Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

September 2014


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

 If you would like to receive a copy in your email in-box every month, please send a note.

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

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


Click here to sign our petition asking Gov. Cuomo to establish a Commission on Parole







PPosted September 30 - NYCLU

Pack the Court and Stand up Against 
 New York State Injustice

Be a part of the historic Hurrell-Harring court case!  Demand justice for thousands of New Yorkers against a broken and negligent New York State public defense system, which violates the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and New York State Law. 

Listen as attorneys demand that New York State provide legal representation to ALL New Yorkers, regardless of income.  

Join the NYCLU, as we pack the court, point our fingers and show support for Justice and Equity! 

Be there when it matters!  Tell Governor Cuomo…
WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR ALL!!

When:  October 7, 8, 9 from 10 am to first break.  COME ONE DAY OR ALL THREE!
Where:  The Albany County Courthouse, 16 Eagle Street, Albany, Courtroom to be announced at a later time.

RSVP mtrimble@nyclu.org  to this email or call Melanie Trimble, (518) 436-8594




Posted September 19 - Tama Bell

Hello, my name is Tama and my 23 yo mentally ill son was illegally put in solitary for disobeying a corrections officer. They beat him up and placed him in SHU and we have found that for Mentally Ill inmates, there is a bill called the SHU exclusion bill which makes it forbidden to place ill inmates in SHU. We are calling on the Mental Health Commissioner to quickly put together the records that my son has with regard to all his mental health history and put into effect the SHU exclusion law for his situation. Please read the petition, sign if you care to and share it widely. Thank you.




Posted September 17 - Article from Politico by Teachout and Wu
Tim Wu and Zephyr Teachout wrote an article  drawing some lessons from
their amazing primary campaign.  Building Bridges urges you to read it, and
consider taking their advice for the future.  Click on the link above to read it.



Posted September 15      -   Defense Attorney Cheryl Kates announces Press Release and Conference



PRESS RELEASE/NYS LEGISLATORS/MONROE COUNTY LEGISLATORS
CALL TO ACTION FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY!
Local defense attorney, Cheryl L. Kates Benman Esq. will hold a press conference , September 27, 2014 at 9:30 am, at 36 King Street Rochester, NY in front of the Frederick Douglas Community Center in regards to the tragic circumstances surrounding the tragic violence recently experienced in Rochester , NY due to in part the negligence of NYS parole officials and their failure to properly supervise at least two recently released parolees into our community under the legally required “risk and needs” evidence-based procedures , transitional community initiatives and required procedures listed under the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Directive 8500
This press conference is scheduled as part of her day-long event (930 am-530pm) “Criminal Justice Exposed” being held at the community center. Ms. Kates calls on state and local legislators to investigate the NYS Board of Parole and their negligence to safeguard community members. 
The press conference will last 15 minutes. Ms. Kates will do a teach-in as part of this event to educate the public, interested legislators and the press what’s really going on in this state in regards to the NYS Board of Parole. 4 Documentary films will be shown with paneled speakers. A full list of potential speakers is available at her Facebook event page; and www.freemarkg.com . NO INTERVIEWS WILL BE GIVEN PRIOR TO THE PRESS CONFERENCE. How many more police officers and people have to be killed before the state legislators take notice?



Posted September 15   -   Restorative Justice comes to Erie County Jail

It’s Historic!

 On September 9, 2014, a dedicated contingent of community partners convinced Erie County Jail Management of the need and value of implementing restorative justice practices, through peace circles and restorative justice conferencing at the Erie County Correctional Facility and the Erie County Holding Center. The community was represented by BaBa Eng (Program Director of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc.), Pastor James Giles (Executive Director of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, Inc.), Pastor Dan Schifeling  (retired Pastor of the Church of the Nativity-UCC), and Michael Okinczyc (Lead Community Organizer of VOICE-Buffalo). Superintendent Thomas Diiina and Chief John Rodriguez represented Erie County Jail Management.  

After two requests for a meeting to discuss the possibilities of using restorative practices to effectively reduce violence, conflict, and tensions in our Erie County jails, and much work with all of our partners in the “Open Buffalo” initiative, Jail Management agreed to allow for the implementation of restorative justice practices at the Erie County Correctional Facility beginning with our youth, starting October 1. 

Eventually, such practices will extend to the holding center and those confined will begin to use their time in positive, productive, and meaningful ways, to help themselves, their families, and their communities.  Restorative Justice practices will also aid staff and management in improving conditions at our county jails.
 As Buffalo moves forward with its “Open Buffalo” initiative this agreement is historic. BaBa Eng has just been given the title of Restorative Justice Developer. He says, “I am honored to work with partners who have never wavered in their strong, consistent, collaborative efforts to make Restorative Justice in the jails and our community a reality.”
 

Respectfully,  Karima Amin and BaBa Eng



Posted Sept 10  -   Election Results:

 Not all the returns are in so these are the approximate results of the races we were following:

Zepher Teachout for Governor took 34% of the vote, and won in 50% of upstate primaries.

Tim Wu  for Lt. Gov also did amazingly well in a lot of counties, but in the end captured only a slightly higher % (40) than Teachout.

Oliver Koppell lost, but did well in Westchester; overall he lost to Klein 30% to 60%.


Others in the Senate: with not all counties reported

Avella won over Lui
Liz Krueger won by a landslide
Espaillet won by a narrow margin
Gustavo Rivera won with 55%
Kennedy beat Grant 57% - 37%

Assembly: not all counties reported
Felix Ortiz took it with 67%
Dilan with 55%
Barron with 60%
Farrell with 61%
Crespo with 68%





Building Bridges September 2014


Dear Reader,  

I hope all of you had a great summer.  I also hope you’re back in the swing of things and, if you can, I pray you will vote in the primary on Sept. 9.  I can’t tell you how important that is.  Your vote could make the difference between passing some good laws this year or not.  

It's all about politics and elections this time of year here at Prison Action network.  We see that the whole system is flawed, but not to vote is simply letting the other side win.  Instead we choose to act 'as if' we had a healthy democracy and vote and campaign with all our heart, and not our fears.  After the elections are over we’ll go back to work, trying to create a system that works for everybody.  Hopefully we’ll have some good people to work with in next year’s State Government.  

Next Tuesday, Sept. 9 is primary day.  If you haven’t decided who to vote for, please consider the candidates listed in Article #7. Visit    to find out what NYS Senate district and NYS Assembly district you're in.  Please call 518 253 7533 if you encounter any problems accessing the website.

Every registered Democrat can vote in the Democratic Primary for their choice of Governor and Lt. Governor.  The radio program, Democracy Now! - which is heard in NYC on WBAI- 99.5FM, Mon -Fri at 8am - featured a debate (on Sept 4) between Randy Cedicco, Zephyr Teachout, and her running mate Tim Wu.  It’s archived at www.DemocracyNow.org or for a SASE you can request a written transcript from Prison Action Network.  Here are some clips from the segment:

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: New York is now the most unequal state of all the states, with the most segregated schools. So I am running for the old-fashioned reason that I know I would be a better governor, that my values align with the values of New Yorkers. And I’d actually fight for all New Yorkers.    ...I think people need to understand how much Cuomo is not a Democrat. He really has worked behind the scenes to have a Republican Senate.     ...New Yorkers are really suffering. You know, the wage gap is growing. So many people are food-insecure. This is New York state, which has a deep commitment to being egalitarian, to being open, to public education. So the reason I care about corruption is because of how it affects people’s lives.
TIM WU: I’m running, generally, because I feel there’s a battle going on for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party right now. It’s beginning right now between people who are more serious about the problem of inequality … and people who are less serious about that problem.  We have a problem with checks and balances in state government, and we need to have it addressed. And one of the ways is to reinvent the role of lieutenant governor, and that’s why I’ve been running.

Stay well, stay strong, keep the faith, and if you can, VOTE!  ~The Editor




CONTENTS
1.  Parole News - June and July A1VO release statistics, and a tip to parole applicants

2.  Are you doing well after being released by the Parole Board?  Let us spread the word!

3.  Victory Bus rides + fresh food packages

4.  CA in partnership with the Sackler Center for Feminist Art present programs on youth, the elderly, and pregnant women, in prison.

5.  The SAFE Parole Act  - Could you be doing more to help your loved one gain his or her freedom?

6.  Jalil Muntaqim Proposes a Parole Reform Strategy

7.  Voting - The turnout for Primaries is usually low, thus making your vote count more.. See who needs your vote.
     
8.  Labor and Religion Coalition encourages voting our dreams, not our fears.

9.  The 13th Amendment - time to remove the exception clause.

10.  Prisoners Are People Too! memorializes Geronimo ji Jigga Pratt

11.  Interference Archive présents an exhibition and public program series featuring works produced by incarcerated people and their allies.

12The calendar to find out when and where something is happening regarding jail, prison, parole, re-entry, and more issues.

13.  An amazing website provides links to virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online.




1.  Parole News - June and July saw increasing Parole Release rates.

June 2014 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database

June 2014 Summary

Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Total
Rate of Release
1/14-6/14  Release Rate
Initials  
4
16
20
20%
21%
Reappearances 
33
60
93
35%
27%
Total 
37
76
113
33%
26%



June by Age 
Released
Denied 
Appeared
Percent Released 
60-69
4
15
19
21%
70-79
2
5
7
29%
80+
0
0
0
0
Total
6
20
26
23%






June 2014 Initial Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Fishkill
48
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
58
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Sing Sing   - Medical 
47
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
45
25-Life
Mrd 2
1


June 2014 Reappearance releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Auburn
53
20-Life
Mrd 2
5
BareHill
54
27-Life
Mrd 2
4
Cayuga   
41
9-Life
JO-Mrd
3
Collins
60
15-Life
Mrd 2
6
Collins
59
28-Life
Mrd 2
5
Collins
49
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Eastern
47
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Fishkill
58
20-Life
Mrd 2
9
Fishkill
54
19-Life
Mrd 2
9
Fishkill
55
25-Life
Mrd 2
9
Fishkill
65
30-Life
Mrd 2
7
Fishkill
46
26-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
50
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Fishkill
44
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Franklin
51
26-Life
Mrd 2
8
Franklin
49
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Franklin
45
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Franklin
43
19-Life
Mrd 2
2
Green Haven
50
15-Life
Kidnap 1
2
Marcy
75
20-Life
Mrd 2
4
Midstate
50
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Midstate
43
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Orleans
69
20-Life
Mrd pre-74
15
Orleans
53
20-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
44
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
58
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Sing Sing
52
20-Life
Mrd 2
8
Washington
38
17-Life
Mrd 2
2
Wende
65
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
71
25-Life
Mrd 2
9
Woodbourne
54
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
51
20-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
46
17-Life
Mrd 2
2


July 2014 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database
July 2014 Summary

Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Total
Rate of Release
1/14-7/14 Release Rate
Initials 
6
14
20
30%
23%
Reappearances 
27
47
74
36%
28%
Total 
33
61
94
35%
27%



July by Age
Released
Denied 
Appeared
Percent Released 
60-69
7
13
20
35%
70-79
1
5
6
17%
80+
0
2
2
0%
Total
8
20
28
29%


July 2014 Initial Releases


Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
36
18-Life
Mrd 2
1
Collins
40
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
70
15-Life
Mrd 2
1
Mohawk
41
20-Life
CPCS1 (drugs)
1
Sing Sing
43
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
64
25-Life
Mrd 2
1


July 2014 Reappearance Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
56
15-Life
Mrd2
11
Clinton
57
25-Life
Mrd2
2
Fishkill
54
30-Life
Mrd2
3
Fishkill
47
25-Life
Mrd2
2
Fishkill
54
25-Life
Mrd2
2
Franklin
63
15-Life
Mrd2
12
Franklin
58
25-Life
Mrd2
6
Franklin
54
20-Life
Mrd2
3
Great Meadow
50
15-Life
Mrd2
3
Green Haven
49
25-Life
Mrd2
2
Hudson
53
18-Life
Mrd2
5
Mohawk
60
20-Life
Mrd2
6
Other agency   - deport
56
26-Life
Mrd2
3
Otisville
65
25-Life
Mrd pre 74
9
Otisville
60
25-Life
Mrd2
8
Otisville   -Juvenile
35
8-Life
JO Mrd 2
7
Otisville
60
20-Life
Mrd2
7
Otisville
50
15-Life
Mrd2
5
Otisville
48
15-Life
Mrd2
4
Otisville
62
25-Life
Mrd2
3
Otisville
39
15-Life
Mrd2
2
Otisville
54
25-Life
Mrd2
2
Shawangunk
46
25-Life
Mrd2
2
Sing Sing  -Juvenile
41
8-Life
JO Mrd 2
10
Upstate
58
17-Life
Kidnap 1
12
Wyoming
54
20-Life
Att Mrd 1
8
Wyoming
37
15-Life
Mrd2
2


A tip to parole applicants:

A reader wrote to say that Inmate Status Reports are no longer being used.  We don't know if that is true at all facilities, but he seems to think so.  In any case his hearing has been postponed twice because he has not received a copy of his COMPAS or his Parole Board Report.  He writes, “DOCCS is now using what they call the Parole Board Report instead.  Offender Rehabilitation Counselors (ORCs) are required to submit this report to the Parole Board.  It contains information about the crime and any statements the parole applicant has made to the ORC about the crime.  In a lot of cases the information is inaccurate.  If that is so, the applicant will want to correct it before he or she sees the Board.



2.  Callout for all people who've been released by the Parole Board:

We want to celebrate your success!

One of our activist colleagues, who is doing very well in the ‘free world’ despite having lived through the pain of repeated NYS Parole denials, suggests that we create a column to spotlight the names and accomplishments of the many people who have come home and are doing well.  You know, just so the Parole Board can see that the risk really was low when they let you go.  More than that, it might cause them to question whether it might have benefitted the community more to have released you sooner.
  
Because we don’t know all of you, Building Bridges is asking you to self-report.  You know who you are.  Or you know someone.  Don't be shy.  Please include as much of the following information as applies, or feels comfortable:  your name, how much time you served, how many parole boards you saw, and what you are doing now.  Make sure to give us a way to contact you, in case we need clarification.  You may also send us the names of as many other people you know who merit mention.  We're not limiting it just to people who have won awards or otherwise been recognized.  If you've come home, gotten a job and are being a positive influence on your family or community, please consider yourself worthy.  People will be watching this new column. It won't look very good if only a few people respond.  We expect to be deluged with names.  Due to the breadth of our coverage, we'll only have room for a few names every month but we won’t stop until the reports stop coming in.  Please limit it to 100 words or less, and contact us if you have questions.  



3.  VICTORY bus rides!  Fresh food packages!

Buy a healthy food package from Sweet Freedom Farms including fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs & dairy for  your incarcerated loved one or yourself and get a free ride to an upstate prison.  

Three pickup locations!  Manhattan, Bronx, and Mt. Vernon (others may be added)

15 Prisons!   Bedford Hills, Taconic and Sing-Sing; Sullivan, Woodbourne, Eastern and Ulster; Greenhaven, Downstate, Fishkill, Shawangunk and Wallkill;  Greene, Coxsackie and Hudson

Prices range from $25 - $90 depending on size of family.  (Discounts for Westchester trips are available)  Cash, Credit/Debit and EBT accepted.   By Reservation only.  You must reserve by Friday morning.  Contact Jalal at 917.704.3354 or jalal.sabur@gmail.com

Sponsored by Freedom Food Alliance, Sweet Freedom Farm, VROOM Bus Co-op, 
Milk Not Jails, and Incarcerated Nation Campaign.


4.  Abuse and Violence Behind the Walls:

The Correctional Association, in proud partnership with The Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, will be presenting a series of moving and inspiring programs, on Sunday 9/14 and Saturday 9/20.  

Both will take place at Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center of Feminist Art, 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn

Sat.September 13  from 2-4pm 
What’s Age Got to Do with It? Incarcerating Children and the Elderly.  What is it like for children and elders in the criminal justice system, and what can we change? 

Around the country, the ills of the criminal justice system are coming to light- including policies that target and marginalize both our young people and our elders.  Join formerly incarcerated people, prison justice advocates and cultural workers for a lively discussion of the youth and elder incarceration epidemic.

Representatives of the Correctional Association’s Raise the Age and
Release of Aging People in Prison Campaigns will engage in a dynamic dialogue about how we are addressing these problems—and making both change and art in the process. The event will conclude with spoken word and other performances.

Contact:  Mujahid Farid  mfarid@correctionalassociation.org 


Sat, September 20,  from 2–4 pm
Unshackled: Women Speak Out on Mass Incarceration and Reproductive Justice

An afternoon of conversation and spoken word from formerly incarcerated women impacted by the intersection of mass incarceration and reproductive health issues. This event is a collaboration with Toshi Reagon’s Word, Rock and Sword:  An Exploration of Women’s Lives and the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project.


Contact: Andrea Williams  Andrea Williams <awilliams@correctionalassociation.org>

“Of 27 women whom the association surveyed who had given birth in New York prisons since the passage of the 2009 law, 23 reported having been shackled just before, during or after their delivery.”


5.  Bills:  The SAFE Parole Act - we must increase our efforts  

Meeting with our Assembly-Member 


Our son is scheduled to appear in front of the parole board for his first time after being incarcerated for 25 years.  In the last two years we started becoming involved with groups supporting parole reform.  What we know now is that we should have been involved in helping to make changes in the parole system years ago.
My wife and I have visited with three assembly members so far, in support of the SAFE Parole Act.  Our first visit was positive but didn’t produce a signature for the SAFE Parole Act. Our second visit was to thank one of the sponsors and ask for advice on how to get more support in the Assembly, which was given.  We’ve just moved and today we visited our new assembly member for the first time. We were not feeling hopeful this morning.  We’ve had some recent upsetting experiences regarding our son’s upcoming parole hearing and we were feeling pessimistic.  We left this meeting feeling optimistic!  After a very thoughtful conversation about the parole board and the SAFE Parole Act our Assembly member made a commitment to sign the bill!  We feel that we have finally accomplished something that makes sense and will help our son.  It’s a great feeling and gives our son hope as well.
If you are reading this and have not made an appointment to meet with your state legislators, you could be doing more to help your loved one gain his or her freedom.  We’ve been surprised at how easy it has been to schedule a meeting in their district offices.  There are resources to help prepare you and we or Judith Brink at Prison Action Network are available to go with you if you feel uncomfortable doing this.  We are willing to help each and every one of you make the first move to visit your representatives.   Please call 518 253 7533.
If we cannot influence changes to the Parole System, our loved ones will suffer longer than they should. We can no longer sit back afraid or embarrassed to open our hearts and ask for help. We must gain support for the Safe Parole Act to pass in the Assembly and the Senate.
Our voices must be heard. We need to visit our Legislators and educate them as to why we need their support to pass the Safe Parole Act.

~By two worried parents, who prefer to remain anonymous



6.  Denied for the 8th Time, Jalil Muntaqim Proposes a Parole Reform Strategy

Edited and reprinted by the New York State Prisoner Justice Network with the permission of the author.

The following is excerpted from a longer analysis and strategy proposal by Jalil Muntaqim, New York State political prisoner and former Black Panther who has been incarcerated for more than 40 years. He is currently at Attica C.F.

Analysis on Prison-Parole Reform Strategy

Dear Friends and Supporters:

On June 17, 2014, I was again denied release on parole for the 8th time. Obviously, efforts to change the parole system are not gaining significant or measurable traction. This is especially daunting when considering that of the two dozen prisoners appearing before the parole board on June 17, 2014, none were granted parole.  While there have been strides made to raise public consciousness and interest in the need for prison and parole reform, it has not translated into unified and uniform actions resulting in a substantial change. It appears the myriad voices on the subject and the diverse "pet projects" have weakened the potential for a statewide determination. 

There is a need for a unified strategy that challenges the specific problem of NYS recalcitrant parole policy. Therefore, it is important to review the problem of parole, which in my opinion is based on two dynamics: (1) the disparate and vague language in Executive Law Section 259i(2)(c)(a); and (2) the composition of the parole board, top heavy with former law enforcement personnel. 

(1)  Executive Law 259i, in pertinent part reads as follows:
           "Discretionary release on parole shall not be granted merely as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties while confined but after considering if there is a reasonable probability that, if such inmate is released he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society and will not so deprecate the seriousness of his crime as to undermine respect for the law..."

When statuary language is absent of "certainty" and "definiteness" it can be categorized as vague. A quick reading of this language presents two specific concerns, the words "Discretionary" and "Deprecate". Each presents a problem of the lack of “certainty” and “definiteness” in the parole decision-making process. 

So, what is the remedy? Obviously, the law has to be changed, or at minimum the language amended to produce "certainty" and "definiteness" that includes equitable and just parole release decisions. There is a plethora of material and statistical evidence that provides greater probability for informed parole decisions. Unfortunately, that information is not being used by parole commissioners, as their "discretion " is not guided by such principles. Therefore, I propose a statewide unified determination demanding the passage of the Safe Parole Act which would eliminate some of the vague language in Executive Law 259i. Why haven't New York State parole reform activists united to forge a statewide strategy for the passage of the Safe Parole Act?

(2) The second point is the composition of the parole board. It is well known the parole board is top heavy with those whose former careers were to capture, prosecute and incarcerate criminals. For them to now be deciding who will be granted release on parole is a diametric contradiction. It is analogous to having the wolf guard the hen house -- not a fox, a WOLF! 

In this regard, NYS parole reform activists should identify individuals from the community who would be prime candidates to be parole commissioners and actively/aggressively promote their appointment to the parole board. Here, I would urge the choosing of two NYC and two upstate candidates for this purpose, and for the parole reform community to vet such candidates, and then formulate a campaign to persuade Governor Cuomo to appoint them as parole commissioners. This also means it will be necessary to identify State Senators on the Crime and Corrections Committee, and persuade them to confirm these appointments.

When the parole board can continue to deny parole to two dozen prisoners, many with multiple denials and meeting all of the prerequisites to be granted parole, with impunity, without meaningful response from the community opposing the parole board’s actions, it is time to re-evaluate and reassess the tactical and strategic initiatives for parole reform. 

I ask that these concerns are widely distributed and discussed. When there is a consolidated and united campaign to challenge these two specific areas, the status quo will take notice, and your efforts will not be ignored. I welcome constructive criticism in order to ensure we all are on the same page, seeking to build a unified and uniform statewide determination for prison and parole reform. Let's build a NYS Coalition for the Passage of the Safe Parole Act!

Respectfully Submitted,  Jalil Muntaqim
Send comments to Anthony J. Bottom #77A4283, Attica C.F., P.O. Box 149, Attica, NY 14011-0149
or NYS Prisoner Justice, 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210



7Voting - Please Vote and encourage others.  


Prison Action Network supports the following candidates because their elections have special significance:

Oliver Koppell, Dem. Dist 34 (part of the Bronx and Westchester) has received an endorsement from the New York Times Editorial Board, and we couldn’t agree more.  He's challenging Sen. Klein because Klein led a power grab that gave the Republicans veto power over some of the issues that Koppell cares strongly about, public financing of campaigns, the rights of the disabled, and stronger protections for women, as well as others.
Koppell is also endorsed by the Sierra Club, for his opposition to fracking, his support for renewables, and the need to address climate change. 
He appeared at the Candidates’ Forum on criminal justice issues.
Oliver Koppell:  info@oliverkoppell.com, 718 543 3333,  5911 Riverdale Ave, Bx, NY 10471


Some of the most civic minded people we know are in prison. This was submitted by one of them:

“Throw the bum out”.  This is in reference to Sen Jeff Klein, the leader of the so-called IDC, who is up for re-election. He hijacked the Democratic majority in the State Senate for his own self-serving purposes, thus disrespecting the voters whose votes for him were intended to win that majority.  As a result, all Senate Committees are now chaired by Republicans, who are habitually opposed to any changes, especially in Parole Board practices and the Prison Industrial Complex.  We have a chance to send this traitor packing.  Let’s do it in this primary!  ~ Noel Belgrave


If you’re not happy with Gov. Cuomo, voting for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu for Governor and Lt. Governor, is probably the best way to tell him.   
The governor has refused to debate Teachout although she is his only serious competition in the primary.  Is he afraid she’ll bring up things he doesn’t want to talk about?  Too bad, it would be a great debate, and we’d learn from it.  If Teachout wins the primary, everyone in NYS will know her name, and she might indeed become our next governor.  Recently she wrote an open letter to NYC Supt. D'Amico, Comm. Green, Chair Weinstein, and Chair Bonacic about the militarization of police departments and asking pointed questions about the extent to which the NYPD and other NYS police departments are considering their use. 

The NY Times endorsed Tim Wu, Zephyr Teachout’s running mate, for lieutenant governor over Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul.  Political analysts are saying that Wu has a fighting chance.
The race for Lieutenant Governor is on, and its a race Tim Wu’s poised to win next Tuesday.  As Zephyr says, we have “Wu-mentum.”!  The reason is simple. As New York Democrats find out more about Hochul, they don’t like what they see.  Indeed, as the New York Post revealed today, even Team Cuomo has begun to see Hochul as a liability.
The NY Times decided not to endorse anyone for governor, saying that Teachout is too inexperienced and that Cuomo walked away from his promise of ethics reform.  Prison Action Network thinks that while Teachout may be inexperienced at holding office, she's plenty smart enough to surround herself with good advisors and learn quickly.  Besides, we need a new way of running NYS.  We’re tired of the old way.

The NY Times editorial board deftly suggested that readers should vote for Teachout as a way to voice their displeasure with Cuomo. The Sept. 9 primary is getting more and more interesting!   Make sure to use your voice and .... VOTE!!

Not all of state legislators are facing opposition.  Listed are those we recommend to voters in their districts who are registered Democrats:

Progressive Democrats
Sen. Liz Krueger - Dist 28
Sen. Gustavo Rivera  - Dist 33
Sen. Betty Jean Grant - Dist 63*

Candidates who have signed the SAFE Parole Act:
Senate District 30 - Bill Perkins
Senate District 31 - Adriano Espaillat
Senate District 36 - Ruth Hassell-Thompson
Senate District 63 - Tim Kennedy*

Assembly District 51 - Felix Ortiz 
Assembly District 71 - Herman Farrell
Assembly District 84 - Marcos Crespo
Assembly District 85 - Carmen Arroyo

*Senate District 63 - Betty Jean Grant is a supporter of criminal justice reform, and she's running against Tim Kennedy who signed the SAFE Parole Act.  If you live in Buffalo, you probably already have made your choice.

Senate District 11 - John Lui.  We have mixed feelings about  John Lui.  There is some scandal already attached to his name, but it's always hard to tell how true scandals are.

Plus:   Lui is running against Sen Avella, one of Klein's "Independent Democrats" who had plenty of time to sign the SAFE Parole Act and other progressive criminal justice reform bills but didn't.  Meanwhile Lui  has publicly stated he supports reforms to laws that put undue restrictions on felons who’ve served their time; including not being able to vote.  He also advocates for same day voter registration.   

Minus:  John Lui has been investigated for a campaign fund scheme for which one of his aides was convicted.  He beat the charges and claims he knew nothing about it.  Which doesn't say much about his supervisory skills.  So we're not recommending him, but….. more of Avella?  We'll be interested in what the voters decide.



8.  “Vote Your Dreams, Not Your Fears”  An Inspiring Rally / Press Conference at the Capitol


Sponsored by: NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), NYS Council of Churches, NYS AFL-CIO, CSEA Local 1000, Public Employees Federation (PEF), Reform Jewish Voice of NYS, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Interfaith Impact of NYS, Citizen Action of NY, Capital District Area Labor Federation 


Thousands of clergy, moral leaders and community members rallied at state capitols across the United States on August 28th, the 51st Anniversary of the March on Washington, to demand representative leadership characterized not by corruption and greed but by morality and compassion.

On Aug. 28, New Yorkers added our voices to this national movement for leadership that prioritizes the well-being of all people, rather than the narrow interests of the very wealthy.

As the state with the highest inequality in the nation, New York has been devastated by policies that have benefitted the few, while public schools remain underfunded, hunger and homelessness grow, and job creation remains limited to the low-wage sector. We deserve better from our representatives, and we must demand better. We the voters have the power to change our political possibilities and elect leaders that prioritize good jobs, fair taxation, quality public education, and a strong social safety net. Join us to make your voice heard!

Capitol Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI) was represented: Angelica Clarke had this to say to the assembled crowd:

"New York State and the rest of the country are suffering from the symptoms and contributing to white supremacy. Police brutality is one of the keystones in that foundation. People are brutalized in cities around our state and country every day, cities like Albany where I once witnessed a Black man savagely beaten by 2 white officers on a city bus. When I looked for him in the arrest record the next day, he was not there. He was brutalized and sent on his way. How can People of Color in this state vote our dreams when we are demoralized every day by a system built on racism? Our leaders need to make clear that we will not tolerate terror and militarization by the police. Our communities need to have the power to hold police accountable in the short term and grow our capacity to create communities of safety in the long term. Our leaders must support that work and stand with communities of color under siege. It should not only be people who look like me, Black and Brown people, fighting police brutality. We need people of privilege to step up and support us." 



9.  The 13th Amendment 

Quotes from a column in USA Today, August 14, 2014, by Jim Liske  

Ratified at the end of the Civil War, the 13th amendment abolished slavery, with one critical exception: Slavery and involuntary servitude actually remain lawful "as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." In other words, according to this so-called punishment clause, if you get pulled over with the wrong controlled substance in your trunk, there's nothing in the 13th Amendment to ensure you can't be considered a slave of the state.
As long as it remains in the Constitution, the punishment clause is an offensive vestige of the legacy of dehumanizing and often racist practices in the American criminal justice system.  ....Breaking the law does not make the 7 million Americans behind bars, on probation or on parole any less human.  Why should language that calls into question the basic equality and dignity of millions of Americans persist in our country's Constitution?
Meaningful work can be part of a restorative corrections policy. Many prisoners need to learn skills that will make them employable after release. Prison jobs also help people maintain a sense of purpose and structure during long sentences. Society as a whole also benefits when prisoners' labor allows them to pay restitution. But slavery — labor that dehumanizes one person for the profit of another — has no place in prisons or in the Constitution.
We need a national dialog about amending the 13th Amendment.  Current implications of the punishment clause should be the talk of every college course in criminal justice. It should be debated in every state legislature and in the halls of Congress. Here, in the home of nearly a quarter of the world's prisoners, every American should know about the scandalous persistence of slavery in our nation's most fundamental document.                      
[The writer is the president of Prison Fellowship.]  
Read the  whole article.


10.  Remembering Geronimo ji Jigga Pratt

by Karima Amin

Every year during the month of August, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. devotes a program to the existence of political prisoners in the USA. While this government has patently denied the presence of political prisoners on these shores, the fact remains, there are political prisoners in America and we have taken time to recognize their presence and their pain. We have called their names, Mumia, Seth, Jalil, Leonard, Mutulu, Sekou, Sundiata, Oscar, Herman, David, the MOVE 9, and more…all imprisoned for their political beliefs…all imprisoned for decades. In discussing the plight of political prisoners, we have highlighted COINTELPRO, a counter-intelligence program of the US government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. Under COINTELPRO, the FBI has used methods that have been sometimes covert and often illegal, discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents; planting false reports in the media; harassment; illegal violence, including assassination; and wrongful imprisonment. COINTELPRO was official from 1956-1971, though many of its tactics were used prior to 1956 and are used to this day. In a film, “The FBI’s War on Black America” which PRP2 screened, a few years ago, historical documentation proved that COINTELPRO was especially aimed at Black leadership in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. One of those imprisoned at that time was Geronimo ji Jigga Pratt, Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party. He was tried and convicted of the kidnap and murder of Caroline Olsen, an elementary schoolteacher in 1972, crimes he never committed. After more than two decades in prison, including eight years in solitary confinement, he was freed in 1997 when his conviction was vacated.

Before his imprisonment, believing in the promise of America, Pratt joined the army and served two tours of duty in Viet Nam, earning both silver and bronze medals and twice receiving the “purple heart.” After his stint in the army, he studied political science at UCLA and he joined the Black Panther Party when he saw that his army training could be useful there. He worked as a human rights activist before and after his imprisonment. He died in 2011, in his adopted country of Tanzania, West Africa.

Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., at their August 25th meeting, shared information about Geronimo and the United Nation’s recent request (August 14), issued by the CERD (Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), for the US government to officially recognize political prisoners in this country and to state specifically what it intends to do about "more than 20 civil rights era political activists and human rights defenders from 1960’s Black, Latino, and American Indian movements, now aged, and some in not so good health still being held in prison?"  Please note that this is not the first time that such a request has been made.

For further information, contact Karima Amin or BaBa Eng at 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org. .



11.  Interference Archive

131 8TH STREET NO. 4
BROOKLYN, NY 11215

    Interference Archive presents Self-Determination Inside/Out, a comprehensive exhibition and public program series featuring the cultural materials produced by incarcerated people and their allies.      Ranging from the Attica Rebellion to political prisoners, AIDS education to prisoners-as-laborers, the struggles of incarcerated women and queer people to the current wave of hunger strikes in prisons and detention centers across the country, these materials fundamentally recast the history of the prison-industrial complex. The exhibition shows incarcerated people not simply as the objects of state repression or social justice activism, but as active initiators and leaders in the critique of “criminal justice”—and other forms of injustice—in the U.S.  The exhibition is organized by Anika Paris, Molly Fair, Josh MacPhee, Laura Whitehorn, and Ryan Wong.

Public Programs (more to be added)
Wednesday, September 17, 7:00 pm
Join the curators, prison activists, and formerly incarcerated people for a tour of the Self-Determination Inside/Out exhibition, filled with information and historical anecdotes.

Thursday, October 2, 7:00 pm
Shattering Captivity: Struggles of Incarcerated People Against Solitary Confinement, Control Units, and Communication Management Units
Participants are formerly incarcerated people who experienced control units and solitary confinement, and the sister of a man currently in a Communication Management Unit (CMU): Tyrell Muhammad, Five Mualima-ak, Susan Rosenberg, and Sharmin Sadequee

Thursday, October 9, 7:00 pm
[OFFSITE: At CUNY Grad Center]
Prison is a form of violence against women
This event will highlight women and transpeople’s struggles against “protective” isolation, the criminalization of self defense, and negligent healthcare through short videos, readings, and discussion with people who have been directly involved in organizing within prisons. The program will include concrete ways to provide support for current organizing.


Tuesday, October 14, 7:00 pm
Film screening: Control
A documentary portrait of mass incarceration as it reverberates through our homes and communities. It is the story of a family whose life is relentlessly punctuated by an intrusive, destructive, counter-intuitive penal system. The film will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and youth criminal justice advocates.

Thursday October 30, 7:00 pm
The Pontiac Brothers and the Rise of New Organizing in Prison
Michael Deutsch, one of the lawyers for both the Pontiac Brothers and the Attica defendants, discusses the role of the Pontiac and Stateville prison revolts in conceptualizing and orienting organizing inside and outside prisons up to today. His talk will be accompanied by a 35mm slide show originally created as an organizing tool around the Pontiac Brothers in the late 1970s.

Saturday November 15, 5:00 pm
Film Screening: Out In The Night
Join director blair dorosh walter for a screening of Out in the Night, a documentary about the NJ4. Other guests TBA.




12.  The monthly Reentry Net/NY calendar 

Provides New York State advocates with information about upcoming conferences, trainings, meetings, and other events related to prison, jail, reentry, and the consequences of criminal proceedings. It ‘s a great resource to check when you’re planning an event and don’t want it to conflict with someone else’s.

Many of the events listed are free of charge; some are fee-based. For more information, or to register in advance, please contact the event sponsors directly.  Contact information for each event is provided on the calendar.

If you would like to add an event to the calendar, visit the online Calendar at www.reentry.net/ny/calendar and click "add event." If you have any problems accessing the site or posting events, please contact Kamau Butcher (kamaub@bronxdefenders.org). Don't forget to check the Reentry Net/NY homepage at www.reentry.net/ny for updates and library resources.



13.  Research Clearinghouse: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/research.html

The Research Clearinghouse is a project of Prison Policy Initiative.  This amazing website provides links to virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online, organized by category and publication date. If you know what you are looking for, you may also search the database. They also have an email newsletter that provides new clearinghouse updates. One of the new updates is a document published by The Sentencing Project, which starts with these few paragraphs :
"Although the pace of criminal justice reform has accelerated at both the federal and state levels in the past decade, current initiatives have had only a modest effect on the size of the prison population. But over this period, three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – have achieved prison population reductions in the range of 25%. They have also seen their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average
Key findings:   
New York and New Jersey led the nation by reducing their prison populations by 26% between 1999 and 2012, while the nationwide state prison population increased by 10%.  California downsized its prison population by 23% between 2006 and 2012. During this period, the nationwide state prison population decreased by just 1%.

During their periods of decarceration, violent crime rates fell at a greater rate in these three states than they did nationwide. Between 1999-2012, New York and New Jersey’s violent crime rate fell by 31% and 30%, respectively, while the national rate decreased by 26%. Between 2006-2012, California’s violent crime rate drop of 21% exceeded the national decline of 19%.  Property crime rates also decreased in New York and New Jersey more than they did nationwide, while California’s reduction was slightly lower than the national average. Between 1999-2012, New York’s property crime rate fell by 29% and New Jersey’s by 31%, compared to the national decline of 24%. Between 2006-2012, California’s property crime drop of 13% was slightly lower than the national reduction of 15%. "


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