Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

April 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. 

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Give someone in prison a perfect gift: a Commission on Parole!
Click here to sign a petition asking Gov. Cuomo to establish a Commission on Parole


Dear Reader,

We who live in Albany are used to seeing thousands of people demonstrating at the Capitol.  On things like the gun laws and charter schools.  And we imagine that rattles the governor.  So now it’s our turn to worry the governor.  On May 5th!  It’ll take at least a thousand advocates showing up to get attention.  People ask when the SAFE Parole Act will pass and our answer is, it will pass when we make our demands heard by enough people in power.  May 5th is a day to start shouting!   It is imperative that everyone do whatever it takes to show up.  You’ll have opportunities to advocate for alternatives to isolated confinement, to hear speakers from around the state talk about their campaigns, to hear rousing music and Cornel West’s fiery oratory, and to speak out to Governor Cuomo.  Let’s make it a day that will be remembered for a long time.  A day you will want to tell your grandchildren about!    
This issue is filled with descriptions of the event.  Here is how to get there:

FREE BUSES AND VANS:
From NYC: -Buses will leave New York City from the Harlem State Office Building, 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, at 7:00 a.m. and depart Albany following a pizza and networking reception from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.
From UPSTATE
Buses and vans from centrally convenient locations will be arranged for regions based on interest. Times and locations to be announced. Let us know where you live so we can arrange the best routes.
To reserve a seat:. Buses/group vans are free but you MUST register and be able to be contacted in order to reserve a seat: https://nysprisonerjustice.wufoo.com/forms/new-york-against-prison-injustice-may-5-2014/   

BY CAR: (Please fill your car with others who would like a ride.)    Sorry, NY Against Prison Injustice cannot subsidize separate travel by individuals.
If you have a GPS put in New York State Capitol.  Or use the following directions to help get you there:

From south:
I-87 North to exit 23 and follow sign for Interstate 787 N toward Troy.
Merge onto I-787 N, take exit 4 toward US-9N/US-20W
Continue on Quay St, turn Left on NY-5, State Street.  Ahead of you will be the Capitol Building and you will hopefully see thousands of people.  Find parking.  The meters take quarters and credit cards, and you can park in one spot all day.  

From west:
I-90 East to exit 24, merge onto I-87N/I-90 E toward Albany/Montreal
Exit 6 toward Henry Johnson Blvd, right at the fork, follow signs for UN-9S/Arbor Hill
Merge onto US-9S to Henry Johnson Blvd, turn L onto Central Ave, start looking for parking. The Capitol will be a couple of blocks down.  Large grey stone building with red roof. 

From north:
Take I-87S to exit 6-7 for NY-2W/NY-7W/NY-7E toward Watervliet/Schenectady/Troy/Cohoes
Take exit 7 to merge onto NY-7E toward Troy/Cohoes
Take I- 787 toward NY 787/Albany/Cohoes/NY Thruway, keep right at fork, follow signs for I-787
Exit 4B to merge onto US-9N toward Clinton Ave. Left onto Broadway, Right onto State St, Right onto Eagle to Washington.  That’s the Capitol in front of you.
Travel safely, and bring everyone you know!  
See you there,    The Editor

Index
1.  Parole News - Year to date release rate is 27% for A1VO offenses
2.  Education in prison; was it only a dream?  Maybe not.
3.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?
4.  Litigation - Thoughts on Montane and McBride decisions
5.  Bills considered by both the Senate and Assembly’s committees.
6.  Reentry reflections by Corey Parks 
7.  Milk Not Jails Day of Action: Wednesday April 16
8.  Listen for the bells ringing for justice at noon on April 16
9.  Statewide Parole Reform Campaign Report
10.  Second Chance Program presents a panel on prisons
11.  May 5th Mass Demonstration - Be there if you care!
12.  Prisoners Are People Too cares!  Western NY will be there
13.  Incarceration Nation Campaign (INC), a new group on the scene

1.  Parole News
FEBRUARY 2014 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database

February 2014 Summaries

Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Yr to Date
13 Initials
3
10
23%
31%
53 Reappearances
13
40
25%
27%
66 total
16
50
24%
27%





Age summary
Total
Denied 
Released
Release % 
60-69
11
10
1
9%
70-79
1
1

0%
80+




Total
12
11
1
8%


February 2014 Initial Releases     

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Elmira
51
25-l
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
54
15-l
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
41
20-l
Mrd 2
1


February 2014 Reappearance Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Eastern
46
18-Life
ATT Mrd 1
2
Fishkill
51
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Fishkill
44
18-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
51
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Gouverneur
58
33-Life
Mrd 2
3
Green haven
61
33-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
40
22-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
43
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
56
18-Life
Mrd 2
8
Woodbourne
47
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Woodbourne
48
20-Life
ATT Mrd 1
2
Woodbourne
38
17-Life
Mrd 2
3
Wyoming
52
23-Life
Mrd 2
3



2.  Cuomo Drops Plan to Use State Money to Pay for College Classes for Inmates
This was the headline on a New York Times article by Thomas Kaplan on April 2.  Were you surprised?  We knew what the backlash would be, and honestly, we understood.  Any student staring at their educational loan debt would naturally feel upset.  “Why should people who’ve caused harm get rewarded, while I’ve done everything expected of me and I’m struggling with a monumental debt and a lousy job market?’ would not be an unreasonable reaction.  A far better approach would have been to make grants available to all students in NYS, in prison and not.  Better still would be for this wealthy nation to provide higher education to all of its citizens, along with free health care.  Much poorer countries than ours do. 

But notice the title of the announcement in the NY Times.  It doesn’t say the Governor is canceling the plan to provide college classes; it just says it won’t be financed with State funds.  Hopefully Mr. Kaplan chose those words carefully.  Hopefully he had some knowledge of a plan to go forward with other funding sources.  We still think it should be the government’s responsibility to provide education (how better to assure an enlightened citizenry?) for all who want it, but for now we will settle for other ways to provide education to people in prison.  After all, it’s actually a rather modest cost for a probable dramatic decrease in recidivism.



3.  With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
by the New York State Prisoner Justice Network

This month, more public officials at the state and federal levels jumped on the “smart on crime”  bandwagon, making alliances between Democrats and right-wing tea-partiers to save money by “right-sizing” the prison system. As your Prisoner Justice columnist wrote in this space last month, the public airing of some mass incarceration issues is a tribute to the strength of our movement, and can be an opportunity for us; but there is also a great danger of hype, tinkering, and cost-cutting pretending to be real change and getting away with it. Michelle Alexander said recently, “We see politicians across the spectrum raising concerns for the first time in 40 years about the size of our prison state, and yet I worry that so much of the dialog is driven by financial concerns rather than genuine concern for the communities that have been most impacted and the families that have been destroyed.” To defeat this misleading rhetoric and win real change, we have to keep on exposing all their lies and fighting back.

Like some of our own New York State officials, Attorney General Holder and the Obama administration talk about reform. Holder supports the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s recommendations to “reduce” federal drug sentencing guidelines, so that some low level, non-violent offenders may serve a few months less prison time (not retroactive). Some mainstream advocacy organizations are hailing this as a “step in the right direction.” But the real agenda of most of these officials is to save money and look humane while actually strengthening the model of punishment and cruelty. In a speech in which Holder is urging fairness and “proportionate” sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenders, he uses expressions like “reserving the most serious punishments for the most serious offenders” and “continuing to ensure tough penalties for violent offenders” multiple times – emphasizing that there is nothing wrong with the current culture of extreme punishment when applied to people with certain convictions. Fairness for some is not fairness at all.

We in the anti-incarceration movement have to expose the lie that there can be fairness for some, or we will reinforce or even worsen a system in which those who are labeled “the worst of the worst” can be punished without limit. The racial history of the “dangerous predator” stereotype takes us back to the horrors of lynching, chain gangs, and Ku Klux Klan terror. There is currently much language in the mainstream media saying that some prisoners deserve to be treated humanely, and others are evil predators who deserve whatever punishment a completely unaccountable prison system can impose. 

We all know there are people in prison (and out) who have committed terrible acts of harm against their own families and communities. We advocates, families, and incarcerated people sometimes also wish for revenge against those who have harmed us.  But we, who have been at the receiving end of the criminal justice system’s punishment model, know better than anyone that nothing positive comes from cruelty and punishment. Let’s start a conversation questioning our own and our neighbors’ consciences:  should everyone, even those who have done wrong to us, be treated as human beings? Compassion does not mean we would allow people to continue to harm others. There are better ways than punishment for holding harm-doers accountable and preventing them from doing more harm. Our experience puts us in a position to exercise leadership on overcoming this country’s addiction to  punishment, and replacing it with solutions to social problems that, unlike punishment, might actually work to make our communities safer and healthier. Your Prisoner Justice Network columnist promises to explore those alternatives further in a later column.


4.  Litigation:  Montane and McBride decisions 

 Montane v. Evans
Readers probably have heard by now about the insane decision handed down by the Court of Appeals Third Department.  The Court reversed Judge Mott’s decision in which he supported Montane’s Art. 78 petition that argued that the Parole Board had failed to adopt written procedures as required by law.  The Third Department has decided the parole board did nothing wrong and that by following the Evan’s Memo they were in compliance with 259-c(4).  Even the concurring opinion, which noted that the decision makes it difficult for effective judicial review, supported (albeit in error) the Evan’s memo as sufficient to comply with the law.
An incarcerated correspondent wrote, “Essentially the Appellate Division, Third Department's ruling that appeared in the NY Law Journal on March 14th means that the Board can continue to deny parole based upon the nature of one's past crime, which can never change, and despite a low risk assessment.” [He refers to the March 14, 2014 NY Law Journal article written by John Caher, “No Obligation Found in New Law to Revamp Parole Procedures”]
Our correspondent went on to describe his demoralizing situation:  “It is a very discouraging decision.  With a total population of over 800 people at this facility, there are 68 "old-timers" who have served between 15 and 49 years.  (Yes, there is someone here who’s been in prison since 1965.)  There are no long-termer organizations and few people outside of the 68 are interested in parole issues.”

Hope in the wake of Montane decision, by Alan Rosenthal: 
I see a silver lining.  That silver lining has nothing to do with the concurring opinion of Judge Gary,  nor the likelihood that any other Dept. of the Appellate Division will rule differently, and nothing to do with the very slim likelihood that the Court of Appeals would grant leave to appeal, and if so, rule favorably.  Instead,my optimism is based upon the fact that even at its very best, the parole board would still be left to do with the procedures as they wanted to do.  The long and the short of this is that the parole board cannot be trusted to make its own rules and we cannot expect that we would ever like those rules.  All that we hoped for in 259-c(4) was still just wishful thinking.  So let us accept that 259-c(4) is dead and that the party guilty of “statuticide” is the parole board, along with its accomplice the Third Department.  Nothing that Assemblyman O’Donnell, with well intended amendments, can do will make 259-c(4) a tool for real reform.


So why the optimism?  Simple.  The stage is now set for real reform. We need to use the lessons over 259-c(4) as a rallying cry for a much more comprehensive reform reflected in the SAFE Parole Act.


I find little solace in the concurring opinion of Justice Elizabeth Gary.  Note that it was a concurring not a dissenting opinion.  She agrees with the majority’s ridiculous and non-factual conclusion that the Evans Memo did establish the procedures required by 259-c(4).  Although nowhere in the Evans Memo does it state that the parole board must use or consider the risk and needs assessment (COMPAS), nevertheless, the court creates the fiction of the Evans Memo.  The majority, to which Gary concurs incorrectly, states that : “To accomplish this objective, the memorandum (Evans Memo) directs members of the Board to utilize…a COMPAS Risk and Needs Assessment instrument in making all future parole release determinations.”  Go look at the Evans Memo.  It directs no such thing.  Yet Judge Gary concurs.  She also agrees that 259-c(4) was not intended by the legislature to require formal rule making or filing with the secretary of state.


  Does this case set the stage for the court of appeals to reverse the appellate division’s decision in Montane?  Few cases are granted leave to appeal by the Court of Appeals and even when they are it is rare for the Court of Appeals to reverse.  In fact, all the Parole Board has to do is grant parole to Montane before the issue comes up before the Court of Appeals, and the case will be moot and the Court will not even hear the case.


  [If by some miracle the case was heard by the court of appeals] it's not likely the Appellate Division would issue a decision in conflict with Montane.  There has been no lower court case in any other department in which a judge has had the courage to follow Judge Mott’s lead in finding that the Evans Memo does not satisfy the requirements of 259-c(4).  What Department will show the courage exhibited by Judge Mott?


I see hope.  But I see that hope in using the Montane decision as a lesson learned.  Our victory will not come from the courts.  It will come from us – the People.

Alan Rosenthal, Counsel,Co-Dir. of Justice Strategies,CCA
115 East Jefferson Street, Suite 300, Syracuse, New York 13202   arosenthal@communityalternatives.org


McBride v. Evans
In the matter of McBride v. Evans, 4483/2013, Dutchess County Supreme Court Justice Joan Posner sided with Moses McBride and ordered his parole denial to be annulled and the matter remanded to the Board to hold a new parole release hearing before a different panel of the Board within 30 days of the decision on Jan. 13, 2014. 

McBride had argued that nothing at his parole board hearing supported the decision to deny parole release.  He made these points: Commissioner Hernandez spoke favorably about the petitioner; the fact of the denial implies that there is unspecified information not articulated by the Board that was considered; the Board failed to even follow Chairwoman Evan’s memorandum which required the Board to emphasize an offender’s rehabilitation. 

The court ruled that while the Board discussed petitioner's positive activities and accomplishments at the hearing, it then concluded that his release was incompatible with "public safety and welfare." and provided no analysis as to how or why it reached this conclusion.  Having advised petitioner that he has done all he could to rehabilitate himself and then having denied him parole, the Board leaves petitioner with no guidance as to what he can do to improve his chances of release at his next parole release .  Although the Board in their response stated that they had the right to give as much weight as they wanted to the instant offense, they did not refer to the crime as a reason in their decision. Mr. McBride had his de novo hearing in February 2014 and has been released.



5.  Bills voted on by Senate and Assembly Committees
Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, Senator Patrick Gallivan, Chair
Bills considered on March 26:  7 moved on to Finance; S2204A was put on the calendar for a vote by the full house
Printed No.
Sponsor
Title
S.987  No same as
Reported to Finance
Martins
Requires inmates incarcerated for a class A-I felony, requesting a delay of their parole hearing, to submit such request to the state board of parole
S.1413  / A.4606
Reported to Finance
Montgomery/Rosa
Requires DOCCS to establish and maintain on its public website specific visitation rules, regulations, policies and procedures  for each correctional facility and also provide access to them by phone.
S.2204A /no same as 3/31 Ready for a final floor vote
Young
Authorizes employment by not-for-profit organizations and public service projects under the work release program
S.2745  /A.5649
Reported to Finance
Golden/Englebright
Eliminates the $2,500 limit for emergency crime victim awards when the award is used to replace necessary medical equipment not covered by insurance
S.3676  /A.4827
Reported to Finance
Savino/DenDekker
Enables victims to view parole hearings via closed circuit television or a secure online website
S.5424 /A.8093
Reported to Finance
Ritchie/Barclay
Authorizes counties to impose fees upon people on probation and parole for performing drug tests and utilizing electronic monitoring equipment.
S.5740 / A.8259
Reported to Finance
Carlucci/Gunther
Requires revised training for new staff in mental health treatment units programs inside a correctional facility.
S.6765 / A.9826
Reported to Finance
Marchione/Weisenberg
Requires the department of corrections and community supervision to maintain the responsibility and costs of monitoring any person released on parole with the mandatory requirement of installation of an ignition interlock device on their motor vehicle. 

Report on Assembly Correction Committee Meeting on on March 4.  A.M. O’Donnell, Chair.  [“Reported” means passed.]
Bill number
Primary Sponsor(s)
Description
A.4726  
No same as
Reported
O’Donnell
Relates to medical parole and determinations of whether a person released on medical parole is physically or cognitively incapable of presenting a danger to society. 
A.5340/S.3566-A
Reported 
Gottfried/Montgomery
Authorizes DOCCS to provide programs to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
A.7117-A 
No same as
Reported
O’Donnell
Relates to confidential hearing records; authorizes attorney representing inmate in certain proceedings to obtain a copy of hearing record; prohibits redisclosure. 
A.7659/S.5740
Reported
Gunther/Carlucci
Adds at least eight hours of mental health training annually for staff with direct inmate contact.
A.8447A
No same as
Reported
Sepulveda
Requires the provision of translation services for inmates appearing before the parole board. 
A.8516
No same as
Reported
Aubry
Requires birth certificate or certification of birth and social security card to be kept in the inmate records until the inmate is released from custody 


The Correction Committee will meet again on April 8.  They will consider bills including one that establishes a commission on post-secondary correctional education, one that calls for a NYS program for older prisoners act, and one that would establish a citizen's policy and complaint review council.  Building Bridges’ May issue will report the full agenda and the outcomes.


6.  Reentry; My second year and counting
By Corey Parks
I have written other articles around reentry.  However, I want to further stress the importance of being successful after incarceration.  On February 16th 2014, I completed two years of freedom.  I felt good on that day because I was not in a prison cell.  I reflected on what it took for me to get here.  I remembered my first time stepping outside the prison environment, my heart racing faster than I could imagine.  I was leaving a world that I was confined to for 15 years, and entering a world that presented differences and changes.  There are many situational dilemmas in society that can weaken your ambitions such as employment, housing, temptation, anxiety, etc.  If you are not grounded in your determination to reach greatness then your free status is in jeopardy.  I over came some of the above and know that I must continue to strive towards my goals.  I’ve seen too many of us being sent back to prison.  There is much more that we can invest our time in.  One person’s successful reentry benefits everyone who has ever been affected by the criminal justice system. It can be reproduced one person at a time.  This is the only way we are going to over-come mass incarceration.  My heart goes out to those who fall short, but my mind is forever thinking of ways to spread awareness about the obstacles that threaten our growth and development.  Our mission is clear, however; we have to make a conscious decision to embrace successful living.    Thank you for sharing my second year of reentry.



7.  Milk Not Jails Action Day
A Statewide Day of Action to Demand Support for the SAFE Parole Act Now!
On April 16th, people across New York State will be joining together to raise awareness about New York’s broken parole system and to rally local support for the SAFE Parole Act.   Join Milk Not Jails and hundreds of prison families, criminal justice organizations, and faith communities to demonstrate broad support and magnify the voices of our loved ones who are behind bars.

From now until April 16
th, please help us raise awareness by asking your local elected officials to sponsor this bill.  If we get 60 more members of the Assembly to sponsor the bill as well as key upstate Republican Senators and Senators in the Bronx and Staten Island, we can change the law now!  In many districts, all your elected officials might need is one meeting with someone directly impacted by New York’s broken parole system to become a supporter of this bill.
Here’s what we need you to do today:   Send a letter to your State Assembly person and State Senator urging them to sponsor the SAFE Parole Act today. Send a copy of your letter to us at action@milknotjails.org so we can include it in our online and public gallery of support. 
Here’s what you can do on April 16th:  
1. Schedule a meeting with your local elected officials. If you are interested in going with a group of people, contact us at action@milknotjails.org and we can help you organize with your neighbors.  Then on April 16th, meet with your local elected officials and urge them to sponsor the SAFE Parole Act (S.1128/A.4108)


2. Call-in to support the SAFE Parole Act (S.1128/A.4108). If you cannot meet with your elected official on April 16th, please call both their district and Albany offices on April 16th in solidarity with us.


3. Ask local church to “Ring the Bells for Justice.” The New York State Council of Churches has called on churches across New York to ring their bells at noon and dedicate the day’s sermon on April 16th to demonstrate support for parole reform.  Get your church involved! [see article 4 for more info]


4. Join us in the streets! Groups in Buffalo, Rochester, Ithaca, Bronx, Staten Island and Utica will be planning events and rallies on April 16th to demand SAFE Parole.  Check out more details for all of these local actions here at: https://www.facebook.com/events/668585886513504/. Contact us at action@milknotjails.org if you’d like to organize one in your own community!

Resources:
Find out who your State representatives are at: http://participate.lwv.org/c/8551/p/salsa/web/common/public/index.sjs

Get a sample letter, fact-sheet about the SAFE Parole Act, materials for the Ring the Bells action and other tools at: 

Contact Milk Not Jails at action@milknotjails.org or 917-719-6455 for anything else and to connect with others in your community!

About the SAFE Parole Act:   Thousands of people languish in prison even after satisfying the terms of their sentence and clearly demonstrating their readiness to return home. Denying parole again and again to people while providing them no constructive feedback about what they must do to be released makes the process feel dangerously hopeless.  The SAFE Parole Act is an important step toward fixing this broken system. Read more in this recent New York Times editorial.   
The SAFE Parole Act has broad support among prison families, faith leaders and re-entry service agencies with first-hand experience supporting people who return home from prison to help ensure they make a positive contribution to their community. 
It is time for us to come together to show our elected officials that this is a systemic problem that requires legislative action now! Join us now and on April 16th!



8.  Ring the bells for justice!
On Wednesday April 16, at noon, New Yorkers should be able to hear dozens of nearby church bells ringing for parole reform.  In a collaboration between Prison Action Network and the New York Council of Churches, and as part of the Milk Not Jails April 16th statewide campaign to draw attention to the May 5th New York Against Prison Injustice demonstration and rally, congregations across the state are encouraged to use this day in the middle of Holy Week to remember the prisoners in our midst.  Ringing the bells will be coupled with distributing information to church members and the public.  Links appear below that include information for congregations: a bulletin/newsletter insert; a possible news release.  If you are part of a church (or synagogue - we have appropriate scripture for them to use, and they have other sound-makers), please encourage them to participate.  Let New York State resound with the call of ringing bells!

During Holy Week, Christians throughout the world recall the horrendous injustice that sentenced Jesus to death.  At the same time they realize that injustices continue to abound within our society today.  Pontius Pilate, who was the Roman Governor of Judea at the time, thought he could wash his hands of his responsibility to ensure that justice was carried out while giving in to the bloodthirsty cries to crucify Jesus.

 
Injustices occur when legislators pay more attention to cries for vengeance than they do to the cries of the oppressed.  This Holy Week the New York State Council of Churches encourages all Christians to consider the cries of some of the greatest outcasts of our society:  people who are in prison.   Certainly, some of them have committed terrible crimes for which they are being punished.  But they are still members of the human family, and as Christians we have an obligation to love them and care for them.  As the writer of Hebrews exhorts us:  “Remember those in prison as if you were there with them”.  (Hebrews 13: 3)

Advocating on behalf of prisoners is not popular in today’s society.  Many would rather throw offenders in prison and forget about them.  But in New York when persons are sentenced to prison, the judge usually includes a certain amount of flexibility in the sentence, from a minimum amount of time to a maximum.  It is presumed that if a person behaves and demonstrates signs of rehabilitation that he or she will be eligible for Parole upon completion of the minimum sentence.  On the other hand, if the person is a troublemaker and demonstrates no positive signs of change, the Parole commissioners can and should refuse to allow him or her to be released.  Unfortunately, our current Parole commissioners are essentially re-sentencing these prisoners on the basis of the “nature of their crime” regardless of whether they have shown any signs of rehabilitation or not.  Regardless of what a prisoner has accomplished in prison, release is determined by the one thing he or she is not capable of changing, which is the past.  If the goal of our correctional system is to “correct” criminal behavior, how well the person demonstrates that he or she has been corrected should be the determining factor of when the person is ready for release.  Keeping them locked up forever simply because the commissioners don’t like the crime they committed is an abuse of their role that needs to be corrected.

We are urging all Christian churches to ring their bells the Wednesday of Holy Week to let our legislators know that we do not want them to wash their hands of their responsibility to correct this injustice.  We are calling for a reform of the parole system so that true justice may be done.


This can be an opportunity for your church to add a prison ministry to your outreach programs,  form a study group to read Michele Alexander's The New Jim Crow   http://newjimcrow.com/take-action/study-guides,  host a screening of the documentary Herman's House http://hermanshousethefilm.com/host-a-screening/, or organize a trip to Albany to join us at a rally and march for prisoner justice issues at the Capitol in Albany on May 5th with keynote speaker Dr. Cornel West.  

Information regarding the rally will be posted at https://sites.google.com/site/nyscouncilofchurches/
The complete text of a communication to its members from the Council of Churches’ letter is available here:http://tinyurl.com/pkpezsq         [P.S.  You can like the NYS Council of Churches on Facebook.]



9.  The Statewide Parole Reform Campaign—Ending Parole Abuses-Reuniting Families
....wading into political waters
We are more energized and determined than ever in the wake of the illogical Montane decision. Coalition members met on March 29th at the Riverside Church in New York City to strategize and develop next steps on the road to victory.  We’re moving forward on several fronts, including wading into political waters in this election year, when all State Senate and Assembly seats are up for grabs.   
We’re determining which legislators we can count on, which ones we may be able to convince, and which ones we need to target for defeat. To get the job done, we’re broadening our outreach to sympathetic organizations and groups involved in voting initiatives throughout New York State.  We’re counting on you, dear readers, to let us know in which category your legislators fall. And we want you to be prepared to accompany us if we plan a visit to your legislators.   
....“missing posters” for your loved ones
We also need your help—as soon as possible—for the May 5
th rally and march in Albany, New York Against Prison Injustice: Stop Solitary, Reform Parole, Release Elders. Members of the parole reform coalition are creating a giant milk carton plastered with photos of “missing” loved ones—men and women who’ve earned the opportunity to return home but have been hit one or more times by the parole board. This project was inspired by Governor Cuomo joking in his State of the State address about issuing milk cartons emblazoned with photos of legislative leaders who missed a white water rafting race that the state hosted. For us, it’s no laughing matter.   Send us photos of your “missing,” including their names and the date of their first parole denial. And use a photo of your loved one to make your very own “missing” poster. Bring it to the march and rally. 
....public perception campaign
We’re moving forward, too, with several media/social media projects, including those aimed at presenting a fairer, more balanced image of people who’ve spent time behind bars. They’ll be part of an effective public perception campaign that will change hearts and minds. For a project titled “I Am Not My Past, I Am Not My Mistake,” we will feature men and women in all regions of the state who are leading good and stable lives after incarceration, or who have transformed their thinking and are making a contribution while still behind prison walls. Have someone you want to nominate? Send us their names, why you think they should be featured and their contact information. Of course, you may also nominate yourself. You don’t have to be a superstar to be featured; getting your kids off to school every morning, getting yourself off to a job that sustains your family or creating a beneficial program for fellow incarcerated people count, too. That makes you an asset to your community.
....Rutgers students are making a video
Also on the media front, students at the Newark campus of Rutgers University are supporting the campaign by developing a multi-faceted social media concept, including a short video that telegraphs the impact on children when their mothers and fathers are repeatedly denied parole.
Please send photos and other information requested above to: Parole Reform, Think Outside the Cell, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525,  New York, NY 10011


10. Second Chance Program Criminal Justice Panel:  “State of our Prisons.”
Where Are We and Where We Need To Be
Saturday April 12
th 2014, 3:pm
Sheraton Hotel,  833 7
th Ave. and 53rd Street,  Metropolitan Room, 2nd Floor.
Host:  Victor Pate, Chairman of the Second Chance Program
Moderator: Yoland Johnson-Peterkin, Dir. Of Program Operations Reentry Services, Women’s Prison Association
Panelists: 
Tyrell Muhammad, Project Associate, Prison Visiting Project, Correctional Association of NY
Eddie Rosario,  Associate Director, Prison Visiting Project, Correctional Association of NY
Laura Whitehorn, Organizer, Release Aging Persons from Prison Campaign
Judith Brink, Dir. Prison Action Network, Editor Building Bridges
Larry White, Organizer, American Friends Service Committee
Barbara Innis, Exec. Dir. Sparkles of Joy Ministries
Rosa Soldana, Health Care Solution Specialist
Hosted by the National Action Network, NYC Chapter Second Chance & Release Aging Persons in Prison (RAPP)


11.  May 5th - If you care, be there!  New York Against Prison Injustice 
Before reading any further, note that IF YOU PLAN TO LOBBY AGAINST SOLITARY CONFINEMENT with the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), please contact CAIC to get lobbying instructions/training, and if you are coming from NYC, to reserve a seat on an earlier bus: skoneschusky@urbanjustice.org or 646-459-3044. 

New York State Prisoner Justice Network urges you and your friends and families to come to NEW YORK AGAINST MASS INCARCERATION, Rally and March, on Monday, May 5th at the State Capitol (East Capitol Park) in Albany.  The keynote speaker, fiery public intellectual Cornel West, will address the crowd at 12:30 p.m., along with presentations on key justice issues and exciting musical performances. For more information, go to www.nysprisonerjustice.org, phone 518-434-4037, email nysprisonerjustice@gmail.com, or write to NYS Prisoner Justice Network, 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210.

Here’s more of what’s happening as part of the May 5th Day of Action:

Starting at 10 a.m. there will be a press conference and lobbying against solitary confinement with the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement. They will be announcing and lobbying for a very good bill called the HALT Solitary Act, which would sharply cut back solitary confinement in New York’s prisons and jails. To sign up to join the lobbying, contact skoneschusky@urbanjustice.org.
At 2:30 p.m. the Riverside Prison Ministry Parole Reform Campaign will be leading a speakout on parole injustice at the Million Dollar Staircase on the 3rd floor of the west side of the Capitol. 

On the speaker’s platform at the main rally, at 12:30 p.m., in addition to Cornel West, the keynote speaker, there will be brief presentations on the many prison injustice issues addressed by the organizations in the NEW YORK AGAINST PRISON INJUSTICE coalition. Some of those issues are:
  • reform parole: approve applicants based on fair evaluation; pass SAFE parole act
  • release elders: if the risk is low, let them go
  • ban solitary confinement and use more humane and effective alternatives
  • ban post-prison discrimination in education, jobs, housing, and voting
  • support people coming home; ensure access to medical, mental health, & substance abuse care
  • overhaul the public defense system statewide
  • create a truth, justice, and reconciliation commission for racial impacts of mass incarceration
  • raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 for all children to be treated as children
  • make higher education available to all, in and out of prison; stop the school to prison pipeline
  • end the war on drugs and use a public health approach to address addiction
  • pass domestic violence survivors justice act—support, not incarceration, for survivors
  • stop local jail expansion; stop stop and frisk; reform bail practices
  • end surveillance, infiltration, entrapment of members of Muslim, Arab, & S Asian communities
  • stop mass deportations & support immigrant families
  • invest in community-based mental health care and use crisis intervention teams
  • end all shackling of pregnant women; support family ties; bring back the buses
  • reduce draconian prison sentence lengths; use restorative justice & alternatives to incarceration
  • free all political prisoners
That list gives us all plenty to do! The good news is that each of these issues is on this list because there is at least one organized campaign working to make it happen. And when we win them all, we will still have much more to do to reverse the punishment paradigm and create a system of non-punitive, community-based solutions to social problems. May 5th is a step on the road to that better way.

PLEASE DONATE! A donation in any amount would be welcome and needed! To donate by credit card or paypal, go to the NYS Prisoner Justice website and click on the Donate button: www.nysprisonerjustice.org. To donate by check, make the check out to NYSPJN and send to 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210. Thank you!  

                       [Please give generously!  It’s expensive to rent buses, rent space, and produce signs and flyers. The Editor]



12.  Join Us and Speak Out Against Prison Injustice on May 5
by Karima Amin
Every Spring, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. encourages you to join us in Albany, NY where we face-off with “the powers that be” to express our major concerns regarding criminal justice issues.  Whether you call it “Lobby Day,” “Legislative Awareness Day,” “Family Empowerment Day,” or “Day of Action,” it is a special day for you to speak out against prison injustice. At our website (www.prp2.org) we have noted which issues concern us most: parole reform, reformed offenders, juvenile justice, parole for aged prisoners, solitary confinement, reentry, restorative justice and more. Past PRP2 meetings have disseminated information on these issues and will continue to do so. 

We encourage you to seriously consider coming to Albany on May 5 to add your voice and your presence at a day of actions that allow you to meet with advocates across the state who feel as you do about reform and the ultimate abolition of a criminal injustice system that is destroying  lives and communities everyday.  (Call us if you need a ride to Albany)

    Please join us on Monday, March 31 at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo at 7:00 – 9:00pm. The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders will sponsor this gathering. If you need more information, call 716-834-8438 or contact Karima or BaBa: karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org  or g.babaeng@yahoo.com



13.  Incarcerated Nation Campaign (INC) 
The Incarcerated Nation Campaign has five points of focus. All of these goals unite the worlds of inside and outside, community and prison, in support of our greater mission.
  • COMMUNICATION: We will create transparency in the penal system through communication from the inside to the outside.
  • OVERSIGHT: Using this enhanced communication, we will build citizen oversight made up of the families of those incarcerated and those previously incarcerated.
  • RE-ENTRY: We will assist those returning to society through job placement and employment referrals, helping people navigate through the release process in those first critical weeks at home.
  • EDUCATION: Through creating educational events , outreach, community activism, and film screenings we will educate the public around the conditions of mass incarceration.
  • REFORM: Through community organizing and action, we will work to promote public policies and practices that lead to humane treatment and community support for the currently and formerly incarcerated.

INC supports The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act.
Just introduced in the New York State Assembly (A08588) and Senate (S06466), this pioneering bill is being hailed by supporters as the most comprehensive and progressive legislative response to date to the nationwide problem of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. As written, it would virtually eliminate a practice that has been increasingly denounced as both dangerous and torturous, while protecting the safety of incarcerated individuals and corrections staff. More than 5,000 people are currently being held in solitary and other forms of isolated confinement in New York's state prisons and local jails.
 
To sign up to join lobbying efforts on May 5th in Albany, contact skoneschusky@urbanjustice.org.
.    
Five Mualimm-AK,  Program Director 
Incarcerated Nation Campaign,  26 Bruckner Blvd., Bronx New York  

Five Mualimm-Ak was featured on the April 1 edition of Democracy Now! A DAILY INDEPENDENT GLOBAL NEWS HOUR with Amy Goodman & Juan González on WBAI 99.5FM. The following is from a transcript of his report at www. DemocracyNow.org. 

Oftentimes we let the correctional institutions paint this picture that solitary confinement contains the worst of the worst, like the Hannibal Lecters of the world. But actually, the system itself is the worst of the worst.
I spent 12 years incarcerated; five of that I did in solitary confinement. I did time at Rikers and also MCC. During my time in solitary confinement, I was tortured. We’re talking about sensory deprivation. We’re talking about being away from your loved ones and family members, being away from your children. My son missed me his entire life. When I first went to solitary, it was on Rikers, and there was a fight that broke out in the dorm. And they have a thing called prehearing detention, so basically everybody goes to the box. So, for about a week or so, you’re in this cell for 24 hours a day, isolated, with no property, and not allowed to have any visitors. And we’re talking about city jail now; we’re not talking about people who are convicted of a crime, just people who are too poor to afford their bail.
A friend of the family had sent me a book called Revolutionary Suicide. And that book got me a ticket (punishment), because I’m not allowed to have materials in, even though I have no control over who’s sending me materials. I was sent to solitary for having too many pencils, too many postage stamps. For not getting out of the shower fast enough, I got another ticket. I had a ticket for eating an apple. Apple seeds contain arsenic. So, somehow, eight and 10 makes four for them, you know? And they add that up, and you’re not supposed to eat the core, so I got a ticket for that. So the next day I was so fearful, I didn’t eat the apple at all. I didn’t want to touch it. So I got another ticket for refusing to eat. 

You end up spending time just wasting away, sleeping under your bed, trying to turn days into weeks. There’s light deprivation. You don’t know when day turns into the next.

And you have a person who is emotionally damaged, mentally damaged, and then they just give you a bus ticket, $40 cash and then send you on a bus, and you’re back in. I went from solitary confinement one day to, next day, 10 million commuters, right at 42nd Street, right off the bus. That reintegration process is like a crash, an attack on your senses. So, I’ve been home a little over two years. Roughly 2,000 people are released right back into society directly from solitary confinement. You come out of incarceration, you’re disenfranchised. You can’t vote. You can’t get low-income housing. You can’t get city housing, not allowed on federal housing. You can’t get social services. You can’t get food stamps. You can’t get Medicaid. These are our citizens returning back to the community.

We’re the financial capital the world, but guess what. New York City is also the torture capital of the world. We actually torture people and use solitary confinement four times over the national average. We have all these prisons and jails. And we need to be an example, as to the rest of the country, to humanely address the issues.


Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to communicate with our members.
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