Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

JUNE 2015


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

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

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Scroll down to read the June newsletter.

June stops on the 2015 Family Empowerment Tour:

Utica "Nature of the Crime" Premiere and Ice Cream Social
Saturday, June 6th 
2:00pm 
Plymouth Bethesda Church
500 Plant Street 
Utica, New York

On  Saturday, June 6th we'll be bringing Utica it's first ever Milk Not Jails Ice Cream Social.  Join us for free, delicious locally-made ice cream, the Milk Not Jails midway of carnival games and more! In the mix of all of this excitement, we will premiere "The Nature of the Crime," a new documentary by Joshua Swartz about New York's broken parole system. The film will be followed by a panel, including representatives from the National Lawyers Guild's Parole Prep Project, Parole Justice Now, and individuals who have experienced New York's dysfunctional parole system first-hand.

Co-sponsored by Incarcerated Flavors, St. James AME Church, and Having Hope Ministries.


Syracuse "Nature of the Crime" Premiere 
Sunday, June 7th
4:00pm
ArtRage
505 Hawley Avenue
Syracuse, NY

Join us for the Syracuse premiere of "The Nature of the Crime," a new documentary by Joshua Swartz about New York's broken parole system. The film will be followed by a discussion with our panel, including legal expert Alan Rosenthal (Center for Community Alternatives), Judith Brink (Prison Action Network), and individuals who have experienced New York's dysfunctional parole system first-hand. 
Co-sponsored by Center for Community Alternatives, Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, and Syracuse Peace Council.

  


Building Bridges June 2015

Dear Reader,  There are so many bills to report on that there’s not much space left for anything else.  The legislative session will be over on June 17, and we hope to catch up on other news in the July issue.  Our apologies to any readers who aren’t very interested in the status of bills, but hopefully there aren’t very many of you!  Our other articles this month are very high quality to make up for the low quantity.  Smile....
   The Editor      
CONTENTS

1. Parole News: April releases, letter from elderly applicant, Otis Cruse for Parole Commissioner 

2. Pages and pages and pages of Legislative Bills;
some are excellent and some are horrific

3. 2015 Family Empowerment Tour will be in Utica on June 6 and Syracuse June 7

4. Call-out to “Juvenile Lifers” from law professor at Yale Law School

5. Reports from Buffalo - focus on Juvenile justice, Baba Eng honored, more

6. NetWORKS  reports on two events that inspired




1.  Parole News - April Release Rates; Letter from an Elderly Parole Applicant; Parole Board Commissioner appointment

April  2015 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database
April 2015 Interview Summaries

Interviews
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year To Date Release Rate
Initials 
23
2
21
9%
32%
Reappearances
79
19  (1 deceased)**
60
24%
24%
Total 
102
21
81
21%
26%


April 2015 Age Summaries
Age Range
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied 
Percent Released
Year to Date Percent
60-69
15
3
12
20%
23%
70-79
8
1
7
0%
16%
80+
0


0%
0%
Total
23
4
19
17%
21%


April 2015 Initial Release Rates
Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Livingston
40
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
43
25-Life
Mrd 2
1

April 2015 Reappearance Release Rates
Facility
Age
Sentence
Conviction
# of Board 
Cayuga
54
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Clinton
45
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Collins
51
22-Life
Mrd 2
3
Collins
56
20-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
49
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Fishkill
53
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
77
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Franklin
41
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Franklin
44
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Franklin *
50
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Franklin
56
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Franklin **
65
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Great Meadow
65
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Groveland
62
25-Life
Pre 74 Mrd
9
Livingston
40
17-Life
Mrd 2
4
Marcy
45
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville *
50
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Woodbourne
43
16-Life
Mrd 2
4

*On DOCCS’ website listed as denied, on Parole’s hearing calendar says granted.  ????  We hope it’s the latter.
**Denied on April 1st  at Franklin; died on May 3rd at Coxsackie.  Very sad....  Wish we knew more of his story.

Letter from an elderly parole applicant:
This letter was sent to the State Board of Parole because I may not be allotted time enough to raise the matters addressed in it during my Board appearance.  At seventy years of age, if I am not able to raise issues that I deem pertinent, the inevitable onset of some sort of mental deterioration will more than likely prevent me from raising them in the future.

In the case of the elderly, like myself, once mental deterioration sets in, we have no one to replace us to act on our behalf. At some point, we will be unable to respond relevantly and coherently at the Board hearing, or to mount a relevant or coherent administrative appeal or legal argument seeking judicial review of an adverse Board decision. We elderly may not even recognize an appealable issue if one should occur. 

The Board is permitted to deny parole to the elderly until we are mentally incapable of opposing it.  Indeed, it is very unsettling to realize that the Board can continue to “hit” the elderly into oblivion. And, in each such situation where an elderly inmate is so “hit,” the “playing field” becomes less and less fair.

If we (the elderly) are ever released to parole, the very same reasons that were relied upon by the Board to deny us parole so many times will remain the same when we are granted parole. Quite possibly, that is why no law or regulation requires a written reason to be issued to the inmate who is granted parole, as such “reason” would undoubtedly be the same as that which they have been using to deny parole to that same inmate all along.

On May 20, 2015, Governor Cuomo announced seven appointments to his administration, including Otis Cruse for Parole Board Commissioner
Mr. Cruse has extensive experience within the field of criminal justice, serving in various roles at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and most recently as a parole officer at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in the Special Offenders Unit monitoring registered sex offenders and mental health cases. He holds a Master's Degree in Special Education and a B.A. in English from the City College of New York, and is a graduate of the PEF/Governor's Office of Employee Relations 2014-15 Leadership Program.
As with all Parole Commissioner appointments, the Senate (by way of a Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee hearing) will have to approve the nomination of Mr. Cruse before he is officially appointed.


2.  Legislative report -
It wasn’t until this week that we were able to look up all of the bills that have been considered since we last reported on some.  The status of the bills reported on below is the current status as of June 3.
Explanation:  House = either the Senate or the Assembly.  NSA = no identical bill in the other house.  Advanced to 1st, 2nd or 3rd Cal  = in line to be introduced to the house for a vote.  “Reported” or “Referred” = passed out of the Committee to another committee. 
Remember: Before any of these bills become law they have to be passed in both houses, where changes can be made from the floor before a final vote.  If passed, the Governor has to sign them before they can become the law.

ASSEMBLY BILLS:
Assembly Bills Considered in March 2015 by the Corrections Committee (O’Donnell, chair)
Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
A.1690/NSA  Advanced to 3rd Cal
O’Donnell
Relates to confidential hearing records; authorizes attorney representing inmate in certain proceedings to obtain a copy of hearing record; prohibits redisclosure. 
A.1984/NSA
Passed in Assembly and referred to Senate    
CVC&C Committee
O’Donnell
Requires parole decisions to be published on a publicly accessible website within 60 days of such decision. 
A.2513/S.2192
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Mosley/Hassell-Thompson
Ensures that persons illegally discriminated against by a public employer due to a prior criminal conviction unrelated to the employment sought is able to seek redress with the Division of Human Rights.
A.3235/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Aubry
Requires birth certificate and social security card to be kept in the person’s records until released from custody when such identification shall be provided to them.
A.4620/S.985
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Rozic/Montgomery
To allow persons entering solitary confinement in special housing units (SHU) to make a telephone call upon admission into SHU and at least once per month thereafter.
A.5548/S.992
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Sepulveda/G.Rivera
Requires the provision of translation services for parole applicants who need it for their parole board hearing. 



Assembly Bills Considered in April 2015 by the Corrections Committee (O’Donnell, chair)
Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
A.158/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Rozic
Makes it unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to require a job applicant to disclose his or her criminal history record obtained from the Div. of C.J.S. as a requirement for consideration of employment.
A.205/NSA
Referred to ways and means 
Rozic
Authorizes vocational training, where practicable, to inmates on the installation of solar hot water systems for the provision of hot water to correctional facilities
A.836/S.633
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Currently on Assembly Debate List
Gunther/Carlucci
To reduce the number of suicides in prison by providing additional training to corrections officers and staff.
A.2479-A/NSA
Amended on third Cal
Mosley
To conform the language in the statutes governing the issuance of certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct to make them consistent.
A.2641/S.980
Referred to Codes
Aubry/Montgomery
Allows all inmates, except those serving a sentence of life imprisonment with-out parole, murder in the first degree, incest, an offense defined in
article two hundred sixty-three of the penal law, an act of terrorism,
aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, or an attempt or
conspiracy to commit any such offense, to earn Merit Time Allowance of one-sixth of an indeterminate and one-seventh of a determinate sentence.
A.2734/S.2096
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Sepulveda/Hassell-Thompson
Curtails unlawful discriminatory practices against persons with criminal records and helps to ensure that employers abide by the provisions of Article 23-A of the correction law
A.2943/S.356
Passed Assembly, delivered to Senate, Referred to Finance
Sepulveda/Diaz
Directs the parole board to publish demographic data including race, ethnicity, region of commitment and other relevant data regarding the persons it considers for release in its statutorily required annual report to the governor and the legislature.
A.2990/S.2029
Referred to Codes
Aubry/Hassell-Thompson
Amends executive law, by requiring employers to make a conditional offer of employment before inquiring about any criminal convictions.
A.3287/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Peoples-Stokes
Requires information regarding HIV testing, counseling and education to be provided to persons upon release from a state correctional facility.
A.3309/S.2039
Referred to Ways and Means
Aubry/Hassell-Thompson
Establishes commission to study and make recommendations to the legislature and the governor regarding the availability and effectiveness of post-secondary correctional education programs in prison.
A.6527/S4518
Passed Assembly and Senate
Steck/Amedore
Authorizes the Schenectady county correctional facility to also be used for the detention of persons under arrest being held for arraignment in any court located in the county of Schenectady.


Assembly Bills Considered in May 2015 by the Corrections Committee (O’Donnell, chair)
Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
A.670/ NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
O’Donnell
In 2009 medical parole was expanded to include persons with non-terminal illnesses and conditions that render them so physically debilitated or cognitively impaired that they do not present a danger to society.  No one was released to medical parole in 2009 or 2010, the last year for which records are available. This can be attributed to the implementation process as well as the statutory language itself, both of which this bill attempts to rectify.
A.2186/NSA
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell
Directs Board of Parole to grant parole to anyone who successfully completes two or more years of a temporary release program.
A.2290/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
O’Donnell
Directs the Board of Parole to give due deference to the type of sentence, length of sentence and recommendations of the sentencing court when considering the seriousness of the offense as a factor in making parole release decisions.
A.2364/NSA
Referred to Ways and Means
O’Donnell
Speeds up the process of parole appeals and provides for needed court oversight of the board's decisions. It permits inmates to bypass the parole appeals unit to appeal directly to the court and allows the court to receive the entire record that had been before the board. It transfers the right to counsel from the administrative appeal to the Article 78 petitioning process. It also permits the court broader remedies upon review, including the right to order an inmate to be released from prison. The bill requires the board to make a timely transcript of its hearings and provide an audio recording of the hearing, including any testimony by witnesses other than the inmate being considered for parole.
A.2470/NSA
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell
Creates geriatric parole release for inmates over the age of 60.

A.3088/S.1015
Referred to Ways and Means
Robinson/Montgomery
Creates a temporary state commission to study and investigate sexual misconduct in state correctional facilities; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof
A.3838-B/S.979-B
Amended and recommitted to Ways and Means
Aubry/Montgomery
Requires DOCCS to establish academic programs to prepare people to complete the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and provide them with an opportunity to complete a GED prior to their release on parole, conditional release, post release supervision or presumptive release.
A.7500/S.5427
Passed Assembly, delivered to Senate CV,C&C Committee
Joyner/Rivera
Requires DOCCS to be responsive to the next of kin or other desigsnated person who inquires as to the circumstances surrounding the death of a prisoner, and to provide such person with an original preliminary death certificate.
A.7501-A/S5428-A
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Blake/Rivera
Requires DOCCS to provide forms to disclose medical information and mental health treatment information to people upon their arrival at a reception facility and upon each transfer to a new facility, so that the person may opt to appoint a family member or other person to receive such information.


Assembly Bills Considered on June 2 2015 by the Corrections Committee (O’Donnell, chair

Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
A.1819-A/NSA
Amended
Referred to Codes
Gunther
Defines "residence" for clarification in the sex offender registry law and directs the Div of Criminal Justice Services to develop a notification procedure for mandatory reporting by offenders who have multiple residences.
A.2009/S.536
Referred to Rules
O’Donnell/Gallivan
Permits mentally ill inmates to remain at the Central New York Psychiatric Center for needed in-patient treatment at the discretion of their clinical mental health providers.
A.2119/NSA
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell
Removes from consideration of discretionary release by the Board of Parole the currently required consideration as to whether or not such release would so deprecate the offense as to undermine respect for the law. This bill makes clear that the responsibility to consider whether or not a term of incarceration would undermine respect for the law rests with the sentencing court.
A.2190/S.3097
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell/Krueger
Requires updating of the guidelines of the sex offender risk assessment instrument and requires use of a validated instrument.
A.2508/S.3042
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell/Espaillat
Establishes a temporary state commission, to be known as the NYS Commission on Sex Offender Supervision and Management, to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations concerning factors that impact the risk of recidivism, and lead to the concentration of sex offenders in certain residential areas.
A.2544/NSA
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell
Amends correction law 806 to grant presumptive release eligibility to all shock graduates.
A.6430-A/S.983-A
Referred to Rules
Perry/Montgomery
To strengthen the prohibition against shackling women prisoners during
Labor and to expand the anti-shackling law to include any pregnant woman or woman during a postpartum period of 8 weeks.
A.7407-A/NSA
Referred to Ways and Means
Joyner
Authorizes a study by the NYS DOCCS to study the treatment of aging prison populations and make recommendations for ensuring humane treatment of such populations
A.7656/S5023
Referred to Codes
Nojay/Gallivan
Authorizes the Livingston county jail to be used for detention of persons under arrest being held for arraignment in any local court in the county of Livingston.
A.7685/S.4780-A
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell/Gallivan
Provides for a mental incapacitation evaluation of an alleged parole violator in the context of a parole revocation proceeding.
A.7814/S4905
Referred to Rules
Sepulveda/Gallivan
Amends the correction law, by permitting certain releases to occur on a Thursday to ensure next-day reporting to parole.
A.7822/NSA
Referred to Ways and Means

Walker
Requires DOCCS to provide an annual inmate mortality report to the legislature within seven days following the suicide or other death of an inmate.
A.7825/S.4903
Referred to Rules
Blake/Gallivan
Clarifies an existing statutory duty of coroner and medical examiners to promptly provide an inmate’s autopsy and toxicology report to the Commission of Correction’s Medical Review Board.
A.7826/NSA
Referred to Rules
Davila
Allows a local correctional facility to assign a transgender or intersex inmate to any facility housing unit which ensures the inmate's health and safety and is consistent with facility management and security.

A.7878/NSA
Referred to Codes
O’Donnell
To provide for an individualized evaluation of the need for residency restrictions for  sex offenders, who were incarcerated or not, with victims under the age of 18.


SENATE BILLS:

Senate Bills Considered by the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee on May 13 2015
(Gallivan, chair)
Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
S.1474/A.6540
Reported to Finance
G.Rivera/Crespo
Conduct a pilot program placing certain inmates in facilities closer
to the communities where their children reside
S.1943/A.2339-A
Passed Senate, delivered to Assembly
Golden/Englebright
To prohibit registered sex offenders from working with children

S.3622/A.3912
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Orrt/Hawley
Authorizes appropriate law enforcement to release a Level 2 sex offender's exact address and address of the offender's place of employment to vulnerable populations.
S.3627/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Ortt
Prohibit any sex offender from residing within a quarter mile of any school, playground, park or building in which child day care is provided.
S.4339/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Serino
Prohibit an individual who is a convicted sex offender from working or volunteering in a position where they would have unsupervised access to a residential living quarters.
S.4511/NSA
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Lanza
Adds to level 2 sex offenders the obligation to appear in person every year, as is required of level 3.
S.4514/NSA
Advanced to 2nd Cal
Lanza
Provides that level 3 sex offenders who are released on parole or sentenced to probation may not enter public, association or free libraries.
S.4765/A.4987
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Funke/Simotas
Makes it a felony for level 3 sex offenders to fail to register or report a change of address.
S.4776/6019
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Funke/Simotas
Makes information about all registered sex offenders available on the Division of Criminal Justice Services home page; to provide for registration of automatic email notification when a sex offender moves into a resident’s zip code.
S.4890/A.7661
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Avella/Ortiz
Establishes a uniform standard for measuring and enforcing the 1,000 feet restriction between school grounds and sex
offender residences.
S.5023/A.7656
Advanced to 3rd Cal
Gallivan/Nojay
Authorizes the Livingston county jail to also be used for the detention of persons under arrest being held for arraignment in any local court in the county of Livingston

Senate bills considered by the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction - May 28, 2015
Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
S.1085/A.1762
Reported to Finance
Marchione/Tedisco

Requires legislative approval in the proposed closure of correctional facilities and institutions across NYS. 

S.1483/A.1680
Reported to Finance
LaValle/Thiele
Extends the number of months from twenty-four to sixty as the time within which the parole board must set for reconsideration of a denied application for parole in cases where an inmate was sentenced for a violent crime.

S.1833/A. 2459
Reported to Finance
Richie/O’Donnell
Current law allows the Commissioner to establish staffing protocols according to his general powers and duties to manage correctional facilities.  This bill would instead provide specific statutory staffing plan requirements.

S.1963/NSA
1st Report  to Calendar
Robach
A person must complete eighty percent of their sentence before any allowances or credits are allowed to be considered.

S.2042/A.5931
Reported to Finance
Hassell-Thompson/Ortiz
Ensures that prisoners whose first language is not English are able to access prison substance abuse programs.

S.3223/NSA
1st Report to Cal
Carlucci
Prohibits sex offenders from moving to a residence that is within 1000 feet of any school building regularly used for instructional purposes, a building in which child day care is provided or a park.

S.3816/NSA
Reported to Finance
Hassell-Thompson
Assures rehabilitation programs for female inmates equivalent to programs afforded male inmates

S.4904/NSA
1st Report to Cal
Gallivan
Allows the provision of inmate health care services in county jails via contract with medical professional corporations.

S.4905/A.7814
1st Report to Cal


Gallivan/Sepulveda
Grants to the Commissioner of DOCCS the authority in certain cases to advance an inmate's scheduled release date from a Friday to a Thursday, in order to ensure next day reporting to a community supervision location.

S.4913/S.6943
Reported to Finance

Gallivan/People-Stokes
Increases the threshold for proof of financial difficulty from claim totals of $5,000 or more to claim totals of $10,000 or more.

S.5000-A/A.7409
1st Report to Cal


Golden/Braunstein
This bill is designed to give children a further buffer from sexual offenders by preventing already convicted offenders from residing within 1000 feet of a school or a playground's real property boundary line.

3.  Family Empowerment Screening!  (see more above the byline)
Sunday, June 7 at 4:00pm
ArtRage,  505 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse, NY

If you live near Syracuse, we hope you will join us for a screening and discussion of The Nature of the Crime, a new documentary directed by Josh Swartz about New York’s broken parole system! 

Every year 10,000 people are denied parole without any explanation. Many of these applicants have done everything in their power to demonstrate their preparedness to return home, but due to the nature of their crime they are told they must stay in prison.

Please join us for this brief documentary and a panel discussion, and perhaps to plan a workshop for organizing your own visit to the Senator and Assembly person who represents you in the NYS Legislature, where a law can be passed that will help your loved one get home sooner.

4. Juvenile Lifers:  A professor at Yale Law School is interested in hearing from people who were sentenced to indeterminate sentences with life on the back end but who committed their crimes as juveniles.  
Be aware that Professor Kohler-Hausmann is not in a position to take on any cases right now.  Her interest is purely for scholarly research at this time.  Qualified readers may respond to Prof. Kohler-Hhausmann at Yale Law School, 127 Wall St., New Haven, CT 06511



5. Reports from Buffalo
May was notable!
For a full week in May, communities around the nation highlighted the problems associated with juvenile justice. It’s a topic that PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. re-visits at least twice yearly but it is a topic that should concern all of us all the time. The U.S. incarcerates more of its youth than any other country in the world. Approximately 500,000 youth are brought to detention centers in a given year.

“Save the Kids” is a fully volunteer, national grassroots organization that is building a movement dedicated to ending incarceration of all youth and the school to prison pipeline.  It was started 6 years ago by 4 incarcerated youth, at Rikers Detention, who wanted people in community to understand how and why so many youth are incarcerated. They also wanted community to think about alternatives to incarceration and the critical need for returning youth to have support after incarceration. To that end, “Save the Kids,” started the campaign for a “National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth.”

On May 18, PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. lent support to this year’s “National Week of Action…,” with a film screening of “15 to Life: Kenneth’s  Story.” It tells the story of a 15 year old Black boy, tried as an adult, who was given four consecutive life sentences. After serving 10 years, most of them in solitary confinement, Kenneth is fighting for release and a second chance. It should be noted that the U.S. is the only country in the world that condemns juveniles to life without parole.  Our guest speaker, Mr. Tommy McClam, from Open Buffalo, shared his thoughts on juvenile justice and provided information about the kind of work that he has been able to do, working with our youth over the years. 

On Thursday, May 28 VOICE-Buffalo celebrated the re-establishment of the Local Conditional Release Program. For over a year VOICE has worked closely with members of the Erie County Legislature, the County Executive’s office, the Erie County Sheriff’s office and the John R. Oishei Foundation to reestablish this program. This historic agreement has received bi-partisan support during a time of too many stand-offs and brings together County government and private foundation support in a new way. 

The Conditional Release Program is a part of VOICE-Buffalo’s larger Restorative Justice efforts to:   
        *Create comprehensive reentry programs to reduce recidivism
        *Address major mental health disparities that lead to Incarceration
        *Keep youth and young adults out of the criminal justice system
        *Increase employment opportunities for African Americans, Hispanics, Refugees and other minorities.

June is off to a fast start:
We caught Karima Amin, of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., on the run trying to keep up with all that is happening in Buffalo. Their next meeting will be June 29.  June marks PRP2's 10th anniversary (!) and BaBa Eng's 2nd anniversary since his release...BaBa is receiving a huge honor on June 15 from VOICE-Buffalo for his work as a reentry mentor and as Restorative Justice Developer for Buffalo and Western NY, working out of the Restorative Justice Center at Back to Basics Outreach Ministry...they had their first Restorative Justice orientation at Erie County Correctional Facility with the youth (males ages 16-21). Karima and Pastor James Giles (Pres./CEO of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries) participated.

For more information: Call 716-834-8438; or contact Karima, karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org; or BaBa,  georgebaba_eng@yahoo.com. Visit our website: www.prp2.org and “like” us on Facebook. 



6.  NetWORKS 
In May, your New York State Prisoner Justice reporter attended two important events that deserve space in Building Bridges, and in your hearts.

On May 9, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) held its national conference in Secaucus, New Jersey. Its theme was “Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad,” and it was attended by about 400 people from around the country and around the world. As promised by the conference title, the speakers (about 100 of them!), panelists, and workshops showed the connections between U.S. wars of aggression around the world and police brutality, mass incarceration, economic oppression, and racism here in the U.S.

The U.S. does not have one unified justice movement, but many separate ones, so these connections were made mainly by having speakers from many different movements all on the same stage at the same conference. There were militant labor speakers demanding a living wage; representatives of Muslim communities targeted and entrapped by the so-called “war on terror;” international and U.S. speakers opposing U.S. campaigns of bombing, destruction, and destabilization in the Middle East and elsewhere; Palestinians denouncing Israeli oppression and U.S. support of it; supporters of U.S. political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oscar Lopez Rivera, and Imam Jamil al-Amin; spokespeople for the Black Lives Matter movement; immigrant rights activists; and many many more. The centrality of racism to the “wars at home and abroad” was represented not just in slogans but in the inclusive racial mix of speakers and panelists. The leadership of women in all of our movements was evident.

There were dozens of workshops. A sample of the topics: The Recolonization of Africa; Migrant Rights; Ferguson to Baltimore Resistance; U.S. Intervention in Latin America; Building a United Movement; NATO Expansion from Yugoslavia to Ukraine; Rape Culture and the Feminization of Poverty; Climate Crisis.  Your reporter was a co-presenter at a workshop called “The Prison Injustice System: Challenging the Prison Industrial Complex” together with six other presenters from different organizations. We were honored with the participation of the formidable Pam Africa, central pillar in the movement to free political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia has been dangerously ill, apparently due to deliberate and deadly medical neglect or malfeasance by prison authorities, and a massive global movement has been mobilized to get him proper medical care.  A theme that emerged from the workshop was that many political prisoners, like Mumia, are in prison for challenging the criminal injustice system, so the fight to free them and the fight to end mass incarceration are one and the same.

How can this emerging understanding of the unity of our issues be translated into collaborative action to shut down the military/mass incarceration/ economic oppression/police brutality machine? There were some good first steps at this conference: developing a common language to describe the brutal system of economic, social, political and military power that benefits the 1% and causes massive suffering everywhere; helping activists and organizations get to know each other across different issues and strategies; and committing to some activities to carry these connections forward.

        One important activity promoted vigorously at the conference is the “Million People’s March Against Racial Injustice and Economic Inequality” on July 25, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey, organized by the People’s Organization for Progress: http://njpop.org/wordpress/?p=1896 . New York State Prisoner Justice Network urges everyone who can to come. This march will be a great opportunity to display our People’s Power on the ground!

The second event attended by your correspondent was the 30th anniversary commemoration of the bombing of the MOVE family in Philadelphia on May 13, 1985
            The only time in U.S. history when a city bombed itself, the bombing of the MOVE house resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the MOVE family and burned down an entire city block. For this 30th anniversary, people gathered to remember the terrible events of the bombing, to mobilize to free seven MOVE family members (two died in prison) incarcerated since a 1978 police attack on MOVE, and to continue the momentum to free Mumia and get him medical care. The event was attended by 600-700 people, and featured cultural performances, speakers, and a spirited march through downtown Philadelphia.

In addition, it was a celebration of a movement that has been built slowly but persistently for thirty years into a powerful force heard around the world. The MOVE family and its campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal have won widespread support by its in-your-face radical politics, its courage in the face of massive police and government repression, and its foundation  of love for family members, friends, allies, and Mother Earth. Perhaps its most impressive accomplishment is its persistence through years and decades of resistance; the proof of the success of that kind of dedication was seen at this profound and joyful commemorative gathering.

In the face of all the pain and suffering we see every day, these two events brought inspiration. They showed that around the world and at home, growing numbers of people are building a passionate global movement for peace and justice.


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