Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Monday, January 01, 2007

January 2007

Dear Reader,

Never think we can’t make a difference. Many of you received an invitation, from his Transition Team for Criminal Justice, to advise Governor-elect Spitzer on his Day One initiatives. Eddie Ellis, a member of the Team, issued a request for letters in support of parole reform. I hope most of you saw it and sent a letter. This could be the most important thing you did in 2006. It could bring your loved one home at their next parole hearing!

We would like to expand our mailing list so future messages of such importance can reach even more concerned people. Please spread the word! Let’s continue to be optimistic about the possibilities for change.

There’s a challenge and a questionnaire about Family Empowerment Day 2 in this issue. Your feedback is VERY important in helping plan where to go from here. There are questions for those who attended and those who didn’t. Answers to both are equally important. Please send your responses to Building Bridges at prisonaction@hotmail.com.

Here’s wishing us all a justice-filled New Year!


ARTICLES:

1. Blessings Beyond Bars - New prison ministry offers correspondence and Bible study classes.

2. Brian Fischer May be Next Commissioner of DOCS - has publicly stated his support of reentry programs.

3. Family Empowerment Day2 Follow-up - Thank You note. Video copies are now available. Call to Action.

4. From Clinton C.F. - "To deny families the opportunity to show their love through gifts, instead of cash, is not only crass, but inhumane by most standards."

5. NYS Legislative Bills S104 and A01513 - These bills would create the NYS Geriatric and Older Prisoner Act based on similar programs that have been developed in other states such as Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana and Washington D.C. ....would include alternatives such as geriatric parole, electronic detention and correctional nursing home care as determined appropriate by the Parole Board.

6. NYS Telephone Justice Case to be Heard Before Court of Appeals - Tuesday Jan. 9, approx. 2 pm. Court house is on Eagle St. in downtown Albany. It's important that you be there!

7. Otisville Broadband Parole Support - featuring profiles of 2 men preparing for their February ‘07 hearings.

8. Parole Board Told to Examine Full Sentencing Court Record - by John Caher, 12-08-2006 Appellate Court says, "That issue is the Board's failure to comply with the provisions of Executive Law § 259-I which mandate consideration of the sentencing minutes and recommendations of the sentencing court in reviewing applications for parole release."

9. Prison Action Network Regrets...... - We simply don’t choose to “volunteer” for oppressive treatment.

10. Questionnaire - Your answers will help us plan the next move in our Campaign for Social Justice, Parole Reform & Accountable Government. PLEASE RESPOND.

11. Stop Prison Abuse - Albany, New York. StopPrisonAbuse.org protests the Inaction of New York Senators: "We will stand in front of the Leo O' Brien Federal Building on Monday mornings and at the corner of Lark Street and Washington Avenue Tuesday evenings to protest and bring attention to Senator Clinton's and Senator Schumer's failure to investigate the complaints of prisoners and their families."

12. Support Meetings - in Albany, Buffalo, and Poughkeepsie. Join others in similar circumstances - you’re not alone.

13. Transportation to Prisons - Free rides, private vans, and the Ride Board.

14. Where Do We Turn? [Plea Bargaining Gone Wrong] - "It is vitally and extremely necessary for a return to 'innocent until proven guilty'. There has to be some mechanism against this coercion to take a plea in order to get an unlawful conviction. There should be some place to turn for help long before the remedy of the Appeals Court.”

15. Words from Inside - Mediums are worse than Max A’s; there’s less crime and yet the prisons are full; food is prepared at one location, yet each prison has at least 4 civilian cooks @ $25K a year.



1. BLESSINGS BEYOND BARS

Blessings Beyond Bars Prison Ministry, under the auspices of the Progressive Faith Evangelical Ministries, Inc. welcomes your correspondence! We extend our invitation to write to us if you are desiring friendship, spiritual uplifting, faith and encouragement. We also are offering a monthly Bible study course designed to meet your level of interest and comprehension. Please write to:   Deb or Robin
Progressive Faith Evangelical Ministries, Inc.
2801 Fifth Avenue
Troy, New York 12180
 
" Written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."  -2 Corinthians 3:3


2. BRIAN FISCHER MAY BE NEXT COMMISSIONER OF DOCS
According to an Associated Press report, Eliot Spitzer wants Brian Fischer to be his Commissioner of the DOCS. His nomination requires Senate approval.

Mr. Fischer has been the supervising superintendent of DOCS since 1991. He was also Superintendent of Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where he supported many innovative and positive programs such as the Youth Assistance Program, Council for Unity, Rehabilitation Through the Arts Program, and the NYTS Masters program. He has publicly stated that locking someone up and throwing away the key is not the answer. He has spoken in favor of increased efforts to prepare incarcerated people for their eventual releases.


3. FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY2 FOLLOW-UP

A THANK YOU.

Peace! I want to thank everyone who was involved with Family Empowerment Day 2 on Oct. 21st. My family enjoyed it, and said it was very informative. I'm sure there is more to come!

Thank you and "may our dreams and goals always remain within our reach". "A little from Many, is more than One Person doing a lot!"

Sincerely, Mika'il Muwakil #77A2639

THE VIDEO IS READY!

Melis Birder is back in the States, and she’s almost completed producing the DVD of Family Empowerment Day 2. It’s about 45 minutes long, and you may order your copy by sending a check or money order for $4. made out to Prison Action Network and send to PAN, H-M IMC, PO Box 35, Troy, NY 12181

Melis invites you to check www.visitorsdocumentary.com. There are a couple of new photos you might find interesting.

CALL TO ACTION:

In 1931, Gandhi said to the people of India: "The British have not taken India from us, we have given it to them." This was a profound statement, one that changed the people of India. If reworded and applied to our campaign, one could easily say, "They are not keeping our loved ones from us, we are leaving them there." With this in mind the onus is clearly upon us.

In the 1960's, Black college students in Nashville Tennessee waged a non-violent war against segregation - and won. These are not hard concepts to grasp and are valuable lessons to be learned - even today.

The question now is: Where Do We Go From Here?
It's been over 2 months since Family Empowerment Day 2 and we have basked in its success. However, there's more to it than that. Last month in these pages I posed the forty million dollar question* and I think we are all ready to find the answer.

How? I propose meetings of the minds [Think Tanks], one in NYC and one in Albany. These Think Tanks should be open to anyone who was at the FED events or who wants to be instrumental in the change they seek. From amongst those in attendance will rise leaders, henceforth Chairpersons.

No credentials are needed to hold these positions, simply a fire to want to lead. From these Think Tanks will come a myriad of ideas. Ideas that can become actions that should be the next step in our growing campaign.

In today's age of technology, the chairpersons of the Think Tanks could then share the input of their individual groups and come up with the answer or answers to the forty million dollar question*.

Many great historical movements were born out of gatherings such as I have proposed. If you believe you can be a part of one of the Think Tanks, please indicate it on the questionnaire that follows [Article #10], and provide contact information.

*The forty million dollar question is representative of the dollar amount paid by the taxpayer for the incarceration of the forty-six men in the Otisville Lifers Group who are actively involved in the social, legal, political and moral issue that is parole.

Ramon Gonzalez, 92A7663
Otisville Lifers Chairman

*****Please fill out the questionnaire in this newsletter [Article # 10] and mail to prisonaction@hotmail.com, or call 518 253 7533 with your responses. You may do so anonymously. But if you choose to participate in moving the campaign forward we will need your name and a way to contact you. We need everyone reading this to respond. It is important to help move us forward, whether you intend to join us or not.


4. FROM CLINTON C.F.
Here at Clinton, our Supt., Mr. Dale Artus, has decided to enforce an obscure clause in Departmental Directive #4921: Inmate Television Sets. This clause in Section III, [B]; Package Restrictions, states “An inmate who has the option to own a personal TV set may only receive: 1.] two packages per calendar year from family, friends or other personal sources [these packages may only contain food items and may not exceed 20 pounds]; and 2.] items ordered directly by the inmate from approved vendors”. This Directive has long been interpreted at “TV facilities” to allow loved ones to order packages from approved vendors for their imprisoned loved one. However, in the last two years at Attica and Gt. Meadow, this Directive has been interpreted to mean that the imprisoned must order their items from approved vendors directly with disbursement forms from their Inmate Accounts. As of Feb. 1, 2007, Clinton CF will also see it in this manner.

This restriction will change a warm family tradition of thoughtful gifts into a cold cash connection. Some families, fearing the money will be misused or fall into the wrong hands, won’t send anything at all. Besides, what means more to a prisoner at Holiday Season, a pair of warm winter gloves and a scarf or a $20 money order? To deny families the opportunity to show their love through gifts, instead of cash, is not only crass, but inhumane by most standards.

Some believe the reason for this change in policy is to impose a de facto tax that will force the families to pay any surcharges or encumbrances that their imprisoned loved ones may have attached to their Inmate Accounts. It is NYDOCS’s policy that any prisoner who has two or more encumbrances on his account will have 100% of his outside receipts collected towards those debts. This policy, coupled with the new interpretation of Directive #4921 will effectively deny many prisoners the opportunity to ever receive a gift from their families. Except, of course, for the 2 food-only packages per year.

It is not our families’ burden to pay these costs, debts which can be collected from us through inmate program pay or upon our release! Much like the unfair MCI monopoly contract, which grossly overcharges for collect calls home from NYS prisoners, NYDOCS is once again showing a callous and contemptuous attitude towards the mostly poor families of the imprisoned. Repeatedly, NYDOCS reveals its true objective is to collectively punish [and tax] the families and loved ones of NYS’s prisoners.

We strongly urge the loved ones of the imprisoned to get involved by contacting Supt. Artus and Dep. Comm. of Program Services John Nutall to voice your displeasure with Directive #4921 and its interpretation.

Addresses:

Supt. Dale Artus
Clinton C.F. Main
PO Box 200
Dannemora NY 12929-2000
PH: 518 492-2511

John Nutall, Deputy Comm. of Program Services
NYS DOCS
1220 Washington Ave, Bldg. 2, State Office Campus
Albany NY 12226-2050
PH 518 457-5555.

As prisoners our voices and our wills are stifled by the system, yet we CAN shine a spotlight on its injustices. It is through the advocacy of you, our loved ones, that we hope to effect positive change. Thank you for your time and your ears.

Peace and Strength,

Jared “Bo” Bozydaj 02A1965
Carl Berk 94B1031


5. NYS LEGISLATIVE BILLS S104 AND A01513
for geriatric and older inmates

Recently while in the prison yard, I hollered out, 'Hey! O. T.', [old timer] to a friend. It quickly became apparent that there are a lot of us aging inmates swelling the prison ranks, as many men looked up. Unlike inmates of a few decades ago many of today's inmates can no longer expect to live long enough to complete their sentences and go home.

Mandatory sentencing procedures combined with the inclination of the Parole Board not to release violent felons no matter how extensive their prison rehabilitation means that many thousands of NYS inmates will grow old and never see 'the light of day'. In fact elderly inmates are one of the fastest growing segments of population in NYS prisons, having more than doubled in the past ten years.

NYS Senate bill S104 and Assembly Bill A01513 have been introduced to address this growing problem. These bills would create the NYS Geriatric and Older Prisoner Act based on similar programs that have been developed in other states such as Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana and Washington D.C. The proposed program for New York would include alternatives such as geriatric parole, electronic detention and correctional nursing home care as determined appropriate by the Parole Board.

In the U.S., current figures indicate that it costs about $30,000 per year to incarcerate the average inmate. That cost for elderly inmates triples to as much as $90,000 per year. The bills, if passed into law, would result in significant cost savings by both freeing up prison space for new offenders who pose a risk to public safety and also by reducing funds used to house and care for aging inmates who no longer pose that same risk.

Massive cost savings are not the only justification of supporting the Geriatric and Older Prisoner Act. The likelihood of committing new offenses decrease as people age. According to Jonathan Turley, founder of the Project for Older Prisoners, 'one of the best predicators of recidivism rate is age'. Between the age of 55 and 80, the recidivism rate is extremely low.

Another reason for this legislation is that it humanely provides special dispensation for the elderly. It is a cornerstone of the American value system that we take care of the elderly. This value comes home to roost as Americans inevitably must deal with their own aging family members.

Residence in almost all prisons requires inmates to be relatively ambulatory. Older prison facilities are filled with stairs difficult for some older inmates to negotiate while many of the new facilities are spread out more like college campuses and require challenging walks between dormitories, the mess hall, medical facilities and program buildings.

One of the eligibility limitations to bills S104 and A01513 is that it excludes inmates convicted of murder. Yet this class of offenders shows one of the highest rehabilitation rates and lowest recidivism rates. The average recidivism rate for NYS inmates hovers around 49%. According to the bill sponsor's cover letter, the recidivism rates in Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana and Washington D.C., where similar programs have been installed, are 0%. Not a single person in these programs has committed another crime.

It's time for NYS to adopt the 'best practices' of these other states and the bills should be modified to include those serving time for homicides. Elderly inmates can be monitored effectively with little danger to public safety and at reduced costs to the community.

What can YOU do to weigh in on this issue? First, you need to empathetically identify with the problems of elderly prisoners. Imagine it’s your mother or father. Secondly, you can write and express your views to your State Senator or Assembly person, and/or Senator Maltese at Room 413 State Capitol Bldg., Albany, NY 12247, 518-455-3281.

- Marvin Denis December 2006


6. NYS TELEPHONE JUSTICE CASE TO BE HEARD BEFORE COURT OF APPEALS
2 PM Tuesday January 9, 2007 NY State Court of Appeals in Albany Walton vs. NYS DOCS

As most of you know, we have been working on this for years and finally will be heard in the NYS Court of Appeals in Albany. We want to have a strong presence of prison families, former prisoners and their families, people of conscience, those who work with prisoners' children and families who cannot talk with their incarcerated loved ones because of the exorbitant costs and anyone who wants this contract ended. We are #2 on the docket that day and hearings start at 2pm. If you are teaching that day, consider bringing your class. The court is in Albany on Eagle St. between City Hall and the County Courthouse. When a case gets that far up--highest NYS court--the entire panel of judges hears argument. The courtroom is fairly large and we are told that there is a "spillover room" with monitor so that proceedings may be viewed. If you need more info, please see www.telephonejustice.org or contact Alison Coleman, Prison Families of New York, Inc., 40 North Main Avenue, Albany, NY 12203. 518-453-6659


7. 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 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


8. PAROLE BOARD TOLD TO EXAMINE FULL SENTENCING COURT RECORD
Parole Board Told to Examine Full Sentencing Court Record
John Caher
12-08-2006

ALBANY - The state parole board's repeated failure to consider the recommendations of a sentencing judge led an upstate appellate panel to issue a relatively rare ruling in favor of a parole-eligible convict.

In a unanimous opinion last week, the Appellate Division, Third Department, granted John Standley a de novo hearing and ordered the parole board to examine the sentencing minutes and take into consideration the trial court's comments and recommendations.

Mr. Standley was sentenced to a 20-to-life term in 1983 for second-degree murder, but has repeatedly been denied parole by a board that has repeatedly failed to follow the law, the Third Department said in an unsigned opinion.

Records show that Mr. Standley, who was convicted in Nassau County, was denied parole at his first hearing in July 2003. He successfully challenged the denial and was granted a de novo hearing a year later. After that hearing, Mr. Standley was denied again.

Mr. Standley, appearing pro se, challenged the July 2004 denial, and was granted a second de novo hearing in January 2005. Parole was again denied in a decision made retroactive to July 2003 and Mr. Standley was directed to appear before the board again in July 2005. Mr. Standley then attempted to challenge that determination, but Supreme Court Justice John Connor of Columbia County (See Profile) dismissed his petition as mootbecause by the time the matter got to court July 2005 had come and gone.

In June, the Third Department affirmed Justice Connor's decision. However, it subsequently granted Mr. Standley's motion for reargument. "[A]lthough petitioner's reappearance would normally render this appeal moot, an exception to the mootness doctrine is presented inasmuch as a substantial issue is involved which continues to evade review," the Third Department said in Matter of Standley, 99252. "That issue is the Board's failure to comply with the provisions of Executive Law § 259-I which mandate consideration of the sentencing minutes and recommendations of the sentencing court in reviewing applications for parole release."

Patrick Barnett-Mulligan, the assistant attorney general who defended the parole board, did not contest Mr. Standley's allegation that the board had refused to consider the sentencing recommendations.

On the panel were Justices Thomas E. Mercure, Edward O. Spain, Anthony J. Carpinello, Carl J. Mugglin and Anthony T. Kane.

The same day that Standley was decided, a somewhat different Third Department panel held for a pro se inmate in another parole case. Allen Smith was sentenced to a 2 1/2-to-5-year prison term for selling drugs. He became eligible for parole in 2005, but was denied release and he was ordered held another two years. After Mr. Smith's administrative appeal was rejected, he applied for reconsideration, but was apparently ignored. He then filed an Article 78 petition, which was dismissed.

Last week, the Third Department unanimously reversed. The court observed that the state admits the parole board relied on inaccurate information in denying Mr. Smith parole. Apparently, the board concluded that Mr. Allen had four prior convictions but failed to realize that one of the two attempted rape convictions it cited was actually a resentencing. "Notably, petitioner attempted to raise the issue in his application for reconsideration, which was essentially a request for a rehearing, but he apparently never received a response," the Third Department said in Matter of Smith, 500696. "Because respondent relied upon erroneous information in denying parole release, this Court must annul respondent's determination and remit for a new hearing."

Justices Spain and Kane were on the panel along with Justices D. Bruce Crew III, Karen K. Peters and Robert S. Rose.

The state was defended by Assistant Attorney General Julie M. Sheridan.

- John Caher can be reached at jcaher@alm.com

John Caher
Albany Bureau Chief
New York Law Journal


9. PRISON ACTION NETWORK REGRETS....
We are unable to accept invitations to visit with groups inside of NYS prisons. Nothing would give us more pleasure, but unfortunately pleasure is not always our guiding principle. Even one-time visits require filling out a Volunteer Services Program Application, which asks the applicant to report if they have any contact with a NYS inmate. Some members of PAN are already serving as volunteers, others have people they visit. One member once served as the Civilian Advisor to a Lifers Group, but resigned when unable to accept the low expectations and distrust required by administration in her relationship to the members of the group. Since then, we have chosen to maintain separation of PAN and DOCS. We learned that the relationship is always one-sided; DOCS always has the upper hand; they require us to divulge all sorts of information about ourselves, but lacking shared values they treat it with distrust. We know that in their hearts many DOCS employees are justice loving humanitarians, which makes their jobs more dangerous; they have to maintain public adherence to all the rules and regs no matter what their hearts may tell them, in order to avoid peer confrontations. For these reasons, we also will decline donations from “Inmate Organizations” when to accept requires us to supply information to their staff advisor. We are not hiding anything; we simply don’t choose to “volunteer” for oppressive treatment. We truly appreciate your invitations and your offers of financial support. We will gladly continue to accept personal donations from people with whom we share a trusting and respectful relationship.


***************************************************************************************************
10. QUESTIONNAIRE [Please underline, or otherwise indicate the best response. Call 518 253 7533 with any questions.]

Name:____________________________________Contact Info: _________________

1. I have personally done the following to shed light on the campaign for parole reform:
____________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

2. I am actively involved in the Otisville Lifers Broadband Parole Support Initiative:
yes
no
what's that?
how can I become involved?

3. If a Think Tank was formed to come up with ideas:
I would want to participate
I am not interested in participating

4. I know of a location that might be available for holding a Think Tank meeting:

____________________________________________________________________________
Place, address, phone #


IF YOU ATTENDED FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 2 [If you did NOT attend, skip to ques. #9]:
5. I attended FED2 because
I have a loved one in prison
I know someone in prison
I wanted to get educated on the issue of parole
Other [please specify]: ______________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________

6. In my opinion, what came out of FED2 was: _______________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________

7. FED2 gave me:
hope
motivation
desire to do more
grief
despair

8. In my opinion, the needed next step is: ___________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________


IF YOU DID NOT ATTEND FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 2:
9. I didn't attend because I
didn't know about it
didn't want to miss my visit to my incarcerated loved one
had a previous engagement which I couldn't cancel
have too many other responsibilities
don't think anything I could do would make a difference
didn't know how to get to Middle Collegiate Church
don't feel comfortable in a church
am nervous in crowds
couldn't find a sitter for my kids
Other [please specify]:_________________________________________________

Please send your answers to prisonaction@hotmail.com
[or call 518 253 7533]
***************************************************************************************************


11. STOP PRISON ABUSE
Press Release
Albany, New York -- December 3, 2006

StopPrisonAbuse.org Protests the Inaction of New York Senators
Seven million men and women are incarcerated, on probation or parole in the U.S.. Over 2 million men and women are currently incarcerated; over 190,000 of them are in Federal prisons.

When these prisoners suffer abuse, harassment, and medical neglect they are not the only ones who suffer, their maltreatment affects all of us. The Commission on Abuse and Safety in America’s Prisons’ final report confirmed, “What happens inside jails and prisons does not stay inside jails and prisons”.

There is no longer room or time for our representatives in Congress to fear being depicted as "soft on crime" and ignore complaints of prison abuse when one out of every 32 Americans experiences life behind bars.

We will stand in front of the Leo O' Brien Federal Building on Monday mornings and at the corner of Lark Street and Washington Avenue Tuesday evenings to protest and bring attention to Senator Clinton's and Senator Schumer's failure to investigate the complaints of prisoners and their families.

U.S. SENATORS IGNORE PRISONERS' FAMILIES
When the family of a Federal prisoner contacted U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton for help, she ignored all but one of their requests for help and answered that one with a form letter. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer responded to the family's requests for investigations by sending the results of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' internal investigations, which were naturally biased in defense of BOP actions. It is a chilling experience to learn that the same prison officials who are harming, threatening, and neglecting someone you love have been allowed to answer, or dictate the answer, to a complaint filed against them -- regardless of whether the complaint came from their superiors, the Justice Department, or a U.S. Senator.

The treatment of the men and women inside both our State and Federal prisons affects us all.

Senator Schumer reacted with anger and wisdom in May 2004 when he called for a full investigation of how several former correctional officers with records of prisoner abuse inside U.S. prisons were given positions inside the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison. We ask Senator Schumer to show the same anger and wisdom in regard to abuse and misconduct inside our Federal prisons; and that he respect and heed the calls for help from those prisoners' families who are his constituents.

For information contact: rburbank@localnet.com,
Rosalind Burbank Joseph, StopPrisonAbuse.org
PO Box 3841, Albany NY,12203, Tel. 917-656-8046


12. 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

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.

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. Deb at 845-616-9698, dabboz@aol.com

.


13. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS
From Buffalo:
New bus service to Albion, Attica, Collins, Gowanda, Groveland, Lakeview, Livingston [Sat only], Orleans, Wende, and Wyoming - "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 is $40. The cost for children requiring a seat, age 12 and under, is $10. 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. 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 leaves Oakwood Ave Presbyt. parking lot, Troy, at 7 AM, and Albany Greyhound at 7:15 AM: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow Facilities on Sat, Jan 6 [$30 adults, $20 children], Coxsackie, Greene, Hudson Facilities, Sat, Jan 9 and Jan 23 [$15  adults and $10 children]. Trip to the Utica Hub [Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida] Sat, Jan 19 leaving Troy at 5 AM; Albany 5:15 [$40 adults, $25 children]. Call for reservations and information: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.



14. WHERE DO WE TURN? [Plea Bargaining Gone Wrong]

I speak to bring attention to the fact that I am one of many who are in a judicial vice. I've no criminal record and have been sentenced upon a plea of guilty, which if I didn't take I was told I'd receive 22 years at trial. The original charge was Burglary in the 2nd degree, along with Criminal Possession of a weapon in the 3rd degree. The plea offer was the same charge and offered 10 - 15 years. I knew something was very wrong with this, but chose to trust in my legal aid lawyer. The judge stated, after reading my PSI report with no criminal history and with prior military service, that he'd give me 12 years. My family and I were outraged! The alleged complainant had nothing taken. No display of aggression nor any weapons were reported to have been used or brandished to threaten. He did not report injury, forced entry or entry into his home. It was after I was pulled over 3 or 4 miles from where the complainant lived that an unlawful search of my truck found a weapon.

Why would I plea to such a charge?

I come from a military background, held an assistant general management position at work. I was a registered voter, and a father to my children. My wife and I had a stable home. We both worked and we were good citizens and taxpayers. I had no knowledge of the criminal court system because I had never been a part of it before. So I put my trust , as did my family, in the legal aid representative appointed by the court for those who can't afford a lawyer. How can a person who has never been in the criminal justice system receive proper representation from the court? How can such a person get the help that he or she needs, to prove their innocence of the charges? The threat of 12 to 22 years incarceration is mind blowing to the person.

Those who proclaim their innocence are often humiliated in the press, unlawfully imprisoned, falsely accused and then sent away to prison! Where do we turn if what the courts are offering benefits injustice? Have the courts always been ruling in this fashion? Who has the right to say the judge has not judged according to the law? To allow the court proceedings to continue unjustifiably; what does that show about the accountability of our justice system?

The answer is being sought by persons like myself, who are desperate to regain their freedom and return to their families and continue their lives as citizens of society.

We are told we have to exhaust our remedies. All of these remedies and it seems as if no one is listening to the person who has been wrongfully convicted. It is vitally and extremely necessary for a return to "innocent until proven guilty". There has to be some mechanism against this coercion to take a plea in order to get an unlawful conviction. There should be some place to turn for help long before the remedy of the Appeals Court. Spending time in the system, being ripped away from your family and job, as well as your liberty, which is your constitutional right as a law abiding American, is flat out "judicial kidnapping" and they should be charged with such!

Being incarcerated while your child is being born and your wife is needing you to be there in labor, for her and the child as well, that is a form of mental torture for the whole family. Being held against your will is a direct infringement of your right to be at liberty. That right has been rooted in this country and established by men and women who have bled and sweated and died for the minimal rights we do have as of now!

This is my cry for help:

"WHERE DO WE TURN!?"

--Walter Morgan 06A0342


15. WORDS FROM INSIDE
Space does not allow us to publish the entire letter we received from J. R.; here are some excerpts:

Medium prisons are much! much! worse than Max-A prisons. Men are forced to live for 5-10-12-13 YEARS in a dormitory - no privacy - no jobs- no programs - these issues need to be addressed. Men are in prison 20-30 years - have college degrees - all kinds of programs - vocational skills and trades - you name it - they come to medium prisons and are assigned to empty a wastepaper basket in school! It is a JOKE - the school must have 50-60 wastepaper baskets - so 50 to 60 men are each assigned a wastepaper basket to empty. It is degrading and INSANE! How? is this preparing men and women for society.

Also, the NYS prison population came down from 71,000 to 63,000 recently - so how come NOT one prison closed? How come people are still double bunked for 7-10 months? How come there are not any empty beds?? It don’t make sense.

They say we are sent to maximum prisons to prepare to come home - whereas in the Max-A prisons we had visits EVERY day - PLUS trailer visits - you come to a medium and it is ONLY one visit a WEEK - plus NO trailer visits - it doesn’t make any sense.

When I get out I want to try to bring into the prisons - THE TRADE UNIONS - the Teamsters - teach, instruct classes - this way when a person is released they can go to work for the unions - not “small engines” - we do not need more lawnmower repairers in NYC! Bring in TRACTOR TRAILER instructors.

The State STOPPED cooking food in ALL the mess halls - they cook it ALL - for 70 prisons, in one prison - then “quick chill” it and send it out. So why?? does each prison have 4-5 civilian cooks making over $25,000 a year? That is over $100,000 per prison, times 70! Does Eliot Spitzer know this?


J.R. didn’t specifically give permission to publish his letter so we have omitted his name. If he requests it, we will publish that information next month.

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