Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

February 2007 Edition

Dear Reader,

The winds of change are blowing. And as it said on the program for Family Empowerment Day 2: "Our job is to fan them". Well, I'd say we've been doing a good job! Eliot Spitzer, on his 8th day as our new Governor, ordered DOCS to stop charging a commission on phone calls from prison. And now even the NY Times has gotten on board with recommendations that closely match ours. In a Jan. 25 Editorial, on page A-24, entitled ‘Closing the Revolving Door’, they address reentry issues of educational opportunities while incarcerated, temporary welfare benefits upon release, incentives for employers to hire people with criminal records, removing juvenile arrests that did not result in convictions from rap sheets, and special treatment for the incarcerated mentally ill. Yes, there’s a lot they left out, but here’s the concluding statement: "The only real way to reduce the inmate population — and the felon class — is to ensure that imprisonment is a method of last resort. That means abandoning the mandatory sentencing laws that have filled prisons to bursting with nonviolent offenders who are doomed to remain trapped at the very margins of society." We need more press like that. Keep fanning those winds of change! We've stirred up a good breeze, and we should feel proud. But there's still a lot more change needed. We must not lose our momentum.

ARTICLES:

1. BLESSINGS BEYOND BARS - prison ministry responds to all who write.

2. BUFFALO ACTIVISTS - Karima Amin and ‘Prisoners Are People Too!’ get media attention.

3. COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS ADVOCACY DAY - March 6, sign up for training, transportation.

4. C.U.R.E. N.Y. Newsletter - Winter edition now available at www.bestweb.net/~cureny

5. DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT DARRYL HUNT CASE - A brutal murder leaves a white woman dead, and a young black man accused.

6. DRUG LAW REPEAL EFFORT - outreach to the 59 NYC Community Boards; panel discussion on Thursday February 15th on criminal justice policy directions in the Spitzer era.

7. DVD of FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 2, produced by filmmaker Melis Birder (www.visitorsdocumentary.com) now available from Prison Action Network.

8. A FATHER’S CONCERNS - trans fats, cash instead of gifts, and commissary profits

9. JOHN JAY COLLEGE PRESENTATIONS - FEB 9 Sentencing for Dollars: The Financial Consequences of a Criminal Conviction, .........FEB 15- After Innocence, the Sundance Award-winning documentary about innocent men and women wrongfully imprisoned for decades.

10. JUSTICE PAGES - Online magazine dedicated to peace and justice and the abolition of prisons as we know them, features interview with Safiya Bandele: www.justicepages.org

11. LAWYER CHERYL KATES ARGUES ARTICLE 78 - Edwards vs. NYS Board of Parole involves an A-1 felony conviction of 25-life for the sentence of Murder in the second degree

12. OTISVILLE BROADBAND PAROLE SUPPORT - Earl Crutchfield, DIN 82A5425 and Len McRae, DIN 83A5207 have parole board hearings in February. Your support is requested.

13. PAROLE CLASS ACTION SUIT - update from lead attorney.

14. PAROLE PANEL DISCUSSION - Feb 15, 6pm - Speakers John Caher, Philip Genty, Vernon Manley, Alfred O’Connor, Eva Shahn, Honorable Edward A Sheridan, William Eric Waters.

15. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS - Ill state Representative proposes adjustment to the federal census to reflect the legal residence of all Illinois citizens, not just their usual residence.

16. QUESTIONS ABOUT SENTENCING GUIDELINES - information requested by Lawrence Perkins.

17. RADIO SERIES - People who have received services are sought by Voices from the Prison Action Network for a new series of programs featuring service providers and their clients.

18. SUPPORT MEETINGS - in Albany, Buffalo, Poughkeepsie and Schenectady. Join others in similar circumstances - you’re not alone.

19. TELEPHONE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN - one victory, and one battle still in the courts; find out how you can help; report from the front lines.

20. TELEPHONE TAX REFUND - one time refund of the federal excise tax that you paid on long distance or bundled telephone service (not NYS/DOCS illegal tax).

21. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS - From Buffalo, Capital District, and Albany/Troy; and the RIDE BOARD

22. WORDS FROM INSIDE - In memory of Robert Solomon, by Sensei Chas Ransome.

23. WORK RELEASE - Prison Release: Wilderness or Promised Land? by Aaron Talley and Don Mason. A call for Temporary Release Program eligibility for people convicted of violent crimes.

LAST ARTICLE: THE SQUARE FETTER, © Copyright by James E. Morse 2005, part 1 of a vignette to appear in serialized form over the next few months in Building Bridges.


1. BLESSINGS BEYOND BARS
"Locked In But Not Locked Out"
 
           Blessings Beyond Bars prison ministry under the auspices of Progressive Faith Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (PFEM)  of Troy, New York heartily thanks all who responded to our offer of spiritual friendship, prayers, healing and self-empowerment correspondent courses. Your letters were thoughtful, respectful, insightful and humorous. We respond to ALL who write. Through your continuing efforts for self-improvement and self-realization, you will have the power not only to change yourself, but others; therefore creating real opportunities for change in the world.
            Direct letters to: Deb or Robin at
Progressive Faith Evangelical Ministries, Inc.
2801 Fifth Avenue
Troy, New York 12180
 
           " Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my
             persecutors; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison,
             that I may praise Thy name. The righteous shall surround me, for
             Thou shall deal bountifully with me."                                                           Psalm 142:6-7


2. BUFFALO ACTIVISTS GET MEDIA ATTENTION
PRP2! IN BUFFALO SPREE MAGAZINE: Part one of an article in the January/February 2007 issue on local activism by Christopher Schobert entitled, “Restorative Justice: Changing the System” includes a photo of Luis Acosta (and associates) and information about the successful restorative justice work of his Urban Community Center (UCC). The article also includes a photo of KARIMA AMIN and a few paragraphs on the objectives and the work of “PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO!." Buffalo Spree Magazine is available online. This article on activism may be read by going to:www.buffalospree.com and putting "Karima Amin" in the search window.


3. COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS ADVOCACY DAY
CWP ADVOCACY DAY ON TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2007, will focus on five main advocacy priorities for 2007: (1) increased funding for visiting and reunification programs that help keep families connected when a mother is in prison, (2) Medicaid coverage for women transitioning from prison and jail back to their communities, (3) better health services for women in prison, (4) merit time and early release from prison for domestic violence survivors incarcerated for committing crimes as a result of abuse, and (5) further reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and increased funding for drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration for women. 
 
Please note that an EDUCATIONAL TRAINING IS REQUIRED for all individuals who would like to attend Advocacy Day.  If your organization would like an onsite workshop, please contact Women in Prison Project Community Outreach Coordinator, Stacey Thompson; 212-254-5700 x317. 

TRAINING IN ALBANY on Tuesday February 6, 2007: Thank you to the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence who have again generously agreed to host us. The training will begin promptly at 10:30am and end at Noon on February 6th. Please RSVP to Jaya; (212) 254-5700 x311 ASAP as space is limited.

All readers are also welcome to attend one of the THREE ADDITIONAL OPEN WORKSHOPS AT THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NY (135 E. 15th St, between Irving Place and 3rd Avenue) on the following dates:
o        Saturday, February 3rd from Noon-2:00pm
o        Wednesday, February 21st from 5:30-7:30pm
o        Friday, February 23rd from 10:00am-Noon

If you would like to participate in Advocacy Day, you MUST complete and return a form by February 21st.  Even if you are not traveling with the Coalition bus from New York City, YOU MUST FILL OUT THESE FORMS, AS THEY ARE USED TO GET A HEAD COUNT AND CREATE LOBBY TEAMS.   To get one, please contact: Women in Prison Project Community Outreach Coordinator Stacey Thompson; 212-254-5700 x317.

4. C.U.R.E.-NY Newsletter, Winter, '06-'07
now awaits you at www.bestweb.net/~cureny 
 
It contains articles on:  VICTORY against the tax on inmate phone calls,    Westchester Reentry Task Force,    Proposed NYS Vocational Education,    Florida Reentry Task Force.  

As always, your support of these efforts is highly valued.  Rudy and Betty Cypser, Editors, CURE-NY


5. DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT DARRYL HUNT CASE
Pursuing Racial Fairness in Criminal Justice: Twenty Years After McCleskey v. Kemp

The Trials of Darryl Hunt, Sponsored by Clifford Chance, LLP, followed by a discussion with the Filmmakers, Darryl Hunt, and his attorney, Mark Rabil

March 2, 2007, 11am at Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall, 435 West 116th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue), NYC. FREE TO THE PUBLIC. More info: www.law.columbia.edu/

North Carolina, 1984.
A brutal murder leaves a white woman dead, and a young black man accused. This exclusive portrait of a harrowing wrongful conviction offers a provocative and haunting examination of a community - and a criminal justice system - subject to racial bias and tainted by fear.

It took 20 years for Mr. Hunt, who consistently maintained his innocence, to be exonerated.

Some of those years came after DNA testing of the semen left in the victim showed that he could not have been the rapist. At that point, the prosecutor changed his theory of the case and said that Mr. Hunt must have been a lookout or there in some other capacity. Even another man's confession did not open the prison doors right away. But eventually, a judge looked at the evidence, said that a mistake had been made, and exonerated Mr. Hunt.

During those twenty years, Mr. Hunt's cause was supported by a team of tenacious lawyers, many advocates in Winston-Salem's black community (particularly a man who was an alderman at the time of the arrest and first trial), and the woman who became his wife. One element that created additional pressure was an eight-part series, Murder, Race, Justice, in the Winston-Salem Journal by reporter Phoebe Zerwick.


6. DRUG LAW REPEAL EFFORT
OUTREACH: The Correctional Association is conducting outreach to the 59 NYC Community Boards to get their support for repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws.  We ask for your assistance to attend their meetings and present information about the harmful effects of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. If you'd like to participate in the training, please call Brandie Chandler, 212-254-5700 ext.339 or by email (see below).
.
EVENT: The Correctional Association and New School University will co-host a panel discussion on Thursday February 15th at 10:00 AM on criminal justice policy directions in the Spitzer era and will provide an opportunity for us to promote Drug Law repeal. The panel discussion will take place at Lang Student & Community Center, 55 West 13th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Second Floor.

Brandie Chandler, Drop the Rock Coordinator bchandler@correctionalassociation.org


7. DVD of FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 2
Documentary shot at FED2 is now available through Prison Action Network. Produced by filmmaker Melis Birder (www.visitorsdocumentary.com), it is a work of art as well as a visual record of a groundbreaking event! If you were there, you will probably enjoy getting a glimpse of yourself as well as hearing the highlights of all the speeches. If you missed it, this is a way to make up for it. Shipping and handling is $2, and any extra donation will be used to produce FED3. Make your check or money order out to PAN, at HM-IMC, PO Box 35, Troy NY 12181.


8. A FATHER’S CONCERNS
I have a son in a CT prison and a lot of interest in similar NY issues. For instance:  What are you NY people doing about Trans Fats? It's against the law to serve them in restaurants. Do they serve them in prison? Will this not lead to disease and increasing health costs, if they get health care. Here in CT you can see a doctor, but it costs $3 visit whether he sees the inmate or not. Working at 10 cents an hour that means it would take a week’s wages to attempt to see a doctor (If they would grant a visit).  I wonder how the CO's union would react to a $950 co pay for a doctor’s visit. Let’s run it by them the next time they negotiate their contracts. 

The issue of Cash rather than Gifts is what they call Bottom Line. How long does it take for the inmate to actually order and spend that money on the commissary account? How often does DOCS pay its bills? 30 days, 60 days, 90 days that's typical for government.  In the banking world it's called "making money on the float." Millions of dollars held at interest for even short periods like 3 weeks or 3 months can rack up a fine return for someone. Not the inmate or family. That should be disclosed. [Editor’s note: This issue at Clinton has been stopped for the time being...... there was an ILC meeting and the group was told by Superintendent Artus that the package policy would remain the same as it has been for now.....per Albany.]

Why do items change on the commissary order form? Because the markup (profit) isn't high enough. How much profit do they need to make before the item is a hot seller 40% maybe when it gets down to 25-30%, remove or change it. With FOI (freedom of information) let's find out who will lie about it. The profit could be redirected to subsidize education loans for college correspondence courses for inmates. Recidivism drops from 60% to 11% if an inmate earns an Associates Degree. From a financial point that will reduce the cost of re-housing inmates. More importantly lower recidivism means fewer victims. How can even the “penal people” disagree with that?   - Anthony Luther@sbcglobal.net


9. JOHN JAY COLLEGE PRESENTATIONS - FEB 9TH AND 15.
The Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice presents:

On FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9TH from 8:30 to 10:00 am, the event will feature ALAN ROSENTHAL, Director for Justice Strategies, Center for Community Alternatives speaking on: Sentencing for Dollars: The Financial Consequences of a Criminal Conviction. Responding to him will be SCOTT CADE , Deputy Commissioner and Director, New York State Division of Child Support Enforcement, VELMANETTE MONTGOMERY, New York State Senator; Co-Chair, New York State Senate Democratic Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform; Member, Committee on Crime Victims, Crime, and Correction , and RAY TEBOUT, Alternatives to Incarceration Counselor, Fortune Society.

On THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15TH from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, the Prisoner Reentry Institute is co-sponsoring a special event with the Center for Race, Crime and Justice.  It will feature After Innocence, the Sundance Award-winning documentary that tells the story of the exonerated - innocent men and women wrongfully imprisoned for decades and then released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.  After the film, David Shephard and other exonerees will talk about their reentry experiences.

Both events will take place at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (899 Tenth Avenue, between 58th and 59th Streets, Room 630).  Please RSVP for either or both of these events to Nicole Lindahl (nlindahl@jjay.cuny.edu or 646 557 4534).


10. JUSTICE PAGES
An online magazine dedicated to peace and justice and the abolition of prisons as we know them. Safiya Bandele can be heard on their audio feed, talking about her long relationship with ibn Kenyatta. Visit www.justicepages.org. To sign up for a free subscription, go to: www.justicepages.org/subscribe


11. LAWYER CHERYL KATES ARGUES ARTICLE 78
Cheryl L. Kates argued Edwards vs. NYS Board of Parole at Livingston County Supreme Court in front of Judge Dennis Cohen on January 24, 2007 at 9:30 am. This was an Article 78 proceeding involving an A-1 felon convicted of 25-life for the sentence of Murder in the second degree. Kates argued that the decision rendered by the NYS Board of Parole was arbitrary and capricious, based on unlawful procedure, and was irrational bordering impropriety. The Parole Board denied Edwards parole based solely on the serious nature of the crime. Mr. Edwards, like so many other A-1 felons, has an exemplary disciplinary record, has completed all required programs, has stable release plans and had vast community support for his release. Edwards also submitted a letter on his behalf written by a correctional officer advocating for his release. This was James Edwards’ third Parole Board appearance. In December of this year, he will have been incarcerated 30 years. He qualified to be a class member in the federal case Graziano v. Pataki. [see article 13, below]
Cheryl L. Kates Esq. PO Box 711, Honeoye, NY 14471, (585) 820-3818


12. OTISVILLE BROADBAND PAROLE SUPPORT
Earl Crutchfield, DIN 82A5425, is preparing for his 4th parole hearing in February. Twenty six years ago he was involved in a destructive lifestyle which led to a terrible crime, for which he feels much remorse. He was sentenced to 20 years to Life for that crime. He has served 26 years, despite a good institutional record and an impressive self-improvement process while incarcerated; taking advantage of many programs provided for his rehabilitation.

Len McRae, DIN 83A5207, will face the parole board for the first time in February. He has served 35 years for a crime committed as an addicted, unemployed and homeless Vietnam vet. He has dedicated his life to his transformation. His wife is seriously ill and needs him at home.

For more information, please write Earl or Len at the Otisville address below. If you would like to write a letter in support, please do, and send a copy to the person and the following administrators:

Mr. Robert Dennison, Chair, NYS Division of Parole, 97 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12206
Mr. James Cassel, Sr. Parole Officer, Otisville C.F., PO Box 8, Otisville, NY 10963


13. PAROLE CLASS ACTION SUIT
We have deferred the submission of our application for class certification, but have been proceeding with discovery on a class-wide basis and have gone through about 17 boxes of documents so far.  We are also exploring settlement.

Whenever a prisoner expresses an interest in participating in the class action and sends us his/her last Inmate Status Report and adverse parole decision, we write back and advise whether that prisoner falls within the definition of the proposed class. - Bob Isseks, lead attorney in Graziano v. Pataki


14. PAROLE PANEL DISCUSSION - FEB 15, 6PM
Restoring Fairness to Parole, February 15, 6pm, House of the Association, 42 W 44th St. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the NY City Bar’s Council on Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee. Speakers John Caher, Philip Genty, Vernon Manley, Alfred O’Connor, Eva Shahn, Honorable Edward A Sheridan, William Eric Waters. Moderated by Russell T. Neufeld. Call 518 253 7533 for information about the speakers.


15. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS
New article from northwestern university law school demonstrates viability of state-based solution to federal failures in decennial census 
[URL: www.prisonersofthecensus.org]

Every decade, the Census Bureau counts tens of thousands of Chicagoans incarcerated in state prisons as if they were part of downstate communities, diluting the votes of Chicagoans and distorting how Illinois draws its legislative districts. The next census is less than four years away, and the Census Bureau is resisting calls to start counting prisoners as residents of their legal home addresses.

States are not powerless victims of this misguided census enumeration policy, however, points out a new article in Northwestern University's prestigious Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Instead, Illinois and other states may legally apportion citizens to reflect their true legal residence rather than the misleading usual residence employed by the Census Bureau.

Counted out Twice: Power, Representation & the "Usual Residence Rule" in the Enumeration of Prisoners: A State-based Approach to Correcting Flawed Census Data, by recently graduated Northwestern University School of Law student David Hamsher documents how populations of Chicago and other urban areas are undercounted, while rural areas which have lured prison facilities as job generators find their population over-counted.

While the simplest solution would be for the Census Bureau to start counting prisoners as residents of their home addresses, the Census Bureau has thus far resisted calls to change their enumeration procedures. Given this resistance, legislators in Illinois and New York State have introduced legislation to ensure that apportionment is based on a more accurate reflection of their population. "If the Census Bureau fails to fix its counting procedures before the 2010 Census, my article shows that Illinois and every other state has a very appropriate and viable solution," said Hamsher.

In Illinois, Representative Arthur L. Turner has proposed adjusting the federal census to reflect the legal residence of all Illinois citizens, not just their usual residence. "Rep. Turner's bill is a creative solution to a big problem that the Census Bureau has created for democracy in Illinois and around the nation," says Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative, a national expert on prisoner enumeration issues.

Hamsher's article is the first in-depth look at the legality of legislation intended to correct the Census Bureau's flawed enumeration method. It provides the legal foundation necessary for legislators to support state-based solutions to federal failures.

According to Wagner, "David's article highlights the unfairness of present policy, shows the power of states to fix flawed Census data, and provides an important legal underpinning to an emerging solution."

Founded in 1910, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, published by Northwestern University School of Law is the second most widely subscribed journal published by any law school in the country.

The article is available at www.davidhamsher.com

Contact:
David Hamsher, dhamsher@yahoo.com, 314.249.1268
Peter Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative, 413 527 1333


16. QUESTIONS ABOUT SENTENCING GUIDELINES
Lawrence Perkins 03A0151 would like up-to-date information on the following. Other readers would probably be interested, so anyone knowing the answers please send to Building Bridges and we'll forward to Larry and print in the next edition:
1. Have current sentencing guidelines changed for determinate sentences? What's the change?
2. Will it be retroactive for those sentenced under the previous determinate guidelines?
3. Are there any bills, talks, proposals and/or legislature concerning these issues? How about concerning early release programs for violent felons?


17. RADIO SERIES
Voices from the Prison Action Network is beginning a new series of programs, focusing on services available to prisoners, parolees, formerly incarcerated individuals, and their families. First we’ll hear from the service providers, then from a client. It won't be difficult finding people to represent the service providers, but they often won't be able to provide the names of clients, so YOU'LL have to step forward. The first program in the series, on Jan 24, featured Gavin Cook from Prisoners’ Legal Services. On January 31 Sonny Rudert told about a dramatic experience he had with PLS years ago in Attica. On February 7, private attorney Cheryl Kates is scheduled to talk about her parole appeal litigations, followed on February 14 by Donald Ferrin, one of her clients. Voices from the Prison Action Network airs on WRPI Troy, 91.5 FM on Wednesdays from 6am to 7am, or live on the internet at www.wrpi.org. Your listening is always invited.


18. 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
JUSTICE COMMITTEE of First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany invites your attendance at monthly meetings on the last Sunday of each month. Noon til 1 or 2. Call: Judith: 253 7533

**new**BUFFALO: SUPPORT GROUP FOR WOMEN: Back in November2006, it was announced that GROUP Ministries was sponsoring a support group for formerly incarcerated men. The organization is now offering a similar group for women. The “roundtable discussions on being home and staying home” include topics related to: managing family relationships, health and wellness, securing and maintaining income, personal maintenance and responsibility, and developing hope, faith, and integrity. Both 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.

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 COALITION FOR RESTORATIVE JUSTICE will meet at 6pm, one hour before the Poughkeepsie PFNY meetings.

**back** SCHENECTADY: PFNY meeting at 7pm on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church - 603 State Street - entrance on Chapel Street - behind MVP Building.  Jeanette: 518 280 0354 anytime after 6pm.


19. TELEPHONE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN
Time to celebrate! We won a major battle! And the victory came from an unexpected quarter. The day before Walton v.NYSDOCS was argued in the Court of Appeals, NYS's highest court, asking the judges to declare the high phone charges illegal, Gov. Eliot Spitzer ordered the state Department of Correctional Services to stop charging a commission on collect calls placed by prison inmates to their families. It took years of effort on the part of many people, some of whom are reading this newsletter, but finally our voices were heard and justice was done! There's still work to do, however. If you 'd like to help the campaign move forward to permanently stop the contract you can contact Lauren Melodia at lmelodia@ccr-ny.org or 212.614.6481. And don’t forget to send a letter thanking the Governor: Eliot Spitzer, State Capitol, Albany NY 12224.

REPORT ON WALTON V. NYSDOCS ORAL ARGUMENT AT THE NYS COURT OF APPEALS
From Rachel Meeropol, CCR attorney in Walton v. NYSDOCS
1/12 A lot has happened in the past week.  On Monday, the day before argument on our appeal was scheduled to be heard on the case in the Court of Appeals (the highest court in the State) Governor Spitzer announced that the State will no longer demand commissions in connection to operation of the prison telephone system.  This change will go into effect on April 1, 2007 after the current contract between DOCS and MCI ends.  We don’t know what the new arrangement will look like, but it appears that elimination of the DOCS commission (which we have challenged in the lawsuit as an unlegislated and discriminatory tax) will reduce the cost of prison calls in New York by more than half.  We are committed to remaining involved in this issue to work towards getting the best possible arrangement in place for prison families, friends, and lawyers.   We should all celebrate Spitzer’s decision as a true victory, achieved through the hard-work, and most importantly, the creative collaboration of advocates, lobbyists, organizers, lawyers, press-people, families, and friends.   
 
In the meantime, the lawsuit goes on.  Spitzer’s announcement doesn’t have any immediate impact on the case because it is before the Court right now, while the current arrangement still exists.  Given this reality, the State did not even argue that the case should be dismissed as moot (no longer relevant).  Best case scenario is that the Court issues their opinion before April 1, so that mootness doesn’t come into the equation at all.  If they don’t issue their opinion before April 1, we may have to brief or otherwise deal with a mootness issue.  Even then, we think that the Court must address the issue of whether the telephone tax is legal to settle this important area of law, to ensure that a future administration doesn’t reinstate this illegal practice, and to provide for damages, in the nature of refunds, for the individuals harmed by DOCS’ unlawful actions.
 
With that in mind, we argued the case before the Court on Tuesday, Jan 9, 2007.  The courtroom was jam packed with supporters, including Ms. Walton herself, and many of the organizers and advocates whose hard work contributed to the Governor’s announcement. The judges were well-prepared and based on the number of questions they asked of both me and the attorney representing the Department of Correctional Services, they were very interested in the case.  In fact, I didn’t get a chance to give any presentation at all, as they began to ask questions before I had even introduced the case!  Most of the questioning focused on the statute of limitations issues, as that is what brought the case to the Court.  The type of questions asked left me with the impression that the Court wants to find a way to allow the case to go forward, with some relief for plaintiffs, but did not want to open the State up to the six years of damages that we have been seeking.  Several of the judges asked pointed questions of the attorney representing DOCS about how the individuals affected by this practice can get relief.  I was very pleased by this indication that the judges’ are concerned about the real people harmed by DOCS’ actions.
 
Of course I can’t predict how the Court will rule, but I am hopeful that the Court will reverse the appellate division’s dismissal and allow the case to move forward.  However, I think it is unlikely that they will hold, as we have urged, that we may seek damages far back in time.  Even if the Court does reverse, it is not clear whether the Court will make any kind of ruling on the merits of our claims, or will simply send the case back down to the lower court for more proceedings.  So as always, there are many open questions.  According to the Court of Appeals website, most cases get decided in 30 to 60 days.  So stay tuned and thanks for all your support.  


20. TELEPHONE TAX REFUND
This is NOT a refund for the illegal portion of bills for calls from prison, but IT IS money back and we deserve it!

It is a one time refund of the federal excise tax that you paid on long distance or bundled telephone service between March 1 2003 and August 1 2006. [If you ever requested a refund for the tax prior to this, you must withdraw your request before filing for the refund.]

If you don't attach bills for the period, you will get a straight $30. However, your telephone service provider is obligated to provide you with copies of your bills for the entire 41 months covered. You will probably receive substantially more than $30 if you submit the bills.

If you file an income tax return, you will need to fill out Form 8913 Credit for Federal Telephone Excise Tax Paid. If you do not have to file a federal individual income tax return you can simply file Form 1040EZ-T Request for Refund of Federal Telephone Excise Tax 2006.

You may call 800 829 3676 for forms or information.


21. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS

From Buffalo:
Van service to Western NY prisons: Convenient Transportation Services  has expanded its weekend (Saturday and Sunday) trips to five more prisons and now makes runs to Attica, Albion, Wende, Orleans, Wyoming, Groveland, Livingston (Saturday only), Lakeview, Collins, and Gowanda. The cost is $40-$50 for adults and $10 for children age 12 and younger, requiring a seat. For more information call 716-605-3179.

From Capital District:
Rides are offered by volunteers of the First Unitarian Universalist Society’s Justice Committee, for a donation of any size. Please contact us at 518 253-7533 if you need a ride.

From Albany/Troy:
The NEST prison shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow Facilities on Sat, Feb 3 ($30 adults, $20 children), and the Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson Correctional Facilities on Sat, Feb 10, and Sat, Feb 24 ($15  adults and $10 children), leaving Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, Troy at 7 AM, and Albany Greyhound Bus station at 7:15. Trip to the Utica Hub (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida) Sat, Feb 17 leaving shortly after 5 AM ($40 adults, $25 children). Call for reservations and information: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.



22. WORDS FROM INSIDE
IN MEMORY: I’m truly saddened to report that Robert Solomon, our brother and friend, succumbed on December 6, 2006 to a draining battle with cancer. I pray that as his Energy releases into the Universe it blesses the many lives he’s touched. We pray that his Soul is recognized by the Creator and our Ancestors.

I came to know Rob in June 1999 when Grandpa Al and Karen Lewis, on WBAI radio, put out a call for concerned listeners to safeguard a prisoner (me) against punitive measures from prison officials. Rob was a social worker for the Mental Hygiene Unit of the NYS Supreme Court. He tirelessly worked for people with mental hygiene issues to be given a fair, non-biased evaluation and treatment. In response to that call for support, Robert Solomon wrote me. Our correspondence was a blessing and the beginning of a sincere, beautiful and honest relationship between two men that came from very different backgrounds and experiences, yet were blessed to come together for a purpose.

Rob’s sincerity, courage, generous nature and spirit helped to bind us as brothers in short order. My Brother Rob was non-judgemental, supportive and a great listener whom I came to trust and appreciate more and more as time passed. He had a huge spirit, and through his friendship I was able to be who “I AM” and not put on airs. I THANK HIM FOR THAT!

Rob never let his suffering overshadow his incredible personality. I was humbled by the vivid images he shared with me of his experience; the suffering, the pain, and in the end, the isolation imposed as a direct result of the cancer, the tests, medications, treatments and their insidious side effects.

Through it all, Rob remained the wonderful human being we all knew him to be. Never feeling sorry for himself. Never letting others feel sorry for him. Keeping a positive attitude and not allowing his illness to defeat his spirit, even as it debilitated his body.

I own much to Rob for the many times he walked me through dark corridors, protected me from harm and the evil in men’s hearts. Often, and even, while dealing with his own ups and downs he was there.

My Brother Rob’s spirit has given me a model of Manhood to emulate with pride. My tears of sadness flow from the pain I feel at his loss. I only pray that I can walk through life in a way that would make him proud of me.

For that, and so much more, I love him as MY Brother! I will forever miss him and keep his memory alive!

Sensei Chas Ransome


23. WORK RELEASE
Prison Release: Wilderness or Promised Land?
by Aaron Talley and Don Mason

A man is released from prison after serving 25 years. He was denied the opportunity to transition back into the reality of the work world; our high-tech society was confusing to him, and he did not have the resources to make a successful transition back into society because there was no temporary release program (education or work release). Within six months he was back in prison. Freedom to him had been the Wilderness not the Promised Land.

Another man came out of prison after serving 25 years. For him freedom was the Promised Land because he made a successful transition and was immediately contributing to society and his family again. He had worked the last two years of his sentence out in society, going back to a facility each evening of the week and had his weekends at home after six months of successful work release. he had saved enough money to help his family move out of public housing and had enough to pay off his family’s debts they had accrued during his long incarceration. And he gained his self-respect and that of his family back.

At present, people in prison in NYS in NYS with violent crimes are ineligible for participation in any temporary release program solely as a result of Governor Pataki’s Executive Order No.5.1 (9NYCRR 5.5) issued pursuant to a 1995 amendment to Correction Law S851 (2). In one stroke of his pen he eliminated all violent offenders from a program that had been running since 1969.

The Governmental Education Organization (GEO) work release sub-committee at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility believes that it’s time for us to include violent offenders in this valuable program, which originally was intended to reduce recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated individuals to return to a normal and productive life. The program also reintegrates ex-offenders back into society as law abiding and tax paying citizens.

Based on the above, we are requesting your assistance and support in having the Temporary Release Program (TRP) restored for those of us who have violent crimes. Help us return with as much of a chance as possible for success to the Promised Land not the Wilderness. Please write your state representatives and Governor Spitzer (see #18 for address) concerning this vital issue.


LAST ARTICLE: PART ONE IN A SERIALIZED VIGNETTE:

THE SQUARE FETTER, © Copyright by James E. Morse 2005, is a beautifully illustrated and eloquently written little book which we have chosen to serialize in Building Bridges. Today we begin with the preface. [Copies of the hand crafted, illustrated book (layout by Patricia Morse, as well as photo and printing) are available for $4 from Prison Action Network.]

THE SQUARE FETTER —A vignette— & Introductory Poem: THE GUARDIAN’S PRAYER
by JAMES E.MORSE
Part One:

PREFACE: A few words to the reader about the origins of “The Square Fetter”, a story about violent encounters:

In my essay “Malus Chronos” (Greek: Bad Times), I write that Malus Chronos is an otherworldly force prevailing in the spatial/temporal dimensions of the penal realms. It is conceived as the secular god of prisons, traps, snares, pitfalls, labyrinths, entanglements, enclosures, and locks. This conception derives from what medical experts call chronophobia—fear of time. It’s also known as prison neurosis, “because it may be the most common anxiety disorder in prison inmates. It is characterized by panic, anxiety, and claustrophobia.” The prisoner becomes “terrified by the duration and immensity of time. The prisoner goes into a panic, usually while in his [her] cell, and fears enclosure and restraint; this apparent claustrophobia arises from fear of time, as represented by the prison.”

Lesser, more common manifestations are: paranoia, hypochondria, repetitive ideas and conduct, depression, addiction to escapism, sleep disorders, delusions of grandeur and/or diminishment, high blood pressure, fear of freedom. One of the best kept secrets in the penal realms is that the primary medical treatment for severe chronophobic symptoms is psychotropic medications—chemical violence. In New York, more lengthier sentences and increases in the numbers of persons doing time, have caused time-sickness to be more prevalent, more of a collective phenomenon. For this reason, the consensus reality within the penal institution is typically bizarre.

Add to this the purposeful abuses that the penal institution inflicts and one cannot mention square fetter in the same breath as the word “humane”. A time-honored abuse is the punishing of all prisoners for the misbehavior of one:  a practice that fuels the engines of recidivism by counteracting the reforming incentives of imprisonment. In New York, the average prison sentence is excessive.

Since the barred cage was originally devised as an instrument of hands-off brutality[1] , time-sickness is a given. In 1823, at the newly erected Auburn prison, it was discovered that unmitigated durations in the barred cage breeds insanity[2] . For these reasons, the word “fetter” is by far the more precise term. Truly, a pair of leg irons and a square fetter utilize the same principle of durance vile—restraining force. Some people are so constituted as to easily rebound from the vile effects of the fetter; the majority (as attested to by high recidivism rates) are permanently harmed.

Besides the “durations”, what is it about time in the fetter that causes extreme levels of anxiety? My thesis is based upon the accepted proposition that time (the fourth dimension) is experienced as the sequence of events, perceived as progressing in space. Times are experiences; experiences determine being. Unlike the expansive spaces of free society, the bounded spaces of the square fetter in particular, and the penal institution in general, necessarily limits the multiplicity of passing events—replacing it with an oppressive institutional redundancy. Time thus impoverished is experienced as a vacuum, an alien time-warp. Therefore, it is the combined effect of the fetter’s durations and its pinched spaces that causes a lasting ontological crisis. In short, it tampers with the inmost being of the human.

All in all, I believe that “The Square Fetter” provides enough internal clues to challenge the sophisticated reader. And, with these prefatory remarks in mind, the essence of the story should be All in all, I believe that “The Square Fetter” provides enough internal clues to challenge the sophisticated reader. And, with these prefatory remarks in mind, the essence of the story should be more accessible to the general reader.
.............................................................................Continued in March
Footnotes:
1. Roger T. Pray, "How Did Our Prisons Get That Way?" Heritage, July/August 1987:92
2. One hundred and eighty-three years later, Auburn, Clinton, Attica, Great Meadow, Green Haven, Wende, and Sing Sing prisons continue to use the same type of miniscule,old-style barred cages.