Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

August 2015

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

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

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Dear Reader:

We choose to receive an email message every day from The Marshall Project, a non-profit, nonpartisan news organization covering nothing but America’s criminal justice system.  Their website describes their project as “shaped by accuracy, fairness, independence, and impartiality, with an emphasis on stories that have been underreported or misunderstood. They partner with a broad array of media organizations to magnify their message, and their innovative website serves as a dynamic hub for the most significant news and comment from the world of criminal justice.”

We could easily spend every day just reading the articles - conveniently gathered from other news outlets and given irresistible ledes (the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story).  There’s rarely time to read more than a couple of the stories, but the ledes (see a partial list below) give readers enough to keep them minimally informed.  If you’re enticed, and if you have computer access, you might visit https://www.themarshallproject.org/ to sign up for a daily report.  And if you have STORY IDEAS AND/OR TIPS you can pitch them to the editors (or get someone else to do it for you) at:  pitches@themarshallproject.org.   If you can’t access the internet you can write the Marshall Project at 156 West 56th Street, Suite 701,  New York, NY 10019,  or try calling them 212-803-5200

Here are some of their August 4th’s ledes, to give you an example:

 PICK OF THE NEWS
The new science of sentencing. Should prison sentences be based on crimes that haven’t yet been committed? And even if this sort of risk assessment were a good idea, and judges were required by state law to used it, would the practice be considered constitutional? TMP’s Dana Goldstein collaborated with the website FiveThirtyEight on this feature report. THE MARSHALL PROJECT
Will the Supreme Court finally get serious about punishing prosecutorial misconduct? A group of former Justice Department officials, including heavyweights Michael Mukasey and Seth Waxman, filed a brief last Friday asking the justices to hear an appeal in a case in which prosecutors failed to disclose important information about a white-collar defendant. THE NEW YORK TIMES
Crack anniversary. Federal officials hail the fifth anniversary of the Fair Sentencing Act, the law that reduced (but did not eliminate) sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine. WALL STREET JOURNAL Related: Read the report that details the progress, and lack thereof, since 2010. U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION
I’m not going to keep living in the past about what Ferguson did. It’s out of my control.” Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown last August, is trying to move on one year after a tragic encounter that roiled a nation and changed his life forever. THE NEW YORKER Related: Why was it Ferguson that woke everyone up? SLATE

N/S/E/W
Suspect in slaying of police officer in Memphis, Tennessee, turns himself in after massive manhunt. The killing took place during traffic stop Saturday night; the police say drugs were found in the car. THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL

There have been at least 3,000 use-of-force cases in the past few years in which Ohio police officers reported some sort of violent interaction with citizens. In only nine of those cases were the police found to have used “excessive” force. THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

From Maryland comes more evidence that probation and parole may be better than prison or jail — but often not by much. THE NEW YORK TIMES

In Washington, prison rape reports grow, but prosecutions for them don’t. THE SEATTLE TIMES Related: Sex crimes against women in prison in Delaware is a systemic problem that doesn’t seem to be getting any better. NEWS JOURNAL

COMMENTARY
Why criminal justice is so rarely just. “Much of our legal system is based on unsupported gut intuitions about how human beings behave…” THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Related: Yes, the system is resistant to scientific research. WIRED
Hope and change. It’s time for Obama officials to select a bold new leader of the Bureau of Prisons, an expert on mass incarceration who is not a bureaucrat or otherwise beholden to institutional forces that helped get us into this mess to begin with. THE WASHINGTON POST Related: “We need to reimagine our prisons.” THE CRIME REPORT

ETC.
Video of the Day: Two elementary school children of color, ages 8 and 9, were handcuffed at school, with the shackles behind their backs. They are now part of a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations by local officials. VICE NEWS Related: Here’s the video. MOTHER JONES
Reunion of the Day: These two former titans of Wall Street, once friends, now share some awkward time together in the common area of a federal prison. THE NEW YORK TIMES
(It was difficult to post these without reading them all, but the letter must get out!)  
Wishing you good news...   The Editor      


Table of Contents
1.  Parole News -  June Statistics; follow-up on Cassidy and Hawkins; 4 years of all (not just A1VO) Parole decisions

2.  Legislative report - corrects July's report

3.  State agrees to provide new funding and oversight to help five counties upgrade the quality of legal representation they provide
4.  NetWORKS - Sweet words in high places are a million miles away from improving the reality on the ground

5.  New coalition to promote the SAFE Parole Act, and the FED Tour looking for hosts in Hornell and Constantia

6.  Logo Design submissions invited by the Beyond Attica: Close Prisons, Build Communities campaign

7.  What the President said, by Karmina Amin

8.  Obama notes his commonality with people he visited in Oklahoma prison

9.  Glenn Martin is subject of excellent Truthout article on his efforts to reduce the prison population by 50%

10.  Newly formed Consortium for Higher Education in Prison applauds Pell Grant pilot.  A member organization submitted a proposal for the pilot program, taking advantage of the Higher Education Act which gives the President the authority to create pilot programs, although it would be up to Congress to fully reinstate the program

11.  Bryan Stevenson will be keynote speaker at Trinity Wall Street Church forum on moving children from incarceration to education, on Sept. 12.  Free but we are requested to RSVP


1.  Parole News - June Release Rates
JUNE  2015 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database
June 2015 Interview Summaries
Interviews
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year-To-Date Release Rate
Initials 
21
8
13
38%
38%
Reappearances
82
34
48
41%
28%
Total 
103
42
61
41%
30%


June 2015  Numbers of those 60 Years or Older at their Parole Hearing
Age Range
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied 
Rate of Release  
Year-To-Date Release Rate
60-69
21
7
14
33%
25%
70-79
5
2
3
40%
16%
80+
2

2
0%
0%
Total
28
9
19
32%
22%


June 2015 Age at beginning of Incarceration Summary (May 2015 - June 2015)
Age Range
Total Seen
 # Released
# Denied 
Rate of Release
Year-To-Date Release Rate
16-20
17
7
10
41%
47%
21-25
28
15
13
54%
39%
25+
58
20
38
34%
33%
Total
103
42
61
41%
38%


June 2015 Initial Release Rates
Facility
Age
Age @  Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Attica
54
33
33-Life
CSCS 1 *
1 - Merit 
Fishkill
63
40
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Green haven
48
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Livingston
39
20
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
50
18
33-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
57
32
26-Life
Att Mrd 1
1
Sing Sing
43
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
1 - Deport
Wende
67
53
25-Life
Mrd 2
1 - Med
*Criminal Sale of Controlled Substance

June 2015 Reappearance Release Rates
Facility
Age
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
55
20
28-Life
Mrd 2
5
Bare Hill
77
49
20-Life
Mrd 2
6
Cayuga
66
29
25-Life
Mrd 2
8
Collins
53
22
20-Life
Mrd 2
7
Fishkill
49
20
18-Life
Mrd 2
7 - Deportation
Fishkill
36
21
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
53
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
6
Fishkill
53
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Fishkill
54
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
6
Fishkill
53
34
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
66
36
20-Life
Mrd 2
10
Green Haven
58
32
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Livingston
45
17
17-Life
Mrd 2
7
Livingston
57
22
20-Life
Mrd 2
9 - Deportation
Otisville
54
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
6 - Deportation
Otisville
50
22
15-Life
Mrd 2
9
Otisville
44
24
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
50
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
45
27
15-Life
Kidnap 1
4
Otisville
52
28
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
57
29
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville
63
29
15-Life
Mrd 2
11
Otisville
52
30
20-Life
Mrd 2
4 - Deportation
Otisville
58
35
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Otisville
66
35
15-Life
Mrd 2
10
Otisville
61
42
19-Life
Mrd 2
2
Sing Sing
43
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
2 - rescission
Sullivan
41
20
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Taconic 
70
44
25-Life
Mrd 2
2 - de nova (?)
Wende
81
59
15- Life
Mrd 2
8
Woodbourne
41
19
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
48
22
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Woodbourne
56
24
30-Life
Att Mrd 1
3
Woodbourne
67
31
25-Life
Mrd 2
7


Despite Judge Sciortino’s decision in which she told the Parole Board that parole determinations under Executive Law §259-i(2)(c)(A) had to be "future-focused risk assessment procedures." and “not simply restate [ments of] the usual and predictable language with no specificity or other explanation to justify parole denial"[as reported in last month’s column,] Mr. Cassidy was sentenced to 2 more years by the Board who once again acted as if they have the power to override the Courts.  Which obviously, they do, given there is no one who is stopping them. 

Dempsey Hawkins used as example of Parole Board practice of repeatedly denying parole for the nature of the crime.
An article in the July 3rd NY Times ‘Crime Scene’ column by Michael Wilson describes what our regular readers know well, the practice of the NYS Parole Board to deny parole “again and again”. Using the story of Dempsey Hawkins’ nine (9) parole hearings [which were reported in our June issue], Mr. Wilson focuses on the details of the interview questions where facts of Hawkins’s crime have always been rehashed in detail.  This practice was not compliant with NYS law, ruled Sullivan County Supreme Court  Judge LaBuda.  The State appealed and hearing was set for July 6.  [No further information has been forthcoming.]  Mr. Wilson reported in his article that “if Mr. Hawkins was released, he would probably be deported to Britain immediately.  Until that day, if it ever comes, Dempsey Hawkins believes he is serving the longest sentence for second-degree murder among inmates in the state today.  While that could not be confirmed [at the time of Wilson’s article], the average time served in prison among people convicted of murder who were released in 2013 — the most recent records available — was about 24 years, according to corrections records. Mr. Hawkins has served 37.”


All NYS Parole Board Decisions (not just A1VOs) from 2010-2014: 
We’ve received requests for these statistics.  Please share with us whatever conclusions you draw from them, or what they prove to you?  We’ll publish your thoughts if you want.  Please indicate how you want to be identified. 


Parole Decisions Year
Denied
Released
Total
Denial %
Release %
2010
8777
2662
11439
77%
23%
2011*
3560
874
4434
80%
20%
2012
7374
2307
9681
76%
24%
2013
7326
2253
9579
76%
24%
2014**
7156
2224
9380
76%
24%
Total
34193
10320
44513
77%
23%
* Only 6 months available for 2011** 59 individuals are missing from 2014



2.  Legislative report - No news, but some Corrections to our July Legislative Report:

Only 10 bills passed, not 11,  in both houses.  The governor has 10 days from when they are delivered to him, to sign them.  Apparently they have not yet been delivered because the legislative website would have been updated if the bills had been signed or otherwise become laws.

A.1346-A / S.5900, sponsored by O’Donnell and Hassell-Thompson did not pass both houses (only the Assembly.)  The bills codify the UN recommendations for the use of solitary confinement.

A.7825 / S.4903, sponsored by Blake and Gallivan passed both houses.  Requires coroner and medical examiners to promptly provide an inmate’s autopsy and toxicology report to the Commission of Correction’s Medical Review Board.

A.1819-A / S.1608-A,  sponsored by Assemblywoman Gunther (not Cymbrowitz) and Sen. Bonacic didn’t pass both houses, only the Assembly.  It creates more notifications for sex offenders to file.



3.  Equal before the law? New York counties push to upgrade public-defender system
By TRACY FRISCH Contributing writer Published in Hill Country Observer, July 2015
HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. Sitting in a folding chair in the busiest criminal court in Washington County, a young man in a striped polo shirt waited anxiously to be called up to the bench. In his hand, he clutched a form letter from the county public defender’s office. The name of his designated public defender was circled, but they had yet to meet or even talk by phone.“I was hoping to speak to the attorney before I went to court,” said the young man, who was facing a felony charge. “I called about 18 times to try to talk to him, because this is the first time I’ve ever been to court.”
Another man whose case was being handled on the same spring day in Hudson Falls Village Court expressed the same frustration. He said his case kept getting adjourned because he hadn’t been able to speak with his public defender. He tried to set up an appointment by phone, but all he got was a card with a new court date. “I have to take it upon myself to call him, and he’s never there,” he explained. 
No one had informed him that the seven assistant public defenders don’t have offices, desks or even voicemail at the small office of the Washington County public defender in Fort Edward. They are all part-timers who generally have private law practices elsewhere. Often they meet their clients for the first time in court.
That could soon change. Michael Mercure, the first full-time public defender in Washington County’s history, said the county is renovating new office space in basement of its annex building near the county Municipal Center in Fort Edward, where he expects the assistant public defenders will have offices. Mercure said he also expects the assistants to be upgraded to full- time status, though he did not offer a timeline for this.
Mercure took over the county’s troubled public defender office in 2009, at first on an interim basis, after his predecessor resigned amid allegations he’d forged a judge’s signature on court documents. That lawyer was one of two recent public defenders in the county who wound up being disbarred.
Now Mercure is working with the state Office of Indigent Legal Services to carry out the terms of a settlement in a long-running court case that accused Washington and four other counties around the state of failing to provide adequate legal representation for the poor. The class-action suit, brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and a private law firm in 2007 was settled late last year.  To settle the suit, the state agreed to provide new funding and oversight to help the five counties upgrade the quality of legal representation they provide. In March the five counties signed the final settlement.  
To read more, visit  http://www.hillcountryobserver.com , July 2015 issue
4.  NetWORKS, the monthly column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network
Beware of Sweet Words from High Places
Could you believe we were hearing from the President’s mouth the exact words we anti-incarceration activists have been saying for years? “The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners...Our incarceration rate is four times higher than China’s.... African Americans and Latinos make up 30 percent of our population; they make up 60 percent of our inmates...”

Naturally, after finally realizing that we advocates were right all along, the President announced a major overhaul of our entire criminal justice system, bringing incarceration rates into line with the rest of the world and eliminating racial disparities – NOT! Instead he commuted the sentences of 46 low-level drug offenders -- two one-thousandths of one percent  of the U.S. prison and jail population of 2.3 million. 

We are glad people in positions of power are noticing there is a problem, better late than never. We and all the other justice movements can take credit for forcing them to finally take note. We hear there is “bipartisan support” in Congress for saving Federal money by reducing the prison population. But sweet words in high places are a million miles away from improving the reality on the ground.  In fact, they may be the opposite, pretending change in order to strengthen the status quo.

One sign of the problem is what Obama said right after the words quoted above. “Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. And that is the real reason our prison population is so high....” 

The problem with this is that it isn’t true. Drug offenders (not all of them low-level or non-violent) make up around half of the Federal prison population, but Federal prisoners are only 14% of the total number of people in prison (even fewer if you include jails). The other 86% are in state facilities, where only 20% of those incarcerated are serving time for low-level non-violent drug offenses. Half of state prisoners are convicted of violent crimes.

No serious reduction of mass incarceration can take place without a new look at people convicted of violent crimes. They are serving more time, under worse conditions, than what can be justified by any benefit to society. We cannot take seriously the claims that this nation is trying to reduce incarceration as long as “reformers” in positions of power reinforce the race-based myth that people convicted of serious crimes are “the worst of the worst,” deserving of whatever horrors, for however long, the system can dole out. Why are policymakers not looking at the evidence that the lowest recidivism rates occur among older people who have served long sentences for serious crimes? Could it be that they do not really want to empty the prisons?

This is where a fair parole policy would help. As regular readers already know, New York State Prisoner Justice Network is part of a new coalition promoting the SAFE Parole Act, which will require the Parole Board to evaluate people based on their current risk to society, as demonstrated by their actions in prison and their current compliance with requirements set by the board, rather than by the crime they committed decades ago. In New York, the sweet voices in high places could make genuine changes if they made the SAFE Parole Act a reality. The moral of this story is they will not do that, or other serious reform, without our nonstop organizing and pressure.

Which reminds me, don’t forget to get your organization – behind-the-bars organizations especially appreciated – to endorse the SAFE Parole Act. Petitions and organizational sign-on forms were in last month’s Building Bridges. If you have online access, they can all be accessed on our website, www.parolejustice.org.  If you need physical copies – or if you are ready to send your organization’s endorsement – you can write to NYS Prisoner Justice Network, 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210.

One more Sweet Words warning:     headlines this week announced that the Obama administration is restoring federal Pell higher education grants to people in prison. In case you missed the fine print, instead of restoration of this valuable, life-changing program, the administration is putting in place a limited-time pilot program in a limited number of prisons. A portion of the funds allocated to this pilot project will be used to track the correlation between higher education and lower recidivism – a relationship that has already been studied and proven multiple times. Higher education is one of the best available preventers of recidivism; people with a college education rarely return to prison. Is this low-budget pilot project/study a distraction to keep us quiet about the need for widely available prison education? It won’t work. We won’t be quiet!


5.  Progress report on the SAFE Parole Act

New Coalition forms to promote the SAFE Parole Act
On Friday July 24th the founding members of a new coalition to promote the passage of the Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act met to decide on a name, a structure, and logistics.  (we’re still working on the name....)   We represent the following organizations: 

From Punishment to Public Health, Milk Not Jails, NYS Prisoner Justice Network, Prison Action Network, Release Aging People in Prison, and the Second Chance Committee of the National Action Network.  

We are joining forces to pass the SAFE Parole Act.  Why?  SAFE has name recognition, 21 Assembly sponsors and 6 Senate sponsors, and is inclusive of everyone. It doesn’t throw any groups of people under the bus, and will help everyone appearing before the parole board to get a fair hearing.  The group is committed to keep their focus on those with violent felony convictions, although the bill serves all people who will have the length of their incarceration determined by the parole board.  One of our greatest challenges is motivating their families and friends to get more involved.  We need to continue preaching to the choir that they are necessary to get the message out to the affected communities.

We want to see this network function in a transparent fashion.  Please alert us if you think we fail in that regard.  Our decisions will be made by consensus, by which we mean a decision needs to be acceptable enough that all members will support the group in choosing it.

Core Group
The core group is defined as people/groups actively participating in the campaign. Contact us if you want to be involved at this level.

No need to wait to get started: Readers can click on  www.parolejustice.org to take a first action or to sign up to be notified about any new opportunities to get involved.  

The 2015 Family Empowerment Tour is looking for people who live near Hornell and Constantia

Do you live near Hornell NY?  or Constantia?  The 2015 Family Empowerment Tour is planning stops there this summer.  Family members in both places would like your help organizing this event where a documentary film about the dysfunctional Parole Board and a workshop on how to plan a productive visit to your legislator, to promote the SAFE Parole Act, will be offered for free.  The Tour brings the film and the workshop and you bring your friends and family.  If you want your loved one home you’ll need to get involved.  If you are in prison and hoping to make parole sooner than later, please urge your families to join us.  Call Judith at 518 253 7533 or email ParoleReform@gmail.com.

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



6.  Logo design submissions sought for Beyond Attica Campaign

Can you help us design a new logo?  The Correctional Association of NY would love to hear from you!
Beyond Attica: Close Prisons, Build Communities is a new campaign dedicated to strengthening links between community groups and incarcerated people.  We are looking for help in designing a logo that can be used on our materials and website. We are looking for a logo that invokes transformation, where people are striving toward freedom, hope, and peace. We seek any and all design submissions!  The campaign will then choose one logo to use for its campaign. People who are currently or formerly incarcerated are strongly encouraged to make submissions.

Beyond Attica is a statewide coalition of organizations and community members representing family members, formerly incarcerated people, communities of faith, and grassroots advocates. We seek to address issues of prison brutality and violence, and elevate the voices of those on the inside through education and advocacy. We aim to build a safer and stronger New York where resources are dedicated to helping communities thrive: education, housing, healthcare and human services, for those both inside prisons and beyond. We hope you can join these efforts!

If interested in designing a logo, all proposed designs must be received by September 4, 2015 at: The Correctional Association of NY, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Suite 200, New York, NY 10027.



7.  What the President said,  by Karima Amin

For the past few days President Obama has been sharing his thoughts about criminal injustice in Amerikkka. It was quite surprising for me to hear/read him opening up about mass incarceration, solitary confinement, juvenile detention and the racism that defines all of these issues and more. During his first and second presidential campaigns, he never said a word about Amerikkka’s prisons or prisoners. While immigrants, veterans, and seniors were singled out as persons worthy of respect and consideration, prisoners we ignored. I found that to be incredible, knowing that the US has less than 5% of the world’s population and almost 25% of the world’s prison population. The US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the developed world. Most prisoners are poor and most are Black, which says a lot about arrest rates and the need for sentencing reform.  President Obama said some things that we have been voicing for decades to no avail.  Here are some quotes from the President. In spite of his leaving office, let us work toward the policy changes which will improve life for all of us.

“It is past time for a complete overhaul of this country’s criminal justice system.”

“The best time to stop crime is before it even starts. If we make investments early in our children we will reduce the need to incarcerate kids.”

“We have to reconsider whether 20-year, 30-year life sentences for non-violent crimes is the best way for us to solve these problems. Our criminal justice system isn’t as smart as it should be. We should invest in alternatives to incarceration…such as drugs courts, treatment, and probation programs.”

“We need to fix conditions in our prisons. There should be no overcrowding, gang activity, rape, or overuse of solitary confinement. Prison should be a place where a person who has made a wrong turn can get back on track. Prisons should offer rehabilitation and increased opportunities for an individual’s future success.”

His comments about the community, the courts, and the prisons should be examined and used as we move forward with our work to effect policy changes. 

Please join us at our next monthly meeting at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt St. in Buffalo, from 7:00-9:00pm (almost) every last Monday of the month. For more information contact Karima: 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org. Visit our website: www.prp2.org and/or “like” us on Facebook.



8.  What PAN liked best about the President’s visits to prison:

He told some of the men he spoke with that in his youth he had been involved in some of the activities they were in prison for: “Obama, who has vowed to make criminal justice reform a centerpiece of his closing months in office, said he also felt a kinship with some of the young inmates.” "When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren't that different than the mistakes I made," Obama said following his private meeting at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City.”   [Reported by The Associated Press: Thursday, July 16, 2015]
That was a brave statement for anyone to make, much less the President of the USA.  But it’s true for many of us.  We’ve done things we may be very sorry for, and bear the guilt of to this day, but no one pressed charges and we were able to go on with our lives without committing more crimes.  What does that say about our criminal justice system? 



9.  Formerly Incarcerated Activist Leads Organization to Mobilize Hearts and Minds for Decarceration

Wednesday, 29 July 2015,  By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | Portions of the Report:
Is it possible to reduce the prison population by 50 percent in 15 years? Led by activist Glenn E. Martin, who spent seven years in New York prisons, a new national organization named Just Leadership USA is working to do just that; to simultaneously reduce the US prison population by half and to reduce crime. The target date for these achievements is 2030.
Nelson Mandela famously declared that "it always seems impossible until it is done."
As the group points out on its website, mass incarceration is "the most significant domestic threat to the fabric of our democracy." 
Centering the Insights of People Affected by Incarceration
Glenn E. Martin, whom many of our readers may know from when they were incarcerated with him in  Rikers Island for a year or during his six years in the Wyoming Correctional Facility in Attica.  Now 43, Martin credits the associate's degree program run by Canisius College - which he attended while incarcerated at the Wyoming Correctional Facility - for expanding his worldview.

Still, when he was released in 2000, there was a heavy weight on his shoulders. "You develop friendships in prison," Martin told Truthout. "You share people's hopes and losses. Going home is rough. You're leaving your friends behind in cages where they'll continue to experience trauma. I wanted to find a way to remember them and tell their stories."
Click here To read more: 

.
10.  Higher education in prison gets a boost with Pell Grant pilot program, NYCHEP applauds Obama 
The newly formed New York Consortium for Higher Education in Prison (NYCHEP) applauds the Obama Administration announcement to reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students, as part of a limited pilot program.

NYCHEP is a consortium of colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations offering pathways to postsecondary education for incarcerated people in the state of New York. This growing consortium includes (listed alphabetically): 

NYCHEP's collective goal is to increase access to higher education for those impacted by the criminal justice system, and to pool resources to create seamless access to quality education inside prison and beyond. We aim to generate opportunities for criminal justice-affected individuals to achieve success in all arenas of their lives and stand ready to amplify our ongoing work towards increasing access to higher education for all.

Under the Obama administration initiative, the Education Dept will put out a call for proposals from colleges and universities seeking funding to provide correctional education; though it would be up to Congress to fully reinstate the program, the Higher Education Act gives the President the authority to create pilot programs.  
The monumental decision comes after Education from the Inside Out Coalition submitted a concept paper in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI)’s request for ideas designed to test the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for disbursing Title IV student aid on January 31, 2014. EIO’s principle suggestion was that the Department of Education use its authority to waive HEA Sec. 401(b)(8), 34 CFR 668.32 (c)(2)(ii), the section of the Higher Education Act to support experimental site projects that restore access to Pell grants for incarcerated people.

It will test new models allowing incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants to support post-secondary education. By doing so, the administration hopes to demonstrate how connecting incarcerated Americans with educational opportunities can help them prepare for a better life and future by increasing their ability to find quality employment upon release and greatly reducing the likelihood that they will return to prison.
Prison Action Network is inspired to see this success after the long struggle of many organizations to bring opportunities for higher education back into prison.  The journey is not over; as NetWORKS’s column points out, the full solution has not been achieved.  We have a lot more work to do, but the door has been re-opened.  We must take advantage of it.
11.  Open forum about the impact of incarceration on young people.
My name is Lauren Lang, and I am writing on behalf of the Trinity Wall Street Church in New York.  

On September 12, from 10 am to 2pm in Trinity Church, we are hosting an event called “Our Children, Our Prisons- Moving Young People from Incarceration to Education.”  an open forum about the impact of incarceration on young people.

 Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, will deliver the keynote address.  Panel speakers will include Divine Pryor, Judith Kaye, the Rev. Vivian Nixon, and Diana Ortiz.  

Lunch is provided. There is no cost, we just ask that you RSVP ahead of time so we can get a general headcount.  


This is something we think members of the Prison Action Network would be especially interested in attending - and it’s a great preview of the 2016 Trinity Institute, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice, without any cost.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at Llang@trinitywallstreet.org or (212) 602-9759 with any questions.  We hope to see you there!


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