Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

August 2007 Edition

Late Additions:

GRAZIANO CASE [see report of the July 20th hearing in article 7, below]:
The parties to the pending class action suit, Graziano, et.al. v. Pataki did not reach a settlement by their second deadline of Aug 17. Robert Isseks, the lead attorney in the case, reports: "We asked the Court to defer decision because we are still working on a settlement." You are invited to check back here for all updates about the case.

FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 3 ADDS TWO MORE EVENTS TO ITS 2007 SCHEDULE
3 Dates! 3 Locations! 3 Opportunities! FED3/NYC, FED3/WNY, and FED3/ALB.
"Educating for Empowerment" will present successful strategies for changing incarceration-related conditions in NYS.
Check back here after September 1 for details, or call 518 253 7533.

TROY DAVIS DEATH PENALTY CASE:
For those of you following the Troy Davis case: Great news! Troy Davis, who won an unheard of 90 day stay of execution within 24 hours of being killed by the State of Georgia, will receive a hearing by the Georgia Supreme Court, which has agreed to consider the new evidence. Supporters feel the new evidence will completely exhonerate Mr. Davis.

Dear Reader,

As you are well aware, there are many ways the system needs changing. Prison Action Network finds it impossible to select only one to work for. We want to change the whole system! But of course that won’t happen all at once. Nevertheless, thanks to years and years of struggle by some of the veterans of the movement for criminal justice and prison reform, we are seeing a shift in the consciousness of the public and of our state government. We want Prison Action Network to join them in becoming agents of change. For that reason, this year’s Family Empowerment Day 3 theme is ‘Educating for Empowerment’. Through speakers who’ve had experience creating change; through workshops where we can learn how to start taking actions for change, Family Empowerment Day 3 will take us on the first step of a year long Campaign for Change. So if you are tired of complaining and want to start working, please set aside Saturday, October 20 to come to Columbia Law School and make it happen. We’ve included a flyer at the end of this letter to help you spread the word wherever you go. We can’t do it without YOU!

Big ups! to all who sent donations in response to last month’s call for help in keeping Building Bridges afloat. We can’t afford to send thank you notes but please know you touched our hearts and our pocketbook in a positive way.

Have a wonderful month!


ARTICLES

1. BECOME ACTIVE - "I have high regard for the Otisville Lifers who created the concept of Family Empowerment Day, and to PAN, CPR, and all the other organizations involved in the struggle to make the world a better place." - Zayd Rashid

2. CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS - Help change the public’s perception of ex-prisoners; if you’re a formerly incarcerated entrepreneur please contact Sheila Rule about being included in her upcoming book of essays.

3. CONGRATULATIONS ON PASSED BILLS - We all did an amazing job this legislative session getting some decent bills passed that will contribute to a better quality of life for many of us. We have made a difference!

4. CURE-NY NEWSLETTER - Summer 2007 is out, and better than ever!

5. FORGIVENESS AT THE HEART OF CHANGE - "Forgiveness and redemption -- especially forgiveness of oneself -- are crucial to promoting social change." - Tony Papa

6. FAMILY EMPOWERMENT PROJECT SEEKS REPS - Family Empowerment Project; become a REP for FEP - you’ll be glad you did and being glad is one of the greatest achievements! - Joe Rudd

7. PAROLE - Report from Graziano VS Pataki hearing; Facilities report July parole stats

8. PRISON RADIO - Turn off your TV and tune your radio to programming that reports the truth of incarceration

9. SUPPORT MEETINGS - Opportunities to meet other people who have a loved one in prison

10. TELEPHONE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN - "GTL is the [new] holder of the contract, [but] they are using much of the infrastructure that MCI/Verizon has built over the years.", After 3 years of struggle, victory!!

11. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS - From Albany: cheap or free, weekends or weekdays

12. VOTER REGISTRATION IS IMPORTANT! - THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE FOR THE 2007 PRIMARY ELECTION IS AUGUST 24TH

13. WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND NEW YORK STATE - In Buffalo, Prisoners Are People Too!, in NYC FEP is going strong preparing for FED3.

FED3 FLYER



1. BECOME ACTIVE
In March of 2006 I was shocked to learn that no one at the facility to which I had been recently transferred had heard of Family Empowerment Day 1 (FED 1). I attributed this, in part, to the fact that the facility was in west hell, and seemingly cut off from progressive developments affecting prisoners and their families. Not long after, I was transferred to another prison, in NYC, and forced to reassess the situation, as no one I spoke to there had heard of FED 1 either, or was aware of the upcoming FED 2.

After some serious work and the formation of a Lifer's organization, things there are much different now. However, I can assure you that if information was not reaching them it is fair to assume that it was not reaching many other prisons. Consequently, if we are going to be more successful at the upcoming FED 3, this is an issue that we will have to confront and resolve.

Speaking from experience, I can assure you that unless we unite, become active, learn to speak in one voice, and work hard for the greater good, we will continue to find ourselves disadvantaged by years of ill conceived legislative mandates and executive agendas. There have been some recent long deserved changes, but there is still a lot of work to be done. If you think I am kidding, read the July issue of Building Bridges.

Too often we depend on just a few individuals to carry the torch, leading to burn out and frustrations. Moreover, in these times, this is not enough. We need everyone on board, and we need everyone to contribute according to their ability. My advice is to join Prison Action Network and CPR, stay informed, spread the word, and encourage your families and friends to attend FED 3. -Zayd Rashid


2. CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
I'm compiling a book of essays by formerly incarcerated men and women who've become entrepreneurs. The book is the first in a series that my publishing company, Resilience Multimedia, is developing with the aim of changing the negative images of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in this country. If you were incarcerated and now operate your own business -- or know of someone who fits that description -- I hope you'll contact me at resiliencemultimedia@verizon.net or 212-645-5045.
Thank you. Keep the faith, Sheila Rule


3. CONGRATULATIONS ON PASSED BILLS!

from CCR’s COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS:

Great news: Governor Spitzer signed the Medicaid suspension bill.  Congratulations to the Coalition's Reentry Committee and to all who worked so hard to make this happen! (The law will go into effect in April 2008. -editor)
 
If you are interested in working on next steps related to Medicaid and on other issues facing women in reentry, please come to the next Reentry Committee meeting on Friday, September 7 at 3pm at the CA. The Coalition has a new metro card policy!  We are now able to offer formerly incarcerated women who need assistance with transportation two $2 metro cards for Coalition and Committee meetings and events.  Please contact the address below about this policy and how to sign up to receive metro cards. 
 
Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Women in Prison Project Director,Correctional Association of New York, 135 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003 Tel 212-254-5700 x306 tkstolar@correctionalassociation.org, www.correctionalassociation.org

from ICARE:

We are very excited to report that two of ICARE's "Restoration of Rights" agenda items--the Medicaid Suspension Bill and the Family Connections Bill--were signed into law by the governor! Congratulations to everyone who raised your voice on these issues--people of faith were continuously highlighted for speaking out with moral conviction. We particularly applaud the Correctional Association's Coalition for Women Prisoners and the Center for Constitutional Rights' Telephone Justice Campaign, which put tremendous resources into the passage of these two bills.  Thanks to their efforts and yours, people on Medicaid will not lose their health benefits should they become incarcerated, and families will not be financially exploited when their loved ones call from prison.

We are also pleased to highlight that S1602/A03208 was signed into law. Led by the Legal Action Center, the signing of this bill means that Corrections Law 23-a now extends protection from criminal record based discrimination to current employees and licensees, rather than just applicants.

Momentum continues to build, and your voice always matters. Faithfully, Rima

from LAC’s NATIONAL HIRE NETWORK:

The Legal Action Center's National HIRE Network, working collaboratively with local advocates, recently celebrated a significant legislative victory for employees with criminal records in New York State.   We commend Governor Eliot Spitzer for his insightfulness in signing the bill, as well as members of the legislature who sponsored the measure and helped to shepherd it through the legislative process.
 
S.1602/A.3208 – Amends Article 23-A §752 of the Correction Law so that individuals who are employed, as well as individuals who are applicants for a job are protected from unfair employment discrimination. Article 23-A of Correction Law currently prohibits unfair discrimination against individuals with criminal records whose convictions are unrelated to the job sought and do not constitute a threat to safety, and encourages “the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses.” However, the anti-discrimination protections in §752 applied only to applicants for employment or occupational licenses who have criminal convictions. The law provided no protection to current employees or license holders who face unfair discrimination based on criminal records that predate their employment or licensure. 
 
S.1602/A.3208 extends the anti-discrimination protections to current employees and license holders whose convictions predate employment or licensure, since it is inconsistent to require employers to individually consider each person with a criminal history who applies for a job but not extend that protection to individuals who are already employed.   
 
Note: S.1602/A.3208 will not protect individuals who lie on an employment application, as it is legal for an employer to fire someone for lying on an application. 

from PRISON ACTION NETWORK:

We all worked hard to make sure the The SHU bill (S333B) passed, but we have to wait for the Fall Legislative Session for the Assembly to approve the revised version (A9342). The New York Law Journal reported on July 19 that the governor and the senate had agreed to a compromise bill, and the assembly was sure to follow. [Copies of the NY Law Journal Article and/or the revised bill are available from PAN by request with a SASE.]


4. CURE-NY NEWSLETTER
The Summer 2007 edition of the CURE-NY Newsletter has been mailed and is now available on the CURE-NY website, http://users.bestweb.net/~cureny/.  You'll find info on:
New leadership for CURE-NY;  Issue priorities of CURE-NY; The Sept 25 Annual CURE-NY Meeting;  A Spring 2008 Reentry Conference; The May 29, 2007 DCJS Reentry Panel;  The PFNY 2007 Family Retreat;  and Legislative Activity.


5. FORGIVENESS AT THE HEART OF CHANGE 
By ANTHONY PAPA

(First published: Saturday, July 21, 2007, The Times Union (Albany NY):

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes life's path is cut out for you in ways that might not fit your liking. This was true for me when, in 1985, I was sentenced to 15-years-to-life stemming from my involvement in drugs. My life was dramatically altered forever. At the time of my arrest I was 29 years old, married, with a 6-year-old daughter. I made the biggest mistake of my life when I delivered a package of four ounces of cocaine for the promised sum of $500.

Nothing in the world could have prepared me for life in prison. I was sent to Sing Sing, a maximum security prison in Ossining. It was a living nightmare. Not only did I lose my family, I lost my life as I knew it.

When I arrived at the prison I was surrounded with a sea of faces of men who had lost all faith in their lives. It was the lowest point in my life and I surely thought that God had abandoned me.

Soon after, I was walking past a row of cells that sat on the top tier of the A Block housing unit. I inhaled the odor of paint and followed its trail to a cell. I looked in and saw the most magnificent paintings. They belonged to a prisoner named Indio. We became friends and he taught me how to paint.

I began absorbing myself in my art. I was hooked. In 1988, I was sitting in my cell when I picked up a mirror and saw a reflection of a man who was going to be spending the most productive years of his life locked in a cage. I set up a canvas and captured the image. I named it "15 to Life." As my art became more and more a center point in my life, I realized that God had not abandoned me but, instead, given me a vehicle to find real meaning and purpose in my life.

I entered a graduate program in 1994 offered by the New York Theological Seminary at Sing Sing prison. I studied liberation theology with an emphasis on urban ministry. The center of our teaching was based on praxis. We were taught that we could talk all we want about tradition and the Bible but that, without a tangible action, our intentions would be meaningless. The program's director, the Rev. Bill Webber, who became my spiritual father, had given me vision to become an agent of change and transformation.

In 1995, my self-portrait, "15 to Life," was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. I received a lot of media attention and, in 1997, I received clemency from Gov. George Pataki. My art became my ministry. I had exhibits and used my art as instrument to speak out against inhumane drug laws.

At the same time, I made trips to Albany to speak with legislators. Most of them had a dual view of reforming the laws. Their public view was that the Rockefeller Drug Laws were working fine. Behind closed doors they agreed the laws needed to be reformed. But they were afraid of publicly speaking out against them because it would cause their political deaths. I decided at that point that I was spinning my wheels by trying to convince them.

I remember reading a book titled "The Upside Down Kingdom" by Donald Kraybill. It basically spoke about how Jesus created change from the bottom up, instead of the top down.

My idea then was to try and change the way politicians thought about New York's drug laws by changing their constituents' views. I took that concept and, in 1998, I co-founded the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. This advocacy group was comprised mostly of family members of those imprisoned by the Rockefeller Drug Laws. We formed a street movement that generated tremendous press by utilizing the human element of the issue.

It was a long row to hoe, but we managed to shift public opinion and exert public pressure on the politicians. In 2004-05, the first reform changes were passed with hope that more will follow.

Forgiveness and redemption -- especially forgiveness of oneself -- are crucial to promoting social change. What gets in the way are the psychological and spiritual walls we build to separate us from one another. If we apply these concepts, we can break down these barriers so that positive change can take root

Anthony Papa is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.


6. FAMILY EMPOWERMENT PROJECT SEEKS REPS

Family Empowerment Project (FEP)

THIS IS HOW WE GET DOWN FROM NOW ON!

POSITIVE ATTITUDE + MOTIVATION = SUCCESS

To Think Only the Best,
To Work Only for the Best and to
Expect and Accept Nothing But the Best.

Do you want to be a REP for FEP? To be involved in something positive? Do you want to press on to greater achievements? Do you want to help yourself while helping others? Do you have an attitude that reflects hope, desire, self-belief and supports positive projects? Then you have the right attitude we are looking for, because the person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and becomes nothing.

Become a REP for FEP to gather support for our October 20, 2007 Family Empowerment Day 3 event at Columbia Law School. (Use flyer below to recruit attendance and donations) You’ll be glad you did and being glad is one of the greatest achievements.

- Jumping Joe, Public Relations, PAN/F.E.P.


7. PAROLE
GRAZIANO, ET. AL VS PATAKI HEARING:
Building Bridges attended the hearing before Judge Brieant on July 20, 2007. We didn't see any reporters there - no NY Law Journal, so we’re sharing our notes. We regret the gaps in our recall of the arguments.

Judge Brieant was a very likable, seemingly fair and honest man. The Attorney General had 2 representatives (AG1, AG2) , AG1 argued to dismiss, AG2 argued against the class action suit. Robert Isseks, Esq. (I), accompanied by Peter Sell, Esq., argued alone and spoke very directly and without a lot of legal jargon. Judge Brieant (J) also avoided legal jargon.

AG1: moves to dismiss on grounds claims are now moot.
J: why moot if allegations are true? many of complainants are still entitled to some relief.

AG1: Change of administration, and statement by George Alexander (Parole Commissioner) makes claim of mootness valid.
J: I already said claim was valid w respect to Alexander's statement, but it's not moot for the complainants still held as a result of past administration's policies.

AG1: we object to class certification. several of original claimants have received a new hearing and the rest will by the end of the summer.
J: Why not review all of them NOW and really make it moot? I have to take their claim seriously.

AG1: Graziano and Tally were seen already, Buckley and Harris ( are scheduled?? I can't remember what was said about them...)
J: There's a large number of people who belong to the class out there. I know. They've been writing to me. If they are denied their rights to a proper hearing a court can order a re-hearing.

AG1: Alexander has issued a statement to the board saying to consider all factors.

I: Rehearings are needed for all those who were denied parole since before the Alexander memo.
J: If Alexander says they've changed their policy we have to assume they did.

I: The same parole board members who did not follow the law before Alexander was appointed are still there.

AG1: But you said they were not acting on their own principles but following orders from Pataki. Pataki is no longer in charge and Alex. has said they have to consider all factors.
J: Original claim said outside influence had affected their behavior.

I: Agents of Pataki supported our observations. Katherine Lapp said Pataki rejected the possibility of rehabilitation for violent felons. Instead of following the statute the parole board made sure violent felons would be kept in. When a board rejects the idea of rehabilitation they are unable to fulfill the statute.
J: an officer of the law has to follow the law regardless of own feelings.

I: Katherine said they were willing to reject the law. Alexander tells them to obey the law, but they've shown themselves to be willing not to. We want the court to rule that the Board has to follow the law, because obviously members of the parole board still feel they have the right to decide a judge's sentence was not long enough. Under Pataki, the parole board was operating outside the law. The current administration is complicit because they are still appealing decisions that were made against the board for ignoring the law.
J: your argument for class action?

I: we have received many hundreds of unsolicited letters from inmates who have provided documentation showing they are eligible to be members of the class.
J: The State argument?

AG1: I'd like to just point out that the complainant has changed the complaint to be against Parole not Pataki.
J: I don't see it that way. (and explained, but I don't recall the argument...)

AG2: (re class action) Plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of numerosity.
J: But it's a matter of public record, is it not?

AG2: Yes, but we asked for a formal statement. Plaintiffs are supposed to be present... (I couldn't understand her arguments. The judge stopped asking questions and just let her finish.)

J: I'm going to reserve judgment. I want to speak with both sides privately in the courtroom. If you'd like a few minutes before that to talk between yourselves, that would be agreeable with me. We will meet here in 15 minutes.

The courtroom was then cleared.

I understand Judge Brieant gave them until August 3 to reach a settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached by then, he will render a decision - reported by J. Brink


PAROLE STATISTICS:

AT OTISVILLE - Only 2 out of the 23 seen were granted parole. 1st board for one with a 20-Life and the other person was a deportation. 3 merit board applicants were denied. A man with 25-Life suffered his 5th hit. James Ferguson and Vanessa Clarke presided, with recently (6/14) appointed Sally Thompson observing. Ms. Thompson is a former NYPD detective who investigated violent crimes, and prior to that was in the Bx Narcotics/Major Case Div.

ARTHUR KILL - Of the 90 people interviewed, 14 were given a date. Among them, 4 Lifers were granted parole; 2 at their 1st appearance, and 2 at their reappearances. Out of 4 Merit time interviews 2 were given a date. All who were denied were given 24 months. Before the Pataki era 24 months was the exception, unlike under Pataki and Spitzer where it’s been the rule, claims our source.


PAROLE SUPPORT
This month’s featured parole hearing is that of JOSEPH RUDD who will see the Parole Board on September 10. Joe was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where he lived in the family home until incarcerated in 1982 on a murder conviction. Prior to this he had attended Catholic grammar school and obtained a GED while working with local 32B union as a heating plant technician. He and his fiancé of 6 years had planned and scheduled a wedding date. Upon entering prison in 1983 he realized that in order to truly seek redemption he could not wait until released back into society. Through lots of soul searching and deep faith he began to take steps to change his life. Joe Rudd is known throughout the prison system as a caring and committed man with deep religious convictions who invests all of his time in helping others as well as in his own personal growth. While he understands that none of his prison accomplishments will ever compensate the tragic loss of life for which he is responsible and deeply regrets, he hopes they will serve as an honest testimony to the sincere and positive changes in his life.

Please write Joe for more details or send your letter of support to: Joseph Rudd 83A7286, Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, 2911 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island, NY 10309


8. PRISON RADIO

AL LEWIS LIVES, hosted by Karen Lewis, broadcasts on Saturdays from noon to 1:30 pm on WBAI, 99.5 FM, NYC., or live stream at WBAI Tune in Aug 18; you may get a pleasant surprise.

THE FANCY BROCCOLI SHOW: Fancy Broccoli airs on WVKR, 91.3FM, Poughkeepsie NY. on Sundays from 3 - 6 pm, Eastern Time, and streams online - go to WVKR.org and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'. The lineup for the next 3 shows: 8/5 - Felix Rosa, the executive director of parole. The next show is Vernon Manley. The one after that will be no guest due to the fund raiser and after that is Ron Hayes, a formerly incarcerated individual who is a social worker that specializes in PTSD for guys that have done time.

DEMOCRACY NOW!, WITH AMY GOODMAN, WBAI, 99.5 FM in NYC (or see link above) from 8AM-9AM weekdays and on www.democracynow.org, WVKR every weekday from 5PM-6PM, and also WRPI Troy, 91.5 FM (www.WRPI.org) from 9AM-10AM.

JUSTICE PAGES AUDIO at www.justicepages.org

VOICES FROM THE PRISON ACTION NETWORK: Available on a new site that might be easier for you to access: www.hmimc.swapspace.com. It’s also still available at www.radio4all.net, where it is podcast.


9. 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: 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.


10. TELEPHONE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN
Thanks to Lauren Melodia for supplying families with the following information:

1. While Global Telephone Ltd. is the new holder of the contract, they are using much of the infrastructure that MCI/Verizon has built over the years.  This includes the customer service phone number that you previously used with MCI 1-800-388-7346 and the website you had previously used to make payments: https://corrections.mci.com/.

2. You DO NOT need to set-up a new account with GTL.  If you had an account with MCI/Verizon, GTL has acquired it and it will remain your active account.

3. Your previous account balance (if you had one) with MCI/Verizon will remain in your account.

4. You should call (800) 388-7346 if you have any problems, questions or would like to make a payment.  You should continue to use https://corrections.mci.com/ to make payments online.  You will be redirected to a GTL online account system that is specific to New York.  Do not call any of the other GTL customer service numbers.  Do not try to make your payment by logging onto GTL’s general online payment system through their website.  GTL has trained customer service staff who understand the terms of the contract in New York State who will field your calls at (800) 388-7346.

5. You will NOT be charged $9.50 processing fee for paying online or 19% processing fee for paying over the phone.

6. If you opened a direct remit account with GTL in the past week or two, GTL will make sure that you will receive proper credit from your previous MCI/Verizon account.

7. GTL was experiencing several technical difficulties with the system last week, which they are working to sort out immediately.  If your phone was blocked from receiving collect calls last week and you were up-to-date on your payments, etc. the block was as a result of technical difficulties and should be resolved soon if it has not already been resolved.

8. GTL will be posting all policy information online at https://corrections.mci.com as soon as possible so that everyone has the information they need to pay their bills, receive calls and deal with problems.

9. If your experiences last week do not comply with numbers 1 – 8 on this list, please call (800) 388-7346 to sort out any difficulties with GTL staff.  If you still have problems, please call Tom Herzog at DOCS at (518) 457-2540.

AFTER THREE YEARS OF TIRELESS WORK, WE WON!
In January 2007, newly-elected New York Governor Eliot Spitzer agreed to eliminate the State’s 57.5 percent kickback commission and reduce the prison telephone rates by 50 percent; more savings are due in September.

In June 2007, the New York State Legislature passed our Family Connections Bill and made it law that the State will not profit from any future prison telephone contract and that any future contract instead must “prioritize the lowest cost to the consumer.” (Previous contracts were awarded based on which bid would provide the highest commission for the State.) Last week, Governor Spitzer signed the bill into law.

We’re not finished yet – we continue to fight the legal battle with our case Walton v. NYSDOCS and MCI, which seeks a court judgment that the State’s commission is an illegal and unconstitutional tax. A victory in the case would prevent future legislatures from creating similar contracts and would compensate affected families for the years that they’ve overpaid to remain connected to their loved ones. We argued the most recent round in June and are awaiting a decision. [ from a message by Annette Warren Dickerson, CCR Director of Education and Outreach]


11. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS

From the Capital District:
THE NEST PRISON SHUTTLE schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow CFs on Sat, Aug 4 ($30 adults, $20 children), Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson CFs on Sun, Aug 12 ($15  adults and $10 children), from Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, Troy at 7 AM, and Albany Greyhound bus station at 7:15. Trip to Utica (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida CFs) on Sat, Aug 18, and Sullivan (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan CFs) on Sat, Jul 25 leaving at 5 AM ($40 adults, $25 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.

Door to door, FREE RIDES are offered from Albany to prisons within 150 miles by volunteers of FUUSA’s Justice Committee on weekdays only. Please contact us at 518 253-7533 if you need a ride.


12. VOTER REGISTRATION
Today I signed up to go door to door getting signatures on a petition to nominate someone for Albany’s school board. Anyone who thinks they can’t make a difference should consider what a difference a few hours of my time could make. Albany’s youth are in much the same predicament as New York City’s youth. The schools are failing them. I believe the candidate I will be petitioning for will bring some realism and some wisdom to the board - some insight into the role racism plays in the way our schools are run. It’s not earth-shaking, but if her election could mean the difference in even one child’s school life, wouldn’t you agree my time was well spent? Let’s ALL get informed and out in the streets making a difference!

THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE FOR THE 2007 PRIMARY ELECTION IS AUGUST 24TH (that’s THIS month, folks!). Only enrolled party members can vote in the primary election. Party members who help nominate candidates by signing petitions and voting in the primary have greater political clout than non-enrolled voters who can vote only in the general election. Also, you are not obligated to vote for your party’s candidate in the general election. In November you can vote for any candidate from any party.

The deadline for registering to vote in the General election is October 12.

ANYONE WHO IS A U.S. CITIZEN, WHO WILL BE 18 OR OLDER BY ELECTION DAY, AND HAS COMPLETED THEIR SENTENCE FOR A FELONY CONVICTION IS ELIGIBLE TO REGISTER AND VOTE IN NEW YORK STATE.

If you’re not eligible to vote, you can still register people to vote and have even more impact than if you simply voted. Everyone who wants to change the laws that oppress us SHOULD get involved in registering voters. It’s our most powerful tool. You may think it doesn’t make a difference, but that’s only because so many people DON’T VOTE and don’t get EDUCATED about the issues.


13. WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND NEW YORK STATE

BUFFALO AREA:

1. Prisoners Are People Too!
is a justice advocacy program that meets monthly on selected Mondays in Buffalo at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street from 6:30-8:30pm.

On Monday, August 27, 2007, PRP2!’s guest speaker will be Ray Barnes, who serves as the Coordinator and Reintegration Specialist for Upstate Reentry Net/NY. He advocates against the discriminatory barriers that formerly incarcerated people face upon reentry. Mr. Barnes, who earned several college degrees during his  imprisonment, also works with youth and young adults as a violence prevention facilitator. Ray has 25 years of experience in this area. 

Preceding Mr. Barnes’ presentation, PRP2! will screen the documentary film, “Ray’ Redemption,” a Syracuse University production about the speaker’s life which details his crime, his incarceration, and his subsequent reentry in November of 2005 after 30 years in prison.

The next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too! is scheduled for September 24.  Film and guest speaker(s) TBA. PRP2! programs are sponsored by The Circle of Support for Reformed Offenders and Friends of Baba Eng.

2. Quality of Life Associates, Quality of Life Films, Parents Encouraging Accountability and Closure for Everyone (P.E.A.C.E), and Buffalo Area Neighborhood Study (BANS): University at Buffalo, Sociology

Invite you to participate in
“WE MISS THEIR FOOTSTEPS:A SILENT MARCH”
To observe the magnitude of lives lost through homicides in Buffalo, NY
Bring one pair of shoes, and a small picture, to be placed on a monument to represent your loved one

FRIDAY AUGUST 10th 2007
2PM - 6:00 P.M. – RAIN OR SHINE
AT THE MCKINLEY MONUMENT
(IN FRONT OF CITY HALL)
The event will be filmed for the upcoming movie Lessons from Homicides: The Buffalo Story

For additional information call:
Dr. Peter K. B. St. Jean, 603-0992; Dave Collins, 563-6415; Teresa Evans, 400-9762; or Brad Watts, 435-5639



METROPOLITAN NYC:
The Family Empowerment Project (FEP) announces Family Empowerment Day 3 ! ! !

We'll be starting our preparations for Family Empowerment Day 3 scheduled for Saturday October 20 at the Columbia Law School. Those who would like to join are invited to attend our next General Meeting on Monday August 20 from 6 - 8pm. (If you're planning to be picked up, I'd suggest arranging that for 8:30pm to allow time for personal conversations.) We'll be at the Puck Building, in NYU's second floor conference room.

The Puck Building is at 295 Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan, between Prince and Houston Sts. It's the Broadway/Lafayette stop on the B,D,F,V trains (the stairs labeled Hudson/Lafayette take you right there). On the #6 train, it's the Bleeker St. stop. The N,R,W trains stop at Prince.

Please bring the following:

1. a friend, to lighten the workload
2. your calendars
3. a bag for the flyers we'll have available for you to hand out
4. and your checkbooks. We will be taking up a collection in support of Family Empowerment Day 3 expenses.

Readers of Building Bridges are at the forefront of this movement. Let your light shine!
Please copy the flyer below, and pass it out wherever you go.

We need everyone to get involved in creating change!

"EDUCATING FOR CHANGE"
FAMILY EMPOWERMENT DAY 3
Saturday, October 20, 2007
9:30 am - 3:30 pm
Columbia Law School 435 W.116th St., Manhattan

We are working to bring our incarcerated loved ones home ready and able to contribute to the communities they left. Family Empowerment Day was the brainchild of people in prison. We are working with them to make this a powerful event. You can help by:

* Skipping your visit to your loved one on October 20! (it's only this one time and it could bring him or her home sooner)

* Attend Family Empowerment Day 3! (and please prepare your loved one’s favorite dish to share in his or her name)

* Sending a donation! (last year's event was financed by hundreds of donations, ranging from $.50 to $200. No amount is too small ...or too large.) Please send checks made out to Prison Action Network to PAN, HM-IMC, PO Box 35, Troy NY 12181.

This year's Family Empowerment Day will be bigger and better
because it's time to start DOING, instead of just TALKING.

Tentative Agenda:
Theme: We will focus on 3 strategies: Legal Avenues (lawsuits and appeals), Legislative Actions (writing bills and lobbying our legislators to pass bills we support), and Grass-roots Organizing (knowing our rights, voter registration, rallies, lobbying).

Speakers: Representatives of organizations that have had successful campaigns will tell us how they did it, and we will do on-the-spot letter writing, petition signing, and telephone banking. Family Empowerment Day 3 will kick off a year-long campaign, at the end of which we expect to have something to celebrate on Family Empowerment Day 4!

Music: All successful social movements have relied on music to inspire and energize. We'll be looking for musicians to help us find our songs. Your suggestions are welcomed.

Food: Pot-luck lunch (we’ll all bring a dish to share)

Networking and sharing stories

"How to" sessions Legal, legislative, and grassroots actions. Actual on-site voter registration, petition writing, phone banking

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

FOR INFORMATION PLEASE CALL 518 253 7533.

Read now!

Monday, July 02, 2007

July 2007

Dear Reader,

The most important thing I have to say to you is PLEASE be sure you are registered to vote, and be sure everyone you know is also registered. Please read article #12 for more information. Voting is the first and most important step in making the changes we seek.

As we prepare to go to press I’m sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear if Governor Spitzer has signed into law the successful bills we supported! Call him, tell him you vote, and help him make up his mind (#3) We’re also waiting for a decision in the Parole Case, Graziano v. Pataki. It’s been postponed again, this time to July 20. The outcome will determine whether the case can go forward as a Class Action suit. The court is open to the public. I’m going; why don’t you join me? (#5).

We hope you'll listen to some of the interesting interviews scheduled in July: Roland Acevedo, Merv Otero, and Glenn Martin (#6).

The Family Empowerment Day Project will present Family Empowerment Day on October 20, 2007 at Columbia Law School (#1). Please save the date and spread the word!

Please share your copy of Building Bridges. Have a wonderful day!



Articles

1. Family Empowerment Project - Date and place and theme set for Family Empowerment Day 3.

2. Job Opportunities and Internships Available at the C.A. - Three positions are open, and several internships.

3. Major Legal Victories - Three bills we’ve been supporting passed through both houses of the State Legislature and will become law unless Gov. Spitzer vetoes them. Call him!

4. Merit Time - A committee has formed to look over the 5 existing merit time bills and try to come up with one all of us can support. We want your input.

5. Never Say Never - a collection of poems and short stories tells about falling in love and staying in love with incarcerated men and celebrates these committed relationships against tremendous obstacles.

6. Parole - Updates on Graziano v. Pataki; the Otisville Lifers Broadband Support; reports on June's parole hearings; and a wife’s report on the pain of a parole denial.

7. Prison Radio - Roland Acevido, Merv Otero, and Glenn Martin will all be heard in July.

8. Reconciliation and Reentry--A True Story of Heroism - Sixteen years after taking a life, Ramon saves one.

9. Square Fetter - The last installment in our 6 part serialization of the vignette by James E. Morse.

10. Support Meetings - You have lots of company if you want it.

11. Telephone Justice - Pack the courtroom for another round of oral arguments on Friday, July 6th at 10:30am at the New York State Supreme Court in Troy, NY to demonstrate how important this lawsuit is for families.

12. Transportation to Prisons - Cheap or free, weekends or weekdays.

13. Voter Registration is Important! - THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE FOR THE 2007 PRIMARY ELECTION IS AUGUST 24TH (that’s next month, folks!) Do you need to re-register?

14. What’s Happening Around New York State - In Buffalo, Prisoners Are People Too! will be showing, “Condemned: Life Behind Bars,” and hosting Odessa Hunter, a NYS CO for 17 years. In NYC the Family Empowerment Project continues to move forward with preparations for FED3. Voter registration is the first step.

15. Words from Inside - In "Warehousing of Lifers in Medium Facilities" Hector Millan writes: "visits are no longer 7 days a week, they are now weekend visits only... family ties suffer."

16. Words from Ramon - No matter what anyone says, we do have a voice and we count.

17. Work Release - Keep those signatures coming. We're at 1,119!

18. Building Bridges Subscription Drive. - PAN Membership donations are what keep this newsletter alive. Please use this flyer to help us raise funds to pay for printing and postage.



1. FAMILY EMPOWERMENT PROJECT
Family Empowerment Day 3 will take place on October 20, 2007 at Columbia Law School in NYC from 10am - 3pm. The theme will be Education for Empowerment, focussing on voter education, learning your rights (when dealing with police, criminal justice system, etc.), petition and letter writing campaigns, and suggestions from successful grassroots campaigns. Save the date, and we’ll give more details as we get closer.


2. JOB OPPORTUNITIES AND INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE AT THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION
With Jaya leaving the position, the Women in Prison Project is looking for a new Project Associate.  There is also an opening in the Prison Visiting Project for a project associate, and a full time Development Associate position.  For details visit the CA website: www.correctionalassociation.org or if you don’t have access to a computer write Tamar Kraft-Stolar at the Correctional Association, 135 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003.

Internships are available with all CA projects. For more information, contact the Project Directors:
Women in Prison Project: Tamar Kraft-Stolar,212-254-5700 ext. 306
Juvenile Justice Project: Mishi Faruqee, 212-254-5700 ext. 315
Prison Visiting Project: Jack Beck, 212-254-5700 ext. 310
Public Policy Project: Robert Gangi, 212-254-5700 ext. 305

The Correctional Association is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.


3. MAJOR LEGAL VICTORIES
There is no disputing that it was our efforts over the years, and particularly in the last few weeks, that got these bills not only moved out of committee, but passed by both houses of our State Legislature. It was our calls and our letters, and our noise that won us these victories! So never doubt the power of the people to create positive change. It may take patience as well as hard work and time, but we can be successful. Congratulations to all of us!! And note that there is still work to be done before we can actually taste the success - we must call Governor Spitzer and urge him to sign these bills into law. (See more at the end of this article.)

FAMILY CONNECTIONS BILL (S705) Passes in Both Houses!!
This bill says, in part, that telephone services contracts for inmates in state correctional facilities shall be subject to the procurement provisions as set forth in article eleven of the state finance law provided, however, that when determining the best value of such telephone service, the lowest possible cost to the telephone user shall be emphasized. The department shall make available either a "prepaid" or "collect call" system, or a combination thereof, for telephone service. Under the "prepaid" system, funds may be deposited into an account in order to pay for station-to-station calls, provided that nothing in this subdivision shall require the department to provide or administer a prepaid system. Under a "collect call" system, call recipients are billed for the cost of an accepted telephone call initiated by an inmate. Under such "collect call" system, the provider of inmate telephone service, as an additional means of payment, must permit the recipient of inmate calls to establish an account with such provider in order to deposit funds to pay for such collect calls in advance.

MEDICAID BILL (S5875) Passes!
The bill passed both the Senate and the Assembly! It permits a person who is incarcerated in a state or local correctional facility and who was receiving medical assistance pursuant to law prior to being incarcerated, to remain eligible for such medical assistance while in prison, except that no medical assistance shall be furnished during the time such person is incarcerated. Now it's on to the Governor to sign into law. We urge all readers who are able, to please call the Governor's office right away (see below).

SHU BILL (S.333B/A.4870C) Also Passed!
This bill which prevents people with psychiatric disabilities from being placed in solitary confinement in New York State prisons, was vetoed last year by Governor Pataki after passing in both houses.  Many of us voted for Eliot Spitzer just because we thought he was more humane and would sign this bill into law if in office. Now he’s in office and has publicly stated he will veto it because is cost prohibitive. We don’t agree. If you don’t agree, please call him and tell him so.

FINAL STEP: CALL THE GOVERNOR! to express your support for these bills and ask him to sign them all into law: 518-474-8390 or click here.

If you’ve never called an elected official before it’s quite interesting and not at all unpleasant. You will be talking to an assistant, often the person who answers the phone. Tell the person your name and zip code and then the Name and Number of the bill or bills you’re calling about. (If I get a chance I like to tell them why I think this is an important bill, because often the assistant seems not to know anything about it. I don’t worry about sounding smart or being right. I just explain the real reason I am making this call, as if I was talking to you. I allow myself to stammer and get emotional. But I always remain polite and I always assume the person calling will pass my message on, and that the governor or senator or assembly person will do the right thing. I talk as if we’re on the same wavelength. Who knows? Maybe at heart we are. Maybe all they need is to know it’s safe for their careers to support this measure.) Give it a try and see for yourself how exhilarating it can be! Let us know.


4. MERIT TIME
A committee has formed to try to make sense of the five Merit Time bills currently under consideration. We want to design one bill that unites all of the good points in these bills and eliminates all the parts that would harm our cause, so that all supporters of merit time will be able to join together to get the bill passed. We expect some compromises will be needed in order to get it passed, but let’s at least start with a bill we all agree with. We want to include you in the process. Please write or call us with your suggestions. Address and phone # appear in the footer below.


5. NEVER SAY NEVER, a collection of poems and short stories
Never Say Never; A Dedication to Love Beyond the Walls, is by Susan Goins-Castro, Rhonda L. Harris, and R.Y. Willingham. It tells about the unpredictability of love, falling in love and staying in love. Three women marry incarcerated men and share how they celebrate these committed relationships against tremendous obstacles. The book offers a glimpse of a life that is often isolating, sometimes lonely and seclusive; but continues to thrive and prosper. Love does indeed conquer all. Love is far-reaching and attainable even in the unlikeliest of places. The voices of these women tell beautiful stories of finding love beyond physical barriers. --Eddie Castro

[To order a copy, send $12.95 + $2.19 for shipping to A5 Books, PO Box 220, Stony Point, NY 10980]

6. PAROLE
GRAZIANO VS. PATAKI
Robert Isseks, lead attorney, reports that the June 22nd oral argument was adjourned to July 20th. The oral argument is open to the public. It will be at 11:00 a.m. on the second floor in Courtroom 218 of the United States Courthouse at 300 Quarropas Street, White Plains. Call PAN’s office a couple of days before to make sure it’s not been postponed again.

OTISVILLE BROADBAND PAROLE SUPPORT INITIATIVE
This month’s featured parole hearing is that of Loflin Jackson (DIN 93A2234). Loflin came to America from Jamaica when he was 11. His family believed in discipline and good work ethics and Loflin was a model student through Jr. High. He began to work, in a barber shop, at 11 and as he got older in the restaurant business. When he was 19 he suffered a car accident and could no longer work. That’s when he became fascinated with the street life and after-hours partying and hanging out. It was a short distance from there to robbing an illegal gambling front with his new friends and when he was shot by the victim, fear and panic caused him to fire blindly, killing the man. He was sentenced to 15 to Life. Now 34, Mr. Jackson has returned to his religion, and feels deep remorse for his crime. The Otisville Lifers tell us; “As his peers we have seen the pain and change in Loflin. We urge you to please support Loflin’s release by writing a brief letter of support to: Mr. George Alexander, Chair, NYS Div of Parole, 97 Central Ave, Albany NY 12206 or calling him 518 473 9548, and Mr. James Cassel, Sr. Parole Officer, Otisville C. F., PO Box 8, Otisville, NY 10963, 845 386 1490 x1135.”

His list of accomplishments is too long to print here; if you want to know more, please contact Loflin Jackson. He is a graduate of the New York Theological Seminary Certificate in Ministry Program, has acquired a Food Handlers Cert. and skills in upholstery, furniture making, sewing, welding and is studying plumbing and heating. Your editor can personally attest to his artistic skills. I once received a card from the Lifer’s Group that Mr. Jackson had designed and constructed, and it was worthy of a place in an art museum.

PAROLE STATISTICS:
AT OTISVILLE, 16 people were to see the board, 13 appearances and 3 merit board (papers only). Of the total 16, 11 had life. Of the 11 with life, 8 were released. 1 @ his 6th board; 1 @ 4th board; 2 @ 3rd board; 2 @ 2nd board; 2 @ 1st board. Of the 8 lifers, 7 had violent felonies and 1 had a nonviolent. There were also 2 deportations. You get the picture. It was a fairly good month at Otisville! Congratulations to all the men who are going home. We wish them well.

AT GROVELAND since January (2007), twelve [12] Lifers have appeared before the Parole Board. Two have been released, one a homicide on his second board, the other a persistent felon on his first. It hasn’t been a good year for the men at Groveland who were hoping to go home.

AT FISHKILL, long time lifer Jerry Balone was finally released on his 7th board. His release should give encouragement to thousands of prisoners who have given up hope of ever being released.

PAROLE DENIALS HURT! [We received the following letter from the wife of a man who got hit:]
At my husband J's recent parole hearing, the commissioners were VERY, VERY impressed with him and all that he has done.  They read the information packet we prepared for the hearing INSIDE AND OUT.  They went over almost every detail in it and were amazed at how excellent it all was; from his college degrees to his work history; from his parole release plans to all of the support letters.  HOWEVER, the main commissioner told him they had to weigh the seriousness of crime against all of this.
 
J. told me they also commended me for my love, work and devotion to him, etc.  As well, the commissioners were amazed at all the support letters he received.  To those of you who sent in letters of support, we thank you SO MUCH.   For your love and prayers, we thank you very much too.
 
While I'm thrilled the commissioners read the information and support letters, as well as acknowledging my husband's remorse, rehabilitation, accomplishments, etc., I ultimately can't believe they didn't give him a chance.  If you knew him you’d have trouble believing it also. In fact, some of his fellow inmates had said to him, "If you don't get out, we don't stand a chance."
 
In any case, the main commissioner told my husband that he (J.) was making his (the commissioner's) decision difficult.  Upon reflecting on that statement, it sounds to me as if that commissioner went in there with the intent to deny my husband parole.  However, when he met and spoke with J. at length he probably had to rethink his decision.  That's the impression I got.  In any case, that's now in the past.
 
The hearing ran for more than a half hour, which is considered unusual according to some inmates who spoke with my husband after his hearing.  I've heard that the hearings usually last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.  J. was so emotionally exhausted after his hearing and then to get this denial!?  Unbelievable! While my husband and I were both well aware of the strong possibility that he could get hit with two more years, it still hit us like a massive tidal wave.  We're angry, devastated and extremely sad about this decision, of course.  Our next step, once we get past all of these feelings, is to appeal the parole board's decision.  I believe appeals usually take a year or more.  By then, my husband will be getting ready for his next hearing.  That being the case, we're still planning on giving it all we got.

In closing, I want to return to the statement that was made to J. by his fellow inmates: 'If you don't get out, we don't stand a chance.'  In my opinion, this is a heart-wrenching statement, filled with hopelessness.  For those of you who believe this when comparing yourself to another inmate, I URGE YOU, don't give up; don't lose heart.  Continue to be faithful to yourselves on your road to rehabilitation.  I don't know what the future holds for me and my husband, and I certainly don't know what the future holds for each of you.  But, again, try to take heart and persevere.  And more importantly, try not to compare yourselves with others.  You never know who could be released.  It could just be you.  Praying for each of you that you may return home soon, M.


7. PRISON RADIO
AL LEWIS LIVES, hosted by Karen Lewis, broadcasts on Saturdays from noon to 1:30 pm on WBAI, 99.5 FM, NYC. Much of July will be devoted to fund raising.

THE FANCY BROCCOLI SHOW: On July 1st the guest on the show will be ROLAND ACEVEDO, a formerly incarcerated person who has since won the right to practice law in NYS. We will hear his personal story and his take on some current legal issues. On July 15th it will be MERV OTERO. Fancy Broccoli airs on WVKR, 91.3FM, Poughkeepsie NY. on Sundays from 3 - 6 pm, Eastern Time, and streams online - go to WVKR.org and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'.

DEMOCRACY NOW!, with Amy Goodman, also airs on WBAI - 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 www.justicepages.org

VOICES FROM THE PRISON ACTION NETWORK: In July you’ll be able to hear an interview with GLENN MARTIN, co-director of the National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center, a national organization focusing on job opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. Available on a new site that might be easier for you to access: hmimc.swapspace.com. It’s also still available at www.radio4all.net, where it is podcast.


8. RECONCILIATION AND REENTRY - A TRUE STORY OF HEROISM
The connection between the following and Reconciliation is that the event described happened at a facility where there has been a lot of committed work on forgiveness and reconciliation by the Lifers Organization, in preparation for their reentry into society. Your editor feels this is no coincidence. The story:

At about 1 pm on Monday I was taking a break from work and smoking a cigarette outside a different building than usual. On a nearby hill I could see outside contractors digging a trench with an excavator.

Suddenly I heard a shout from their direction: “Hey! Hold it! HOLD IT!!, then “HELP!!!” When I looked up I saw the escort officer running up the hill towards the trench. I yelled to the other inmates working with me, and we ran up the hill where we saw a civilian whose legs were pinned by a very large section of shifting earth which had slid downhill to pin him in. The CO was asking the pinned man, who was in a ditch about seven feet deep and now eighteen inches wide (rather than the four feet it originally was), if he was ok. The excavator operator was yelling, “What do I DO?!!” I instructed him to place the large digging claw between the shifting earth and the trench wall that was stable. This ensured that the man did not get crushed. Once the claw was in place, another inmate and I jumped in and began digging with our bare hands. The man was trapped up to his thighs, one leg deeper than the other. Holding him in was dirt and rock. For twenty or twenty-five minutes we dug and were only able to get one leg free. Then, having been told that there was a man trapped, the civilians I work for came running out to help. The other inmate and I were told we had to get out of the hole; that we could not be there. By this time the escort officer had called in the incident and a medical team had arrived to evaluate the civilian when taken out. With adrenaline coursing through my veins I refused to get out and stop digging until someone else took my place. Two civilians said they would take our places and dig. The other inmate and I were pulled out and they were lowered in. Approximately 15 minutes later the man was extracted to a round of applause and congratulations. The three of us were taken to the hospital. He is fine, and so are we. I am being called a hero.

I was denied release at my parole hearing in May. I’m now choosing to believe a Higher Power made sure I was still here so that I could save this man’s life. At any rate I WAS there, I acted without regard for myself and I saved his life. Now I feel an internal balance. Sixteen years ago I took a life that wasn’t mine to take. Sixteen years later I saved a man’s life that I was in place to save. -- Ramon Gonzalez


9. THE SQUARE FETTER © Copyright by James E. Morse 2005. [This is the last installment in our 6 part serialization.]

From a nearby fetter, there came the words from an old recording that, to his ear, teemed with nostalgic appeal. The lyrics typified how, in the vacuum of time, strange things proliferate. The song—commencing with a grotesquely melodious guitar riff—celebrated the majestic durations of time.  The  tap,  tap cadence of  the  phantom gavel merged with the incessant timing of the song’s cowbell beat. The melody swung with a relentless 4/4 syncopation:

“Time has come today—TIME!
Young hearts can go their way—TIME!”

The lyrics were reminiscent of happy faces. Sunshine faces in other times and places. Carefree times, seemingly timeless. Receding memories of laughter, now with no time for reprise, renewal, no time for recurrence. For Jones, there were no tomorrows—only fading memories of yesterday. Only the tap, tap timing of the inescapable now.

A thick spider’s web was suspended in the corner above the stinking toilet. A green and red insect lay sepulchrally enclosed within dense, filmy webbing. Like Jones, the insect was trapped in the fetters of Malus Chronos—perpetually enclosed in the relentless grasp of Bad Times.

   “Now the time has come—TIME!
   There’s no place to run—TIME!
I might get burned up by the sun—TIME!
   But I had my fun—TIME!
  I’ve been loved and put aside—TIME!
  I’ve been crushed by tumbling tide—TIME!
   And my soul has been psychedelicized—TIME!”*

Jones groaned in despair. He turned away from the fluttering spider’s web, from Prudence on the wall. He rose from the floor and stood gazing through the little window in the iron gate, no longer tormented by the tap, tap rapping in the depths of his soul. Hours later when night shadows engulfed the square fetter, the iron gate abruptly lurched open.

Jones fled from his memories.

THE END.

Lyrics from ‘Time Has Come Today’ (1967) by the Chambers Brothers. [A hand crafted, illustrated edition of the book is available for $4 through Prison Action Network]


10. 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: 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.


11. TELEPHONE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN
While we achieved a major victory in the passage of Bill S.3335 which would prevent future administrations from renewing harmful - to us - telephone contracts, there still is a pending lawsuit that could reimburse those who've been harmed in the past. Here’s something you can do to support our cause:

Walton v. NYSDOCS, CCR's civil lawsuit which could become a class action suit and result in damages for families, has to go through another round of oral arguments on Friday, July 6th at 10:30am at the New York State Supreme Court in Troy, NY.  We need to pack the courthouse to demonstrate how important this lawsuit is for families, regardless of the victories we've had this year!  Please mark your calendars and let Lauren know if you are willing/able to come out to show your support of this case! lauren melodia | center for constitutional rights | 666 broadway 7th floor | ny ny 10012 | 212.614.6481


12. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS

From the Capital District:

The NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow CFs on Sat, Jul 7 ($30 adults, $20 children), Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson CFs on Sun, Jul 15 ($15  adults and $10 children), from Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, Troy at 7 AM, and Albany Greyhound bus station at 7:15. Trip to Utica (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida CFs) on Sat, Jul 21, and Sullivan Hub (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan CFs) on Sat, Jul 28 leaving at 5 AM ($40 adults, $25 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.

Door to door, free rides are offered from Albany to prisons within 150 miles by volunteers of FUUSA’s Justice Committee on weekdays only. Please contact us at 518 253-7533 if you need a ride.


13. VOTER REGISTRATION
If we want to be taken seriously when we advocate for bills and for changes we need to be registered voters. And if you aren’t eligible to vote, you can register others. So please get involved. Call or write us for The Bronx Defenders voter brochure, which explains the process. Members with email will find it attached.

If you haven’t voted in the past 4 years your registration has probably lapsed, and you will likely experience difficulty casting a regular ballot at the polls. It’s best to re-register! (Conditional ballots are not always counted.) If you’ve moved since you last voted, it’s also wise to re-register. This is especially important if you sign any petitions, because any inconsistencies can be used to invalidate your signature.

To register to vote you must mail or deliver your completed registration form to the Board of elections at least 25 days before the next election.

THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE FOR THE 2007 PRIMARY ELECTION IS AUGUST 24TH (that’s next month, folks!). Only enrolled party members can vote in the primary election. Party members who help nominate candidates by signing petitions and voting in the primary have greater political clout than non-enrolled voters who can vote only in the general election. Also, you are not obligated to vote for your party’s candidate in the general election. In November you can vote for any candidate from any party.

The deadline for registering to vote in the General election is October 12.

ANYONE WHO IS A U.S. CITIZEN, WHO WILL BE 18 OR OLDER BY ELECTION DAY, AND HAS COMPLETED THEIR SENTENCE FOR A FELONY CONVICTION IS ELIGIBLE TO REGISTER AND VOTE IN NEW YORK STATE.

If you’re not eligible to vote, you can still register people to vote and have even more impact than if you simply voted. Everyone who wants to change the laws that oppress us SHOULD get involved in registering voters. It’s our most powerful tool. You may think it doesn’t make a difference, but that’s only because so many people DON’T VOTE and don’t get EDUCATED about the issues.


14. WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND NEW YORK STATE

BUFFALO AREA:
PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO! is a justice advocacy program that meets monthly on selected Mondays in Buffalo at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street from 6:30-8:30pm. Each meeting features a documentary film related to some prison issue, and one or more guest speakers who address that issue.

At its next meeting on Monday, July 23, 2007, PRP2!’s guest speaker will be native Buffalonian, Odessa Hunter, who has worked as a New York State Correction Officer for 17 years. She is also well-known and well-respected for her volunteerism in the Buffalo community. Officer Hunter will share information about the guidelines and challenges of her job.

Preceding Officer Hunter’s presentation, PRP2! will screen the documentary film, “Condemned: Life Behind Bars,” a History Channel production that takes a “...hard-hitting look at the sad state of America’s penal system...that does little, if anything to prepare [prisoners] for a return to society.”

Prisoners Are People Too! will meet next month on August 27.  Film and guest speaker(s) TBA.

METROPOLITAN NYC:
THE FAMILY EMPOWERMENT PROJECT’S GENERAL MEETING met on Monday June 11. Maggie Williams, from the Voter Enfranchisement Project at The Bronx Defenders was our main presenter. It was much too detailed and rich to be able to summarize adequately. But she left us with a 3-fold brochure "NYC Voters' Bill of Rights" which answers a lot of questions people might not even think to ask. We will have them available at future meetings for those who were absent. Some of the points she made :

* Voter registration forms need to be complete and legible because our opposition will try to discredit as many as they can. (We will do the same with theirs...) So it's not a bad idea for us to fill them out for the person, by asking the questions and very legibly - printing if possible - filling in the answers.

* We want to ask everyone the same questions about their eligibility to vote, so no one thinks we're singling them out by appearance to ask certain questions like if they're a citizen or if they've completed a felony sentence.

* People need to register a] if they've never registered before, b] if they've changed their address since they registered, c] if they've changed their name, and one I never knew before: d] if they haven't voted in 4 years.

Did you know people without a permanent address can register to vote? Yes, people can list an address of a relative or a service provider located in the neighborhood in which they want to vote. The address they give will determine the location of their assigned polling site, so it's important they pick out a convenient place.

As an independent group, not incorporated as a non-profit, we have the freedom to endorse candidates if we feel strongly about someone, which gives us a unique position among advocacy groups.

Members took voter registration forms when they left and committed to register at least 10 people.

Along with a new name, (we were formerly known as the Coalition of Family and Community) we also formalized our Mission Statement:

The goal of the Family Empowerment Project of the Prison Action Network is to bring together and empower families, communities and individuals impacted by the high rate of incarceration in New York State and the abusive parole practices of the NYS Division of Parole. Through the use of effective social, educational and political actions we intend to build a power base strong enough to effect change, restore fairness to the parole eligibility process and improve the quality of life of individuals and communities affected.

If you would like to join the Family Empowerment Project, please call 518 253-7533 for more information.


15. WORDS FROM INSIDE

Warehousing of Lifers in Medium Facilities

Due to the current parole board policy of repeatedly denying parole release to people with violent offenses and specifically those with murder charges, more lifers are now in medium security prison than ever before. In many cases, Lifers are doing the equivalent of “max time” (10 years or more) in Mediums. These Mediums are becoming warehouses for Lifers.

Once Lifers are transferred to a Medium they are subjected to medium security restrictions, hence visits are no longer seven days a week, they are now weekend visits only and due to the split visiting procedure at most medium facilities, that means one visit per week; the same visiting schedule as Special Housing Unit (SHU) inmates. Because of these restrictions, family ties for Lifers suffer. Due to the time, distance, and costs spent getting to each facility, only to spend a few hours, family resources are stretched thin and in many cases connections are severed.

Medium security prisons were originally designed and intended primarily as conduits for release back into society. While there, inmates could reestablish and strengthen family ties, because they were often closer to home. They were never meant to be warehouses for inmates to spend decades doing time. Most Lifers were parents with small children when arrested; those children are now parents themselves. Many Lifers lost out on parenting, and must get to know their children all over again, and for some, their grandchildren. The lack of visits is an obstacle to the bonding of family

Reintegration into society is always difficult for someone coming out of prison and those difficulties are compounded when considering how much time a Lifer has done. To face these difficulties with little or no family support makes this a challenge that is almost insurmountable. Focusing on strengthening family ties for Lifers betters their chances at remaining in society while becoming an active productive, and most importantly, a law abiding citizen of society. We need to work towards having the seven day visit schedule, work release and education transfers re-instituted into the DOCS.
- Hector Millan

[Editor’s note: Mr. Millan included a sample letter to the governor which PAN would be glad to send you upon request: prisonaction@hotmail.com]


16. WORDS FROM RAMON
Greetings from Otisville where the Lifers and Long Termers Organization is in full swing. On June 11th we held our first general membership meeting, laid down our objectives and created our goals.

Those present suggested we commit to involving families; begin voter education and registration to our families and friends; start awareness and education initiatives; and try to secure celebrity voices to speak on our issues.

New members joined the Tuesday Think Tank and began work on what may soon become our boldest endeavor; one spanning law, the judiciary and politics. We are in the fact finding stages, but if all goes well we will call on you individually as well as your organization, group, network or coalition to join us.

No matter what anyone says, we do have a voice and we count. It’s up to us - it’s up to you - to make sure to speak clearly and be counted when it’s time. Stay the course with the Otisville Lifers and Long-Termers Organization!


17. WORK RELEASE UPDATE
In June, PAN received 48 more signatures on the Work Release Petition, bringing the total to 1119!! We’ve had requests for more petitions, so there’s no reason to doubt we’ll eventually reach our goal of 2500.
[By the way, Rosie Perez, author of the petition, is not the celebrity of the same name, as some of you have mistakenly assumed. She apologizes for the confusion her name causes.]


18. Membership Drive
PRISON ACTION NETWORK PROVIDES THE FOLLOWING FLYER WHICH WE HOPE YOU WILL USE TO PROMOTE OUR MEMBERSHIP DRIVE.


Please copy and distribute to those who care:


BUILDING BRIDGES
the monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network
For people who believe we can make a difference!

CONNECTS YOU WITH OTHERS INTERESTED IN
issues affecting incarcerated people and their families
opportunities to work with others for positive change


NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT
A yearly donation of $12 to Prison Action Network brings you a year's subscription to Building Bridges. (We also invite donations to cover the memberships of those who can't afford $12.)*

INVITES YOUR SUBMISSIONS
We publish informational and educational articles of no more than 350 words (some exceptions are made), and reserve the right to edit them before publication. Our editorial policy: No whining, no blaming; let the facts speak for themselves.


APPRECIATES YOU
Sincere thanks to all of you who have expressed appreciation and made donations, and especially for being part of the population that seeks information and understands that change only comes with hard work. We are honored to join with you in the struggle.

*Checks may be made out to Prison Action Network and sent to: PAN, H-M IMC, PO Box 35, Troy NY 12181

Read now!