Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Friday, June 01, 2007


Dear Reader,

Why are you reading this? I hope it is for the same reason we publish Building Bridges. Because we want to see a change in the way our society treats its members. We want to see a community in which people treat each other with dignity and respect, where we allow each other second, and third and more, chances. We want to live in a society that nourishes and supports all of its people, so that crime will not become a tempting way to survive. We want to build bridges between people, not create barriers and roadblocks. So thank you for joining us in our struggle for change. We hope you’ll participate in working for one or more of the causes reported in this issue: the bill protecting the parental rights of incarcerated persons (# 1), the bill to suspend instead of terminate Medicaid while incarcerated (# 1), and/or higher education in prison (# 3). You could get involved in changing the telephone system (#13) or electing a judge in Buffalo (#16). Why not take voter registration forms with you wherever you go, and register anyone who isn't already? There’s more to do, if you read on. But please don’t wait for someone else to do it for you! We are the ones who must make the changes we seek. PLEASE get involved! Thank you.


1. COALITION OF WOMEN PRISONERS - A8465 provides an exception for incarcerated parents to the general requirement that a child welfare agency file a termination of parental rights proceeding if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months; S5875 would require New York State to suspend, instead of terminate, Medicaid for people entering prison or jail; Jaya will be leaving her position as Women in Prison Project Associate; two job opportunities at CWP

2. COMMISSION ON SENTENCING REFORM - Governor Eliot Spitzer appoints members to the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, which was established by Executive Order 10 (see post in sidebar) to conduct a full review of the State’s sentencing structure and practices

3. EDUCATION BILL A7043, S4085 - Readers are encouraged to support higher education in prisons by calling their representatives in Albany

4. FREE BIRTH CERTIFICATE BILL - Bill waiving fee for prisoners sponsored by ICARE; Public hearing June 6 in NYC

5. GET ON THE BUS! - Free transportation to prisons includes sexual health information

6. ICARE SEEKS A FULL-TIME DEPUTY DIRECTOR - to implement the organization's education and ministry programs, to coordinate grassroots coalition building, to plan events and meetings, and to coordinate fundraising

7. LIFER'S GROUP STATISTICS - Clinton and Arthur Kill report

8. MENTALLY ILL IN PRISON SETTLEMENT - includes added mental health treatment and housing, review of and reduction in time spent in isolated confinement, and reforms to the disciplinary process 

9. PAROLE - George Alexander confirmed by Senate' - see bio; update on Graziano V. Pataki; reports on May Parole hearings; Court overturns Ivan Rios 2006 parole denial; George Cruz released

10. PRISON RADIO - Schedule includes interviews with Mary Beth Pfeiffer, author of Crazy in America; Bonnie Allen, Forensic Division of Family Services in Dutchess Cty.; Jason E. Nicholas, founder of Mid-Orange GEO; Gabriel Sayegh, Project Dir. Drug Policy Alliance; John Valverde rally attendees; Ray Barnes, the Center for Community Alternatives

11. SQUARE FETTER - [part 5 of the serialization]: "Jones experienced a jolt of existential shrinkage—as if the teeth of the iron box had taken a gaping bite from his lifetime."

12. SUPPORT MEETINGS - join others who understand your feelings about the impact of incarceration on you and your loved ones

13. TELEPHONE JUSTICE - report on meeting with DOCS about Family Connections Bill; GTL takes over the MCI contract; Special appeal to Rochester area families; MCI Call Blocking policy

14. TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE - “RESTORING FAIRNESS TO PAROLE” panel discussion presentations posted

15. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS - ways to get to see your incarcerated loved one

16. WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND NEW YORK STATE - Buffalo group supports James McLeod for Erie County Court Judge; PRP2! celebrates 2nd anniversary with special program; Family Empowerment Project of PAN appoints Executive Committee and schedules General Meeting; CWP’s Conditions of Confinement Committee working on DOCS Library Project

17. WORDS FROM INSIDE - Prison time a plus on resumes; Parole frustrations and questions

18. WORK RELEASE - We’re close to or just past the 1/2 way mark depending on who is counted in the total. In either case we passed the 1000 signature mark! Congratulations!

New Bills
A8465 - After working closely with members of the Coalition's Incarcerated Mothers Committee, Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry has introduced legislation - A8465 - that would amend New York's Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) to provide an exception for incarcerated parents to the general requirement that a child welfare agency file a termination of parental rights proceeding if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months.  The exception would also apply to parents living in court-mandated residential drug treatment programs. 
S5875 - Senator Kemp Hannon has agreed to sponsor the legislation - S5875 - that would require New York State to suspend, instead of terminate, Medicaid for people entering prison or jail.  As you know, S5875's partner bill in the Assembly is A8356, sponsored by Assemblymember Keith Wright. Thank you to all Coalition members who called Senator Hannon's office to press him to sponsor the legislation! 

For more information or to join the efforts to advocate for this legislation, please contact Committee co-chairs Alison Brill or Denise Dunkley or Jaya
The next full Coalition meeting is on June 15th at 10:00am at Legal Aid (49 Thomas Street),
A Farewell:
Jaya will be leaving her position as Women in Prison Project Associate this summer; to pursue one of her long time goals – becoming a lawyer.  Please join us in thanking Jaya and in wishing her the best of luck (; 212-254-5700 x311).  Please also join us for the July Coalition meeting on Wednesday, July 18th from 5-7pm at Legal Aid (49 Thomas Street), where we will set aside time to give Jaya a special farewell.
We have begun the search for a new Project Associate. Send a resume, cover letter, and writing sample to Tamar at the Correctional Association, 135 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003.  We will not review applications submitted without a writing sample. The CA also has another job opening in its Prison Visiting Project. Contact Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Women in Prison Project Director, Tel 212-254-5700 x306,

Governor Eliot Spitzer announced on April 20 several appointments to the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, which was established by Executive Order 10 to conduct a full review of the State’s sentencing structure and practices. (Executive Order 10 is posted on this site).

Chaired by Commissioner Denise O’Donnell of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Commission consists of 11 members. By virtue of their offices, the Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Chair of the Board of Parole, and Chair of the Crime Victims Board will serve on the Commission. The Governor is required to appoint three members independently, with the additional four of the Governor’s appointments based upon the recommendations of the four legislative leaders.

Those who have been appointed by the Governor:

ANTHONY BERGAMO is Vice Chairman of MB Real Estate, Chief Executive Officer of Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC, and Managing Director of the Milstein Hotel Group. He also serves as Special Counsel to the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, New Jersey State PBA Local 123, and the New York Organization of Narcotics Enforcers. From 1991 to 1996, Mr. Bergamo served as the Independent Fiduciary for the Southern District, Federal District Court, and President and Chief Operating Officer of Custom Shop Shirtmaker from 1979 to 1991. He received his J.D. from New York Law School.

MICHAEL C. GREEN currently serves as Monroe County District Attorney. Prior to being elected District Attorney in 2003, Mr. Green served as an Assistant District Attorney for 17 years. For the three years before his election, he served as the First Deputy District Attorney, responsible for homicide prosecutions in Monroe County. He has served in numerous other capacities in the office, including the Capital Crimes Prosecutor, Deputy Chief of the Major Felony Bureau, Chief of the DWI Bureau and trial attorney in the Major Felony Bureau.

MICHAEL P. MCDERMOTT is currently Of Counsel to the Albany law firm of O’Connell and Aronowitz. From 2002 to 2006, Mr. McDermott served as the Chief Assistant District Attorney in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office. Prior to that, he served as a Senior Associate and ultimately Partner at the Albany law firm of Bouck, Holloway, Kiernan and Casey. Mr. McDermott also served as Chief Assistant District Attorney in the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office and Assistant District Attorney in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office. He received his J.D. from Albany Law School of Union University, where he was Editor of the Albany Law Review.

Judge JUANITA BING NEWTON has served as Administrative Judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York since 2003 and as the New York State Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives since 1999. After serving eight years as the Acting Justice of the New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch, First District, Judge Newton was appointed to the position of Administrative Judge of New York County Supreme Court in 1995, becoming the first African American woman in New York State to hold this high level position. From 1995 to 2000, Judge Newton served on the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Previously, Judge Newton was Executive Director and General Counsel of the New York State Sentencing Guidelines Committee. She received her B.A. from Northwestern University and her J.D. from the Columbus School of Law of the Catholic University of America.

CYRUS VANCE, JR. is currently a principal at the law firm of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, P.C. Originally from New York City, Mr. Vance co-founded a Seattle, Washington law firm, McNaul Ebel Helgren & Vance, one of the pre-eminent litigation firms in the Northwest. During this time he also served as an adjunct professor of law at Seattle University School of Law teaching trial advocacy. By gubernatorial appointment, he served on the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission, advising the Governor and legislature on issues pertaining to state sentencing policies. He was also appointed as a Special Assistant Attorney General to represent the state in investigations and litigation. Prior to moving to Seattle, Mr. Vance served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Members of the Commission on Sentencing Reform will not receive salaries.

3. EDUCATION BILL, A07043, S4085
This is a good bill but it needs the support of key members of the Senate or Assembly.  It may have to be rewritten in order to obtain that support. People can encourage support for higher education in prisons by calling their representatives in Albany and pushing for higher education in prisons, rather than for this specific bill, advises Glenn E. Martin, Co-Director, National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center, 225 Varick Street, 4th Flr., New York, NY 10014, 212 243-1313 x132,

On Wednesday, June 6, the NY City Council will hold a hearing on an ICARE-supported bill, Int. No. 574, which provides free birth certificates to people returning to NYC after prison, and leaving Riker's Island after 90 days. We hope you can come out to demonstrate support for this bill! Currently, NYC residents leaving prison are forced to pay $15 for an official birth certificate, although they receive only $40 upon release.  This bill would remove the birth certificate fee. The hearing will be held Wednesday, June 6, at 10am, Committee Room, City Hall. Please let us know if you are able to come by emailing us: or calling the office at 212/280-1386.  Those wishing to testify will need to bring written copies of their statement. -----Faithfully, Rima

Is Your Husband or Boyfriend Incarcerated? Are you interested in improving the emotional and sexual health in your relationship? Do you enjoy speedy, comfortable rides when you go visit your loved one? Then GET ON THE BUS! FOR FREE TRANSPORTATION & SEXUAL HEALTH INFORMATION, GET YOUR SEAT TODAY, CALL NOW!!! Marcella 718.637.6562 or toll free at 800.344.3314
Fishkill, Green Haven, Shawangunk, Sullivan, Wallkill & Woodbourne

Since launching Get On The Bus (GOTB) in November 2006 we have made some significant achievements that we would like to share with you.  We encourage your participation and ask that you continue to spread the word about GOTB. 
~ Wives and girlfriends took trips to Green Haven, Shawangunk, Sullivan, Wallkill & Woodbourne at least once per month
 ~ GOTB staff have been invited and continuously welcomed into correctional facilities to speak directly to men about GOTB and sexual health issues 
 ~ Fishkill Correctional Facility has been added to the GOTB facilities list ~
 ~ A lot of positive feedback has been received from women who have participated in GOTB,
'Get  On  The  Bus', The Osborne Association, Prison, Reentry & Family Services
175 Remsen Street 8th  Floor, Brooklyn,  NY 11201
Phone:  718 . 637 . 6562 Email:

The Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment (ICARE) is a New York State-based advocacy organization seeking to engage communities of faith in restoring the rights of formerly incarcerated individuals through education, organizing, and legislative advocacy. ICARE seeks a full-time Deputy Director to implement the organization's education and ministry programs, to coordinate grassroots coalition building, to plan events and meetings, and to coordinate fundraising.

At least two years of progressively responsible administrative experience;
Masters degree in administration and/or divinity, or equivalent experience preferred;
Public speaking/community education experience in communities of faith;
Proven organizational skills and strong administrative ability, as demonstrated in previous employment;

Formerly incarcerated persons are encouraged to apply. Please read the complete job description before applying. It will be posted at, or email to have it sent to you.

Salary: $40,000, plus full benefits and three weeks vacation. Qualified participants should forward a resume and cover letter by June 15 to: ICARE, 3041 Broadway, Mailbox 37, New York, NY  10027

The following information was provided by readers:

Clinton has two facilities, Clinton Main and Clinton Annex. The Main has a Lifer’s Group. About 30% of the combined populations of approximately 2900 men, are serving sentences with a maximum of life, and nearly 1100 are long-termers with a minimum of at least 15 years. - Marvin Denis

Please accept this as official notice of the existence and formation of the Arthur Kill Lifers and Long Termers Organization as of January 2007. We are alive and well and truly dedicated and determined. Expect to hear much more of our organization as we strive to follow in the honorable footsteps of the Otisville Lifers Group and the famous G.E.O. Lifers Group at Mid-Orange. If readers need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. Please let me know what our organization can do to assist you. We look forward to working with your group, as our BEST hope for the future is working together.
We estimate that out of 900 plus prisoners, there are at least 300 Lifers. Some with close to 40 years in prison. - Respectfully, Joe Rudd, Public Relations

Disability Advocates, Inc. v. New York State Office of Mental Health, et al., has settled.  This state-wide civil rights and disability case alleged that the result of inadequate mental health treatment was that prisoners were trapped in the disciplinary process and ended up in isolated confinement settings which caused them to deteriorate further psychiatrically.  The provisions of the settlement include added mental health treatment and housing, review of and reduction in time spent in isolated confinement, and reforms to the disciplinary process.  The case was brought as a PAIMI action with Disability Advocates, Inc. (one of the state's protection and advocacy offices) as plaintiff.  Disability Advocates, Inc., Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, Prisoners' Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell represented the plaintiff. 

George B. Alexander, Governor Eliot Spitzer's nominee for Chairman of the State Board of Parole and Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Division of Parole, was unanimously confirmed by the State Senate. He has been serving as Acting Chairman of the Board and as the Division’s Executive Director since February. Prior to his appointment, Chairman Alexander served as Director and Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Probation and Youth Detention Services. From 1993 to 2000, he served as Deputy Director in the Parole Violation Unit at the Division of Parole. Before that, Mr. Alexander was a Senior Parole Officer and a Parole Revocation Specialist. He began his career as a Parole Officer.  

“This is an exciting time to review our approach to rehabilitating offenders and post-release supervision, ” Chairman Alexander said. “We look forward to achieving more successes in integrating inmates back into the community while continuing to give great consideration to victims and victims’ families.”  

Chairman Alexander has served on numerous boards including posts with the United Way of Buffalo and the Erie County Board of Directors.  He is a member of the National Association of Probation Executives, the National Association of Urban Chiefs, the American Parole and Probation Association and the American Correctional Association, among others. Chairman Alexander received his B.S. from Medaille College and his M.S. in Criminal Justice from Buffalo State College.  

The defendants' motion was put off and will be heard with our cross-motion for class certification on June 22, reports Robert Isseks, lead attorney. After weeks of settlement discussions, NYS made a motion to dismiss the suit, on the basis of there being a new administration in office now. Complainants opposed the motion and on June 22 Charles L. Brieant, US District Judge for the Southern District of New York, will rule.

We regret to inform you that Ramon Gonzalez, president of the Otisville Lifer’s Group, and Yusef Shakoor, were both denied parole in May despite their impeccable records and dedicated work on behalf of others while incarcerated.

GEORGE CRUZ (see article posted on this site) was finally granted Parole Release! After having been denied 3 times, despite it being his first arrest and he turned himself in, Mr Cruz will finally be back home with his family after 16 years.

**** !!! IVAN RIOS was released by the Parole Board in May, after Justice Mark I. Partnow of Kings County Supreme Court found that the Parole Board abdicated its responsibility to fairly consider all the relevant statutory factors in determining whether parole should be granted, and its resulting decision was arbitrary and capricious. The Parole Board was ordered to hold a new hearing before a different panel, and told to consider the statutorily required factors, as well as the sentencing minutes from petitioner's murder conviction, and within 14 days of the hearing to issue a decision. The Court's decision came down on March 12 2007, after the Board had already made its May appearance at Arthur Kill, where Mr. Rios was incarcerated. The Board returned on May 23 2007 and granted his release. It's a very well written decision and we will post it on this site as soon as we can.

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 airs on WVKR, 91.3FM, Poughkeepsie NY on somewhat alternate Sundays from 3 - 6 pm, Eastern Time. WVKR streams online - go to WVKR and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'. Mary Beth Pfeiffer on June 3rd and on June 17 Bonnie Allen of the forensic division of Family Services in Dutchess County.

Democracy Now!, with Amy Goodman, also airs on WVKR - from 8AM-9AM weekdays, on WVKR every weekday from 5PM-6PM, and on WRPI, Troy 91.5 FM from 9AM-10AM.

Justice Pages Audio at

Voices from the Prison Action Network is back! Now available on the internet at In May we added interviews with:

Jason E. Nicholas, Founder of the Mid-Orange GEO talking about his 5 year struggle to obtain DOCS approval for this unique (to prison) organization.
Click Nicholas to listen.

Gabriel Sayegh, Project Director, The Drug Policy Alliance, discussing the goals, challenges, and progress of the DPA's campaign to reform drug policies in NYS as well as nationally.
Click Sayegh to listen.

John Valverde Parole Rally, Family and friends of John Valverde talking of their affection and gratitude for all John has done for them while incarcerated, and why they want him home. Includes keynote speech describing the case.
Click Valverde to listen.

Mary Beth Pfeiffer, author of Crazy in America, The Hidden Tragedy of Our Criminalized Mentally Ill, talks about why she wrote the book, and the issues it raises. (She will also be interviewed on WNYC at 93.9 fm or 820 am, also at on June 5 at noon.) Click Pfeiffer to listen.

Ray Barnes, from the Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse, NY talking about how he uses his prison experience to help others.
Click Barnes to listen.

11. THE SQUARE FETTER © Copyright by James E. Morse 2005. This is part 5 in the serialization.

The notion that anyone could “like this shit” caused him to shudder, triggered the awareness of Time’s unstoppable passage, induced chills of Death’s pressing proximity. Shaking his head in negative defiance, he suppressed these visions of the grave.

The time-afflicted messages from ages past were illustrated by an array of tacky jailhouse drawings—crude portraits of people and animals that captives everywhere are compelled to tattoo onto their skin. There were several renderings of the beings whose very absence made them the focus of obsessive preoccupation: females. One drawing depicted a nude who, endowed with long hair and huge breasts, was saucily bending over, looking backwards—her feminine secrets protruding from the base of buttocks impossibly huge. A name was scribbled beneath the drawing: Prudence.

Nodding his head in avid affirmation, Jones smiled toothsomely. He wondered if Prudence was a real person—with an address? Perhaps he could write to her? How many years, generations, had she been posing unclad on the wall of the square fetter? Sitting on the stained mattress, he gawked at the fine feminine curves, at the wickedly beckoning pose. He basked in the primal stirrings that Prudence called to life. From the corner of a lustful eye, she appeared to gyrate enticingly. But when he looked with both eyes, her movement instantly froze. Playing peek-a-boo with Prudence made Jones oblivious to the endless times to be endured. He recalled that the last female-presence he experienced was that of the old, wrinkled broad in the black robe. The recollection accelerated the tap, tap rapping of the mocking gavel that had mutilated his existence; that, for all intents and purposes, amounted to a bloody castration of his carnal self. Filled with resentment, Jones experienced his predicament with new eyes. The seductive Prudence, initially so desirable, was now a taunting symbol of his masculine demise. Jones was less than a man.

“You’re an inmate”—inmate, inmate, the square fetter impressed upon its heedless occupant. Jones experienced a jolt of existential shrinkage—as if the teeth of the iron box had taken a gaping bite from his lifetime. His person felt violated in a perverse, slimy fashion. He opposed his feelings of smallness.

The iron box countered with a violent spinning that sent the doorless locker, the mucky toilet, stained mattress, Prudence, and the writing on the wall, into a nauseating whirl. With wide, protruding eyes, Jones watched disbelievingly as the iron folds of the mantrap rapidly opened and closed, opened and closed, further condensing the spinning interior with terrifying increments. He was seized by an alien desire to disrobe. Berserkly, he pulled his clothing from his trembling limbs; they were sucked straight into the whirling chaos.

The assault escalated with methodical brutality. Jones fell from the reeling mattress and slammed onto the hard, concrete floor. The tap, tap rapping of the vindictive gavel assumed a jackhammer pounding that merged with the frenzied thudding of Jones’ failing heart. Laying face up on the floor of the revolving box, he peered deep into the dizzying, kaleidoscopic whirl. With bloodcurdling clarity, he perceived what the square fetter had always been, would always be: demonized space and time. The shocking vision prompted a gurgling gasping for breath; his mouth opened and closed in soundless panic. Jones tried to scream, but the sound was choked back in his dry, constricted throat. When the jackhammer rapping reached an ear splitting crescendo; when the whirling locker, toilet, the writing on the wall, accelerated into a cold, howling whirlpool, Jones wet himself uncouthly.

It was then that, against his will, Jones spoke the words of self-betrayal that the violent man-trap had extracted  from his soul. For a moment, it seemed as if another person actually present had spoken—until he felt  his  very  own  mouth  cry  out  in  stark disobedience:   “I like this shit”—like this shit, like this shit, the betrayal re-echoed in the iron box of Jones’ mind.

This spontaneous act of surrender was the first step in the process of the Infernal Symbiosis—the merging of Jones’ soul with the durance vile, the binding-force of the square fetter. Instantly, the chaotic spinning subsided; the teeth-jarring concussions receded; the durations mellowed; the spaces expanded. The durance vile and Jones touched finger-tips, commenced the bizarre intimacy, the existential intercourse, that would characterize their union during the extended times to come. Unawares, Jones would become a thoughtless inmate, a wretched object of insignificance; a man against himself;   one more institutional thingamajig that the square fetter is fond of show casing. From the corner of Jones’ eye, Prudence on the iron wall appeared to wink.

(to be continued)

[A hand crafted, illustrated edition of the book is available for $4 through Prison Action Network, HM-IMC, PO Box 35, Troy NY 12181]

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: 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 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.


Some important news from Lauren Melodia :

Last week, we met with the DOCS staff, who administer and manage New York State’s DOCS telephone contract.  The reason for the meeting was two-fold: one was to talk about family members’ ongoing concerns and issues with the current contract.  The second was to find out DOCS’ opinion of the Family Connections Bill.  Both the Senate the Governor are looking to DOCS to find out whether or not they should push the Family Connections Bill through.  While the staff we met with were very receptive to families’ concerns, they were NOT supportive of a debit calling system.  Since the bill itself mentions a debit calling system, we are at the point where we will need to negotiate other “calling options” that work for families if we want to see this legislation pass. 


The last legislative session date for the NY State Assembly and Senate is June 21, 2007.  That said, we need to see the bill move out of committee, passed on the floor and signed by the Governor by that date. We are in the process of coming to an agreement with key players in Albany on potential amendments to ensure swift passage of the bill. As always, the main obstacle is the State Senate.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!  We would like to do extensive bus outreach and outreach at facilities to get others to sign letters to key State Senators.  If you are planning on taking a bus upstate to a correctional facility or going to a correctional facility and are interested, we would like to send you a stack of letters to have others sign.  Also, if you work with another group/community we also need your help getting your constituents/community members to sign letters.

Please contact Lauren Melodia at or 212.614.6481

We are looking for families in the Rochester area who would be willing to be interviewed by Rochester area press about their experiences with the current prison telephone system and/or write Letters to the Editor.  Rochester is Sen. Nozzolio’s district; he is also the sponsor of the Family Connections Bill in the State Senate and head of the State Senate’s Crime Committee.  We need to focus on getting significant media attention in his district to push him towards passing the Family Connections bill.  If Nozzolio is your State Senator and you would feel comfortable being interviewed or writing a Letter to the Editor, please contact me at or 212.614.6481

To find out who your State Senator is, visit:


    Global Tel Link (GTL) is acquiring the current contract held by MCI/Verizon.  The current arrangement of a collect call system and the current prices ($1.50 connection fee and 8 cents per minute) will remain as is during GTL’s management of the contract.  Basically, since GTL is acquiring the contract held by MCI/Verizon they do not have the power (nor does DOCS) to change anything significant in the system.

    What may change is your billing arrangement.  Currently (or so it seems) whether or not you have limits placed on your bill, pre-pay or pay on a monthly cycle is determined by an agreement between MCI/Verizon and your local service provider.  GTL may have a different billing agreement with your local service provider so you may be contacted to change your billing arrangement.  We are working to get more specifics on this to share with you. 

    DOCS has told us that the goal date for the transfer of the contract is June 30, 2007.  This may change and please contact us if you hear anything else about the transfer date.

    The customer service number for all NY State prison telephone plans will remain as is: (800) 388-7346.  Apparently one day you’ll call and it won’t be an MCI representative anymore. 

    CALL BLOCKING: we finally got MCI’s Call Blocking Policy in writing!

    CASUAL BLOCK - These are customer requested blocks. Customers (collect call recipients) will call MCI and request that their telephone number be blocked from receiving inmate collect calls from State of NY inmates.

    FRAUD CONTROL BLOCK - These blocks are placed due to fraudulent activity or if customer verification is needed to rule out the possibility of fraud. For example, a customer may be using unauthorized credit cards or may have switched phone numbers to avoid paying an invoice from a previous account.

    NO BILLING AND COLLECTION (B&C) AGREEMENT BLOCK - Customers who are with a LEC/CLEC with whom MCI does not have a billing agreement will be immediately blocked and will be required to set up a direct remit account.

    DIRECT REMIT BLOCKS - There are multiple blocks on Direct Remit customers that include:

    a. Direct Remit Non-Payment - Automatic block is placed when the customer is 1 day past due.
    b. Collections - The customer will already have been blocked for non-payment, but these are also marked that they went to collections.
    c. Direct Remit Call Limit Reached (Unbillable LEC program)- These are CLEC blocked customers that have reached their call limits for the month. 
    d.Direct Remit Dollar Limit Reached  (Billable LEC program)- These are Dollar Limit customers (billable LEC customers) who have reached the dollar limit on their direct remit account.

    DOC HIGH TOLL FRAUD - MCI utilizes the High Toll-Fraud system to help minimize risk associated with fraud loss and bad debt while protecting consumers and the Company.  The program is not specific to inmate collect calling services.  If a case is deemed to be fraudulent or poses risk to the end user or company, a temporary block may be placed.  MCI restricts services only when there are indicators of risk to the customer or to MCI.  Restrictions are placed on a customer's service only after thorough research has been completed and customer contact has been attempted. End-users benefit from the process as it provides protection from unauthorized charges, and from the growing problem of identity theft (i.e., a person fraudulently establishing an account using someone else's identity.)

    SPID CODE 99/98/97 BLOCKS - MCI is able to identify "dedicated NPA/NXXs" that are dedicated to cell phones (SPID 99) or to "local prepaid" ANIs only (SPID 98), or an invalid point code (SPID 97). If any of these conditions exist, then the call is blocked.

    BILLED NUMBER SCREENING (BNS) BLOCKS - This BNS database is a MCI Corporate database that contains the following types of blocks that are currently honored on our collect calls:
    a. Customer who has not paid for some other MCI Service, not just inmate collect calls.
    b. Customer who is in delinquent status of inmate collect calls (billed by the LEC or other third party biller.
    c.Third party biller blocks because customers refuse to give valid Billing, Name and Address (BNA) to setup direct remit account or third party biller if third party biller cannot find the BNA of the customer.

    LINE INFORMATION DATABASE (LIDB) BLOCKS - These are collect call blocks placed by the customer's local phone service provider.

    CALLING AREA DATABASE (CADB) Block - The destination telephone number is validated against the MCI CADB (Calling Area Database) to make sure that the ANI is valid.  If it is not a valid number then the call is blocked.

    BILLABLE LEC PROGRAM - Customers who are with a billable LEC/CLEC, and who receive more than $100 in inmate collect calls within 30 days, will be identified as a Dollar Limit Required customer.  Once a customer has been identified as such, a VRU notice is sent explaining that they have two business days to call into MCI's Maximum Security Customer Service group in order to setup a direct billing arrangement. If the customer does not call in two days, the telephone number will be blocked.

    ALLOWED LIST - A customer's telephone number must be on an approved inmate allowed list. If an inmate attempts a call to a telephone number not on his/her allowed list, the call will be blocked.

    CALL PRIVILEGES DENIED BY DOC - Sometimes an inmate will have his/her phone privileges taken away by the facility for a period of time. Calls attempted by an inmate with this status will be blocked.

    14. TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE: RESTORING FAIRNESS TO PAROLE held at the New York City Bar Association on February 15, 2007. A copy of the speeches is posted in the Sidebar, which you can copy and download.

    Russell T. Neufeld, Moderator
    Professor Genty, Director, Prisoner and Families Clinic, Columbia University School of Law
    Vernon Manley, Former Member, New York State Board of Parole
    Alfred A. O’Connor, Staff Attorney, New York State Defenders Association
    Eve Rosahn, Supervising Attorney, Legal Aid Society, Parole Revocation Defense Unit
    Edward A. Sheridan, Former Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice
    William Eric Waters, Program Coordinator, The Osbourne Association

    From the Capital District:
    The NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow Facilities on Sat, June 2 ($30 adults, $20 children), and the Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson Facilities on Sat, June 9, and Sun, June 24  ($15  adults and $10 children), from Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, 9th St, Troy at 7 AM, and Albany Greyhound Bus station at 7:15. Trip to the Utica Hub (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida Facilities) Sat, June 16 leaves at 5 AM ($40 adults, $25 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.

    Door to door, free rides are offered by volunteers of the First Unitarian Universalist Society’s Justice Committee on weekdays only. Please contact us at 518 253-7533 if you need a ride.


    City Court Judge, Hon. James A. W. McLeod, is a candidate for the office of Erie County Court Judge. As you can imagine, it is a struggle because he’s a black man attempting to move up, especially to a Court that has such a profound impact on the lives of so many people of color and the poor.

    Judge McLeod's Fundraising Committee is holding a fundraiser for him on June 14th.
    Mark your calendars and plan to show your support.
    DATE: Thursday, June 14, 2007
    TIME:  6:00 - 8:00pm
    PLACE: 1490 Jefferson,  Buffalo, NY
    DONATION: $25.00

    I believe that Judge McLeod's efforts as a Community Servant, over the years, are worthy of our support. If we stand behind him, he can win! Mark your calendars! Spread the word! - Karima Amin, Prisoners Are People Too!

    Prisoners Are People Too! will celebrate its second anniversary on Monday, June 25, 2007 with a look back at the topics explored during 2006-2007. We will also recognize  Reformed Offender, George Baba Eng, whose life and work sparked the founding of Prisoners Are People Too! in June of 2005. Currently incarcerated at Auburn Prison, Baba has been in prison for 30 years. He has been denied release on parole three times. His fourth appearance before the NYS Parole Board will take place in December of this year. Baba is a prime example of someone who has worked diligently to “do the right thing,” realizing that he is largely responsible for his own rehabilitation and liberation. Repeated denials have made him neither angry nor bitter, but more resolved to fight for his freedom.

    Prisoners Are People Too! will meet next month on July 23.  Film and guest speaker(s) TBA.


    NYC FED3 Think Tank has been renamed THE FAMILY EMPOWERMENT PROJECT OF THE PRISON ACTION NETWORK by its newly formed Executive Committee. The General Meeting of the Family Empowerment Project will meet on June 11 at 6:30pm at Fordham University. The agenda will focus on a Voter Registration Training, in preparation for a city wide voter registration campaign leading up to the next Family Empowerment Day event. For more information, please call 518 253 7533 or email

    Conditions of Confinement Committee (of the CWP) co-chair Caitlin Dunklee reports:
    1) The Committee continues to work with the DOCS Library Department to create an expanded health section at the libraries of all women’s prisons in New York State.  Formerly incarcerated women and women currently incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility reviewed materials to assess accessibility for women with various literacy levels, content, and relevance/importance for women in prison.  The Committee will now focus its efforts on obtaining these publications for the seven facilities that house women in New York State.  If you would like to make a donation, please make a check out to the Correctional Association (please mark on the check that it is for the “Library Project”) and send it to Attn: Women in Prison Project, 135 E. 15th St., NY, NY 10003 or visit and make an on-line donation (please be sure to indicate that your donation is for the Library Project.) To join the Conditions of Confinement Committee, please contact Committee co-chairs Caitlin Dunklee at cdunklee@gosonyc or Aurora Maoz at, or come to the next meeting on Thursday, June 28th from 5:30-7:30pm at the Correctional Association  or call 212-254-5700 x333. 

    Also at the last meeting, Women in Prison Project Community Outreach Coordinator Stacey Thompson reported that the Coalition will be holding a “Holiday Meet and Greet” on Saturday, December 15th, to allow Coalition members to connect and network with one another, educate themselves more about the work of the Committees, and get more involved in Coalition activities and efforts.  If you would like to join the Organizing Committee, please contact Stacey at  

    As we watch many men being denied parole after demonstrating readiness through meeting institutional requirements, personal endeavors, good behavior, spiritual involvement and so much more, we don’t hear much talk about things like the December article in the Daily News titled “Prison Time a Plus on Resumes”. This article claims that the State prefers hiring formerly incarcerated people for $30,000 a year to do AIDS and other counseling because people who have experienced being on the Inside are shown to be more effective in dealing with troubled teens. It shows that if given a chance we can make a difference. - William Clanton

    I went to my fourth parole consideration interview filled with optimism after the Democratic political sweep and Spitzer taking over as governor. With 32 years in and a clean prison record, with all types of program accomplishments and letters of outside support.... I was hit again with two more years; once again the ‘nature of the instant offense’ was cited. If it was only me I would accept the hit as a bad break and keep it moving, but I’ve asked around, and it appears that there has been no significant change in the release statistics in spite of Mr. Spitzer’s “from Day One” promises. Have we all been duped again? The Legislature is refusing to act on prison closings, even with the drop in population of prisoners numbering in the thousands in NYS. Spitzer has even further restricted the qualification for work Release eligibility... Sure there has been some general staff restructuring, but shuffling a deck of cards still does not change the 52 cards in the deck or the rules of a poker game.

    This is my first conviction, my only arrest for a violent crime, and there are no bizarre aspects to the case. Like many others, I’ve fulfilled all program requirements; maintained a good disciplinary record, and have strong ties in the community. I remain confused about how parole commissioners can ignore judicial reprimands and directives obvious in many recent court decisions reversing parole denials, with impunity, and like everyone else, I’m both disappointed and angry that Governor Spitzer has failed in his promises to us all.

    I guess my question to all our readers now is simply, what’s next? We cannot give up, so where do we go from here?
    -- Frustrated!, Jehan Abdur-Rheem

    We’re almost at the halfway mark of our goal for 2500 signatures. As of publication, PAN has received 460 more signatures, bringing the total to 1061!! Congratulations!! Forty-seven people gathered those signatures.

    I hope all of the signers are registered voters, but if not, I hope the petition-carriers are, because you need to go back to those signers and make sure they are all registered. Because if we are serious about what we are doing, we need to start carrying petitions for candidates who support our issues, and petitions to put referendums on the ballot. We’ve shown what we can do when it makes a difference in our lives, so let’s keep the momentum going. The General Meeting of the Family Empowerment Project (see article 16) will be offering a Voter Registration Training at our next meeting. Once we’re trained we’ll be able to train you, so look for future notices of Voter Registration Trainings.

    In addition to the above mentioned 1061 signatures, there actually were 273 more - from people inside prison. At first we thought we should not include them, because they weren’t from eligible voters. But one of the people who gathered signatures asked us to reconsider: “ Please don’t let my hard work go to waste. Eliot Spitzer needs to see people care. We are people too. This isn’t just about work release; it’s also about giving people the means to help themselves. Let Mr. Spitzer say we don’t count. I don’t believe he will.”