Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

October 2006 - Building Bridges

Dear Reader,

October is finally here, the month The Coalition of Family and Community has been preparing for since April. In 21 days we will meet at 50 East 7th Street near Second Avenue in Manhattan, at Middle Collegiate Church, for Family Empowerment Day 2, when we’ll join together to begin the Campaign for Social Justice, Parole Reform, and Accountable Government. Article #2 contains more information about the event, and ways to help. We hope to see you on October 21st!


#1. Announcements - Documentary about Rehabilitation Through the Arts at Sing Sing; New time for Voices from The Prison Action Network Radio: 6 am Wed; Ride Board list of rides wanted to prisons.

#2. Family Empowerment Day 2 - Sat.10/21/06, Donations, Sponsors, Agenda, How to help.
Join the Campaign for Social Justice, Parole Reform and Accountable Government

#3. Health Care:Prison Style - Panel Suggests Using Inmates in Drug Trials

#4. Parole - Are we seeing an increase in releases? 27 paroled at one prison, 9 with violent offenses, 4 from the Lifer’s Group; study shows ex-offenders less likely to repeat years later:

#5. Prison Abuse - Attica Remembered, by Wm Clanton; Albany Vigil continues and invites interested people to Soiree Sunday Oct. 15; NAMI Criminal Justice support group forming on S.I.; Baba Eng, human rights advocate, recovering from surgery.

#6. Words from a "Juvenile Offender" by Waki Milling - "Many, if not most of us were 13, 14,15 years of age when we took innocent life. No one cared to pay attention to why."

#7. Words from Anthony Papa - "I was deemed a ‘drug kingpin’ when I was arrested for a four-ounce sale of cocaine.  When the facts came out, it was obvious that I was no kingpin, but instead a low-level drug offender."

#8. Words from Ramon - Part of growing is recognizing those you've hurt, so this month I want to recognize the victims; particularly mine....most importantly I apologize to society for the crime I committed, for the fear and scars I helped plant in every heart and soul

#9. FED2 Flyer - What, Where, When, Who, and how....


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26TH: GEORGE STONEY ON "PRISON ACTION" - 7 PM SCREENING at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 Sixth Avenue - at 101st St in Troy NY

The 2005 documentary "Getting Out" by Stoney and his former student David Bagnall holds true to one of the basic precepts of community media: giving a forum to unheard voices and stories. This film about Rehabilitation Through the Arts, an experimental theater program at the Sing Sing correctional facility designed to prepare inmates for their eventual release, will be followed by a panel discussion and live poetry reading and discussion with Robert Sanchez, who was a participant of the Rehabilitation Through the Arts Program.  Presented with Prison Action Network. Pot-luck to meet George and Robert from 5:30-7:00, with prison reform activists from the Capital Region. More Information at: 518 272 2390 or 253 7533 or The Sanctuary for Independent Media

VOICES FROM THE PRISON ACTION NETWORK will be heard at 6 AM on Wednesday mornings on WRPI Troy, 91.5 FM for the Fall Season. Anyone who would like to join us on the air to talk about issues connected to incarceration is welcome to do so. If you live outside our 75 mile range you can listen at 6 AM on Wednesdays by going to

RIDE BOARD - If you would like to share a ride to the prison where you visit, please send us a note with where to, where from, and your contact info. If you no longer need a ride, please let us know to remove your name.
To Bedford Hills from Albany - Qasim - 518 334 2607,
To Gt. Meadow from Albany - Qasim - 518 334 2607,
To Gt. Meadow from Albany - Fri. 10/6, lvg 8am - Judith 518 282 2029,
To Malone (Franklin C.F.) from NYC - Safiya Bandele 646 331 1820,
To Otisville from Albany - Sat. 11/4, lv’g 7am - Judith - 518 482 2029,

2. FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 2, Saturday October 21, 2006
11 am - 3pm
50 East 7th St., near 2nd Ave, at Middle Collegiate Church
Discussion Groups
Information Tables
Petition Signing
Letter Writing

Donations Still Needed: Funding for the program has come from individual donations: over 200 incarcerated people have donated a total of more than $400. With donations from other sources we have close to what we need, but not enough. If you haven’t already sent money we would appreciate a donation of any size. Make checks or money orders out to Prison Action Network with FED2 in the memo, and mail to the Coalition of Family and Community, HM-IMC, PO Box 35, Troy NY 12181. We are trusting we'll have the money we need. Many people are bringing food to share and asking their local stores to donate. This is a grass roots effort! See below for ways you can contribute.

Sponsors: The Coalition of Family and Community is made up of individuals and the following organizations: Citizens for Restorative Justice [CRJ], Coalition of Families of NYS Lifers, Coalition for Parole Restoration [CPR], Exodus Transitional Community, Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment [ICARE], Operation Prison Gap, Otisville C.F. Lifers Organization, Prison Action Network [PAN], Prisoners Are People Too!, Social Responsibility Council [SRC] Justice Committee of First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. [if you think your organization was mistakenly left off this list, please notify us immediately, before we print the Program brochure]

Master of Ceremonies: Mark Chapman, Chair of African and African-American Studies At Fordham Univ. and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics in the NYTS MPS Program at Sing Sing

Robert Isseks, Esq. Lead Attorney in the Pending Class Action Law Suit Challenging Present Unfair Parole Policies
Safiya Bandele, Director, Women's Center, Medgar Evers College CUNY, Performance artist
Deb Bozydaj, Mother of a Lifer
Willie Thomas, 29+ yrs a prisoner, denied parole 7X

Leadership Development: Stacey Thompson, Coalition for Women Prisoners Outreach Coordinator
Legal Tactics: Robert Isseks, Esq. Lead Attorney in the Pending Class Action Law Suit Challenging Present Unfair Parole Policies
Legislative Advocacy: Rima Vesely-Flad, Dir. “ICARE” (Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Re-entry and Employment).
Parole Appeals: Cheryl L. Kates, Esq., Dir. “Edge of Justice”, private attorney
Parole Board Hearings: Willie Thomas, 29+ yrs a prisoner, denied parole 7 times
Prison Education: Mark Chapman, Chair of African and African-American Studies At Fordham Univ. and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics in the NYTS MPS Program at Sing Sing
Re-Entry Issues for Mothers and Wives : Safiya Bandele, Director, Women's Center, Medgar Evers College CUNY, Performance artist
Special Needs of Lifers’ Families: Deb Bozydaj, Mother of a Lifer
Successful Organizing: Karima Amin, Dir. “Prisoners Are People Too!”, educator, storyteller, community organizer

CLOSING SPEECH: Rima Vesely-Flad, Dir. “ICARE” (Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Re-entry and Employment)

CALL TO ACTION: Mark Chapman, Chair of African and African-American Studies at Fordham Univ. and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics in the NYTS MPS Program at Sing Sing


For flyer distribution - at the Operation Prison Gap bus stop at 58th St. and 8th Ave on Friday and Saturday nights from Sept 29 through October 14. Also anywhere else you can think of where prison families and friends will be. Flyers are available at the OPG bus stop. Talk to the bus coordinators - Denise in particular, or call Judith 518 482-2029

To register people to vote - at the above location. If you call me 518 482 2029 or Willie at 646 294 9460, we'll set you up. It's very simple, but you do need forms and short instructions.

To solicit donations of the following things from your friends or people you do business with [including your place of worship or your neighborhood store owners]:

a tray of food for our potluck lunch
tea bags
paper and pens for attendees
paper cups, plates, napkins
donuts, muffins, bagels
butter, cream cheese

Before the Event - 10 AM sharp:
Anyone who can show up at 10 am to take directions from the harried team who will be trying to get it all set up within the one hour we have for preparations. Sign making, moving tables, setting up coffee and breakfast snacks.....

Performers who would dance, sing; choirs, solo performers, break dancing, socially responsible Rap, to entertain the people passing by or waiting to get in.

Shoppers: for last minute supplies.

At the Event:
Registrars - we need to get the names and contact info of every person who attends because we need to keep in touch following the event. This is not a one-shot deal but the beginning of a campaign. We want sign-in to go as smoothly as possible.

Computer entry - someone with a laptop and knowledge of data entry to enter the information gathered by the registrars, as it is received.

Greeters - friendly folks to greet people as they arrive, show them the bathrooms, etc.

Outside greeters with flyers [1 at front door, 1 at corner, 1 at side door] to help people find the right door, and maybe interest some passersby to attend.

Child care helpers - to help children who are wandering or disruptive to join activities we will have available. [there's no space set aside for this, so we are not encouraging childrens' attendance, but we want to keep the children happy who do attend]

Thank you very much for helping with the preparations for this powerful meeting! Let me know what you can do, and I'll support you in doing it: Judith at 518 482 2029, or

August 13, 2006 Panel Suggests Using Inmates in Drug Trials By IAN URBINA [EXCERPTS]
PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 7 — An influential federal panel of medical advisers has recommended that the government loosen regulations that severely limit the testing of pharmaceuticals on prison inmates, a practice that was all but stopped three decades ago after revelations of abuse.

The proposed change includes provisions intended to prevent problems that plagued earlier programs. Nevertheless, it has dredged up a painful history of medical mistreatment and incited debate among prison rights advocates and researchers about whether prisoners can truly make uncoerced decisions, given the environment they live in.

Supporters of such programs cite the possibility of benefit to prison populations, and the potential for contributing to the greater good.

.....“The current regulations are entirely outdated and restrictive, and prisoners are being arbitrarily excluded from research that can help them,” said Ernest D. Prentice, a University of Nebraska genetics professor and the chairman of a Health and Human Services Department committee that requested the study. Mr. Prentice said the regulation revision process would begin at the committee’s next meeting, on Nov. 2.

....... the committee’s report comes against the backdrop of a prison population that has more than quadrupled, to about 2.3 million, over the last 30 years and that disproportionately suffers from H.I.V. and hepatitis C, diseases that some researchers say could be better controlled if new research were permitted in prisons.

Dr. A. Bernard Ackerman, a New York dermatologist who worked at Holmesburg during the 1960’s trials as a second-year resident from the University of Pennsylvania, said he remained skeptical. “I saw it firsthand,” Dr. Ackerman said. “What started as scientific research became pure business, and no amount of regulations can prevent that from happening again.”

Daniel S. Murphy, a professor of criminal justice at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., who was imprisoned for five years in the 1990’s for growing marijuana, said that loosening the regulations would be a mistake.

“Free and informed consent becomes pretty questionable when prisoners don’t hold the keys to their own cells,” Professor Murphy said, “and in many cases they can’t read, yet they are signing a document that it practically takes a law degree to understand.”

Barclay Walsh contributed research for this article.

Releases: Rumor has it that the number of parole releases has dramatically increased in the last month or two. Any coincidence between that and the fact that 7 of the current parole board will be replaced at the beginning of the next term? Or that the man with the power to hire and fire them is on his way out? Or that we’ve all been hard at work sending letters and petitions in support of parole reform? I’ll make a guess and say that all of the above had something to do with it. And so we should all give ourselves a pat on the back, take some credit, and then get back to work fighting for justice! Welcome home to all those granted parole! [27 paroled at Otisville, 9 with violent offenses, 4 from the Lifer’s Group.] And may all the rest of you community-ready men and women follow soon.

Ex-Offenders Less Likely To Repeat Years Later: Study
Should employers be willing gamble on hiring someone with a rap sheet?, asks St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario. A new study by two University of South Carolina criminologists found that ex-offenders with years-old rap sheets are less likely to re-offend than those recently released. The study, "Scarlet Letters and Recidivism: Does an old criminal record predict future offending?," analyzed previous studies and crunched original data tracking offenders and non-offenders in Philadelphia since 1958. It recommends several policy changes, including expunging records for some offenders.

The study found that most folks tend to re-offend or violate terms of their probation [sic] within a few months or years of their release. Those who stayed law abiding still suffered from employment difficulties years after the offense, even though they were less likely to re-offend. "We would like to encourage policymakers through our study to seriously consider whether we can afford to have a policy where we have carte balance exclusion of such offenders for jobs,'' said co-author Robert Brame. The study, from the journal Criminology & Public Policy, can be found at this site ..... St. Paul Pioneer Press

Attica Remembered, by William Clanton

I'd like to take a moment to remember the many brothers who were killed in the Attica massacre on 9/13/1971, and the many who afterwards suffered being beaten and treated like no living being should be. My prayers are with them, their families and friends. "We have not forgotten".

It's appalling how something so horrific as this has been forgotten by so many when today's prison population is at an all time high [2.2 million] and growing, and many facilities closely resemble the conditions and treatment of 30 years ago. I have seen in my years in prison the use of excessive force on inmates for issues as small as talking on the gate or just not having the right look on your face when in the presence of certain officers. Brothers and Sisters on the Inside and the Outside, please know that little has changed in these institutions regarding abuse that we have been undergoing in these places since they've opened. We are very much in need of support from the outside to address these issues.

- William Clanton O3A4400

Albany Vigil for the Victims of Prison Abuse
Every Tuesday at 5:30pm, corner of Washington Avenue and Lark Street. Those now incarcerated will one day be released and will need to readjust and contribute to our communities. Show that you care. Join us at the vigil and sign the petition at

All are invited to attend a SOIREE and fundraiser to help raise awareness, ideas, and funds for Sunday, October 15th, 5:00 pm / 152 Lancaster Street / Albany (between Dove and Swan).

For information call 518 727 4335 or 917 656 8046 or email

National Alliance for the Mentally ILL [NAMI], Staten Island, NY
Criminal Justice Support Group:  We are in the process of forming a support group for family members and friends of loved ones who live with mental illness and who are incarcerated or who have come in contact with the criminal justice system.
For those who would be interested in joining our support group please call 718-477-1700,
e-mail, or write 930 Willowbrook Road, Building 41A, S. I. NY 10314. We look forward to hearing from you.  Together we can make a difference

Human Rights Advocate, Baba Eng, is Recuperating
GEORGE BABA ENG had shoulder replacement surgery on August 31, 2006 in Rome Memorial Hospital. Baba is a politicized prisoner who has worked for many years as a law library clerk and  "jailhouse lawyer," and as a champion for more humane treatment for all behind bars. He is currently recovering in the prison hospital. He will be moved to general population in a few days. Complete recovery for this kind of surgery takes about 18 months. You may send letters of support to George Baba Eng, DIN 77A4777, Auburn C.F. 135 State Street, Box 618, Auburn, NY 13021.

Baba's life and work were the catalyst for the founding of "Prisoners Are People Too!" For more information, call Karima Amin 716-834-8438.

Many of us in here are encouraged by what PAN, CPR, and other organizations are trying to accomplish in regard to the unfair parole practices taking place in NYS today. We recognize that you need encouragement as well.

I personally realize that as tough as it may seem to be doing 10,20,or even 30 or more years behind these walls, that nothing can compare to a woman, child, friend, or a parent sticking by your side relentlessly during all that time. You all deserve our support for doing all you do for us out there. Many, if not most, of us never take into account your innumerable sacrifices. Today I say thank you, for all of us. Thank you for trusting, hoping, enduring and never giving up on us. Thank you for having the "courage" to display the forgiving spirit God has embedded in all of us.

That said, I ask your attention to the plight of countless "Juvenile Offenders" serving time behind these prison walls. For most of us, we weren't a part of the gangs you see on our streets today. We were children born and raised in the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 80's. We were the kids ridiculed in school, because we did not own a pair of Jordan sneakers, or have a leather bomber. We were the children who turned to selling drugs to get those things because our parents were crack-addicts, and there wasn't any food in our kitchens.

We were also the children who found guns on the streets, or held guns for drug dealers while they sold their drugs. We saw them shoot people or get shot. We grew up wanting to imitate them, because we were infatuated with their style of living. Some of us were forced into the streets and had to embrace it because there was nothing at home. For most of us, we believed in the lies and treachery of the 80's. We believed that this was the only way to live. We believed that it WAS life! So we played with fake guns, and purchased fake jewelry. We stuffed plaster inside of empty crack vials we found sprawled all over the floors of our parks and hallways.

Many, if not most, of us were 13, 14,15 years of age when we took innocent life. No one cared to pay attention to why. We did not come from nurturing homes. There was no parental guidance. We were orphans of the streets. Many of whom could not show proper remorse for our actions at that time because we were born and raised when the streets were numb to any sign of natural affection. I was one of these children. I was fifteen years old when I took another fifteen year old's life in the Bronx back in 1990.

My crime was senseless, deplorable, and outright shocking to my conscience. What though, did anyone expect, when in 1989 and 1990 combined there were more people killed on the streets of NYC than those lost in the World Trade Center. There were an average of ten or more people killed each day. What do you tell a child who lived and breathed death everyday of his/her life? A child who most likely saw a bullet riddled corpse before he or she was even nine years old? A sight that would not have given that child nightmares because it was so common. I personally knew of or saw 15 murders and deaths between 1984 and 1990, before I committed my crime.

I am in no way trying to condemn the persons who spawned these incidents. I cannot. For each of us, our circumstances are different. Furthermore, I believe in change and more importantly, I believe in second chances. For as Almighty God, our Father, says, "I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living." (Ezekial 33:11) New World Translation.

After 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, the statistics prove that many of us who served these sentences have indeed turned back from our wicked ways. We have embraced both God and society's view of reform. We opened ourselves up to believe in a system geared toward rehabilitation. We conquered our stubbornness and allowed our hearts to heal and to become warm once again. We did this because we were offered change, and with that change was supposed to come freedom.

I am asking that you raise your voices for us. Those of us like Cecil Myers, Jiya Kennedy, Maurice Himes, Danny Vasquez, Danny Mohika, Dalton Harriet, Anthony Jermont, Zulu Davis, Craig Simpson, Shamel Saunders, Michael Rico, and those I can only remember by nickname, Kwame, Little Co, Smurf, Moe, D. Black, Fonze, Speed, Nitty, and many others not mentioned. We all grew up in prison. We were raised by the streets and now this system. A system that does work if you let it. We were raised in a decade reminiscent of our modern day Darfur. Give us a voice. I think we deserve it.

Thank you, Waki Milling 95A1840


To the Editor:
Re "Setting Kingpins Free," by Leslie Crocker Snyder ( New York Times Op-Ed, July 16 ):

In 1984, I was deemed a "drug kingpin" by the Westchester District Attorney's Office when I was arrested for a four-ounce sale of cocaine.  When the facts came out, it was obvious that I was no kingpin, but instead a low-level drug offender.  But I was still sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws when I rejected a plea bargain.  After serving 12 years, I was granted clemency by Gov. George E. Pataki.

Recently, a report released by Bridget G. Brennan, New York City's special prosecutor for narcotics, proclaimed that high-level drug offenders are being released under the Drug Law Reform Act of 2004.  Ms. Brennan called for a kingpin statute. I agree.  We do need a kingpin statue that would be applied to major traffickers.  But it should not be used as a prosecutorial tool to encourage sentencing pleas from defendants like me.

There are hundreds of low-level, nonviolent drug law offenders stuck in prison who deserve to have a chance to regain their freedom.  Most have served a tremendous amount of time and are eligible for relief under the changes.  They remain jailed because of the "kingpin" rationale that has become a standard response by district attorneys to block applications for re-sentencing under the new reforms.

Anthony Papa, New York
The writer, a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, is the author of a book about his experience in prison.

I usually use this column to talk about our struggle and the work being done to pursue it, but as we fight for that which is our privilege, we also grow. Part of growing is recognizing those you've hurt, so this month I want to recognize the victims; particularly mine.

My Burden: Over the course of sixteen years I’ve had ample time to contemplate what I’ve already known; I killed someone. I realize now, like I realized then, that what I did is wrong. At a deep level I have come to understand and accept responsibility for my actions. I’ve had the opportunity to look back and see the face of a man in terror. A man that I helped kill. Now I understand the terror that the victim showed me but at the time I could not take in.

I say to him now: “I’m sorry. Your life wasn’t mine to take; I’m sorry I cut it short; I’m sorry I took from you what God gave to you. I apologize to your family and loved ones for taking you and all your potential from them.” I also apologize to my family for having put them through this entire ordeal. But most importantly I apologize to society for the crime I committed, for the fear and scars I helped plant in every heart and soul.

I could have walked away.... I SHOULD have walked away.... Instead I will carry the guilt, weight and burden of two men on my shoulders for the rest of MY life.

Please forgive me. Ramon Gonzalez 92A7663

Family Empowerment Day #2
Saturday, October 21st, 2006
11am - 3 pm

50 East 7th Street, near 2nd Ave.
(Middle Collegiate Church)


Keynote Speakers include Robert Isseks, Esq. Lead Attorney in the Pending Class Action Law Suit Challenging Present Unfair Parole Policies

Discussion Groups

Information Tables


Letter Writing

free refreshments

Directions: Subway: Lexington Local #6 train to Astor Place stop; Broadway Line #N,R,or W train to 8 St NYU stop. Bus: The Second Ave M-15 local bus stops at 6th and 8th St., as does the uptown First Ave M-15 bus.

Sponsored by the Coalition of Family and Community.

For more information, please call: 716-834-8438, 518 253-7533, 845 616-9698, 212 426-9881