Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

January 2015



Welcome to the site of Building Bridges, 
Prison Action Network's newsletter 
 If you would like to receive a copy in your email in-box every month, please send a note with the reason for your interest.

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

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Click here to sign the Amnesty International petition to request to the US to allow UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez into US supermax prisons and then please Tweet it, put it on Facebook, email it etc. 



Posted 1/16/15 - Building Bridges

New Website Allows People to Apply for Clemency Online

"On December 31, 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a new clemency web site to act as a central resource for those eligible for clemency to apply. In addition, the public may view the DOCCS directive 6901, Information Concerning Executive Clemency, here.





Posted 1/16/15  -  Jacobia Dahm, Documentary Photographer

Please let me introduce myself: I am a German documentary photographer based in New York and interested in criminal justice here in the US. I started working in this area because I have often been struck how much harsher punishment is here in the US, compared to Europe. The New York Times recently published my work about the NYC buses that take families to see their loved ones in prisons upstate, see here:http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/family-time-on-prison-buses/

I now want to continue the work, and I am looking for participants in a small documentary film. I would like to find a handful of people who travel more or less regularly on the buses from New York City to the upstate facilities, who talk about their experience and what it means to have someone you love in prison. Ideally, I will find people with very different stories, and it would be great, for example, to find someone who is thinking of getting married in prison, and someone who has had a husband in solitary confinement. I want this movie to talk honestly about prisons, and how the affect loved ones on the outside, but the core idea is that these are love stories. 

I would love to hear from many of you! If you have questions, or are interested in talking about your experience, in contributing in any way, please reach out to me at jacobia@gmail.com -- I would be very grateful for your help. 




Posted 1/8/15   -   Mika'il De Veaux, Researcher

My name is Mika'il DeVeaux and I am a doctoral student at the Graduate
Center of CUNY and The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.
I am writing to ask if you would be willing to aid me in my research designed
to understand the experiences of African American men who have been
incarcerated in New York State, who have completed their sentences and have
been out of prison for at least three years by agreeing to an interview (if you are
an African American man), or by asking a person who meets these criteria who
may be willing to talk about his experiences to contact me.  Participation is
completely voluntary and the context of our interview will be kept confidential.
If you are interested, and wish to determine if you are eligible to participate please
 send me an email: mdeveaux@citizensinc.org, expressing your interest or give
me a call at 347.626.7233, ext. 1, if you have any additional questions or need
additional information before participating.  Do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your help.


Building Bridges January 2015


Dear Reader, 

Believe it or not, I’m feeling very grateful these days.  Amazing how bright those small beams of light can be in this age of darkness! 

Along-side the murders of young unarmed Black males by members of the police force, we have seen the birth of a peaceful, articulate, creative and determined protest against the oppressive racist culture of our criminal justice system, and indeed our entire social and economic system.  

We saw the end of Fracking in NYS.  

We saw 400,000 people demonstrating against global warming.  

We heard Pope Francis of the Catholic church tell his people to join the effort to save the poor from the dangers of global disaster.  

We saw thousands of people here and around the country demonstrating against a police culture that does not protect us, but from whom we need protection.  

We saw the New York Times taking a stand against the shameful behavior of NY City’s police at the funeral of one of their members who was killed by a man who also shamefully resorted to violent criminal behavior.  

Violence begets violence.  It’s been this way since the beginning of history.  We've got a long hard road ahead of us, folks!  But there is Hope if we stay the course.  Think of our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and leave a legacy you can be proud of.  Join in the transformation.

Here's to an amazing year!   ~ The Editor!


In Memory of Bryce “Sonny” Rudert 

Our condolences to you who already know the news, and to those who are just finding out.  In case you haven't been in touch, Bryce (Sonny) Rudert was ill for many years.  Four years ago he was given 6 months to live, but those of us who knew Sonny will not be surprised that he put up a good fight to the end, beating the odds hugely.  He finally succumbed on December 1st.
Sonny was the first person from Otisville prison that I met.  I met him at Albany Medical Center's Secure Unit.  He shared a paper he and Willie Thomas had written about the need for releasing community-ready individuals, which is pretty much how Prison Action Network became involved with Family Empowerment Day, Parole Board Reform and the SAFE Parole Act.
Sonny was paroled in 2006, at his second hearing, after doing 23 years in prison.  That same year he helped organize Family Empowerment Day 2 (his ex-girlfriend had been one of the organizers for #1), and afterwards he wrote a report of the event.  Here are quotes from that paper:
We all showed up because we know that the present New York State executive policy, which was sold to the general public as a “remedy,” has only made a broken situation worse—for everyone concerned. Our present governor’s No Parole policy is not only illegal, deceitful and unjust; it is also ineffective.
My message is simple, and it is one I will keep pounding until it becomes a reality: Politics is the only thing keeping our friends and loved ones in prison; Politics is the only thing that will get them out. We need to continue to work together and remain united. We need to vote.
At this important moment in time, I am doing whatever I can to help bring worthy community-ready men and women in prison home, where they clearly should be. To this end, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I am completely incompetent, unprepared and unable to perform the many functions that will best accomplish this task. The good news, however, is that the highest authority in my life who I recognize as God can handle all of this. He will show me the way, and all I have to do is show up, ready to work, and stay out of His way!
A Memorial Service for Sonny will be held on Sunday January 11 at 3:00 pm at Hollis Presbyterian Church, located at 100-50 196 street. (196th at 104th Avenue).    [If using GPS put in 100-40 196th Street, Hollis, NY 11423. You can also find directions at: www. hollispresbyterianchurch.org.]  Condolences can be sent to his life partner, Nanette Ramos, at 496 Ocean Ave, Central Islip, NY 11722.  All are welcome to write to her there or you can send correspondence to the church.



CONTENTS

1.  NetWORKS responds to the shooting deaths of two NYC police

2.  Parole News - November statistics, BOP business meeting, Lenefsky on fixing the law and practice of Parole and Treen’s response

3.  Testimony about the NYS Parole Board - December 2013 Hearing

4.  List of Assembly members

5.  Highlights of the Assembly’s Correction Committee’s Year in Review

6.  Late-breaking news!  January 3 2015  Gov. Cuomo signs S7818/A10071!!

7.  Echoes of Incarceration: an award-winning documentary produced by youth with incarcerated parents

8.  Cornell Prison Education Program at Auburn  -  Says one graduate; “Prison’s a funny place; sure, it’s oppressive and depressing, but it’s also filled with amazing things you wouldn’t expect—like brilliance.”.  

9.  poems for an imperiled world - by poet ibn Kenyata

10.  The Marshall project, a new non-profit, nonpartisan news organization covers only criminal justice issues and one of its objectives is to offer a dynamic public platform for first-person reporting from inside prisons, written by prisoners and prison staff themselves.

11.  Success stories:  George Chochos and Darryl Johnson share their progress in the free world.



1.  NetWORKS: The monthly message from the New York State Prisoner Justice Network

The following statement was released by Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI), an affiliate of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network, in response to the deaths of two New York City police officers

Where’s the Outrage Now?
In response to the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, along with many other organizations, was asked by community leaders to release a statement of condolence – and to distance our organization from the shooting. “Where’s the outrage now?” was heard from police officers; and community leaders have suggested it is our obligation to clarify our position.

We may be missing something, but as far as we know, no condolences have been expressed by police forces, PBA’s, or FOP’s on the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other police killing victims; nor have they distanced themselves from Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo.

There are many heartbreaking and unnecessary deaths in our world every day, from many causes, from inadequate health care to pollution to poverty to drone attacks. We regret them all, we are outraged by them all; but we have never before been asked to issue a statement of condolence.

CAAMI, #BlackLivesMatter, and the movement we are part of were created to respond to a particular kind of unnecessary death – the systematic killing and brutality directed toward youth of color by police with the approval of the criminal justice system.

There is no parallel between the deaths of these officers and the deaths we are protesting, of youth of color at the hands of police. The death of the officers was the act of a lone individual. The deaths we are protesting are institutionalized, systemic, official, continuing, and approved by criminal justice officialdom, the courts, and every level of government.

The job of policing is inherently dangerous, and made more so by the antagonistic, us-versus-them approach taken by police, especially white police in communities of color. We are told it is only “some” police officers, that the majority are professional and fair. This will only be true if and when the “some” are held accountable rather than protected by an entire system of power. We sincerely believe that a system of equal justice, transparency, community control and accountability will make the job of police officers much safer – as well as make our communities safer and our youth less likely to be gunned down.

In addition, the call for us to respond with sympathy implies that our movement has some responsibility for these deaths, or that we have called for revenge. The opposite is true. The system of violent policing and mass incarceration is a system based on punishment and revenge – the system we are trying to overturn. It is exactly because violence and punishment, coming from the most powerful forces in our society, beget more violence as well as untold suffering in our communities and around the world, that we oppose them. An eye for an eye is not coming from us, but is the dominant culture of our racist, hierarchical, violent, punitive society. A society’s dominant culture comes from its dominant forces – in this case, its government, oligarchy (the 1%), corporations, police, military, media, and other entrenched institutions, not from the people on the ground and in the street.

Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration extends condolences to the families of New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. We regret all violent and unnecessary deaths; and we continue to assert that dismantling the racist, violent, and oppressive criminal justice system is a crucial step in preventing them.



2.  Parole News - November Release rates and more...
NOVEMBER 2014 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES Of A1 VIOLENT FELONS,  DIN #s through 2001  unofficial research from parole database

November 2014 Summaries
Total Interviews
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to date release rate
Initials 
17
3
14 *
18%
24%
Reappearances 
70
16
54
23%
28%
Total 
87
19
68
22%
27%
* (MidState: 1 rescission, Coxsackie: 1 medical)


November Releases by Age 
Total Seen
Released
Denied 
Percent Released
60-69
10
3
7
30%
70-79
10
1
       9 (1 Medical)
10%
80+
1

1
0%
Total
21
4
17
19%



Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Albion-Female
54
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Cayuga
34
17-Life
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill 
54
15-Life
Mrd 2
Deported   1



Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Albion-Female
60
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Collins
53
20-Life
Mrd 2
8
Fishkill
52
17-Life
Mrd 2
8
Fishkill
39
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Fishkill
40
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Great Meadow
40
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Green Haven
48
17-Life
Mrd 2
2
Mohawk
62
20-Life
Kidnap 1
5
Otisville
66
20-Life
Mrd 2
7
Otisville
72
20-Life
Mrd 2
8
Otisville
50
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
44
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
40
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Southport
42
20-Life
Mrd 2
5
Washington
34
9-Life
JO Mrd
6
Wyoming
60
25-Life
Mrd 2
4


The Board of Parole’s December business meeting is available for viewing at https://www.parole.ny.gov/parole-board-videos.html -Viewing these meetings gives the public a valuable insight into their concerns and activities outside of their hearings with parole applicants.

In his article, Fixing the Law and Practice of Parole published in the New York Law Journal on December 8, David Lenefsky, the attorney who worked with Philip Rabenbauer in his Article 78, made the following comments.  (P.S.  Philip Rabenbauer was released at his December 9 parole hearing.)

Surely, it would be useful to know how many inmates who have served their minimum sentence with good institutional records have been denied parole.  In an age of megadata, not knowing the financial cost of incarcerating inmates with good records who have served their minimum sentence is managerial malpractice.

Boards should recommend a variety of program goals appropriate for a particular inmate and set the next hearing to a date sufficient for the inmate to accomplish them. 

Parole hearings today are conducted through video conferencing, rather than face-to-face.  Parole commissioners apparently favor video conferencing, inmates do not. 

Currently, the office of the prosecuting district attorney can write a letter to the board objecting to parole. That letter is confidential and thus beyond an inmate's comment. Absent an inmate threatening a district attorney there is no reason to treat such a letter as confidential. District attorneys are public figures just as parole commissioners are. An inmate should have an opportunity to comment.   [Copies of the complete article can be requested from Prison Action Network]

Barbara Hanson Treen writes a letter to the editor of the New York Law Journal
In response to David Lenefsky’s article,  December 15, 2014

David Lenefsky has seen for himself, through his representation of clients, the various problems with the parole process ("Fixing the Law and Practice of Parole," Dec. 8th). The problems are various and numerous but boil down to the different philosophies of the sitting parole board members.

I served as a [Parole] commissioner for 12 years and took very seriously my legislative mandate to weigh risk assessment as a prerequisite for release, not to resentence. As each member is a political patronage appointee from different quarters, there is little adhesion to similar principles, although there is an overarching culture of avenging the community.
Lenefsky recommends the common sense approach of telling an inmate what is expected of the inmate for release and giving a reasonable time frame for the completion of those programs in the denial memo. There are several problems with that approach; 1) programs inside are not always available to every inmate and are not always substantive, 2) if a denial of under two years is given, there is a possibility that the next board disagrees and won't release anyway upon reappearance and 3) the two year denial is a message that the intention is for the inmate never to get out and/or that the next board can do whatever it wants, and that this case is a "hot potato."
The hot potatoes though, are usually the long-termers who are less of a risk than others after years of maturation and penance. The budget is always the compelling reason to fix a broken system and the unnecessary warehousing of human lives. But what about the toll on those lives...a topic rarely discussed.
The current die-ins going on nationwide remind me that there are inmates, who without the aid of lawyers like David Lenefsky, "can't breathe" because of the lack of oversight of the parole board's practices.
~Barbara Hanson Treen



3.  Testimony about the NYS Parole Board:
Scott Paltrowitz, Associate Director of the Prison Visiting Project at the Correctional Association of New York, testified before the NYS Assembly’s Corrections Committee Hearing on Parole on December 4 2013.  These comments are taken from his 46 page written testimony.  

The Correctional Association has had statutory authority since 1846 to visit NYS’s prisons and to report to the legislature, other state policymakers, and the public about what is happening in our prison system.  Their access provides them with a unique opportunity to observe and document the actual practices inside NYS’s prisons, and to learn from incarcerated persons and staff their opinions on the processes and outcomes of parole decisions.  These are just a few of the observations reported in Mr. Paltrowitz’s testimony:

One incarcerated person lamented, “when counselors or other staff talk to you after you get hit by the Board, it is not ‘you’re not ready’, but ‘it was a bad Board’”.  Despite the implementation of the new procedures such as the Case Plan and COMPAS, the lack of program opportunities in DOCCS, the denial of release to people who successfully complete the programs offered to them, and the failure of the Board to provide direct guidance on how a person can become ready for successful return to their communities, indicate that no substantial change or improvement has taken place.

The negative impact of parole denials is even more acute because of the lack of opportunity for people to improve their chance for release and better prepare for return to their communities. Particularly for long-termers who are denied by the Board and have competed all of their basic DOCCS programming, many across the DOCCS system are left to languish in prison with little positive opportunities.  With only a small number of college programs available across the state ever since incarcerated persons were eliminated from eligibility for federal Pell grants and the NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grants, and with limited support for peer-led or volunteer programs, many long-termers have few opportunities after being denied parole to continue to grow or demonstrate additional readiness for release prior to their next hearing.

When people are sentenced by a judge and told that if they rehabilitate themselves, participate in programs and prepare themselves for return to their communities, that they will be rewarded with release, those individuals often buy into that system and work hard to utilize their time in prison in a beneficial manner.  Then, when they are denied parole after they have done what they were told they were supposed to do, and achieved accomplishments even above and beyond those expectations, they begin to disrespect the law and the whole process and system.  As one formerly incarcerated person who had been denied parole multiple times explained, “we are told that how our society works is that we reward people who abide by the rules, we reward good behavior and punish bad behavior; and yet the Parole Board is punishing good behavior.”

The limited use of Medical Parole, and the overly burdensome and delayed processes of medical parole , continue to allow large numbers of people to die in prison when they should have been released. Limiting use of Medical Parole is a function of both DOCCS and the BOP.  Requests have to go through a long process involving multiple individuals and departments and with the ultimate discretion of the DOCCS Commissioner as to whether to refer the case to the BOP.  [Even after that] the BOP, as in other parole release decisions, then has discretion as to whether or not to release the applicant on medical parole. (see Article 2, Parole release statistics, for an example of that.)

[Prison Action Network is not able to provide copies of the full report.  However we will quote from it periodically in our pages]




4.  Click here for a list of  NYS Assembly members

If you’re interested in criminal justice policies, the NYS legislature is where you need to focus.  We are listing the newly elected.  You can click on their names to get their contact information.  We are also listing members of the Correction Committee [as of Jan.4].  The members may change after the session starts.  If so, we will publish the corrected list next month. 

NEWLY ELECTED ASSEMBLY MEMBERS   

These are the members of the Assembly’s Correction Committee.  You can click on their names to get their contact information:

Chair
Members

Next month we will publish the list for State Senators.



5.  Highlights from the NYS Assembly Correction Committee Newsletter
Year in Review, Dec. 2014

Prison Tours: Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell visited 13 state and local correctional facilities in 2014: Albion, Attica, Cape Vincent, Clinton, Eastern, Greene, Green Haven , Ogdensburg, Riverview, Sing Sing, Taconic, Rikers Island and Albany County Jail.  With the 12 visits conducted in 2013, he has now visited 23 prisons for a total of 25 visits.  At the state correctional facilities, O’Donnell met with the superintendents, staff, and members of the Inmate Liaison Committee and other inmate associations.  He also visited the SHU in each of the prisons that he had not previously toured.  During 2015, Chairperson O’Donnell and Committee members will tour more state facilities throughout NY, as well as go on tours of local correctional facilities and attend several parole board interviews.  

Legislation introduced in 2014 by A.M. O’Donnell:  
Mental Health Discharge Planning  A.10071/Same as S 7818  YOUNG, passed both houses and was signed into law by the governor:  Requires that discharge planning include preparing continuity of mental health services upon release.  It also allows regional directors of community supervision to initiate involuntary mental hospital commitment proceedings. 

Authority to Hold Mentally Ill Inmates in Psychiatric Center,  A4583, Same as S 5763  GALLIVAN, passed in Assembly,  allows the inmate to remain at Center instead of return to prison where they often decompensate. 

Requires Additional Mental Health Training for Certain (those who have direct contact with inmates in order to prevent suicide and self-harm) Prison Employees, A7659, Same as S 5740  CARLUCCI,  passed Assembly.

Publication of Parole Appeal Decisions on Public Website (within 60 days), A9285 /no same as,  passed in Assembly.

In the coming year, the Correction Committee plans to explore legislation to implement needed reforms to mental health services in jails and prisons.  It will specifically consider legislation mandating adequate therapy and services for traumatized and mentally ill inmates.



6.  January 3 2015  Gov. Cuomo signs S7818/A10071
The advocacy voice of NAMI-NYS and our members was heard loud and clear in Albany as Governor Cuomo signed S7818/ A10071The Prisoners Mental Health Discharge and Planning Bill,  into law. The new law will help guide people living with a mental illness who are in prison towards recovery and successful outcomes upon their discharge and reintegration. NAMI-NYS is confident this law will have a tremendous positive impact for some of the most vulnerable people living with a mental illness.

NAMI-NYS wants to express our gratitude to Governor Cuomo for signing the bill into law as well as Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell and Senator Catherine Young for sponsoring the bill and continually fighting for its enactment. 

Most importantly, we want to thank all our NAMI-NYS advocates who called Speaker Silver's office and Governor Cuomo's office on behalf of the bill. Getting this law enacted was a long, arduous process, but we never gave up and this victory would have been impossible without our vocal support. 

This is great way to end 2014 and should set the stage for more legislative reforms to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by mental illness in 2015. Please mark February 10 on your calendar and be sure to join us for our Legislative Conference.

THANK YOU!!!




7.  Echoes of Incarceration produces videos featuring children of incarcerated parents
Mass Incarceration Has Affected Me My Whole Life

My name is Jasmine Barclay and I'm not trying to politicize anything. What I am trying to do is talk about the problems that have affected my entire life, every part of it, and encourage other people to tell their stories, too. I want to reach out to people who've had some of the same problems I've had and I want to let them know they're not alone.
One in 28 children in the United States has a parent in prison. One in nine African-American children has a parent in prison. America incarcerates more people than any other country, and what people don't understand is that this has consequences for more than the people locked up. The solutions to these problems are complicated, but our tough-on-crime policies hurt families, they hurt a lot of people who didn't do anything wrong.
I have become a youth producer for Echoes of Incarceration. Echoes is an award-winning documentary initiative produced by youth with incarcerated parents. Echoes explores the issue of mass incarceration and its effects on families, and creates documentary films told from the life experiences of the filmmakers themselves. Basically, this program teaches young people like myself how to tell stories through film, and then we turn around and tell our own stories.
When I look around I still do not see a lot of people talking about their experiences with incarcerated parents. So let me tell you: There is NO SHAME in your story.
There are a lot of ways you can join us in this fight to raise awareness to the problems mass incarceration causes for young people in America today. Tweet me at @echoesdoc, or on our Facebook page. Echoes also has launched a Kickstarter, where you can make a donation, until 11:59pm tonight (12/5/14), to support our productions. 



8.  Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP), Graduating Class of 2014
On Wednesday, Dec. 10, a group of 13 students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas as the Class of 2014.  Unlike most college graduates, though, this group was entirely comprised of prisoners, inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility, the state’s oldest prison.

The December ceremony was the second graduation ceremony ever held for the Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP). Rob Scott, the program’s executive director, said that Cornell professors first began teaching prison classes back in 2001. Initially, though, it was not an official college program. There was no funding, and the courses were not offered for credit.  Then in 2008, Doris Buffett—the founder of the Sunshine Lady Foundation and sister of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett--got involved and provided funding to create a program that would actually help inmates earn degrees. Now, the students earn Cornell credits. However, because Cornell does not offer a two-year degree program, the credits are transferred to Cayuga Community College so graduates are awarded liberal arts associate’s degrees. In the future, Scott hopes to see bachelor degrees become a part of the program as well. 

Commencement speaker Ronald Day, who is both the current director of workforce development at the Osborne Association and also a former inmate himself, commented on the difficulty of making positive changes in prison. He said, “Few people are rehabilitated in prisons. Fewer still are rehabilitated by prisons. But a few rehabilitate themselves in spite of prison.”

Graduate Nathan Powell is one who has done much in spite of prison. Although he was living in New York City at the time of his arrest, Powell also has a local connection: he graduated from Ithaca High School in 1981. Now, in this month’s graduation, he was honored as the valedictorian. In his speech, Powell expressed his gratitude for the CPEP program: “The rest of the world had us tagged and bagged, and you came in here, and you cared, and we will never forget that.”

After Powell’s speech, salutatorian Lucas Whaley took the stage. “Prison’s a funny place,” he said. “Sure, it’s oppressive and depressing, but it’s also filled with amazing things you wouldn’t expect—like brilliance.”

Another graduate, Maurice McDowell, said, “This means a lot. I have had something positive to do with my time here instead of doing idle time.” McDowell said he hopes to become a social worker after his release. 

The inmates aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program. As Scott said, “It feeds me to do this work.”   It is perhaps in part because of the tendency to define inmates as “others” that prison education programs have sometimes drawn criticism, a fact to which Buffet alluded during her brief speech. However, Pete Wetherbee, a Cornell professor emeritus who helped launch CPEP, firmly averred the value of prison education. He said, “It’s enriching for the culture of the prison. Some of the best students of the program are lifers. Also, it decreases recidivism, which is a tremendous economic boon to taxpayers.”




9.  poems for an imperiled world 

In this book poet ibn Kenyatta ranges far and wide on "the floor of the earth".  A verse from his poem "imitation of life" might encourage you, as it does us, to stay our course on the road to justice:  

we must will ourselves to live just one more day
and then to repeat this same feat again and again
and to mark each experience as being a new beginning
in our hopes that a possible change will arrive
and Faith will find us worthy

To order a copy of the book, (ISBN: 978-1-4931-6049-5) , you may contact 
Xlibris LLC, 1663 Libery Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington IN 47403
1-888-795-4274 -   Orders@Xlibris.com




10.  The Marshall Project 
This new non-profit, nonpartisan news organization covers only criminal justice issues.  Every weekday morning, Andrew Cohen, The Marshall Project's commentary editor, combs the Web for the most interesting news / opinions about the American criminal justice system and serves it up with authority and a bit of attitude. His roundup is called the Opening Statement. It's free.  To subscribe, Click here

One of the Marshall Project’s objectives is to offer a dynamic public platform for first-person reporting from inside prisons, written by prisoners and prison staff themselves.  The Project is soliciting narrative nonfiction writing (500-2000 words) about a specific aspect of life in jail or prison.  Almost any topic could be of interest, from the boredom of daily routines to the experience of solitary confinement, to friendship, education, ways of coping, food or work.  Other topics could include relationships with other prisoners and prison staff, communication with family or friends on the outside, etc.  They are not looking for poetry, fiction, essays about life before prison, political commentary etc.  Send submissions to 250 W 57 St, Suite 2514, NY NY 10107, email, or call 212 803 5200.


11.  Success stories
[You are invited to submit your story for future publication.]


George Chochos

George spent 11.4 years in prison on a 14 year bid after years of shorter bids for lesser crimes than the 5 bank robberies he was convicted of in 2001.  He was sent to Sing-Sing with a drug addiction and no hope of doing anything with his life.  While there, he accidentally walked into a classroom where inmates were studying for a master's degree in urban ministry.  That “accident” opened in George a desire to one day be in that classroom as a student.  "God gave me a desire to acquire an education after years of an aversion to school" and without any planning on his part, he was eventually transferred to a prison where Bard College accepted him, and his academic life began.  George went on to get two Bachelor degrees before he was back in Sing-Sing and working toward a masters’ degree in urban ministry.  He was released at his LCTA hearing in 2011.  George is now in his 4th semester studying for an M.Div degree at Yale Divinity School with a full scholarship, while at the same time serving out the remaining years of his parole supervision.  "It shows that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” proclaims Minister Chochos.


Darryl Johnson

Darryl Johnson is the Office Operation Coordinator for the Albany N.Y. based Center For Law and Justice, assisting Dr. Alice Green, the executive director.  
During his 10 years in prisons for drug sales, he had one ticket during his whole bid. At his first parole board his denial was based on him being on probation when he was arrested for his current drug charge. “At my second parole board hearing a parole commissioner asked if I remembered him; he was at my previous hearing. I answered that I remembered him; he was the one who hit me for something that was not true.  I asked him if he wanted me to show him, to which he stated that he would look, then asked me if being off probation 6 months before catching the case made a difference. I stated, ‘I guess not to anybody sitting on that side of the table.’ All three heads turned to look me in the face.”
Since being released, Darryl has worked for multiple social service organizations where he helped those who had just come home, with court appearances, job searches, career development, educational advancement, and the big piece, reuniting with their families. He is fully committed to change a system that has for too long taken our Black men and women and done as it pleases with them.


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