Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May 2006

Dear Members,

This issue is packed full of interesting and useful information, and we hope you’ll take some time to read it all. From now until October, Building Bridges will be giving a lot of attention to promoting and publicizing Family Empowerment Day II , which is a growing focus for many members of the network. We need your help to spread the word and assist with the planning. More on that in the pages to follow....

Together, we CAN make a difference!


1. CURE-NY Annual Meeting and Lobby Day
2. Coalition for Women Prisoners
3. from Inside
4. from Karima Amin, Director of Prisoners Are People Too!
5. Getting the Best From Your Public Defender in Court
6. Getting Free, continued [from April issue]
7. Help for Rockefeller Drug Law Prisoners
8. Meetings
9. Merit Time Bill Status
10. Telephone Justice/Justicia Telefonica
11. Transportation to Prisons
12. Words from Ramon

1. CURE-NY Annual Meeting and Lobby Day:
May 9, 2006
In the Knickerbocker Room,
Capitol Hill Deli, 42 Eagle St., Albany, NY

Reminder: Kindly email your intentions to attend (to so they can complete arrangements for the breakfast, lunch, and meeting.  (If you don’t have internet access, contact PAN and we will forward your information.) Formerly incarcerated persons and families of persons still incarcerated are free; others are invited to offer a donation, suggested at $20.
Continental Breakfast and Social
Speakers: JIM MURPHY, President of CURE-NY, SENATOR TOM DUANE, Senior Minority Member of the NYS Senate Codes Committee and the NYS Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, ALICE GREEN, President of the Center for Law and Justice., JOHN CAHER, Albany Bureau Chief for the New York Law Journal.
Lunch and Lobbying Team explanation
Lobbying  (appointments at 1:45, 2:00,  2:15, 2:30, 3:00, and 3:30)

Bills of Interest to CURE-NY in legislative visits:
Family Connections (Telephone Justice): A.7231; S.5299-C
Merit Time A.3230-B, S.1701-B
Mentally ill  and Solitary Confinement: S.2207, A.3926
2005 Geriatric: A.01513; S.104
Parole Board Members: A. 03802; S.1499
Justice Reinvestment Fund: A.6546; S.01063
Voting in Local Jails: A.06182, S.1174
Drug Law Repeal: A.06796
Dept. of Health Oversight: A.03544
Inmate Residence and Redistricting: A. 6409
Vote while on Parole: A.00731
Higher Education: A.02756, S.1480
Termination of Parole: S.6013
Public Defense Commission: A.6908

2. Coalition for Women Prisoners
The next Coalition for Women Prisoners meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 17th from 5:00pm-7:00pm at the Legal Aid Society, 1st Floor Conference Room, 49 Thomas St., between Church and West Broadway.  Contact Jaya Vasandani at 212 254 5700.

During CWP’s Lobby Day April 4, 30 groups of from 3-6 people each visited NYS legislators to promote the following 5 key reform proposals. Many of the legislators signed a statement of support for these proposals (a full report of who signed which, will be published when finalized):

1. Further reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
2. Allowing incarcerated survivors of domestic violence to be eligible for early release.
3. Requiring prison officials to file Medicaid applications for inmates before release.
4. Increased funding for programs that keep families connected when a mother is in prison.
5. Expand the scope and number of vocational programs in women’s prisons.

3. from Inside:
1. Just to let you know what I am doing here in Coxsackie. I run groups for the pre-release center, prepare those who are soon re-entering society by setting them up with available resources for housing, employment, treatment and other needed resources, and also in these groups we discuss issues of empowerment like self-worth, skills, family, education, etc.

I also sit with men who are dying from terminal illnesses in the Hospice program, which is far more emotional. We comfort them and do what we can to see to it that they understand that they aren’t alone and that someone cares.

Presently I am also working on beginning an empowerment program called Chisel, which will deal with emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of being in prison and returning back into society. Here in this facility we lack any independent progressive programs and I seek any help from the readers who may have information on starting programs, as it is desperately needed.

I am with our brother Ramon, and all the others who join in this struggle, hand in hand, heart to heart. Know you aren’t alone in the struggle.

William Clanton, 03A4400 PS: I am seeking a copy of the entire article, Distorting Political Reality, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial March 17, 2006.

2. I would like to compliment Building Bridges on the April 2006 edition. They have all been good, and they are getting better. “Good, Better, Best, Never let it rest, until Good is better, and Better is best!”

I agree with Ramon Gonzalez on p.10. There are Lifers that have become complacent, but we must remember, “as the going gets tough, the tough get going; tough times never last, but tough people do!” Keep up the good work!

Mika’il Muwakil, Warwick, NY
April 4 2006

3. Attention: All readers of Building Bridges: In September of 2006, one of the Otisville Lifers’ own eminently qualified, community-ready men will be appearing before his second parole board. Most of you know Bryce Rudert (85A4359) as “Big Sonny” or through his writings. We believe he has demonstrated, far above and beyond the legal criteria, that he is qualified for release to parole supervision.

Throughout his time in prison he has not only worked hard at turning his life around, he has worked just as hard helping others to do the same. In fact, he is always willing to lend others a helping hand. Now it is our turn to lend Sonny a helping hand. We strongly urge you to join us by showing your support.

To find out what you can do to aid in the Otisville Broadband Parole Support Initiative, write or call PAN and request Sonny’s Parole Profile complete with information and instructions. Sonny needs all your support, and YOUR voice will make a difference!

Thank you, The Otisville Lifers’ Group

4. The Clinton Lifers and Long-Termers Organization is reaching out to legislators, prisoner advocacy groups, criminal justice reform organizations, and government officials for support and assistance in our call for the creation of a task force on long-term prisoners.

Two of the most pressing concerns of prisoners serving long-term sentences in NY are: 1] the increasing amount of time they are required to serve in prison, and 2] the lack of programs designed to address the unique needs of those serving long-term sentences. Both concerns are the result of changes in state policies. The one-size-fits-all policy for both long-term and short-term prisoners continues under the current DOCS administration, and long-term offenders receive no guidance or direction regarding their adjustment and coping needs.

We propose the creation of a “Task Force” on Long-term prisoners that would: 1] study the conditions mentioned above and recommend a state strategy involving the prison and parole agencies, with other partners as appropriate, and 2] study the acclaimed “Life Line Program” currently operating under the Canadian Correctional system as a model for replication in NYS.

--Clinton Lifers & Long-Termers Org, Clinton C.F., PO Box 2001, Dannemora, NY 12929

5. Building Bridges received a letter from a man who has been incarcerated since August 1991 for committing a sex offense. He says, “My scheduled Conditional Release Date was July 2003. My parole officer has indicated that I am to propose a residence/program where there are responsible adults willing to provide adult collateral monitoring. I am unable to find such a residence/program from within prison. My charges are Rape 1 (2 counts). I do not have a history besides the above charge with regard to sex offenses, and I have never harmed a child.” He goes on to list programs he has successfully completed, and ends by saying, “All I need is the opportunity to be placed in a structured environment where I can continue on my road to success. Can you please provide me with that opportunity? I promise I will not let you down.” He provides his mother’s phone number for further information. If you would like more information or if you have any information which could be helpful to him, please contact PAN and we will pass it on.

4. from Karima Amin, Director of Prisoners Are People Too!
Sr. Karen Klimczak, founder of Hope House (Bissonette House), a transitional home for male parolees in Buffalo NY, was found dead about 5 miles from the house. A resident of Bissonette House has confessed. "Mad Dads" President Dwayne Ferguson echoed the sentiments of many when he told WBEN, "she's going to be really missed in our community."  Klimczak was behind a "Non-Violence Begins With Me" campaign.  In an interview with WBEN, Sister Mary Johnice of the Response To Love Center on Buffalo's East Side said of her close friend, "She was a gift for us; she was our hope...she was our Jesus."  Sister Karen Klimczak was 62.

Artelia "Tia" Lewis is a formerly incarcerated individual who is a student at D'Youville College and a Peer Support Specialist with the WNY Independent Living Project, Inc. She is also engaged in an internship with Cazenovia Recovery Systems.

Tia has a daughter who is serving  a 23 year prison sentence. She is currently in a SHU ("special housing unit") for prisoners with psychiatric disabilities. Recently, Tia went to Albany to speak out in favor of a law which would require alternatives to the inhumane solitary confinement of the SHU.

Tia and her daughter, Katisha, could both benefit from our prayers and words of comfort and encouragement. You may contact Tia's daughter at the following address: Katisha R. Beaty 
DIN 01G0328, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, P. O. Box 1000, Bedford Hills, NY 10507

You can reach Artelia "Tia" Lewis at: Artelia Lewis, Peer Support Specialist, Mental Health Peer Connection, WNY Independent living Project, Inc., 3108 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214

FALSE CONFESSION, WRONGFUL CONVICTION, EYEWITNESS ERROR: Several PRP2! members traveled to Albany NY from Buffalo and Niagara Falls NY to present at the Prison Forum of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, on Sunday, March 26, 2006.

The topic was false confession, wrongful conviction, eyewitness error, and the speakers were: Sis. Nora Massey, Sis. Laila (Louise) Piromalli, Sis. Dwyonna Drayton, and Mr. Bill Bradberry, Esq. They shared valuable information and related the stories of Terroll Massey, Valentino Dixon, John H. Walker, Jr., and Vishnu Persad respectively.
Mr. Bradberry has good news to give us about Vishnu. There was to be a hearing on April 18, 2006 at which the issue of Vishnu's POTENTIAL RELEASE pending a NEW TRIAL may be resolved. Keep Vishnu Persad and his family in your prayers.

Visit to read a Palm Beach Post article for details. If you don’t have Internet access, please call or write PAN and we’ll send you a copy.

5. Getting the Best From Your Public Defender in Court
by John V. Elmore — from April 2006 The Francis Report
Most people charged with crimes in American Courts are poor and cannot afford an attorney to represent them. Many indigent defendants want to know how they can receive justice in court when they have a lawyer who is paid by the State. They think that their lawyer is working with the prosecutor and judge to railroad them.
In some instances the perception that an indigent defendant, who is represented by a lawyer paid by the State, will be railroaded is true. However, the overwhelming number of public defenders and court assigned lawyers are extremely competent and committed legal advocates who take pride in the quality of their work. Despite the inherent advantages the system gives the police and the prosecution, an indigent defendant armed with the right attitude and knowledge can have a realistic chance in his fight for justice.
Many indigent defendants do not trust their lawyers. They erroneously believe that it is a good idea to lie to their lawyers by creating false evidence, protecting their friends, or by minimizing their role in the incident. Lying to your lawyer can lead to disastrous results. If the lies are believed by the attorney, he may give poor advice or reject a favorable plea bargain. Investigative resources are wasted when an attorney tries to corroborate the misinformation. Even worse is a situation where a defense lawyer unknowingly presents false evidence to the jury, which the prosecutor later disproves. The defense lawyer then loses all credibility with the jury and even truthful evidence of a defendant’s innocence is not believed.
I once represented a defendant who was accused of a murder. His attempts to create false evidence led to the police to discover evidence that he actually committed a crime. In this particular case, the defendant claimed to have an alibi that he was with his girlfriend at the time the murder was committed. In an effort to collaborate the alibi I interviewed a cab driver and the cab company dispatcher to determine the time that my client arrived at his girlfriend’s house. After I reviewed the cab dispatch records and interviewed his girlfriend, I concluded that the purported alibi evidence would put my client in close proximity to the scene of the crime at the time the murder occurred. I suspect that after I met with the cab driver and the dispatcher, one of them became aware that my client was connected to the murder. Most likely one of them alerted the police of the possible connection. Both the driver and the dispatcher were called by the prosecution as witnesses and gave very damaging testimony. The defendant’s attempt to create an alibi provided prosecutors key evidence that led to a conviction. 
The following tidbits of advice will help an indigent defendant get the best results when represented by a public defender.
1. Always tell your attorney the whole truth. You are the best source of information about what happened. Your lawyer needs this information to properly defend you and to properly advise you whether or not to accept a plea bargain.
2. When you have an appointment to see your attorney, show up and be on time. Public Defenders have very busy caseloads. They will not have adequate time to prepare your case if you are late or miss appointments.
3. If you know the identity of your witnesses provide your attorney with their names, addresses, and phone numbers. Bring your witnesses to court with you. Do not assume that the public defender will subpoena your witnesses or remind them when they are needed in court.
4. Come to court dressed like a professional. While in court control your emotions and be polite and courteous all of the time.
5. Treat your attorney with respect and he will respect you. Never accuse him or her of working with the prosecution or trying to railroad you. Why would you want to insult someone when your life is in their hands?
6. When deciding whether or not to accept a plea bargain, make your decision based upon logic and not emotion. Take a realistic look at the evidence that a jury will hear against you. If you rationally and logically conclude that you can win the case and are willing to risk the consequences if you lose, then proceed to trial. If you logically conclude that you cannot win, then ask your attorney to negotiate the best possible plea bargain. When it comes to plea bargaining you must know “when to hold them and when to fold them.”
7. If you are in custody while awaiting trial, do not discuss your case with other inmates. Your attorney is smarter than any jailhouse lawyer. Think about it. If your jailhouse attorney is so smart, then why is he in jail? Many jailhouse lawyers are actually jailhouse informants. Many of them end up being government witnesses to a “jailhouse confession.”

6. Getting Free, continued [from April issue]
This piece was wrongly attributed last month. It should have been credited to:
James E. Morse, Stormville, NY

“A white man with a criminal record has a better chance of getting an entry-level job in New York than a black man with a squeaky-clean record, a study has found.”[The New York Post, 17 June 2005]

This study, as outlined in the article, establishes a direct relationship between current penal practices and joblessness among men of color released from captivity. The devious nexus between race-based disparities in criminal justice so-called and joblessness is readily apparent; it is a social affliction that this author calls Malus Chronos, that is Bad Times of the manufactured variety. Since this devious social practice fuels the engines of recidivism among ex-offenders, and is not likely to be cured by persons who feed off of it, people of color serving time in New York’s penal realms should be encouraged to commit suicide -- that is, political suicide.

“Greater than armies is an idea whose time has come.” -- Victor Hugo

Prisoners of color (mainly citizens born and raised in the U.S.A.) should be encouraged to commit political suicide for the purpose of putting an end to the racial injustice characterizing New York’s judicial and penal systems. For “demographics” (the official rationale for a Jim Crow penal system) is a transparent falsehood concocted by the beneficiaries of Bread and Power. Political suicide is accomplished by prisoners of color having their voting rights restored - before encountering recidivistic joblessness, and other post-release traps and pitfalls. For only the vote can countervail Bread and Power’s vital interest in the maintenance of the status quo.

Article II, 3, of the New York State Constitution mandates political disenfranchisement (loss of voting rights) for individuals convicted of “infamous crime.” Though, on its face, Article II is racially neutral, in 1991, the Judicial Commission on Minorities conceded that the courts (via racial disparities in convictions and sentence type) are using Article II as an instrument of political discrimination that adversely affects the voting power of all people of color. [Over 80% of all state prisoners hail from NYC Assembly Districts that are largely nonwhite, including Harlem, Brownsville, E. New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Lower East South Bronx, Jamaica.]

In a recent decision [See Locke v. Farrakhan, WL 2058775 (U.S. Nov. 8, 2004.)], the Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case that allowed Washington State prisoners to challenge a felon disenfranchisement statue that, like New York’s, violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, the Court did let stand a decision by the New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals, holding that the “results test” of the Voting Rights Act cannot be applied to challenge the validity of New York’s disenfranchisement statute, because the Act is “silent” regarding said statues.

However, since the Second Circuit judges have voted on their own motion to review their decision, if the Supreme Court declined to review the Washington State case, this circumstance has prompted an increasing number of persons (free and imprisoned) to write letters to Second Circuit judges, expressing their desire to have the voting rights of state prisoners restored. Once said voting rights are restored, one of the first duties that we re-enfranchised voters will assign to our legislative representatives is the task of changing the current laws governing census taking. Currently, prisoners are counted, not as members of the political districts from which we hail, but as a part of the district wherein our prison is located. Thus, as the census is now conducted, each felony conviction in New York City deletes from communities of color increments of economic power and transfers it to the communities surrounding the penal realms. Secondly, our restored voting power will insure that state government, for the first time, possesses a direct economic stake in preventing ex-offenders from returning to prison. While some prisoners will remain in prison, vote or no, the present economic trend is to “swell the ranks of sinners” for the benefit of Bread and Power, long after imprisonment stops making sense.

“Twist about, turn about
Jump Jim Crow
Every time I wheel about,
I do just so.”
-- The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book

Obviously, Jim Crow (racial injustice) was not legislated out of existence by the Voting Rights Act of 1965; he simply changed his name to Malus Chronos and relocated to the bounded spaces of the penal realms. There Malus Chronos touts the deception that racial segregation in a totalitarian order is somehow reformative of character; there he has people of color twisting, turning, wheeling about -- doing the recidivistic shuffle unto death. The cemeteries within the penal realms are swollen with prisoners not sentenced to death, but who died waiting to be freed.

Wherefore, the political suicide of state prisoners -- this voting of his/her surplus numbers out of existence -- is, in fact, a noble Testimony of Freedom that must be encouraged by persons (on both sides of prison walls) who support racial justice -- not only in words, but in deeds too.

Your letter to the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is word and deed combined.

7. Removed due to irrelevance after 30 days.

8. Meetings:
A. Prison Families of New York groups:

7-8:30 pm every Monday at The Womens Bldg. 79 Central Ave, Albany . Ring the bell for the library and lounge to get in. Alison at 518 453 6659.

7 - 8:30 pm Monday May 8 and May 22 at the Family Partnership building, 29 North Hamilton Street. Deb at 845-616-9698,

B. Other Advocacy/Self-Help Groups:

Citizens for Restorative Justice. We have our next CRJ meeting on Thurs. May 4th. I'm sure we will be preparing for the CURE meeting and lobby day on May 9th. At the Family Partnership building at 29 North Hamilton Street in Poughkeepsie. Anyone is welcome to join us in anything that we do. Deb at 845-616-9698 or

Justice Committee of FUUSA. Next meeting at 12 noon on May 28. For individuals desiring to get involved in prison and criminal justice reform. FUUSA, 405 Washington Ave., Albany. Contact Thayer Heath at 518 861 0035 or

Coalition of Families of NYS Lifers: No meeting scheduled yet, but we’ve defined our vision and our mission:
VISION: To establish and maintain a working relationship with NYS DOCS in order to facilitate an understanding of the need of the families of those who are incarcerated with life as a part of their sentence.
MISSION: Educate and facilitate dialog between DOCS and the families of Lifers in order to strengthen family bonds.
For more info: PO Box 1314, Wappinger Falls, NY 12590, or

9. Merit Time Bill Status:
In response to those who have asked:
Correction Law
TITLE....Provides for accumulation of merit time allowance
01/25/06 - PRINT NUMBER 1701A
03/08/06 - PRINT NUMBER 1701B 

10. Telephone Justice/Justicia Telefonica 
Participate in our monthly family member conference call:  Once a month, we have a state-wide conference call for prison family members from throughout the State to call in to stay involved with the progress of the campaign, and to share their input.  The next conference call is Tuesday, May 16th at 7 pm (Eastern Standard Time).  Call 212.614.6459 or email for the TOLL FREE CALL IN NUMBER.   

A lot of you have been asking about the MCI/DOCS contract's expiration date of March 30, 2006. DOCS has exercised its option of the first one-year renewal. So the contract which is now with Verizon Business (MCI) is still in effect. That is why we are working through political and legislative means to get the legislation passed so that the contract can be voided!  Here's how you can continue to help:

Every week on Wednesday encourage everyone you know to call Governor Pataki (212) 681-4580 or (518) 474-8390 and Verizon (800) 621 9900 from 8 am to 5 pm to say "I’m calling in support of the NY Campaign for Telephone Justice to ask that you put an end to the prison phone contract between Verizon/MCI and DOCS."

CADA MIERCOLES pidales a su familia y a sus amigos que llamen al Gobernador Pataki al (212) 681-4580 o al (518) 474-8390 y a Verizon (800) 621-9900 entre las horas ocho (8) de la manana hasta las cinco (5) de la tarde, lunes a viernes.  Digales, "Llamo para apoyar La Campana Neoyorquina para Justicia Telefonica (NYCTJ) para pedir que acaben con el contracto telefónico de prisiones entre Verizon/MCI y el Departamento de Servicios de Correción.

SAVE THE DATE: Friday, May 12, 2006.  Please let us know your availability for a noon time vigil in Manhattan. Call Marion at 212 614 6421 for more information.

11. Transportation to Prisons:
A. Prison Action Network will meet DOCS free bus to COLLINS/GOWANDA on Saturday, 5/13 at 1:00 AM. To join us at the Albany bus terminal on the 13th or to help put together information packets and snacks and toys for the children on Friday May 12, please call 253-7533.

B. Prison Action Network: Call 518 253-7533 if you need a ride to visit your incarcerated loved one [there is no charge for this service]:
Rides are available from Albany by a PAN volunteer. If you and/or your family need transportation to visit your loved one in prison, and the following limitations work for you, please contact PAN at the address on your envelope or at the email address or phone number in this letter, and we will connect you to your driver
the prison must be within 150 miles of Albany [300 miles round trip].
driver is willing to wait 2-3 hours for visit to be concluded.
driver is willing to start, from the visitor's residence, as early as 8:00 A.M.
driver is willing to get back home as late as 6:00 P.M.
driver is available on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays [and, in a pinch, on Fridays].
car seats 5, though, for a trip of 150 miles, sitting in the middle of the back seat would be a tight squeeze.

12. Words from Ramon:
Call for Attendance:
I am calling on all of you to join PAN and FUUSA’s Social Responsibility Council (SRC) and the Otisville Lifers Core Committee to a round table Think Tank on July 6 from 6:15 - 9:15 PM at Otisville C.F., to plan Family Empowerment Day II. To confirm your participation, contact PAN at 518 253-7533 or email:

As most Building Bridges readers know, I am chairman and social interaction director of the Otisville Lifers, and in that capacity I work alongside many dedicated brothers entrenched in our struggle for fair parole policies. However, we aren’t working alone - PAN and members of FUUSA’s SRC join in our meetings to conceptualize and formulate strategies to address our plight. Our current project is Family Empowerment Day II, under the auspices of The Coalition of Family and Community. The venue is Middle Collegiate Church located in New York City on Second Avenue at 7th Street. October 21, 2006 is the date. All are welcome to attend; family members, friends, groups, organizations, ministry, academic, legal, even members of the political community. So “Save The Date”!

What will come out of this year’s Family Empowerment Day event? In order to answer this question all organizations - CPR, CURE-NY, CRJ, PFNY, NYIF, CFNYSL, Family Members and Friends of People Incarcerated, Citizens against Recidivism, PRP2!, and all others who are reading this, will need to decide the tasks that will be undertaken collectively. Together, “we, the people must decide.” Again, please contact PAN to arrange to join us on July 6.

The only thing we hold on to is Hope. When that hope is resurrected, there is new life. When there is new life there is possibility. And when there is possibility change occurs. This is the same change that the Division of Parole fails to recognize in each and every one of us. By supporting our initiatives you allow us to show society the power of collective, rehabilitated minds, not stagnated by the subliminal chains of DOCS or the Division of Parole.

Through our networking this day - 7/6/06 - by finalizing the families’ and community's tasks, we can ensure that “We” the People will be heard as a result of Family Empowerment Day. Our collective networking will be the crucial factor that stimulates the vital cross pollination which will in turn, breathe true creative life into the Family Empowerment Day event, and thereafter, in our march for fair parole policies.

R. Gonzalez

Readers are invited to submit notices or articles of interest for publication in this newsletter.