Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

February 2008 Edition

Please scroll down to get to the Building Bridges monthly newsletter.

Following are latebreaking announcements posted as they arrive on our desk.


THURSDAY FEBRUARY 13-

The time for change is NOW! Now is the pivotal time for public defense reform in New York.

This Saturday as part of the NYS Black and Puerto Rican Legislators Conference, the Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission is holding a workshop on the status of defense services in NY. We really need your support at this event! We need to show the members of the legislature that their constituents do care about justice for people of low income.

Saturday, February 16th
2:00- 4:00 pm
Meeting Room 2, Legislative Office Building (Albany)

Katie Blackburn
Community Organizer
Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission
New York State Defenders Justice Fund
194 Washington Ave, Suite 500
Albany, NY 12210

Phone: 518-465-0519
Fax: 518-465-0520

----------------------

BEGUN IN 2001—IT’S TIME FOR ANOTHER----
CRIMINAL JUSTICE DINNER AND SOIREE

HOSTED BY Alison, Jay and Cecily Coleman; Jonathan Gradess; Tom Keefe;
Gavin Cook; Demi McGuire; Bill Reagan; Charles LaCourt; Ed Guider;
Amy and George Oliveras, David Kaczynski; Vera Michelson

Thursday, February 21, 2008, 6-9pm
40 North Main Avenue, The Pastoral Center
Albany NY

NO SPEECHES, NO AWARDS
JUST SCINTILLATING CONVERSATION ABOUT PROGRESSIVE CRIMINAL JUSTICE
(NO TALK ABOUT THE FLU, RECENT SURGERIES OR BAD WEATHER!!)

$22 PER PERSON FOR A WONDERFUL BUFFET

ADVANCE PAYMENT REQUIRED—SEND CHECK MADE OUT TO “PRISON FAMILIES OF NEW YORK” TO ALISON COLEMAN AT PRISON FAMILIES OF NEW YORK (PFNY), 40 NORTH MAIN AVENUE, ALBANY 12203—INCLUDE A SCHOLARSHIP FOR A PRISON FAMILY MEMBER TO ATTEND, IF YOU CAN.

OR CALL 518-453-6659 TO MAKE OTHER ARRANGEMENTS.
HEADCOUNT NEEDED BY 2/13/08

· MEET CRIMINAL JUSTICE MOVERS AND SHAKERS
· MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS USING THE TRIED AND TRUE “SCHMOOZE AND TABLE HOP METHOD"
· BEGIN NEW PROJECTS
· RELAX!!!!!!!!!




MONDAY FEBRUARY 11-

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED - General Counsel for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the world's largest for-profit private prison corporation, being confirmed as a Federal judge‏ Tuesday February 12.

Sent to Building Bridges by ICARE

How do you like the idea of Gustavus A. Puryear IV, the General Counsel for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the world's largest for-profit private prison corporation, being confirmed as a Federal judge--in the very same judicial district in which CCA is headquartered, and in which over 400 cases against CCA or CCA employees have been filed?

You can help help stop this! Call today (202-224-7703) or send a fax (202-224-9516) to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings this Tuesday, February 12, and tell them you unconditionally oppose this profound judicial conflict of interest.

Information about Gustavus A. Puryear IV, including specifics about why this would be an egregious miscarriage of justice, is available at www.againstpuryear.org.

NEW YORK SENATOR ON THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Charles E. Schumer
D-NEW YORK

313 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-6542
Web Form



FEBRUARY 5-

Date: 02/05/2008
Office: Bruno
Title: SENATE TAKES ACTION TO STOP SKYROCKETING INCREASE IN VIOLENT CRIMINAL PAROLE RELEASE RATES

We urge you to read this alarming article and then start calling and writing your representatives, giving them reasoned requests to oppose this legislation when it comes before them for a vote.

click here to read




BUILDING BRIDGES FEBRUARY 2008

Dear Reader,

We've been experiencing something new, the return home of many of PAN'S most politically awake incarcerated members. While in prison many complain about the lack of motivation among the population, and how only a few are fighting for the rights and betterment of all. And then when released we never hear from them again.

This is not a criticism; this is just a fact that we need to acknowledge. In the real world, which includes both sides of the wall, most people choose to lay back and let others do the hard work of trying to make life better for all of us. Only when conditions get so bad that people feel the choice is die or fight do we find mass demonstrations and actions against the forces that oppose our welfare. But by that stage of desperation, it often becomes a violent struggle, and many people get killed. And it's always our side that suffers the most casualties, and most times we lose the battle. I do not observe that violence ever solved anything. In fact, it is to prevent violence that I do this work.

All I am saying is that after a person comes home, the number of people on the outside who are fighting for change doesn't significantly increase. Yes! certainly there are men and women who stay involved and continue to struggle for the ones they left behind. But the difficulties of transition can be all-consuming. There is little time for involvement in causes other than finding a job, a home, and a way to put food in one's mouth. So I'm not sitting here judging the people who can't continue to work with us when they come home. But I am calling upon their families to get involved in more than just their personal battles. They are not the only one in prison who is needed in the community and it is in our joint interest here on the outside to bring everyone who truly deserves it, back home.

This is especially important if you come from upstate communities. NYC is represented at all levels by some of the best progressive thinkers in the State. It's upstate where we need more enlightened politicians, as I learned so well at the Nozzolio hearings on 1/15 (see report below). In order to create any significant changes in our welfare we need to change the makeup of our legislature; minds have to be changed, and politicians who can't change theirs have to be replaced. So readers who come from upstate: it is vitally important that you make sure you are registered to vote, and that you vote for those who support our issues. If you need support or help with that, please contact Prison Action Network


IN THIS ISSUE:

Fear of Appearing "Soft on Crime"

Report on the Nozzolio Hearing

Anti-Parole Backlash follows Nozzolio Hearing

How do We Respond to The Backlash?

Consider the Following Regarding our Response Options

Parole Releases in January

Prison Closings; Nozzolio holds 1/30 hearing, read Commissioner Brian Fischer’s written testimony

Prisons and Their Impact on the Rural NYS Economy

As Sonny Rudert Sees It

Entrepreneurship for the Formerly Incarcerated

Other Criminal Justice Publications: Justice:Denied

Prison Radio Interviews

100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, now on NYC live call in show

Telephone Justice Campaign Update

Support Meetings (so you don’t have do the time alone)

Transportation to Prisons (the options)

What's Happening Around New York State

Women in Prison


FEAR OF APPEARING "SOFT ON CRIME" WHY IS ELIOT SPITZER, ALONG WITH MANY OF OUR LEGISLATORS, SO AFRAID WHEN INDEED THE POLICIES AND PRACTICES LABELED AS "SOFT ON CRIME" ARE ACTUALLY STATISTICALLY SHOWN TO REDUCE CRIME?

Eliot Spitzer did not mention criminal justice issues in his State of the State address on Tuesday Jan 9, despite getting elected on a progressive platform with key criminal justice issues. Of what or whom is he afraid? Why is he, along with many of our legislators, so afraid to appear "soft on crime", when indeed the policies and practices labeled as "soft on crime" are actually statistically shown to reduce crime, and there is a growing recognition of this among the public? We imagine the answer can be found by following the money. I don't blame the governor; I think he's up against a power he thought he could overwhelm, but it's perhaps more difficult than he thought. If I'm right then we need to find out how best to give him support. J.B.



REPORT ON THE HEARING TO EXAMINE THE INCREASE IN PAROLE RELEASE RATES FOR VIOLENT FELONS IN THE NEW YORK CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM, CALLED BY SENATOR NOZZOLIO AND THE SENATE CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTIONS COMMITTEE

Prison Action Members sat through this painful event, and found ourselves taking sides with the very bureaucrats we’ve been struggling against for so long. The primary questioners on the committee side were Senators Nozzolio, Alesi, Golden, Volker, and Winner, Jr.. Our ally, Senator Montgomery, arrived late and didn't address the topic but used the occasion to publicize her current focus, the reincarceration of her constituents for minor parole violations, and Sen. Eric Adams suggested parole commissioners be monitored for the recidivism rates of those people they had voted to release to see if there was a pattern of poor judgment on anyone's part. An idea we like. He also heroically suggested that parole release rates might have increased because the three people before them were doing a better job of following the law! However the bulk of the questions from the committee were an all out attack on the performance of the heads of the state criminal justice agencies, Denise O’Donnell of DCJS, George Alexander of Division of Parole, and Brian Fischer of DOCS. In several comments it was made clear that the attitudes and thinking of progressives from NYC and other large cities in NY were suspect, and not seen to reflect the needs of “our people” who were painted as vulnerable folks at the mercy of returning murderers bent on continued harmdoing. All in all it was a transparent attempt to influence the parole board to break the law and never release any violent A-1 offenders. After the hearing we heard Nozzolio telling a reporter the Committee would get to the bottom of this, and when they did, they would issue a corrective. Are they hoping to change the law?



ANTI-PAROLE BACKLASH - NEW YORK MEDIA MAKERS ARE HAVING A FEEDING FRENZY FOLLOWING THE NOZZOLIO HEARINGS. GOV. SPITZER, WHOM WE HAVE CRITICIZED FOR NOT DOING ENOUGH TO RELEASE COMMUNITY READY INDIVIDUALS, IS ACCUSED OF UNLATCHING THE PRISON DOORS!

Reporters are going to great lengths to fan the public’s disappointment with Spitzer into full-out rage. Peppering their sentences with emotion laden words like killer, cop-killer, and murderer these articles fuel the fears of the vulnerable. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican State Senator and ex-police officer, is reported saying we're no longer safe in our homes because of the increased release rates! (Hello Brooklyn! Can you please get to the polls and elect someone else? Please?)

If you missed the articles, the titles tell all:
215 convicted killers were set free in Spitzer's first year as governor (the hard copy had the title, “Scum, Walk This Way”, but it doesn’t appear on the web editions; maybe it was too much even for some Daily News editors to live with) by Joe Mahoney and Thomas Zambito, Daily News staff writers

Jail 'Sickos' Go Free By Brendan Scott (about a proposal by the Spitzer administration to release seriously ill and incapacitated inmates, saving the taxpayers $5.4 million a year!)

Plan to Close Prisons Stirs Anxiety in Rural Towns - New York Times Sunday 1/27 issue - even though not vicious, and with legitimate concerns, this article too seems part of the stream of negative responses. Certainly justice loving people must feel concern for the people whose livelihoods depend on prisons, but that is not enough to justify denying deserving people their freedom, especially when there are economic responses to the anxiety which would benefit all.



HOW DO WE RESPOND?  READERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ISSUE CALM APPEALS TO JUSTICE, SAFETY, AND THE LAW THROUGH LETTERS AND FACE TO FACE MEETINGS.

It’s worth responding to articles such as the above, as long as we avoid rising to their bait. We definitely need to write our newspapers. And our state representatives. But we need to elevate the current level of discourse and have our letters be calm, reasoned appeals to let the parole board do their job as defined by law. Even though we might like to see the law changed, so would our opponents, but in the opposite direction. They would like it to focus ONLY on the crime and not consider any of the other factors. The parole release decisions during Pataki’s administration were not made in accordance with the law, and this administration has at least declared its commitment to follow the law which states that other factors need to be taken into consideration. Every time you read an article about parole or closing prisons, it’s time to write a letter. Every time you’re asked to speak, bring up the issue. Week after week, month after month. Until everyone in New York State has heard our side of the issue.

Here’s an example of a good letter - short, and it makes points that we need everyone in NYS to be familiar with:

“The January 27, 2008 article, Scum, Walk This Way, inaccurately interprets Governor Spitzer’s lack of interference with the current parole board’s decision-making power as a ‘liberal mentality.’  While the cases cited in the article are heinous crimes, the fact remains that each person who reaches his or her minimum sentence is entitled to be considered for release based on a broad range of factors beyond the circumstances of the crime.   Our criminal justice system recognizes the need for both punishment and for the protection of public safety. But it also recognizes the prospect of rehabilitation and transformation, and the expectation of returning to society if the goals of public safety and rehabilitation are met.  Tough-on-crime may get votes, but being smart-on-crime saves taxpayer money, enhances public safety and promotes the fundamental American belief in second chances.” - Glenn E. Martin, Associate Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for the Fortune Society, in a letter yet to be accepted by the Daily News.



CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING
For community advocates and service providers who are politically astute and historically aware, these are interesting times. As a result of the recent hearing called by Senator Nozzolio and the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, there is a mounting stream of critical response to the criminal justice policies carried out under the Spitzer administration. 

It hardly seems a coincidence that three widely read newspapers in New York City published articles in their Sunday Jan. 27 editions that were not supportive of recent state parole releases and the announced closing of state correctional facilities. Both the Daily News and the New York Post featured scathing pieces attacking the increase in parole rates, and the New York Times offered an analysis of the anxiety felt in upstate communities affected by the announced closing of facilities.   No in-depth investigative report of the economic, budgetary and management benefits prompting the current criminal justice policies in question have appeared. 

It should be quite clear that the attacks coming from the conservative right are not directed to Gov. Spitzer alone, but to the heads of the state criminal justice agencies as well.  The drubbing that Denise O’Donnell of DCJS, George Alexander of Division of Parole, and Brian Fischer of DOCS were handed at the Nozzolio hearing is indicative of the conservatives' intent to shut down and reverse what initial progressive criminal justice changes have taken place under the new Spitzer administration. 

The Nozzolio hearings were just the opening volley of what we expect to be an ongoing attack on current criminal policies that are a reversal of Pataki's. Now while we have not gotten all we want , we at least have a criminal justice hierarchy in place that has outwardly stated its willingness to collaborate with community based resource and advocacy organizations. 

And so we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to support a criminal justice hierarchy that for years we have recognized as “the opposition”.  This requires a rethinking of traditional positions and the development of strategic approaches.  If we take the “Open Re-entry Meeting” hosted last year by the Division of Criminal Justice Services involving relevant state agencies and community advocacy and service organizations "in a meeting on the critical issues facing New York as we formulate an integrated strategy for the successful reentry of  offenders back into the community”, as a clarion call by the State’s highest ranking criminal justice agency for ongoing collaboration between state agencies and community advocacy and service providers, then we must take advantage of every opportunity to keep the conversation alive. - Larry White.



PAROLE RELEASES: MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE SO DISCOURAGING, OR MAYBE BECAUSE OUR SOURCES DON'T WANT TO ALERT THE RABID PRESS, BUT WE'VE RECEIVED VERY LITTLE INFORMATION ON JANUARY’S PAROLE RELEASES.

At Otisville, only two of the 39 people seen were released and they were deportations. We understand the same situation applied at Mid-Orange. [For readers who might not know, if a person is not a citizen of the US and is convicted of a crime here, they are put in prison, at the taxpayer's expense and the prison industry's profit, until their sentence expires or the parole board releases them, at which point they are sent back to the country where they were born.]

Antonio Calderon, who was featured in our Parole Support section last month, postponed his appearance and is re-scheduled for March 2008.

Zayd Rashid was scheduled to see the board in January but his and 19 other hearings were adjourned because the sentencing minutes were missing. DOCs is not supposed to accept people into the system without sentencing minutes but for years and years this has not been practiced. In the meantime some stenographers may have disappeared or died and the minutes simply no longer exist. Due to the requirement for the sentencing minutes to be considered by the Board of Parole, many people are having their hearings postponed.

We also learned that Donald Ferrin was denied for the 10th time, despite being seriously ill. Our condolences to him and his wife Maria who’s been fighting for his freedom for years and years.

Have the parole commissioners chosen to bow down to political pressure instead of adhering to the law and carefully weighing all the facts to be considered in the parole release decision? This would be a shame and a tremendous waste, in every sense. Intelligent people of every walk need to carefully examine the issues at stake with an open mind.

[We get our reports from you; please send them to Building Bridges, Prison Action Network and we’ll publish.]



WHEN THE 20TH CENTURY USHERED IN A PERIOD OF AGRICULTURAL AND MANUFACTURING DECLINE, BUILDING PRISONS WAS VIEWED AS A WAY TO BOOST RURAL ECONOMIES

Prisons and Rural Economies by Karima Amin
Last month, “Prisoners Are People Too!” devoted its January program to examining the ways in which prisons impact the economies of small, rural communities, where there are no sustainable businesses. When the 20th century ushered in a period of agricultural and manufacturing decline, building prisons was viewed as a way to boost rural economies.

Who has actually benefitted from the prison building boom of the 1980’s and 1990’s in mostly upstate counties, which tend to be rural, white, and Republican? How has the presence of state prisons affected the social fabric of our state and local communities? Many of us in Western New York have loved ones in these upstate facilities. Do we understand how they are being exploited, both economically and politically, as they are counted in the census of the community where they are imprisoned?

Those who attended the January meeting considered these questions while viewing the film “Yes, In My Backyard,” a film that examines, “...the implications of prisons as an economic solution to rural decline,” produced by New York filmmaker Tracy Huling. The town of Coxsackie, NY is the specific focus.

Guest speaker, Brother Minister Abdul Halim Muhammad, Imam of Buffalo’s Nation of Islam Temple No. 23, lived in Attica from 1971-1974 and attended Attica Central School. Later, Brother Halim served as Chaplain for the Nation of Islam at several state prisons, including Attica, Coxsackie and Greene. His astute reflections revealed his well-versed understanding of the “keepers” (the community, outside and behind the walls) and the “kept” (the prisoners)..

The filmmaker, Tracy Huling, has written extensively on the economic impact of prisons in New York State. Send a request to PAN for a copy of her article BUILDING A PRISON ECONOMY IN RURAL AMERICA , From Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. Marc Mauer and Meda Chesney-Lind, Editors. The New Press. 2002



AS SONNY RUDERT SEES IT: WITH THE EMERGENCE OF OUR NYS PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, THOSE WHO REPRESENT ITS INTERESTS HAVE COME OUT SWINGING ON BEHALF OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS WHO STAND TO LOSE IF INTELLIGENT PENOLOGY WINS THE DAY.

It would seem to the thinking observer that any intelligent, cost effective correctional system must expand and contract in direct relationship to crime rates for serious offenses. Such a system, by its very nature, cannot be static. However, in New York State this has become a core problem because the primary role of corrections has shifted its goal from smart penology to economic sustenance for upstate correctional communities.

In New York, the business of corrections has become an economic engine for scores of upstate communities. Unfortunately, it is a false economy; it is tremendously wasteful, does not produce anything tangible, and sucks up our hard earned tax dollars (in NYS half of every tax dollar goes right off the top to prison operational costs). Additionally, there is a built in conflict of interest: an economically interested backlash occurs whenever intelligent, cost effective penology dictates that there should be a sensible downsizing of the prison system.

There has, in fact, been a serious over-investment in the prison portion of our state's correctional policy. Prison is only the middle third of the correctional equation. If corrections is to genuinely address public safety, it must primarily also play a role in crime prevention and, lastly, in the successful re-entry of the formerly incarcerated. Otherwise, you wind up with a sort of crime-and-prison fire that continuously stokes itself. Prison is, after all, a response to crime, not a true corrective (it does not make society any safer for the victim of the crime that has already taken place).

Be that as it may, with the emergence of our NYS prison industrial complex, those who represent its interests have come out swinging on behalf of their constituents who stand to lose if intelligent penology wins the day. Make no mistake, this was the driving force behind Senator Nozzolio's hearing on January 15th. He and the upstate Republican senators who represent these correctional communities are concerned about the dramatic rise in the release of violent offenders--who have served their time! These same senators, of course, were not concerned about the dramatic decrease in these same release rates during the entire Pataki era, when this wasteful prison economy was allowed to expand exponentially.

And, in our state's congress, we now see the emergence of a sort of intrastate civil war between the lawmakers who represent these upstate correctional communities (who prosper as long as the system remains full) and the urban, New York City lawmakers whose youth provide most of the fodder for this system. And the unfair census loophole (which none of these senators has volunteered to help fix) that allows upstate communities to count non-voting prisoners as residents, thus granting these same upstate communities excessive representation while simultaneously robbing urban communities of their fair share. As in the Civil War, the same societal dynamic is at issue: the success of one segment of society is directly tied to the failure of another, characterized by blocked opportunity, lack of representation, and an exploitive relationship between the two.  So, whenever a kid from Crown Heights gets off that prison bus in Malone the guards who greet him ought to say, "Welcome to where your community's tax dollars have been spent."

At the turn of the previous century, Mark Twain observed that, "Whenever you close a school you have to open up a jail." At the turn of this century, I would add that whenever you operate too many prisons you unwittingly create a graduate program for your poorest schools. There has to be a better way!

I will tell you this: when Senator Nozzolio and the other concerned upstate senators were grilling Parole Chairman Alexander about the rise in parole release rates for violent offenders, to my knowledge, none of them asked the most sensible and obvious public safety questions: How are these recently released offenders adjusting to society? Have there been any problems? People need to understand that what is not being said is as important as what is being said.

Once again, those who are fully invested in the prison portion of the correctional portfolio are attempting to move the market in their direction. With no new tangible crime threat they have to convince us to hang onto the old ones: those who are incarcerated for crimes they committed many, many years ago. Yet, does it make sense? Surely, these same senators would have to begrudgingly agree that men and women in their youth do not always make the best decisions. They do things they later regret. And some grow up in prison and become productive human beings, with a changed view of life. Many of these same people today do not condone the very acts they once perpetrated. And if corrections is to truly correct don't we want this to happen? Progressive correctional policy encourages the phoenix to rise from the ashes. Over-investment in prison, however, simply encourages the phoenix to sit in its own ashes, stacking lost hope atop years of regret and remorse--all at our tax dollar expense! As in the Pataki years, the prison economic beneficiaries are, once again, ringing the public safety bell. And, once again, upon close inspection of the facts, it simply does not ring true.          Peace.



SUBMITTED TESTIMONY OF BRIAN FISCHER, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES BEFORE SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION - JANUARY 30, 2008 - PRISON CLOSURES

[It came as a complete surprise to learn about this hearing after it had taken place. The announcement on Nozzolio’s website was dated Jan 24th. We missed it! In part, it read: New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio will be convening the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee to conduct a legislative oversight hearing to review Governor Spitzer’s budget proposal to close prisons in New York State. Brian Fischer, Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, is expected to testify before the Committee to address the proposed prison closures. In addition, union officials from the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA), the Public Employees Federation (PEF), and Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA) have been invited to testify before the committee.]

Comm. Fischer’s written testimony: [this is a condensed version, the entire document is available at the DOCS website: www.docs.state.ny.us/PrisonClosure.html.]

Introduction: 
The decision to close correctional facilities was not made lightly, and as expected, it has raised many questions. The most obvious ones are:

Why these facilities? 
Could we not save money in other ways? 
Can we maintain the community crews that provide labor to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations? 
What will happen to the facilities after they are closed? 
What can the local communities expect in terms of assistance?

Before I address these issues, allow me to put the situation into context. I am responsible for approximately 95,000 employees and prisoners spread out over 70 facilities across the state, and the Department’s budget has reached the $3 billion mark to the taxpayers of New York. As the Commissioner, I must be concerned with the safety and security of everyone, while being a realistic fiscal manager. There are limits to our funding and limits to our staffing. Given the decrease of more than 9,000 inmates in the past eight years, the continued decline projected for the future, and the budget needed to cover what is mandated of the Department, along with the reality of the fiscal problems facing the State, I made the decisions I know are necessary, understanding that I could not avoid the hardships those decisions would bring.

Realities Facing the Department:
1. a 13 percent overall decrease in the number of inmates since 1999.
2. an 18 percent decrease in medium security inmates.
3. a 47 percent decrease in minimum security inmates.
4. an 18 percent increase in maximum security inmates.
I should stress that while original projections for this Fiscal Year estimated that there would be about 62,800 inmates under custody by March 31, 2008, we are already at 62,250 today, 550 fewer than expected. Our projected census as of March 31, 2009, was set at 62,200 and it is clear even today that we will be significantly lower than that.

Shifting Priorities: The Department has changed, both in the demographics of our inmates and in the responsibilities we must fulfill. We must:
1. provide 1,600 program slots for all 8,000+ mentally ill inmates, including highly structured and staff intensive units for mentally ill inmates who must be segregated from the general inmate population as required by a court settlement and the new SHU-Exclusion statute.
2. provide 1,200 program slots to deliver services to the 6,000 sex offenders as required by the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act of 2007.
3. add new re-entry programs at facilities that can be tied into County Re-Entry Task Force Committees to deal better with the 28,000+ inmates that will be released in the coming year.
4. add a new Parole re-entry program with the Division of Parole and the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services to keep Parolees in the community rather than returning them to long-term prison stays, thereby changing the pattern of recycling offenders through the judicial and correctional systems.

Why These Facilities: Two of the three correctional camps we selected were identified in past years for closure – Pharsalia and McGregor. We added the third camp, Gabriels, because the number of camp-eligible inmates has continued to decline and the decline is projected to continue. We arrived at the choice of Hudson, understanding the impact its closing would have on the local community, comparing it with other small medium correctional facilities. Hudson’s bed capacity (422) is lower than that of other medium security facilities, making the transfer of inmates easier from the agency’s point of view. Hudson’s need for capital improvements – nearly $21.8 million over the next five years - was also a major consideration, particularly in comparison to other facilities.



ENTREPRENEURSHIP REPRESENTS “A PATH TO FINANCIAL STABILITY AND ENGAGED CITIZENSHIP” FOR THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED WHO ARE REENTERING SOCIETY, CONCLUDES A STUDY BY THE PRISONER REENTRY INSTITUTE

According to a recent study by the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, entrepreneurship represents “a path to financial stability and engaged citizenship” for the formerly incarcerated who are reentering society.  The study “Venturing Beyond the Gates: Facilitating Successful Reentry with Entrepreneurship” presents entrepreneurship as an option worthy of serious exploration and  one that can give men and women leaving prison a realistic second chance.  [for a copy send your request to PAN]

For step-by-step guidance on how to embrace this option, build successful lives and break the cycle of recidivism, read the newly released book, “Think Outside the Cell: An Entrepreneur’s Guide for the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated,” by Joseph Robinson. It is available from: Resilience Multimedia, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525, New York, NY 10011, 877-267-2303 (toll free). Discount available if you mention you’re a reader of Building Bridges.



CRIMINAL JUSTICE PUBLICATIONS - WE REPORT ON NEW ONES EACH MONTH; SEE PAST ISSUES FOR OTHERS.

Justice: Denied Magazine; P.O. Box 68911; Seattle, WA 98168, publicizes cases of wrongful conviction, and exposes how and why they occur.
Building Bridges receives quite a few letters from people who convincingly report their innocence. We know innocent people are in prison, and we also know how difficult it is to prove, and even then to get released. When we learned of this magazine, we thought about all those letters and hoped this might be a place where they could serve a purpose. So we're providing the information we found on the internet.
Justice:Denied magazine publicizes cases of wrongful conviction, and exposes how and why they occur. Justice:Denied is produced by volunteer writers, editors and other persons located throughout the United States and other countries.
If you want to submit a story of wrongful conviction to Justice:Denied, the guidelines are posted on-line at justicedenied.org but you can also write and ask for them to be sent to you at the above address, with an SASE. After reading the guidelines, you can either send a completed story to jdstory@justicedenied.org, or by regular mail to:Justice Denied Magazine; P.O. Box 68911; Seattle, WA 98168. You can do the same to receive an information packet that includes the submission guidelines, JD’s informational brochure, subscription info, and other information.



PRISON RADIO LETS YOU HEAR PEOPLE RARELY HEARD IN SUCH DEPTH ANYWHERE ELSE. INTERVIEWS WITH CHERYL KATES, SHEILA RULE, SAFIYA BANDELE, KATIE BLACKBURN, JONATHAN GRADESS, ROBERT DENNISON AND BRIAN FISCHER ARE AVAILABLE NOW AND IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

Al Lewis Lives, hosted by Karen Lewis, broadcasts on Saturdays from noon to 1:30 pm on WBAI, 99.5 FM, NYC. Visit the archives at archive.wbai.org, choose "See ALL Shows, Sorted by show name" on the top left, and scroll down to hear a January 5 interview with Sheila Rule about entrepreneurship and the book her incarcerated husband Joe Robinson wrote on the subject, and on January 26 an interview with Safiya Bandele on the trauma of reentry.

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 www.WVKR.org and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'. Coming up on February 3 an interview with Katie Blackburn and Jonathan Gradess from the Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission Association. On Mar 16 Julie will be interviewing Current DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer. In their archives available at www.fancybroccoli.org you will find a Jan.6 interview with former Parole Board Chair Robert Dennison, and soon the Cheryl Kates interview will be as well.

Democracy Now!, with Amy Goodman airs around the country, check Democracy Now! to find the station nearest you or to read the transcripts. While not solely devoted to prison issues, she provides in-depth coverage of some of the most serious prison and criminal justice issues.

On The Count: The Prison and Criminal Justice Report, on WBAI, 99.5 FM, NYC, broadcasting every Saturday morning 10:30 am until noon. It is the only regularly broadcast program in America whose host and entire production staff is composed of people who were formerly incarcerated.

Thousand Kites: http://thousandkites.pbwiki.com. Listen to the newly launched Thousand Kites Radio Station, a twenty-four hour online webcast dedicated to the Thousand Kites project, a national dialogue project addressing the prison system and human rights in the United States through theater, video, web, community radio, and grassroots strategies.

Voices from the Prison Action Network bids farewell: After more than 4 years of broadcasting, featuring interviews with members of our network family, we’re saying goodbye to the airwaves and cyberspace. Our lack of technical skill was making the endeavor nonproductive. Thanks to all our listeners and interviewees for making it a rewarding experience while it lasted. We may be back someday. Archives available at radio4all.net and hmimc.swapspace.com.


100 BLACKS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT WHO CARE - EVERY TUESDAY FROM 5-6PM WATCH THEIR LIVE CALL IN SHOW "COMMUNITY COP". MANHATTAN NEIGHBORHOOD NETWORK (CH. 34) AND BROOKLYN COMMUNITY ACCESS TELEVISION (CH 56/69).

"100 Blacks" was founded in 1995 by a core group of concerned African Americans representing a variety of professions within the field of law enforcement. The number of those men and women who wanted to participate in being part of a social solution instead of a passive problem quickly grew to 100 and beyond. These individuals all shared a sense of community, cultural and professional pride. This pride was accompanied by an unfulfilled desire to "give back" in some meaningful way. Through skillful organization and administration, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care was born. In that first year, $10,000 in grant monies was collected from the membership and distributed to needy individuals and organizations all over the City of New York.

MISSION
1) To fulfill our moral mandate to our creator, to enhance and cultivate the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.
2) To serve as a model organization for individuals and other professionals in our communities so that we can again take our rightful place on the stage of history as a free, proud, and productive people.
3) To offer (via non repayable grants) a minimum of $1,000 a month to a worthy cause in the African American community
4) To be the vanguard for justice on the behalf of those who traditionally have no voice in society
5) To vigorously challenge racism, sexism and all of the debilitating ism's that retard the growth of today's global community
6) To economically empower our people by pooling our resources
7)To uplift our people through education

WE VOW TO NEVER STOP UNTIL VICTORY IS WON!



TELEPHONE JUSTICE CAMPAIGN STILL FIGHTING FOR A FAIR AND JUST WAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH LOVED ONES WHO ARE LOCKED UP

Walton v. NYSDOCS:  While the New York Court of Appeals allowed the case to move forward on constitutional grounds last year, Judge Ceresia of the New York Supreme Court recently dismissed the case in December 2007.  We will appeal his decision to the Court of Appeals and we are still very hopeful about our chances of an ultimate victory; however, the case is going to take more time and hard work to win! 

The one good thing we can tell you about the opinion is that the court considered, and rejected, each of our constitutional claims; the Judge did not rely on a procedural ground (the way he did last time, with the statute of limitations) to dismiss us.  This is important because it means that if we get the Appellate Division or the Court of Appeals to reverse him, he will not have the opportunity to dismiss the case again, and will have to allow us to move forward with a trial or hearing.  It is also important because it means that we have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals if we lose in the Appellate Division.  Last time, we had to ask permission for that appeal. 
 
Customer Service: While we have made some improvements in our communication with DOCS and GTL and many families have been able to get their problems remedied quicker, there are still customer service, billing and call quality issues that families face on a daily basis. 

If you ever have problems that a GTL customer service rep cannot resolve for you (like a charge for a disconnected call, a call block that cannot be lifted, an incorrect limitation placed on your call amount, etc.), contact Margaret Phillips, Executive Director of Billing Services at GTL.  Her direct number is (251)375-8026. 

If you ever experience technical difficulties (can’t hear, phone disconnected, etc.), call Tom Herzog at the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) at (518)457-2540.  He will get GTL or his own staff out to resolve the problem immediately.  You should also contact him whenever Margaret Phillips is unable or unwilling to remedy your problem.



SUPPORT MEETINGS: IT’S NOT EASY RETURNING FROM PRISON OR HAVING A LOVED ONE IN PRISON. BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE; THERE’S A COMMUNITY OF FAMILY MEMBERS AND FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE AROUND THE STATE AND ON THE WEB WHO WILL WELCOME YOU.

ALBANY:
PFNY meeting at 7:00 pm every Monday at the Women’s Bldg, 79 Central Avenue. Please call ahead: Alison 518 453 6659
ROOTS: Re-entry Monthly Orientation Sessions (on the last Thursdays) - for parolees being released from NYC correctional facilities and returning to Albany - these offer support, hope and proven suggestions from ROOTS (Re-entry Opportunities and Orientations Towards Success) members (ex-offenders and supporters).
ROOTS Bi-Weekly "Re-entry Peer Support Groups" every other Sat from 11am-1pm. Dec. 8 and 22. Both meetings at Trinity Institute, 15 Trinity Place, Albany; For info: ROOTS: 518 434 1026; Corey Ellis 518 4499-5155m x131

BUFFALO: Groups for men and women meet separately on Thursdays, from 5:30-6:30pm at GROUP Ministries, Inc., 1333 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. These programs are FREE and confidential. For more information, call 716-539-1844.

NORTH BABYLON LI: Prison Families Anonymous meets on the 2nd and 4th Wed of each month at 7:30 pm at the Babylon Town Hall Annex. You are welcome if you have a family member in prison. For more info you may call Barbara: Ph: 631-630-9118, Cell: 631-943-0441

POUGHKEEPSIE: PFNY Support Group Room 306 of the Main Building of Family Partnership at 29 North Hamilton St. Poughkeepsie, NY. Meetings will be held on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at 7pm. The Citizens for Restorative Justice meet the first Monday of the month, 6:30 to 8:00PM. The location changes so call ahead of time, 845-464-4736.

WORLD WIDE WEB: New Online Support and Resource Forum www.newyorkinmatefamilies.org). New York Inmate Families is an online support and resource forum. Unlike Prison Talk Online or Prisoner Family Chat, this site is specifically designed for friends and family of New York State prisoners. You may be familiar with the .com site, so what is new? The .org site, which launched in mid-January, includes a Discussion Forum where you can post Issues and Problems and find Suggestions and Solutions. The site also has a Chat Room and a Photo Gallery. The new NYIF site is donated to the friends and families of New York prisoners by Neaner Web Design. Heidi, the original founder of NYIF says, “You will never be alone again. We are thrilled to have you. I promise you’ll love it here.”



TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS: THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO GET THERE. DRIVING YOUR OWN CAR OFFERS THE MOST FLEXIBILITY AND CONVENIENCE BUT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE. TAKING THE DOCS FREE BUS CAN BE INCONVENIENT AND UNCOMFORTABLE BUT IT DOESN’T COST ANYTHING. RIDES FROM VOLUNTEERS ARE CONVENIENT AND FREE, BUT DON’T GO EVERYWHERE.

From the Capital District:
NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow CFs on Sat, Feb 2 ($30 adults, $20 children), Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson on Sun, Feb 10 ($15  adults, $10 children) from Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, Troy at 7 AM, then to Albany Greyhound bus station at 7:15. Trip to Utica (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida) on Sat, Feb 16 leaving Troy at 5 AM. Sullivan trip (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan) on Sat, Feb 23 leaving at 6 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.

CarPooling: Please call 518 253 7533 if you would be willing to take a passenger or if you want a ride.

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



WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND NEW YORK STATE

BUFFALO: Prisoners Are People Too!

The documentary film for this month’s meeting, at Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street from 6:30-8:30pm on Monday, February 24, is “Framing an Execution: The Media and Mumia Abu-Jamal,” narrated by actor Danny Glover (2001). This film describes the extent to which ABC’s “20/20” news magazine program ignored fairness, balance, and accuracy in describing the controversial case of a man who is one of the world’s most well known political prisoners.
The guest speaker will be Al-Nisa Barbara Banks, Editor-in-Chief of Western New York’s “Challenger” newspaper. She will express her views about media and judicial ethics.
The next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too! is scheduled for March 24. Film and guest speaker(s) TBA.
PRP2! programs are sponsored by The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of Baba Eng. For further information, contact Karima Amin at 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.


ALBANY: The Justice Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany

Presenting the Sunday Service on Feb. 24 at 10am. Special music will be provided by the Peace and Justice Choir and by Matt Edwards. Guest Speakers will be David Howard and Nathan Hamlin, two Capital District residents who were once incarcerated but have never gone back, telling the story of their journey to prison and back home. Following the service there will be a screening of Perversion of Justice, a documentary produced by UU chaplain Melissa Mummert, about a tragic example of what is wrong with mandatory minimum sentences. Everyone is invited! The church is located at 405 Washington Ave. in Albany.



WOMEN IN PRISON HAVE A STRONG ADVOCATE IN THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION'S COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS. FOR 14 YEARS THE COALITION HAS ORGANIZED ADVOCACY DAYS IN ALBANY. ONE IS COMING UP ON MARCH 4.

You can join the Coalition to call on New York's elected officials to stop using prison as a response to the social ills that drive crime and to start allocating more resources to community-based, gender-specific alternative programs that save money and rebuild lives and families. Help advocate for policies that protect the rights of incarcerated women, that address the true needs of individuals and families, and that allow women to make a healthy, safe, and productive return to their communities after prison.

To get involved, contact Serena Alfieri, Women in Prison Project Associates: 212 254-5700 or salfieri@correctionalassociation.org.