Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

January 2008 Edition

Dear Reader,

By the time you read this, the holidays will have passed. A new year has begun, and we wonder what the future will bring. We get a hint from some of reports we’ve received: “Senator Nozzolio to Hold Senate Hearing to Examine the Increase in Parole Release Rates for Violent Felons”[#8] and Tony Papa’s “Call for Clemency for Rockefeller Drug Law Prisoners”[#2] which was answered by NO clemencies and one pardon, do not bode well. On a better note, we read about “Birth Certificate Legislation Passed in NYC Council”[#1], and Judge Brieant’s denial of the State’s motion to dismiss the Graziano, et.al. vs Pataki case on mootness grounds and granting of the plaintiffs’ cross motion for class certification.[#7] which give us hope. (Please consider joining PAN’s Action Project in response to that news[#7])

To help more people receive Building Bridges in 2008, Prison Action Network has applied for funding to supplement the cost of subscriptions for people who can’t afford the $12 membership donation necessary to include a year’s subscription, and also to help pay travel expenses to visit prisons. We rarely apply for funding because it’s so time consuming and because we are so unorthodox that we don’t fit into most funders’ criteria. For instance, we’re not incorporated; originally because we couldn’t afford the filing fees, but after operating in a sea of organizations who couldn’t do certain things because of the limitations of their non-profit status, we made a decision to remain as we are. We invite you to write the Ethelwyn Doolittle Committee at Community Church of New York, 40 East 35th Street, NY NY 10016 in support of our funding request. (I don’t know if that will annoy them or impress them, but I think it would give them a good sense of who we represent.)

We hear about so much injustice from our readers that although we know there has been a dramatic shift in our relationships with DOCS and Parole, we also know there is still a lot of suffering being endured by people at the hands of those two bureaucracies. We will not stop our efforts until full justice for all is achieved. This is our 2008 New Year’s promise to you!

Please share your copy of Building Bridges. To recycle your issue, please contact PAN for the name and address of someone who wants a copy but can’t afford to make a donation.


Articles

1. Birth Certificate Legislation Passes NYC Council - bill grants free birth certificates to all residents coming home from City jails (after serving 90 days) or New York State prisons.

2. Call for Clemency for Rockefeller Drug Law Prisoners - Anthony Papa recommend[s] “that Gov. Spitzer go on a personal rescue mission and grant executive clemency to the large number of Rockefeller Drug Law prisoners who have fully rehabilitated themselves.”

3. Family Empowerment Day 3 Reports - The Albany FED3 event succeeded on some levels and failed in others. 156 of the 250 NYC participants said they had a loved one in prison, and 121 identified the facility. 27 NYS prisons were mentioned.

4. In Memory Of St. Clair Bourne - Among his other great accomplishments as a filmmaker, St. Clair was the executive director of Melis Birder’s “The Visitors” before his untimely death.

5. Mandatory Sentencing - “It undermined confidence in the fairness of the justice system by singling out poor and minority offenders while largely exempting the white and wealthy.”, says this NY Times editorial.

6. NYS Coalition for Rehabilitation and Reentry (NYS CoRR) - a project of C.U.R.E.-NY which offers a five-area platform (with twelve planks) for increased restorative practice in our NYS criminal justice system.

7. Other Criminal Justice Publications - C.U.R.E.-NY and CPR.

8. Parole News - Judge Brieant ruled on the motions in Graziano, et.al. vs. Pataki; Actions: you might contact the judge, the lawyers, and the Daily News; History; What’s Next; and “Illusions of Justice”, a different view; Public Hearing to Examine the Increase in Parole Release Rates; Statistics; Support for Antonio Calderon and Zayd Rashid; Release Statistics from Wyoming C.F..

9. Prison Radio - No schedules received, you’ll have to check on line.

10. Sentencing Commission Hearing Transcripts Available - posted at the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services website.

11. Smoking - “We are given frivolous tickets when nothing is done about enforcing the no-smoking laws. Why?”

12. Sonny Rudert’s Field Report - “So much of life involves trading one set of headaches for another. This is, after all, the wilderness and not the promised land.”

13. Support Meetings - It’s not easy having a loved one in prison. Join the community of family members and know you’re not alone....

14. Transportation to Prisons - Why do van services go out of business, why do people cancel their free rides, and why is there so little interest in the Ride Board?

15. What’s Happening Around New York State - Tuesday, January 15, 2008, 1:00pm Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building, Albany. You need to be there.


1. Birth Certificate Legislation Passes NYC Council
ICARE sent this report:: Today, Tuesday, December 11, 2007, Intro. No. 574, a bill granting free birth certificates to all residents coming home from City jails (after serving 90 days) or New York State prisons, was passed by the full Council of the City of New York (39-6 vote). The Bloomberg Administration stated their support and the mayor is expected to sign it into law within 30 days.

The intention and effect will be to rescind one more barrier to people successfully reentering their communities and attempting to rebuild their lives after incarceration. It is exactly the kind of gesture of hope that ICARE was founded to advocate for. Birth certificates are needed for many aspects of making a new life - from employment to housing to official ID’s, applications to educational institutions, healthcare, other benefits and social services.


2. Call for Clemency for RDL Prisoners
In his article "Rescue Mission for Governor Spitzer", posted December 18, 2007 at Huffingtonpost.com, Anthony Papa gave Governor Spitzer some good advice:
“With the coming holiday season in mind, I recommend that Gov. Spitzer go on a personal rescue mission and grant executive clemency to the large number of Rockefeller Drug Law prisoners who have fully rehabilitated themselves and already served enormous amounts of time behind bars under the draconian provisions of mandatory-minimum sentencing.”
A few days later, after Spitzer had failed to take his advice, The New York Times printed this letter:

A Lone Pardon This Year, By Anthony Papa, published December 29, 2007

To the Editor: Re “Spitzer Pardons Ex-Convict to Spare Him Deportation” (news article, Dec. 22):

Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s attempt to show compassion this holiday season fell way off the mark. Mr. Spitzer’s single pardon to an individual set free 10 years ago, coupled with the fact that he did not grant one clemency, was nothing more than a safe political move.

There are many nonviolent Rockefeller drug law offenders who have already served lengthy sentences but are stuck in prison because of a continuing political quagmire. Traditionally, these offenders have been granted clemency at Christmastime. Former Gov. George Pataki, who was known for his toughness on crime, granted clemencies to 28 of them, including me. To give none of those offenders who applied for clemency a chance to be united with their families is a crying shame. [For a copy of either of Papa’s articles in its entirety, send your specific request to prisonaction@hotmail.com]


3. Family Empowerment Day 3 Reports
ALB Report
The Albany FED3 event succeeded on some levels and failed in others. The success was in the enthusiasm of those who attended and in the valuable feedback Melis Birder got after showing the rough cut of her documentary “The Visitors” about people who travel all night on buses to upstate prisons for a 5 hour visit with their loved ones. Keynote Speakers Rev. Peter Young and DA David Soares were inspiring and blew us away with how much they thought alike and how much they both agreed with the rest of us on problems and solutions.
Our disappointment was in the size of attendance, and the fact that there were only 3 people among the 30 who attended who were family members. The rest were advocates or curious people. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s FAMILY Empowerment Day! We didn’t design it to be a networking session for advocates, but that’s what it excelled at. The service providers, many of whom, shockingly, did not know each other, had a great time talking to each other and presumably planning ways to work together.


NYC Report
It took awhile but on December 5 all the data from FED3/NYC was finally organized! As reported in November's edition of Building Bridges, over 250 people attended. Of those, 218 were helpful in providing more information than just their name so here's what we learned from them:

156 said they had a loved one in prison. 121 identified the facility. Some people said they had loved ones all over the state, so we can't include them in the account that follows. 27 NYS prisons were mentioned. (3 others were out of state). Here they are, with the number of people who named them: Arthur Kill (4), Attica (5), Auburn (5) Clinton (5), Collins (1), Coxsackie (3), Eastern (3), Elmira (1), Fishkill (13), Franklin (3), Gouverneur (1), Green Haven (5), Gt Meadow (3), Hudson (2), Kirby Psych (2), Mid-Orange (5), Ogdensburg (1), Oneida (1), Orleans (1), Otisville (22), pretrial (1), Rikers (2), Riverhead (1), Shawangunk (1), Sullivan (7), Taconic (1), Upstate (1).

These figures raise some questions: do some prisons need to be more active in persuading their representatives to attend? Some worked hard with little return - maybe they need to spend the coming months planning how to improve the return on their investment of time and money. Some family members found out about it on the street, not from their incarcerated loved one. Why was that?

Our goal for next year is 500 people. That means doubling our efforts at the very least. Are you willing to work toward that? This is your event. We won’t be able to do it without your support, so let us know if you have the energy for it.


4. In Memory Of St. Clair Bourne     
Born February 16, 1943, St. Clair Bourne had a tremendous influence on the film industry.  In his career St. Clair directed and/or produced more than 40 films, and was at the time of his death the Executive Producer of Director Melis Birder's documentary "The Visitors". St. Clair founded Chamba Media in 1971, after leaving Black Journal where he had been a producer.  Notable films included: "In Motion: Amiri Baraka", "The Black and the Green", "Making 'Do the Right Thing'", "John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk", and  "Half Past Autumn, The Life and Works of Gordon Parks".  St. Clair died on Saturday, December 15, 2007.  He will be missed by many in the Liberation movement and the film industry.


5. Mandatory Sentencing
The New York Times Editorial, December 20, 2007

An Idea Whose Time Should Be Past
The mandatory sentencing craze that began in the 1970s was a public-policy disaster. It drove up inmate populations and corrections costs and forced the states to choose between building prisons and building schools or funding medical care for the indigent. It filled the prisons to bursting with nonviolent drug offenders who would have been more cheaply and more appropriately dealt with through treatment. It tied the hands of judges and ruined countless young lives by mandating lengthy prison terms in cases where leniency was warranted. It undermined confidence in the fairness of the justice system by singling out poor and minority offenders while largely exempting the white and wealthy.

The Supreme Court recognized the flaws in this system last week when it ruled that federal judges were justified in handing out lower sentences for drug offenders than were laid out in federal sentencing guidelines. The United States Sentencing Commission, the independent body that sets those guidelines, has called for easing drug-crime sentences for some categories of offenders and for doing so retroactively. In addition, bills pending in Congress would rewrite federal drug statutes, making treatment more readily available and sentences fairer and more sensible.

Nowhere is repeal of mandatory-sentencing policies more urgently needed than in New York, which sparked an unfortunate national trend when it passed its draconian Rockefeller drug laws in the 1970s. Local prosecutors tend to love this law because it allows them to bypass judges and decide unilaterally who goes to jail and for how long.

But the general public is increasingly skeptical of a system that railroads young, first-time offenders straight to prison with no hope of treatment or reprieve. In an often-cited 2002 poll by The New York Times, for example, 79 percent of respondents favored changing the law to give judges control over sentencing. And 83 percent said that judges should be allowed to send low-level drug offenders to treatment instead of prison.

The State Legislature has tinkered at the margins of these horrific laws, but stopped short of restoring judicial discretions. The time is clearly right for that crucial next step. The Legislature needs to gear up for the change, and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has thus far tiptoed around the subject, needs to set the stage when he delivers his State of the State message early next month. [Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company]



6. NYS Coalition for Rehabilitation and Reentry (NYS CoRR)
NYS CoRR is a project of C.U.R.E.-NY which offers a five-area platform (with twelve planks) for increased restorative practice in our NYS criminal justice system.
 
A. EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL;
• 1. Expanded Pre-Trial Services
• 2. Fair Representation
a) Independent Public Defense Commission
b) Fair Legislative Representation

B. KNOWLEDGE
•  3. Job Oriented Education

C. HEALTH and TRANSFORMATION
•  4. Repeal NYS drug laws
• 5. Treatment / Transformative Programs
•  6. Improved prison health services

D. REHABILITATION INCENTIVES
7. Merit time

E. TRANSITIONAL SERVICES;·       
8. Work release for most incarcerated persons
9. Fair parole policies and practice
10. Transitional reentry-support
11. Family support
12. The LifeLine program, using formerly incarcerated lifers to aid those incarcerated

The ultimate objectives of this strategy are fourfold: 1. more  productive and satisfying lives, 2. less future crime,  3. less future taxpayer expense, and 4. a more productive society.

Details and Sample letters (or emails) in support of each plank are available http://www.bestweb.net/~cureny/Co_platform.htm
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Co_RR
http://www.bestweb.net/~cureny/Co_plea.htm lettersample

7. Other Criminal Justice Publications
CURE-NY Newsletter
CURE-NY’s Fall 2007 issue is available online at www.bestweb.net/~cureny, or by mail when you become a member. Send an email to cureny@bestweb.net. Include your name, mailing address or email address if you wish to join or just receive the newsletter. Basic membership is $10, newsletter only is $5, and membership for incarcerated persons is $2.

The Deuce Club
CPR’s newsletter, The Deuce Club, mailed out a bulletin packed with information. It’s available online at www.parolecpr.org, or by mail when you become a member. Send an email to membership@parolecpr.org or write to PO Box 1379, New York, New York 10013. Include your name, mailing address or email address if you wish to join, membership is $10 per year for families and $2 for people in prison.


8. Parole
Graziano, et.al. vs. Pataki update:
When Gov. Spitzer withdrew the agreement that had been made between the Attorney General (the State’s lawyer) and the plaintiffs, the case was then returned to the Court. On 12/6/07 we received news that Judge Brieant had ruled on the motions in Graziano v. Pataki. In brief, Judge Brieant denied the defendants' motion to dismiss on mootness grounds and granted plaintiffs' cross-motion for class certification. [If you would like a copy of the decision, please send specific request to PAN with SASE]

ACTION: Write letters of appreciation to Judge Charles Brieant, United States Federal District Court, 300 Quarropas Street, White Plains, New York 10601-4150, and to the lead attorney, Robert Isseks, 6 North St., Middletown NY 10940. Also to the NY Daily News, who seem to have an interest in this lawsuit: The NY Daily News: voicers@edit.nydailynews.com or 450 W. 33 Street, New York, NY 10001. Please include your full name, address and phone number.

An Overview: When the plaintiffs filed the complaint originally, they had the choice to file in any federal district court in New York (Northern, Western, Eastern, or Southern) because plaintiffs live in all districts of New York and plaintiffs are given the first choice for venue of the case. They chose to file in the Southern District and Judge Brieant, who sits in the Southern District, was randomly assigned to preside. (This, in the opinion of your editor, was an incredibly lucky break because he appears to be a very fair judge.)

Judge Brieant asked the parties to see if they could negotiate a settlement and they did. It was in the process of being written when Gov. Spitzer withdrew the agreement and said he would litigate.

What’s Next?
The case remains in Judge Brieant’s courtroom and he makes all rulings (except under certain circumstances not relevant here) through trial, including issuing a judgment after hearing all of the evidence in the trial. There is some reason for hope that he will hand down a ruling in 2008. The case went back to Judge Brieant's court in White Plains on December 20 (the judge decides when the parties must appear next in court). This court appearance probably only involved scheduling the case for trial.

The class will be notified about the case and class members will be given the opportunity to opt out of the class (which is only done where the individual believes he/she could get a more favorable ruling than the one reached by the attorneys).

A Different Perspective:
“Illusions of Justice”
I am a longterm prisoner who was saddened and somewhat perplexed upon hearing the broad raves from prisoners and their supporters when the news spread about the proposed settlement in the Graziano class action lawsuit. Thereafter, I experienced a sigh of relief when Gov Spitzer announced that he would not accept the settlement as offered.
My sadness was compounded by the fact that I neither heard nor read of any contrary views to the proposed settlement. From our side just glee. I recalled the morbid reasoning expressed by prisoners in the mid-1990's as it became imminent that Pataki would assume the Governor's office. The sentiments were, "even though he'll reenact the death penalty, at least we'll get a good time bill." Some prisoners were willing and expecting the great tradeoff: Death for good time! We all know what happened with that.
As I read about the proposed settlement the similarities were witnessed in the limited application of the proposal That is, those who would reap the supposed "benefit" would be those who appeared before a parole panel prior to April 16, 2007. And as for those who appeared April 17 and thereafter -- well, they got their just due.
The reasoning behind this being that once the new Parole Commissioner, George Alexander, issued his edict to the other board members, everything would be hunky-dory. But whence came the notion that Alexander could, by the stroke of a pen, correct the wrongs of more than a decade of entrenched planning by Gov Pataki and his minions? Nothing could be more wrong. The abuses continue and are chronicled regularly.
Perhaps I was misled into believing that prisoners and their supporters were acutely aware of the continued arbitrariness of parole decisions long after the April 16th memorandum. And I suppose it is not yet well-known, even today, that the Board has systematically instituted measures to "moot" prisoners' legitimate claims and challenges by refusing to respond to administrative appeals and employing delaying tactics with court challenges until it is time for the prisoner to reappear before the board. Ask around.
Another important consideration for those prisoners who think they missed a windfall with Spitzer's refusal to settle is the likely nature of the hearings they would have received. Former Parole Commissioner Vernon Manley admitted that the system itself constrained him from conducting fair hearings. Many long-termers are familiar with the 5-minute cursory parole hearings that the board is apt to offer, with clearly predetermined results. With 1000 or more new hearings being provided and practically all the beneficiaries requesting the four Spitzer appointees, can you expect anything fairer than what the Pataki crew would offer? Do the math.
What prisoners and their supporters need to realize is that we are engaged in more than a legal battle; we are engaged in a colossal war against injustice and immorality. Therefore, capitulation should never be in our equation. When the spirit and resolve of the people is weak or tepid, it is the policymakers' unscrupulous views and programs that will always prevail We deserve and should demand more. Our attitude should be that even if we lose or draw the battle, the war will go on.
As I see it, this attitude in no way diminishes a prisoner's true feelings of repentance for the harm his or her crimes inflicted upon the community. If a prisoner has done all that could be expected to re-create self and becomes an asset to the community, then he or she should reap the full benefits of parole law. This attitude does, however, empower a prisoner to broaden his reflections from the personal to a systemic level.
Considering all the suffering that has been inflicted--by both the prisoners and the unscrupulous policy makers, any settlement agreement should include justice--even if only a small measure. We should not grapple at an illusion. ---Mujahid Farid

News:
New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio will be convening the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee to conduct a legislative oversight hearing to examine the increase in parole release rates for violent felons in the New York correctional system on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 1:00pm, Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY

Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Services; George Alexander, Chairman of the New York State Parole Board; and Brian Fischer, Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, are expected to testify before the Committee to address the increased release rates.

“It has been widely reported that the Board of Parole is releasing a substantially higher number of violent felons from custody this year. As Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, I will be conducting a legislative oversight hearing in January to review the matter and to take testimony from the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Chairman of the New York State Parole Board, and the Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services,” said Senator Nozzolio.

[Building Bridges suggests that we all be there to witness this event. There will be no public comment period, but we can make calls and write letters afterwards.]

Parole Support: We haven’t received an update on the Otisville Broadband Support candidates, which are men judged by their peers to be community ready. The selected candidates are representing all the others, so that their success at reentry will advance the chances of the men left behind, and their failure will harm them. Everyone involved has a vested interest in their success. We hesitate to present people without that kind of backing, for unless we know them as well as their peers we have no way of judging whether they are indeed community ready. However, we are publishing Antonio Calderon’s appeal for support this month because we know of him through a mutually beloved and respected friend.

Antonio Calderon (78A3717) writes on his own behalf: as a young adult in the East New York section of Bklyn informally known as ‘Gunsmoke”, I fell in with the wrong crowd and had early encounters with the law. Now 63 years old, I have been in prison for 29 years for my role in a codefendant’s shooting of a man at a party in 1977. I got 20 years to life; my codefendant who fired the deadly shot, got 25 to life yet was released after his first parole appearance in 2002. I will see my 6th board in January 2008. I have made great strides to improve myself and become a productive member of society. My release plans are to live initially at Dismas House. The program there will assist me in obtaining employment and addressing any treatment requirements directed by parole. I plan to reside in this program for as long as necessary and then move back to my parents’ home in Queens, NY. I would like to work as a bilingual peer counselor, and be there for my family. Antonio is incarcerated at Otisville C.F. Letters of support for him may be sent to Mr. George Alexander, Chairman of the NYS Division of Parole, 97 Central Ave., Albany NY 12206, with a copy to Mr. Calderon at Otisville C.F.

Zayd Rashid (DIN 83A4615) is also scheduled to see the board in January. Zayd graduated from the New York Theological Seminary master’s program magna cum laude. In 24 years of incarceration he was only cited once for disciplinary reasons and the charges were overturned. He has become one of NY’s most successful jailhouse lawyers, and many readers have probably received the benefit of his legal skills. He and Sonny Rudert, while at Otisville C.F., originated the idea for Family Empowerment Day. His family is eagerly awaiting his return, in particular his 8 year old daughter Nisa, with whom he has maintained a close relationship. Support letters can be sent to George Alexander (see address above) with a copy to Mr. Rashid at Fishkill C.F.

Released: we haven’t received any current reports this month, but we are in great need of the names of the Parole Board members who were at Collins in November. Please send it ASAP if you have that information. We received an impressive report distributed by Wyoming Correctional Facility. Called PAROLE BOARD STATISTICS 2007, it lists by month the numbers denied and granted (and the %’s) for Merit Time releases, Initial Releases, Reappearance Releases, and the total denials and releases. The year-to-date totals are then compared with the last two years. It also lists the commissioners at each hearing for the year. For example, in the last month

listed, November 2007, 4 people were denied merit time. 0 were released. On their initial appearances 13 were denied, 4 were granted, on reappearances 2 denied, 3 granted; for an overall total of 26 appearances, 19 denials, and 7 parole releases. I have no idea how many people are held at Wyoming - the DOCS webpage does not have those numbers that I can discover. The November board consisted of Gerald Greenan and Sally Thompson. Through August there were 3 on each board, since then only 2.
[We get our reports from you; send word to Building Bridges, c/o PAN at address below and we’ll publish.]


9. Prison Radio
Al Lewis Lives, hosted by Karen Lewis, broadcasts on Saturdays from noon to 1:30 pm on WBAI, 99.5 FM, NYC.
The Fancy Broccoli Show: Fancy Broccoli airs on WVKR, 91.3FM, Poughkeepsie NY on Sundays from 3 - 6 pm, Eastern Time, and streams online - go to WVKR.org and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'.
Democracy Now!, with Amy Goodman airs around the country, check www.democracynow.org to find the station nearest you or to read the transcripts. While not solely devoted to prison issues, she provides in-depth coverage of some of the most serious prison and criminal justice issues.
Justice Pages Audio at http://www.justicepages.org/
On The Count: The Prison and Criminal Justice Report, WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in New York City (www.wbai.org), broadcasting every Saturday morning 10:30 am until noon. It is the only regularly broadcast program in America whose host and entire production staff is composed of people who were formerly incarcerated.
Thousand Kites: http://thousandkites.pbwiki.com/ Listen to the newly launched Thousand Kites Radio Station, a twenty-four hour online webcast dedicated to the Thousand Kites project, a national dialogue project addressing the prison system and human rights in the United States through theater, video, web, community radio, and grassroots strategies.
Voices from the Prison Action Network: If you’d like to be interviewed by telephone (or in person) please call me to set up something for the future. 518 253 7533. Archives available at http://radio4all.net and http://hmimc.swapspace.com.


10. Sentencing Commission Hearing Transcripts Available
For those of you who wished you could attend the Sentencing Commission hearings but couldn't, or even if you did and would like to read the testimony to refresh your memory, the transcripts are now posted at the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services website. They’re hundreds of pages long, so I doubt they are available any other way. We are checking to see if there is any way people without access to computers can read them.


11. Smoking
I'm perplexed by one of the biggest health issues of the 21st century and that it's being ignored by many NY prisons. We are given frivolous tickets when nothing is done about enforcing the no smoking laws. Why?

I grieved this issue and took it all the way to Albany and all they did was give me the politically correct answer, "COs make rounds every hour on the hour" (which is a fallacy at my prison). Officers look the other way when they pass the prisoners’ bathroom, but there are ashes and butts in there. Where do they suppose they come from? We have to compete with the smokers for bathroom stall time. If they don't want to enforce the state law against smoking, then why not just stop selling tobacco products? Could it be about the money? - Non Smoker


2. Sonny Rudert’s Field Report
More and more lifers and long-termers are starting to return home after decades in prison. This is, no doubt, due in large part to the increased pressure on parole boards to follow parole statute and abandon the unfair policies of the Pataki era. This pressure comes from within and without. Even as Graziano v. Pataki proceeds ever forward in the federal courts, George Alexander, the new Chairman of the Division of Parole, has made it clear to his parole commissioners that in their hearing decisions he expects them to stop trumping all other criteria with that former Pataki wild card, "the seriousness of the offense."

I believe we can therefore expect more fair parole hearings in the future. This of course means even more people will be returning from prison. Subsequently, the term "re-entry" has now become the hot button issue of the day. It has become a buzzword. But if we want it to be more than that, let's keep in mind that for re-entry to occur three basic things must happen. In fact, re-entry is these three things: parole (the person must be released); housing (they must have an adequate roof over their head); and, jobs--one needs a steady source of income in order to survive in this society. Those of us on the provider side of this equation must think of ways to trim the fat while helping to make decent jobs and affordable housing available to formerly incarcerated persons (money spent on bureaucracies purporting to make these things happen can, I believe, be better allocated by individuals and small groups of friends simply making them happen).

This all brings to mind my own, ever present Big Picture which I will leave you with: So much of life involves trading one set of headaches for another. This is, after all, the wilderness and not the promised land. So, for many of us, our last big headache was worrying about the prospect of continually being judged for our worst acts of many years ago. Today, those of us on the outside worry about what everyone else worries about: rent, mortgages, credit card debt, etc. Yes, they are still headaches--but I don't have to tell you which are the "better" of the two!  The art of life, I have learned, lies in discovering and opening your heart to true joy and beauty in those precious (and few) moments in between the headaches. My joy and beauty has a name: Nanette Ramos. And I am proud to announce that on Saturday, December 15th, we became engaged to marry. Please wish us well as we also continue to wish you all the best. May 2008 hold forth new promise and hope for us all. Somehow, I know it will.      Peace.


13. Support Meetings
Albany: PFNY meeting at 7:00 pm every Monday at the Women’s Bldg, 79 Central Avenue. Please call ahead: Alison 518 453 6659
ROOTS: Re-entry Monthly Orientation Sessions (on the last Thursdays) - for parolees being released from NYC correctional facilities and returning to Albany - these offer support, hope and proven suggestions from ROOTS (Re-entry Opportunities and Orientations Towards Success) members (ex-offenders and supporters).
ROOTS Bi-Weekly "Re-entry Peer Support Groups" every other Sat from 11am-1pm. Dec. 8 and 22. Both meetings at Trinity Institute, 15 Trinity Place, Albany; For info: ROOTS: 518 434 1026; Corey Ellis 518 4499-5155m x131
Buffalo: Groups for men and women meet separately on Thursdays, from 5:30-6:30pm at GROUP Ministries, Inc., 1333 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. These programs are FREE and confidential. For more information, call 716-539-1844.
North Babylon LI: Prison Families Anonymous meets on the 2nd and 4th Wed of each month at 7:30 pm at the Babylon Town Hall Annex. You are welcome if you have a family member in prison. For more info you may call Barbara: Ph: 631-630-9118, Cell: 631-943-0441
Poughkeepsie: PFNY Support Group Room 306 of the Main Building of Family Partnership at 29 North Hamilton St. Poughkeepsie, NY. Meetings will be held on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at 7pm. The Citizens for Restorative Justice meet the first Monday of the month, 6:30 to 8:00PM. The location changes so call ahead of time, 845-464-4736.
Schenectady: PFNY Meeting in flux. Call Jeanette for info: 518 374 0627.


14. Transportation to Prisons
Let’s talk about transportation. It’s a common perception that getting to prison to visit their loved one is a huge problem for many people. Yet one transportation company after another has gone out of business because they couldn’t fill their vans or cars and thus lost money on the venture. Even with volunteer drivers the cost of gas, insurance, and maintenance often outstrips the amount of income received. Understandably some people cannot even afford the rates of these small companies, even though they are less than large public transportation companies. So the Albany Justice Committee got volunteers to drive people to certain prisons for no charge at all. People have called up very excited to get a free ride, and then failed to be there


when the driver came to pick them up. Once a passenger failed to return to the car waiting for her after her visit. This is demoralizing and can cost us drivers. We started a ride board, but I’ve learned that some people are afraid to use it for fear the other person may be smuggling contraband into the facility and they will somehow get in trouble for it, by association. There is no way to screen people against smuggling contraband. Some otherwise good people do it, out of a very misplaced, in my opinion, loyalty to their loved one. No one is going to admit it. As always, poor decisions affect people way beyond the few directly affected. Many deserving people have no way to get to see their loved ones because others have ruined their chances. Please let us know what you think can be done about this situation, or if you agree or not with these theories. Meanwhile we will keep on offering rides.


From the Capital District:
The NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow CFs on Sat, Jan 5 ($30 adults, $20 children), Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson CFs on Sun, Jan 13 ($15  adults and $10 children), from Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, Troy at 7 AM, and Albany Greyhound bus station at 7:15. Trip to Utica (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida CFs) on Sat, Jan 19 leaving Troy at 5 AM and Albany bus Station at 5:15. Sullivan (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan CFs) on Sat Jan 26 leaving at 6 AM ($40 adults, $25 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.T
Door to door, free rides are offered from Albany to prisons within 150 miles by volunteers of FUUSA’s Justice Committee on weekdays only. Please contact us at 518 253-7533 if you need a ride.
CarPooling: Please call 518 253 7533 if you would be willing to take a passenger or if you want a ride.

Statewide: DOCS Free Bus - to find out how to sign up, from NYC area: Deacon Mason on Tues &
Fri, 212 961 4026 and from Albany: on Wed & Thurs, 518 485 9212; from Buffalo area: Rev. Roberson 716 532 0177, x4805; from Syracuse: Sister Patricia: 315 428 4258


15. What’s Happening Around New York State
Albany: Senator Nozzolio to hold senate hearing to examine the increase in parole release rates for violent felons, Tuesday, January 15, 2008, 1:00pm Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building. You need to be there.
Buffalo: Prisoners Are People Too! will be meeting on January 28. PRP2! programs are sponsored by The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of Baba Eng. Call Karima for details: call 716-834-8438

Maintain hope, for despair is deadly.
While we may not win the battle for justice this year,
we can continue to add our weight to the moral side of the soale.
*

Read now!

Friday, December 01, 2006

December 2006 Edition

Dear Reader,

Here we are, in the last month of 2006. We’ve come a long way in the past year. Building Bridges considers it an honor to be part of this network, and have taken great satisfaction in reporting [May issue] on the birth of a new organization, the Coalition of Families of NYS Lifers, the successes of ICARE, and the rousing success of Family Empowerment Day 2, among others. As we get ready for 2007 we might want to take some time to appreciate all we accomplished in 2006 and the many new friends we made as we worked together. Then let’s roll up our sleeves and continue the work we started: getting signatures on the letter to Gov. Spitzer and on the petition for Parole reform, as well as begin new projects. Read on to see what others are saying and doing.

May your holidays contain peace and joy, and may you feel, as we do, that we are family and we are here to support each other.


Articles:
1. FED2 Follow-up Meeting - Coordinators discuss past experiences and future plans. FED2’s participants will set 2007 agenda. Robert Isseks and Peter Sells to be interviewed on Dec 3 and FED2 speeches broadcast Dec 12 on the Fancy Broccoli Show .

2. Inmate Family Committees and Council - Proposal for an Inmate Family Committee, similar in function to a facility Inmate Liaison Committee, but serving as the voice of inmate family members rather than inmates. The Inmate Family Council would work with the Commissioner and the Department's Central Office.

3. Interfaith Initiatives - Blessings Beyond Bars, a new prison ministry under the auspices of progressive Faith Evangelical Ministries, in Troy, N.Y. invites new members; ICARE advocates for legislation, some of which passed last year; Justice Committee at FUUSA engages in numerous efforts to involve Unitarians in criminal justice reforms; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs will vote in December on whether to sign on as a church to NYADP's petition calling for an end to capital punishment in New York State.

4. Meetings - announcing new meetings and new times for on-going meetings

5. NY City Prisons - The Board of Corrections met on November 9, 2006 to discuss the proposed revisions to its Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities.

6 Parole Article - Joan Coazum was granted parole on eve of a contempt hearing against the parole board.

7. Parole Release Info? - Please report parole releases to Building Bridges for publication

8. Parole Story - John Valverde has fulfilled the requirements of the Executive Law in a most exemplary fashion. Yet, John has already been denied parole three times.

9. Radio Programs - Fancy Broccoli will be interviewing Robert Isseks on December 3, and broadcasting the Family Empowerment Day 2 speeches on December 12

10. Reentry Article - Many former inmates slip through the cracks and end up jobless and homeless - and two-thirds of them get rearrested within three years. The sensible alternative to this would be to carve out a slice of the city and state Correction budgets - 5% or about $18 million a year would be a good start - and invest it in housing, jobs, education and addiction treatment right there in [their home community]. quoted from article by Errol Louis in NY Daily News

11. Reentry Conference - Free day-long conference on December 6 from 8am to 3:30 pm, at New York University; a series of facilitated panels between practitioners, advocates, people directly affected by the criminal justice system, New York State and New York City criminal justice and workforce development policymakers and other stakeholders.

12 Ride Board - look here for ride sharing to prisons

13. Transportation to Prisons - from Buffalo and the Capital District, low cost. Please tell us about options in your area....

14. Words from Inside - “What binds us to this unjust, cruel world called prison? ...We can hold on but so long.”

15. Words from Ramon - “Are you getting your money’s worth? What is the return on your $493,000 investment for the 14.5 years of my incarceration?”



1. FED2 FOLLOW-UP MEETING

Judith Brink, Mark Chapman, and Willie Thomas, three of the coordinators of Family Empowerment Day 2, met on 11/11 to discuss the experience and talk about where to go from here. We agreed that it was not up to us to decide where to go from here. It is up to you. Building Bridges will continue to work as the communications link, so your ideas can come to us and readers can join those whose ideas are similar. Please make sure to include ways other readers can contact you. The three of us will be happy to serve as consultants for whatever comes next. We also decided to work together to continue putting pressure on Governor Elect Eliot Spitzer to do the right thing regarding parole. We need you to continue to gather signatures on the letter [enclosed in November’s issue] to Spitzer. In early January Mark will call the governor’s office, and begin establishing a relationship with the staff member in charge of criminal justice/prison issues. He will ask how many letters they’ve received, and what the governor’s response is. Before ending the call Mark will make an appointment for members of the Coalition of Family and Community to have a face to face meeting with Governor Spitzer or his representative. Following the phone call and meeting, we hope to have some sense of what we can expect from our new Governor in respect to our issues. We commit to pursue parole justice until we see some positive changes, and we count on your continued support, as you can count on ours. The Otisville Lifers began this, and many of them are still being denied parole releases, despite their readiness. ReEntry must seem like a distant possibility for them, but we have fanned the winds of change and expect to soon be preparing for their successful reentry into our communities.



2. INMATE FAMILY COMMITTEES AND COUNCIL

My proposal for Inmate Family Committees and Inmate Family Council would create a committee at each of the State's correctional facilities comprised of inmate family members in order to foster positive communication between inmate family members and the facility administration, address family-related issues and provide suggestions for family-related programs to the administration, all with the intent of promoting and maintaining family ties and enhancing the rehabilitation of inmates. The Inmate Family Committee is similar in function to a facility Inmate Liaison Committee, but would serve as the voice of inmate family members rather than inmates.

Whereas the Inmate Family Committees address issues at local facilities, the Inmate Family Council will work with the Commissioner and the Department's Central Office on issues which effect statewide or multiple facility inmate family issues and programs. The Inmate Family Committees would liaison with the Inmate Family Council to achieve common goals and to provide a clearinghouse for information from the individual Inmate Family Committees.

A complete copy of the proposal is available on the Inmate Family Council's website at www.ifc-ny.com. I encourage everyone to read this proposal and support it by writing to the Commissioner and indicating your support. One of our goals is to see regulations codified under Title 7 of the New York Code, Rules and Regulations recognizing the Inmate Family Committees and Council, but this can only be accomplished if our legislatures hear from enough people, so please write! It will only take a few minutes of your time, and your letter can make a difference.

Inmate Family Committees will become a reality if everyone will help out and support this proposal by writing letters, sending emails, and making phone calls. Inmate family members must have a voice with the DOCS, and to ensure we accomplish this goal, you must raise your voice now. Please go online, read the proposal, and support it fully.

Thank you, Pete S.



3. INTERFAITH EFFORTS:

BLESSINGS BEYOND BARS

A new prison ministry under the auspices of progressive Faith Evangelical Ministries, Inc. 2801-2805 Fifth Avenue, Troy, N.Y. 12180 invites those of you from the capital district and beyond  to be our guests for services. Our church welcomes former inmates and their families and families who currently have incarcerated loved ones. Our new prison ministry is implementing programs specifically for your needs!! Some of our outreach services will include the following: 

                     Literacy programs, Individual and Family Counseling, Prayer and Healing, Letter writing, Job Counseling, Parenting Skills, Reentry Support and other programs specified by your requests!! Call the church for worship times and more information      Church number (518)272-7217, prison ministry coordinator (518) 383-5726


ICARE [Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment]

ICARE has grown tremendously in the first year of our “Restoration of Rights” campaign: we have point people in five New York State regions who are taking the initiative to set up local “Restoration of Rights” meetings with their representatives and we have developed strong relationships with key staff within the legislature.  We have also begun to work with New York City council staff to provide official birth certificates to incarcerated men and women, and without charge. During the 2007 legislation session we will be proposing legislation on occupational licenses, child support, and higher education in addition to supporting existing legislation. Locally, we will launch a “Circles of Care” prison ministry project, led by our new Outreach Coordinator, Willie Thomas.
 
Bills we support and their current status:

PASSED: Sentencing and Reintegration: S7588, sponsored by Senator Dale Volker.  Same as A10832, sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry.
This amends the penal law to promote reintegration at the time of sentencing.

DID NOT PASS EITHER HOUSE: Employment:  S7730, sponsored by Senator Dale Volker.  Similar to A10986, sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry. 
This bill amends Corrections Law 23-a to extend protection from discrimination to current employees and licensees with criminal convictions.   

DID NOT PASS THE ASSEMBLY: Higher Education:  A11652, sponsored by Keith Wright.  This amendment would render it illegal for an institution of higher education to flatly discriminate against individuals with criminal convictions simply because of a criminal record.
 
DID NOT PASS EITHER HOUSE: Sealing of Criminal Convictions (Second Chance Act):  A10988, sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry.  No Senatorial sponsor. .
The proposed bill, which has support from former mayor Ed Koch, allows individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses to seal their criminal records after a period of time and if they have completed certain programs (such as substance abuse).

DiD NOT PASS EITHER HOUSE: Health Care:  A03924, sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry.  No Senatorial sponsor. The Bill requires that an application for medical assistance through Medicaid be filed for every inmate confined to a state or local correctional facility, 90 days before their release. 

PASSED THE ASSEMBLY: Voting:  Sponsored by Assemblymember Keith Wright.   No Senatorial sponsor (we have approached Senator Flanagan). 
This bill requires that both the Department of Correctional Services and the Division of Parole notify all persons who reach their maximum sentence of imprisonment about their right to vote in writing and that the State Board of Elections be notified about all persons who are again eligible to vote.  The State Board of Elections must then transmit this information to all local boards of elections. 
 
PASSED THE ASSEMBLY: Telephone Justice:  S5299-C, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio.  Same as A07231-C, sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry. .
Provides inmates with telephone services utilizing a debit card system and reasonable collect call system rates.  It will likely pass the Assembly this year (as it did last year).  It is currently in the Finance committee in the Senate. Assemblymember Aubry and Senator Michael Nozzolio have passed the bills out of committees. 


JUSTICE COMMITTEE AT FUUSA

Outreach to other congregations to involve them with prisoners, a trip to introduce congregation members to the Otisville Lifers, the presentation of Parole Profiles and opportunities for support, during Sunday’s Social Hour, an investigation of Albany resources for released parolees, the Spitzer letter campaign, request for congregational support of ICARE's Restoration of Rights Campaign, and presenting opportunities to send Holiday cards to people in prison are all activities in process at First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany.


UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CONGREGATION OF SARATOGA SPRINGS

“Capital Punishment: The Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake" a presentation by Jack Carter, Sunday, November 26. Jack Carter is a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs and a lawyer for New York State. His presentation was the culmination of the UUCSS Social Justice Committee's three year educational program on the death penalty. The congregation will vote in December on whether to sign on as a church to NYADP's petition calling for an end to capital punishment in New York State.


CRIMINON

Thanks to all who responded to the article on Criminon(tm) and are now profiting from their Way to Happiness correspondence course. I would like to share with you another inmate success story.
               " I was a sad, violent, lost man who had given up on life. I'd lost faith and these walls and blood seemed to be the size of my hope. Five years ago out of boredom I started a Journey of Self; A Journey of Growth; an unknown trial of myself.  I have become a man who can be trusted, a man who has found and embraced my spirit. I'm no longer part of any gang. I've earned and won my freedom from solitary. I've gained my family back.  I've become a brother, a son, a friend worth having. I've even learned to like myself, as strange as that may seem. And believe it or not, parole is a very real possibility for me. These courses have the tools to break the chains we've tied ourselves with. They can teach us that no matter where we are or how thick the bars are, we have the keys to our own freedom. "
                                                                            inmate A.H.
               
                   The Way to Happiness course teaches common sense values that anyone can use to live a stable and productive life and, most importantly, to regain and maintain self-respect.  To sign up for the course, write: Criminon, P.O.Box 231, Boothbay, Maine 04537



4. MEETINGS

**NEW**. Buffalo: Ex-Offender Support Group for Men meets on Thursdays, 5:30-6:30 at GROUP Ministries, Inc., 1333 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. The program is FREE and CONFIDENTIAL and provides an opportunity to discuss issues of Family Life, Housing, Recidivism, Employment, Rights of Ex-Offenders, etc. For more information: 716-539-1844.

**NEW Time and Place**Poughkeepsie PFNY Support Group will move to Room 306 of the Main Building of Family Partnership at 29 North Hamilton St. Poughkeepsie, NY. We are no longer in the annex building. Meetings will be held on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at 7pm.

The Coalition for Restorative Justice will meet at 6pm, one hour before the Poughkeepsie PFNY meetings.



5. NYC PRISONS

Board of Corrections Update:
The Board of Corrections met on November 9, 2006 to discuss the proposed revisions to its Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities.  The Board did not announce the substance of the revisions at this meeting, but they did say that the Law Department was expected to finish its review of the proposed revisions within the next few days.  They also said that they were approximately a week away from “moving forward” with the announcement.
 
What This Is About:
The Board of Correction’s Minimum Standards set the basic rules for humane treatment of prisoners in the jail system.  These rules cover nearly every aspect of daily life, from the right of pre-trial detainees to wear their own clothing to the number of people who may be crowded into dormitories.  These rules also affect families, covering visiting policies, telephone access, and correspondence with jail inmates.  (Medical and mental health care are addressed in a separate set of standards that are not at issue -- yet.)
The Board is proposing revisions to these rules, but the proposed new standards were formulated by a subcommittee of the Board in closed meetings with the Department of Correction.  Because the process has not been open to the public so far, we do not yet know the substance of the revisions.  Everything we have heard, however, suggests that the revisions will worsen how people in the jails are treated: the new rules will likely mean less autonomy and more crowding for the people who are held, as well as fewer opportunities for visits and phone contact with family and friends. 
 
What The Board Has Done So Far:
At its last meeting, the Board voted to send the proposed revisions to the New York City Law Department for review, and indicated that the revisions will be released for public comment after that.  The Board also has announced that they will allow a 90-day comment period before the final rules are adopted.
 
After we learn the specifics of the proposed changes, we will be in touch again to set up a meeting to discuss how we should respond.  If you or your organization would like to be part of our planning process, please contact Amanda Lockshin at ajlockshin@legal-aid.org,
or (212) 577-3344.  Be aware that we may not be able to get back to you right away, but we will add you to our list and we will be in touch as soon as we know more.

- Thank you! The Legal Aid Society

On the other hand, the Albany Times Union carried a piece on the front page of their Sunday 11/26./06 edition which was originally published in the Washington Post by Michael Powell on Saturday 11/23/06, stating that : “Big Apple takes bite from city crime rate: Rikers Island jail cells empty as policies counter prison trends”. The article claims that New York City has seen the fastest drop in crime in the nation, and “it happened while locking up a lot less people ... The number of prisoners in the city has dropped from 21,449 in 1993 to 14,129 this past week.” ..."If you want to drive down crime, the experience of New York shows that it's ridiculous to spend your first dollar building more prison cells," said Michael Jacobson, who served as New York's correction commissioner for former mayor Rudolph Giuliani and now is president of the Vera Institute of Justice, which studies crime-fighting trends worldwide. "I can't tell you exactly why violent crime in New York declined by twice the national rate. But I can tell you this: It wasn't because we locked up more people."..."Crime is down and people realize, sure, we can lock up more people, but that's why your kid's pre-K class has 35 kids -- all the money is going to prisons," Jacobson says....Barry Campbell, who works at the Fortune Society, a prison reform organization in Manhattan, did 15 years behind bars on sundry charges. . Ask him about New York's experience in driving down imprisonment and crime, and he is not surprised. "Prison is a place where someone heading down a path of destruction is propelled at 90 miles an hour."
 


6. PAROLE ARTICLE

Joan Coazum was granted parole on eve of a contempt hearing against the parole board - She had served nearly 23 years of a 15 - Life sentence for a 1981 felony murder. The next day a sympathetic judge, who had previously ordered the parole board to grant her a new hearing after their last denial, was scheduled to hear a contempt motion based on the parole board’s second denial, this time citing her “escalating criminal conduct” despite no evidence to support that claim. Ms. Coaxum was released within five days. It usually takes several weeks before a paroled inmate is set free. This story was reported by John Caher, Albany Bureau Chief of the NY Law Journal, on 11/1/06



7. PAROLE RELEASE INFO?

If anyone knows the statistics for parole releases for November, whether for a specific prison or for all, including the number of violent felony releases and releases of Lifers, please report them to Building Bridges for publication. We want to know if there is a new trend toward appropriate releases. [this came in today, after the paper copy was printed: Otisville: with Jenifer Arena, recent lame duck appointment to Board of Parole, presiding: 31 men were heard. 6 were released, 3 of them for deportation, 1 with a non-violent crime, and 2 with violent crimes. The latter three had Life at the end. One of the 25 who were not granted parole release was denied for the 7th time.]



8. PAROLE STORY

December 1, 2006

In 1991, John ended the life of a Manhattan serial rapist known as the beast of West Street. This man had raped John's girlfriend. After going to the police on 4 separate occasions and being told there was nothing they could do, John used poor judgment and decided to confront the offender on his own. He wanted the offender to know of the damage he had caused and make the offender feel accountable in some way. This naive attempt to do what was right, turned very wrong. During his trial the District Attorney from New York County portrayed John's crime as a murder. We understand the D.A's professional desire to obtain a conviction on the most serious charge, but a jury completely rejected this portrayal, acquitted John of murder, and found that John acted under extreme emotional distress when he fired one fatal bullet. Instead of murder, John was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. John's case was highly publicized in the media and he appeared on The Donahue Show, the Maury Povich Show, and Inside Edition while out on bail in 1992. During sentencing, the judge stated that she was making an example of John to send the message that taking the law into one's own hands will not be tolerated. John was sentenced to 8 - 24 years and 2-6 years, respectively, for an aggregate of 10 to 30 years in prison. This made him eligible for parole at the ten year mark, as long as he met all the standards outlined in Executive Law 259-i and displayed remorse, responsibility, redemption and rehabilitation. We believe that no one exemplifies these more than John Valverde and that no one has fulfilled the requirements of the Executive Law in a more exemplary fashion. Yet, John has already been denied parole three times.

Frank Valverde, Rivkin Radler LLP.
926 Reckson Plaza
Uniondale, New York 11556-0926
(516) 357-3339



9. RADIO PROGRAMS

Fancy Broccoli will be interviewing Robert Isseks on December 3, and broadcasting the Family Empowerment Day 2 speeches on December 12. Both programs are from 3 - 6pm on Independent Radio WVKR 91.3 FM, Poughkeepsie NY. WVKR streams online - you can go to www.Live365.com and search for WVKR.



10. REENTRY ARTICLE IN THE NY DAILY NEWS
What N.Y. owes ex-cons - and their neighbors, by Errol Louis, originally published on November 10, 2006 - Daily News

Summary by BB Editor:

127,000 people are released from prisons and jails around the state every year. On average, 55% of state prisoners come home within 48 months. Most are from New York City - and from a handful of our neighborhoods. The communities where most of the ex-prisoners will end up - upper Manhattan , the South Bronx, central Brooklyn and southeast Queens - are already overwhelmed by poverty and other problems. Many former inmates slip through the cracks and end up jobless and homeless - and two-thirds of them get rearrested within three years. The sensible alternative to this would be to carve out a slice of the city and state Correction budgets - 5% or about $18 million a year would be a good start - and invest it in housing, jobs, education and addiction treatment right there in Brownsville. The savings, in human and economic terms, would be profound and immediate.

Chauncy Parker of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services and a few other forward-looking New York officials - notably, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and city Correction Commissioner Martin Horn - have spent the last few years laying the groundwork for a new approach to reentry. They have lately joined forces with thinkers like Jeremy Travis , the new president of John Jay College, and Susan Tucker of the Open Society Institute to push for radical changes in how New York spends its jail and prison dollars.

"We overuse incarceration," says Horn, who now spends $10 million a year on reentry programs for inmates leaving Rikers - more than any city or county in America .



11. REENTRY CONFERENCE
If anyone is planning to attend this event and would be willing to take Prison Action Network literature, along with copies of the letter to Spitzer and the Parole Mandate petition, please let us know.

"NYS, Reentry and Employment: A Current Snapshot and Recommendations for the Future"

This free day-long conference will take place on December 6, 2006 from 8am to 3:30 pm EST, at New York University’s Vanderbilt Hall in the Greenberg Lounge. This event will be a series of facilitated panels between practitioners, advocates, people directly affected by the criminal justice system, New York State and New York City criminal justice and workforce development policymakers and other stakeholders. To ensure meaningful community participation and make the event more engaging, we have carved out time from each session for questions from the audience. We hope you will be able to take advantage of this early notification and plan to join us at Vanderbilt Hall on December 6, 2006.

Please RSVP as soon as possible to gmartin@hirenetwork.org,
or phone Glen Martin at (212) 243-1313, x 132, as seating for this event will be limited and reserved on a first come basis.



12. RIDE BOARD

To Bedford Hills from Albany - Qasim - freeb2beme@yahoo.com
To Gt. Meadow from Albany - Qasim - freeb2beme@yahoo.com
To Adirondack from Albany - Tanya and son Anthony - tanyaj810@netzero.net
To Greenhaven from Albany - just Tanya - see above



13. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISON

From Buffalo:

New bus service to Wende, Attica, Wyoming, Orleans, Albion - "CONVENIENT TRANSPORTATION SERVICES" will be providing weekend  (Saturday and Sunday) van service for family and loved ones who desire to visit their husbands, wives, friends, and significant others who are incarcerated throughout various Correctional Facilities located in Western New York. The round trip cost will be $40. The cost for children requiring a seat, age 12 and under, is $10. Those who sign up for December's first run, will be charged a discounted price of $25. This service is tentatively scheduled to begin on Saturday, December 16, 2006.

For additional information: Mr. Bruce Betton- 716-605-3179, Ms. Karima Amin- 716-834-8438


From Capital District:

Rides are offered by volunteers of the First Unitarian Universalist Society’s Justice Committee, for a donation of any size, with the following limitations. Please contact us at 518 253-7533 if you need a ride.
Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays only
the prison must be within 150 miles of Albany [300 miles round trip]
driver is willing to wait 2-3 hours while you visit
driver is willing to start, from your home, as early as 8:00 A.M.
driver is willing to get back to Albany as late as 6:00 P.M.
car seats 5, though for a trip of 150 miles, sitting in the middle of the back seat would be a tight squeeze.


From Albany/Troy:

The NEST Prison Shuttle schedule includes a trip to McGregor, Washington and Great Meadow on Dec 2, and Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson Correctional Facilities on Saturday, Dec 9 and Saturday, Dec 23 from Oakwood Ave. Presbyterian Church, Troy at 7 AM and Albany Greyhound at 7:15 AM. The Shuttle trip to Utica (Midstate, Marcy, Oneida and Mohawk facilities) leaves Oakwood parking lot at 5 AM, and Albany Greyhound at 5:15 on Dec 16. Call Linda O’Malley for prices and reservations at 273-5199.



14. WORDS FROM INSIDE

REALITY
Loflin Jackson 93A2234

What binds us to this unjust, cruel world called prison? Our measly possessions are worthless and our time, if not spent in study, reflection, self-improvement and self-empowerment, is in vain. Having much time to think you really can scrutinize this world in and out. Throughout this nation said to be free with equal opportunity there is no single spot however desolate where a man can place himself and say he’s safe and free. The laws that govern us have been trampled upon by men thought to be above the law and therefore untouchable. they advocate chaos and destruction, make rules and laws impossible to follow. However they are portrayed to be of a warm heart and good spirit to the public’s eye.

My friend, until we and those like us have been rescued and released from the dark prison houses there shall be no safe place to seek asylum. There are terrible chastisements which have been inflicted upon us in prison throughout this country. Unjust parole practices have been perpetrated upon us not unlike in the days of slavery. Not in body but in mind and spirit. When, when shall we unite as human beings and bring about social justice reform? We can hold on but so long.



15. WORDS FROM RAMON

E PLURIBUS UNUM / OUT OF MANY, ONE

I am a man convicted of a crime and sent to prison to be resocialized with the skills, knowledge and ability to be sent back to society and live a law abiding life. That is why prisons are called ‘Correctional Facilities”; that is what the tax payer pays approximately $34,000. each year for: a recycled human being.

This prisoner doesn’t feel he actually got $34,000. worth of goods and services during my entire 12.5 year prison term, plus 24 month old. But the big question remains, are you getting your money’s worth? What is the return on your $493,000. investment for the 14.5 years of my incarceration? Let’s also not forget the State Parole Board, which is comprised of nineteen appointees of Governor George Pataki, who are collectively paid $1,979,600. of your money annually with perks and benefits, and who disregarded the law and in essence resentenced me to another two years behind bars. All done with the full knowledge that there is nothing more that I need, am required to take, or even have available to me; knowing it would cost you another $68.000.

That’s close to half a million dollars just to keep me behind bars; someone who has already paid his debt, recognizes his error, is remorseful and has been rehabilitated to the extent that I am parole and community ready.

Of course, I’m not the only one, there are at a minimum 5,000 (a moderate estimate) of parole and comity ready prisoners who are members of the ever-growing Deuce Club after serving long periods of incarceration. Do the math. To add insult to injury, did you know that since 1995 Governor Pataki’s administration also quietly pocketed over $200 million in tax dollars in Federal Grants to keep parole eligible prisoners beyond their already overpriced minimum sentences?

Since the minimum sentence is the penal sanction equal to the severity of the crime, any punishment contemplated by the Court, acting on the community’s behalf , was satisfied when I completed my Court imposed minimum sentence.

By any objective criteria I should be released, so there’s no plausible reason why I haven’t been. What your money is really spent on remains a mystery, but always remember you heard it here first...E PLURIBUS UNUM.

A Conscious Individual,
Ramon Gonzalez, 92A7663

Read now!