 2
12
Fishkill
49
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Fishkill
49
27
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Greene
38
21
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Livingston
62
20
1-Life
Pre 75 Mrd
8
Livingston
62
25
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Midstate
36
20
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Mohawk
68
40
20-Life
Mrd 2
6
Otisville
54
22
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Shawangunk
63
31
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Walsh Medi
84
47
20-Life
Mrd 2
9
Wende
59
28
25-Life
Mrd 2
6
Woodbourne
41
18
24-Life
Mrd 2
2
Wyoming
54
33
20-Life
Mrd 2
2


6.  The people on the March for Justice didn’t just march, on the way they participated in the following events.  

On 9/3, they were part of  Strength of a Woman: Film and Discussion about justice for victims of domestic violence who are charged for fighting back, Potluck Community Meal with UU Fellowship, in Poughkeepsie. 9/4, 4:30: Barbecue and Potluck Dinner followed by the Red Thread Ceremony, Valerie Eagle from the TMI Project, and Mindful Movement with Micah Blumenthal. New Paltz.  , 
9/5  Potluck Community Meal, New Progressive Baptist Church, 8 Hone Street, Kingston followed by self-care and celebration at The Kirkland in Kingston
9/6, 6:00: Profiled: Film Screening and Discussion about racial profiling and police brutality followed freedom songs with Reggie Harris and Rabbi Jonathan. Trinity Episcopal Church, 32 Church St, Saugerties. More after this issue is mailed…
DEMANDS OF THE MARCH
Raise the age of criminal responsibility, Increase family visitation to prisons, Meaningful reform of the use of solitary confinement,  End human rights abuses in NY’s prisons and jails,close Attica, Meaningful reform of the parole system, Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act


7.  The American Bar Association opposes mandatory minimum sentences in any criminal case.
Delegates approved a Resolution which opposes the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences in any criminal case.  The resolution calls on Congress and state legislatures to repeal laws requiring mandatory minimums and to refrain from adopting such laws in the future....

"Sentencing by mandatory minimums is the antithesis of rational sentencing policy," the report says.  Basic fairness and due process require sentences to be the same among similarly situated offenders and proportional to the crime, the report says.

According to Kevin Curtin of the Massachusetts Bar Association.  mandatory minimums have produced troubling race-based inequities.  Blacks are more likely than whites to be charged with crimes carrying mandatory minimum sentences, and they are more likely to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term, he said.

A report to the House of Delegates said "The draconian charging and sentencing policies urged by U.S. Attorney General Sessions are a throwback to the policies of limited prosecutorial discretion and increased mandatory minimum sentences - policies that did not work - and are in stark contrast to the progressive trend in policies over the last 10 years," the report says.

Details may be found at AmericanBar.org.


8..  Gov. Cuomo is encouraging businesses in St. Lawrence County and across NY to hire qualified people with criminal convictions
Thursday, August 10, 2017 -
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the official launch of the “Work for Success Pledge,” an online pledge in which businesses commit to consider hiring qualified people with criminal convictions.
More than 80 companies who do business in New York, including Fresh Direct, the Target Corporation, Staples, and Vice Media, have already signed on, according to Cuomo’s office.
"Providing job training and opportunities to New Yorkers with criminal histories is proven to help break the vicious cycle of recidivism and increase public safety," Cuomo said in a prepared statement. "The Work for Success Pledge will help provide a chance for these individuals to reenter society and build stronger communities. I thank these businesses for signing up for this critically important program and I urge others to join them."
"When we write off segments of our population because of a single set of circumstances or mistakes made in their past, we deny society of their contributions, and they are denied a chance at a better life. Governor Cuomo's Work for Success Pledge helps bring formally incarcerated individuals into the mainstream, economically and socially, while helping connect employers to a qualified workforce. Let's remember Jesse Hawley, the man who crafted the original blueprint of the Erie Canal, had a criminal record - and without him, one of the greatest public works of all time may not have been created,” Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a prepared statement.
The Work for Success Employer Pledge was launched at a recent event at Vice Media in Brooklyn. The event featured Hochul, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David, as well as representatives from Action Environmental, Ben & Jerry's, ConBody, and Vice Media.
The pledge does not require employers to hire any particular person or numbers of people but to conduct, as necessary, individualized assessments of whether a conviction affects a person's suitability for the job.
The governor also announced that over 18,000 formerly incarcerated people have been hired through New York's Work for Success program. The program, launched in February 2012, connects those with criminal convictions with jobs through the New York State Department of Labor's job bank, at no cost to the listing businesses or the individual jobseeker.
To date, over 14,000 businesses have hired qualified employees through the program. Companies signing the Work for Success Employer Pledge also agree to list suitable jobs with the Work for Success program.
Nearly 1 in 3 American adults have a criminal record, and there are 2.3 million people with a prior New York state criminal conviction. Currently, only 47 percent of people able to work on NYS parole are employed.
While New York state law requires companies to consider hiring people with criminal convictions, many of these people meet resistance and discrimination when trying to reenter the workforce. One study found that, in New York City, a criminal record reduced the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent, according to a statement from Cuomo’s office.

9.  This Life Inside;  how the advocates respond
Several weeks ago  this Life Inside piece  co published by the Marshall Project and Vice, written by Tristan Darshan, a high school senior, about the experience of waiting for news of a parole decision for his father, and then learning he was turned down. It's very sad and very powerful. It’s also too long for this newsletter, so I hope you will understand if I shorten it.  Tristan tell us that he hasn't slept in days, has never told anyone at school about his situation, and can't tell his Dad because he doesn’t want to add stress to his dad's already dire situation.
When the day came Tristan was still cradled under the blanket when the phone finally rings. His head is pounding, and he feel like he’s going to fall. It's his dad. After a split second that feels far longer, his dad says, "You have to be strong, you have to stay strong…”   " I don't hear anything else. I want to scream. 
I'm a good person. I'm an honor student. My dad won't be coming home. 

Tristan is a rising high school senior in Valley Stream, New York. Tristan's father, an inmate at Otisville Correctional Facility in Otisville, New York, is appealing the state parole board's November 2016 decision to deny his parole. His next hearing is in July. 

Many of our group of parole reform advocates read the article and decided to do something.  For readers in prison, I thought it might be interesting to see what sometimes happens out here in such situations, so I’m quoting from emails that started after reading Tristan’s article:

Hey all,
If you haven't already, check out this Life Inside piece written by Tristan Darshan, a rising high school senior, about the experience of waiting for news of a parole decision for his father, and then learning he was turned down. It's very sad and very powerful. 

After consulting with some of our members who are focused on parole issues, my intern Ben and I drafted a letter to Tristan thanking him for his powerful words and expressing support for him and his family. The letter also includes information on how to connect with other children of incarcerated parents and info from PJNY on how to get involved with parole justice advocacy efforts.

RESPONSE NEEDED: Draft letter of support to high school senior whose father was rejected by NYS Parole Board

Thank you for drafting and coordinating [the] letter,

SURJ NYC would love to sign as well!

It’s a great letter! To a powerful writer!   PAN would like to sign on also.

I had the honor of meeting Tristan and his grandparents at Osborne's Ride for Rights event today. he is a remarkable young man who was very moved- surprised and intrigued- that there were so many people who read and cared about his article. I think this letter to him will mean a tremendous amount to him.  He and his family had the highest praise for Issa (go Issa!). 

He has connected with Echoes of Incarceration and is eager to connect with the parole justice movement. 

I just wanted to share the wonderful news that Tristan's dad was granted parole after a new hearing following a successful appeal! I'll let you know when I find out more about his release date, etc.


That’s it for this month.  Please contact us if you’d like to get this delivered to your email monthly.

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