Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

Translate this page:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

January 2009

Please scroll down to read the January 2009 edition of Building Bridges.


BETWEEN ISSUES: ANNOUNCEMENTS AND NEWS

POSTED JAN 27: NYC Justice Corps Job Opportunity

The Prisoner Reentry Institute serves as the project manager for the NYC Justice Corps, a unique service learning and workforce development initiative that brings criminal-justice involved young adults together with their communities to identify and address unmet community needs.  Through meaningful service to their communities, internships, and job and educational opportunities, the NYC Justice Corps provides members with practical skills, social support and leadership training.  By actively partnering with the NYC Justice Corps, communities own the success and reintegration of their young people as contributing members of society.  Through this, the NYC Justice Corps aims to improve the education and employment outcomes of Corps members, keep them out of the criminal justice system, and support community development in specific New York City neighborhoods.
 
Phipps Community Development Corporation (Phipps CDC) provides direct services to NYC Justice Corps members in the South Bronx and is seeking to hire a qualified, energetic and proactive Senior Site Supervisor to support the NYC Justice Corps.  Please contact Dorick Scarpelli dscarpelli@phippsny.org directly for more information. 
 


POSTED JAN 23: From Chante Ramsey, CFFCJP member

"Write From Wrong: Words by survivors of the prison industrial complex"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Nuyorican Poetry Cafe
236 E. 3rd St. between Ave. B and C
New York, NY

Write From Wrong was created three years ago in the Nuyorican Poetry Café by Tongo Eisen-Martin to provide formerly incarcerated youth a stage to tell their story, express their views, and declare their vision of the future. Originally, performers were all participants in a creative writing workshop facilitated by Tongo. Write From Wrong currently features people, young and old, who have survived the prison industrial complex as well as artist activists who are dedicated to the struggle of people living in a prison society. Write From Wrong does not restrict performers to any genre and the show features emcees, poets, and singers. The show also has an open mic for anyone to get on stage and share their story.



POSTED JAN 23: From The Correctional Association of New York
in collaboration with
The Center for New York City Affairs / The New School and
The Nation magazine

CRIME, JUSTICE AND THE ECONOMIC CRISIS

Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 6 pm to 8 pm
Theresa Lang Community & Student Center
55 West 13th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), 2nd Floor

MODERATED BY:
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor, The Nation

WITH FEATURED PANELISTS:
Robert Gangi, Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York
Glenn Martin, V.P. of Development and Public Affairs, The Fortune Society
Marc Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project
Denise O'Donnell, Commissioner, NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services
Anne Swern, First Assistant District Attorney, Kings County

Admission is free, but you must reserve a seat. Call 212.229.5418 or email.
Supported by the Sirus Fund and the Milano Foundation



POSTED Jan. 22: A Parole Crisis
by Karima Amin

Last month, George B. Alexander resigned from his position as Chairman of the New York State Parole Board, after being charged with allegedly stealing a laptop computer purchased with State funds. In the media, the announcement of Mr. Alexander’s resignation swiftly followed the report of the alleged theft. Individuals whom I talked to expressed shock, cynicism, confusion, sadness, disappointment, anger, and even fear. The fear arose from a concern among some that we are about to re-enter the era of Pataki, when fewer prisoners were paroled than in any other modern day administration. Sadness has been expressed by some who genuinely like Mr. Alexander and who supported his efforts. Disappointment has been expressed by those who think that Mr. Alexander didn’t do enough in his position as Chairman. But there are others who have expressed disappointment too because they are sorry for the resignation of a man whom they feel tried to change the face
of parole. Mr. Alexander was at least accessible to people who had issues with the functioning of the Parole Board. For years, Parole Commissioners ignored the law, bowing to Pataki’s personal opinions and whims, illegally denying parole to anyone convicted of a violent crime. Lifers and long-termers especially, though parole-ready and parole-eligible, have been routinely denied release to parole supervision. Ignoring the law and an incarcerated person’s extensive rehabilitation, Parole Commissioners have delivered their mantra, “due to the nature of the crime,” as the stated reason for parole denial.

In February 2007, when Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed Mr. Alexander to the position of New York State Parole Board Chairman, Mr. Alexander was hailed as a “breath of fresh air” and an ardent advocate for justice and fairness. In spite of the laptop issue, Mr. Alexander is well-respected by many in his professional field and highly regarded in Buffalo’s Black community. While some condemn him for what they view as his on-the-job inaction and lack of authority, others praise him for his willingness to build a proactive base for parole reform. At this writing, he has not had his day in court.

The word “parole” may not be in your everyday lexicon, but this “parole crisis” affects all of us. Incarcerated people are still a part of this community though prison walls separate us. What happens to those on the inside, affects those on the outside. This “parole crisis” is an issue of community development and community self-determination.

Mr. George Alexander will be in attendance at the next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too on Monday, January 26 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. This meeting will be an opportunity for information sharing and brainstorming to determine what the community can do to influence Gov. David Paterson’s choice for the next Chairman of the Parole Board. Albany needs to know what we think and what we want.

This program is sponsored by The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng. For more information: 716-834-8438; karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.


Posted January 16:
GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES NOMINATION OF FELIX M. ROSA, JR. TO SERVE AS MEMBER AND CHAIR OF THE STATE BOARD OF PAROLE

Governor David A. Paterson today announced the nomination of Felix M. Rosa, Jr. to serve as a Member and Chair of the State Board of Parole. As Chair of the Board of Parole, Mr. Rosa will also serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the State Division of Parole. Mr. Rosa has served the Division of Parole for more than 20 years.

This appointment requires Senate confirmation.

More details will be available in the February edition of Building Bridges



POSTED JANUARY 16: from Children's Defense Fund

Connecting the Neighborhood Dots: Promoting Solutions to Dismantle the Pipeline to Prison

February 11, 2009, 8:30 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
Medgar Evers College, City University of New York (CUNY)
1650 Bedford Avenue, Bedford Building, Founders Auditorium

Please join CDF-New York (CDF-NY), CUNY Medgar Evers College and Casey Family Programs for a one-day summit to kick off CDF's Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Campaign in New York. This summit will bring together community and faith leaders, public officials, policy makers, youth, educators, child advocates and professionals in the fields of early childhood, health, mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice and youth development to develop a concrete plan of action to halt the pipeline to prison in New York.

For more information contact CDF-NY at (212) 697-2323 or messages@cdfny.org or read the February issue of Building Bridges.


BUILDING BRIDGES JANUARY 2009

Dear Reader,

Well, it was quite a year, wasn't it? In March, Governor Spitzer, who 8 days after he took office lowered the cost of telephone calls from prison, resigned after being caught in a very hypocritical and compromising situation. We haven't heard a peep from him since; he's been effectively silenced. During Spitzer's short time in office he appointed progressive thinking people to head the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Department of Correctional Services, and the Division of Parole.

The most outspoken of them all, Chairman of Parole George B. Alexander, has now been accused of 2 felonies and a misdemeanor and forced to resign. The story we're supposed to believe is that 1-2 weeks before starting his new job as Chairman of Parole, paying $120,000 a year, he stole a laptop computer worth $1,700 from his employers and gave it to his son, who already had a laptop computer, as did the rest of the Alexander household. Well, there is surely more to the story, but as reported it doesn't make sense and I personally choose to believe him innocent unless proven otherwise. I trust him. In the few conversations I've had with Mr. Alexander we've seen eye to eye, and if you don't know how committed I am to reforming the parole policies of this state, you haven't been paying attention. This man was, and hopefully still is, our best hope for accomplishing our goals. I hope you will join PAN in showing your support for him and his family in this trying time. His forced resignation is just another bleak event for us. It won't stop us! We are stakeholders in this system and we will have our say, and if that isn't enough, we'll learn how to play politics with the best of them. Please let us know if you're on board.

...and please share your copy of Building Bridges. We all need to be on the same page!

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Activities to educate, motivate and mobilize
2. Center for Judicial Accountability seeks information
3. Home Depot vs job applicants with criminal records
4. Lifers and Longtermers Clearinghouse
5. NYC Justice CorpS
6. Parole Report
7. Police research project seeks your input
8. Prison closures revisited
9. Prison Media
10. Reentry Unit opens for Monroe County
11. Transportation to prisons
12. Where we are at the close of 2008


1. ACTIVITIES TO EDUCATE, MOTIVATE AND MOBILIZE (Formerly "What's Happening in NYS") CHECK HERE TO SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BE A PARTNER FOR CHANGE.

ALBANY
THURSDAY, JANUARY 8: CITIZENS' POLICE REVIEW BOARD PUBLIC MEETING
6pm in the large auditorium of the Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue, Albany. Contact Sharmaine Moseley 518 445 3257 for details.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 10: CFFCJP PLANNING MEETING for the March 7 program ON PRISON HEALTH CARE
The Capital District Chapter of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies invites you to join us:
12 -2pm at FUUSA, 405 Washington Avenue, Albany

SUNDAY JANUARY 11: FUUSA FORUM: INNER CITY YOUTH AND FAMILY COALITION
11:30 am, Room B8, 405 Washington Ave.
Albany Councilwoman Barbara Smith, John Cutro, Restorative Justice worker, and Allahson Allah, advocate for youth, will discuss the work of the Inner City Youth and Family Coalition. Ms Smith and others began this organization in response to the recent tragic shootings of Albany youth, to provide resources to address violence in the city of Albany. They hold restorative intervention meetings, help families with language issues, obtain better and affordable housing, work on education issues, and a multitude of other issues that hinder a better life in the inner city. Please come to learn the role we can play in this crucial issue.

THURSDAY JANUARY 15 "RE-ENTRY RESOURCES ORIENTATIONS" for Men and Women
ROOTS - 6-8pm at Trinity Institution, 15 Trinity Place, Albany NY 12202

THURSDAY JANUARY 15 “THE VISITORS”
Join us for a screening of the documentary about NYC bus riders on their weekend visit to upstate prisons. Discussion to follow. 6 - 9 pm at main branch of Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue. Presented by Dennis Mosley and the Albany Independent Film Forum in collaboration with Judith Brink of the Justice Committee at FUUSA and Prison Action Network.

BUFFALO
MONDAY JANUARY 26, 2009 PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO! FOCUSES ON THE RESIGNATION OF CHAIRMAN ALEXANDER
PRP2! 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.
The January meeting will focus on the untimely resignation of the NYS Chairman of Parole, Mr. George Alexander. What does this mean? Who will be most affected? Where do we go from here?
PRP2 programs are sponsored by The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of Baba Eng. For further information, contact Karima Amin at karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org or 716-834-8438.

NEW YORK CITY
SATURDAY JANUARY 10 from 9am - 3 pm TRINITY WALL STREET: CONNECT THE DOTS; A COMMUNITY-BUILDING EXPERIENCE.
We invite the Prison Action Network to attend this event which aims to “connect the dots” between the imprisoned, formerly incarcerated people and the resources needed to end the pathway between New York City neighborhoods and New York State prisons.  Participants will include leaders from Episcopal churches in the Seven Communities. The day’s events will begin with a symposium from 9:00 A.M to noon. The conversation will include leaders in prison ministry and prison reentry efforts. Following the symposium there will be an art show reception from 1:00 P.M to 3:00 P.M.  All artists in the show are graduates of Hudson Link for Higher Education/Mercy College, a program offering undergraduate education at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Some of the artists will be in attendance. Please RSVP to Ms. Antoinette Harris by January 5, 2009 at 212-602-0711 or aharris@trinitywallstreet.org.
 
FRIDAY JANUARY 16 from 8:30 to 10:00 am THE NEXT OCCASIONAL SERIES ON REENTRY RESEARCH
Featuring new research on juvenile reentry from Jeffrey Bouffard of Washington State University.  Discussants will include: Judith Pincus, First Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Juvenile Justice; Joe McLaughlin, Director of Youth Programs at CASES; and Yumari Martinez, Senior Program Associate at the Center on Youth Violence at the Vera Institute.  To attend, please RSVP to Amelia Thompson at 212.484.1399 or via email at amthompson@jjay.cuny.edu.  We look forward to seeing you then.

SATURDAY JANUARY 24 from 10:30 - 1pm THE COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES, NYC CHAPTER
Meeting at the Fortune Society Office Bldg at 29-76 Northern Blvd., Long Island City. For driving directions, click here:  Directions 

By public transportation:  Queens Plaza stop on the R,E,V trains; Queensboro Plaza stop on 7,N,W trains; 39th Avenue stop on N,W trains.  

On the agenda: finding your state representatives’ contact information, planning a telephone and visitation campaign, creating our mission statement, finalizing goal decision. Please RSVP to Judith Brink at 518 253 7533 or prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com. In our numbers lies our strength!

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 28 (Call 917 346 0969 to confirm) STARK
An open mic hosted by Viviana, featuring poetry and other writings by, for and about those behind bars in New York State and around the country. 6:00 to 9:30 PM at WHERE EAGLES DARE/ Black Bird Theatre, 347 West 36th St, between 8th and 9th Ave, 13th floor.
$5 donation requested – no one turned away. Since it is an open mic, you can perform your own writings, music, theatre piece, comedy, rant, etc. You will have approx. 5 minutes to do your thing. Of course you are welcome to come and just listen/watch.


TROY
THURSDAY JANUARY 8 "RE-ENTRY RESOURCES ORIENTATIONS" for Men and Women
ROOTS, 6-8 at Christ United Methodist, 35 State Street, at 4th Avenue, Troy, NY 12180.
Call ROOTS at 518 434 1026 for more details.



2. CENTER FOR JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY IS INTERESTED IN COMPLAINTS AGAINST JUDGES.

Have you ever filed a meritorious complaint against a judge with the Commission on Judicial Conduct? If your complaints were ignored or summarily denied, please send copies of your complaint and the Commission’s response to: Center for Judicial Accountability, Box 8220, White Plains, NY 10602.



3. HOME DEPOT ACCUSED OF VIOLATING CIVIL RIGHTS OF JOB APPLICANTS WITH CRIMINAL RECORDS

Two African-American men have filed charges of discrimination against Home Depot alleging that the company’s rejection of their job applications based on their past criminal records violates federal civil rights laws forbidding race discrimination because the practice has an adverse impact on African Americans and Hispanics.  The charges were filed with the New York office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).   The charging parties are being represented by the Legal Action Center (www.lac.org),  Outten & Golden LLP (www.outtengolden.com),  the National Employment Law Project (http://www.nelp.org/) and Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian. and Goldstein (http://www.gdblegal.com/). 
 
As part of their investigation of these claims, the charging parties' counsel are interested in speaking to other African-American and Latinos who have been rejected for employment by Home Depot because of a past criminal record.   People in New York State should contact the Legal Action Center, 212-243-1313 (outside of NY City, call 800-223-4044), and ask to speak to a paralegal about the Home Depot case.  People in California should contact the National Employment Law Project, 510-409-2427.  People outside of New York or California should contact Justin Swartz at Outten & Golden, 212-245-1000. 



4. LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS CLEARINGHOUSE: HOPE LIVES FOR LIFERS; LARRY WHITE ON HOPE, FAITH AND ENDURING BELIEF.

Hope Lives for Lifers

Hope, Faith and Enduring Belief

The New York State Department of Correctional Services provides therapeutic programs for incarcerated people with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, offenders convicted of sex crimes, and those with a propensity for violence. Yet long-term prisoners, sentenced to spend most of the remaining part of their adult life in prison, receive no special programs or services designed to address their adjustment and coping needs.

Organized Lifers and long-termer organizations have been advocating for the development of programs that address their special needs and we have heard their call. We would like to design a program, Hope Lives for Lifers, for those serving life term sentences with special emphasis for those serving life without parole.

Keys elements of the Hope Lives for Lifers Program are hope, faith and enduring belief. These elements are fostered in a spiritual capacity and will require a long lasting commitment.

We are trying to develop a framework for successful long term prison survival. We would like to know what positive skills and attitudes help ensure the best success for your survival and personal growth in prison. What are your personal goals and aspirations? What do you want to accomplish and achieve with your lives?

Please let us hear from you. Emancipation may be in your lifetime. Don't give up. Hope Lives for Lifers.

Write: Larry White, Hope Lives for Lifers, c/o Fortune Society, 29-76 Northern Blvd. LlC, NY 11101



5. ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORTERS MONTHLY PROFILE: A NEW SERIES FEATURING A DIFFERENT AGENCY/ORGANIZATION EVERY MONTH. THIS MONTH: NYC JUSTICE CORPS.

The Prisoner Reentry Institute serves as the project manager for the NYC Justice Corps, a unique six-month service/learning reentry program for young people ages 18-24 with current or recent past involvement with the criminal justice system who live in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn and the South Bronx.  Through their participation in the NYC Justice Corps, Corps members are given the opportunity to contribute to the betterment of their communities and to build skills necessary to be productive citizens.  The project receives funding from New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity. 
 
The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) provides services to NYC Justice Corps members in Brooklyn and is seeking to hire qualified, talented, and energetic people for three positions to support the NYC Justice Corps:  Program Manager, Site Supervisor, and Job Developer.  Please fax or email questions or request for application to Judith Anglin, Personnel Director, at 718-852-5984 or janglin@restorationplaza.org.

[All organizations, Inside or Outside, are invited to submit material for this feature. Please limit material to less than 300 words]



6. PAROLE: WHAT IS THE JOB OF A PAROLE OFFICER? PART 2 IN OUR SERIES ABOUT THE STRUCTURE OF THE DIVISION OF PAROLE, WITH COMMENTARY FROM THE INSIDE; PAROLE STATISTICS; GRAZIANO UPDATE

From the NYS Parole Handbook, available online at http://parole.state.ny.us/Handbook.pdf:
Field Parole Officers have dual responsibilities. As peace officers, they protect the community; as caseworkers, they must also respond to each parolee’s needs for service and assistance to increase the likelihood that the parolee will succeed in the community. Field Parole Officers work in the community and coordinate the delivery of services, help to motivate and guide parolees under supervision through accepted casework techniques, and report on parolee progress. If a parolee demonstrates behavior which indicates an inability to remain in the community, the Parole Officer will intervene to promote parolee success and may initiate actions, which can result in a return to prison.

Facility Parole Officers help those incarcerated develop positive attitudes and behavior, encourage participation in programs for self-improvement, prepare inmates for appearances before the Board of Parole and conduct discharge planning activities. Facility Parole Officers also work with Pre-Release Programs to help lay the groundwork for an inmate’s eventual release to the community, prepare the inmate’s parole record, and provide an analysis to the Board of Parole concerning the factors relevant to the granting or denying of parole release. Questions regarding parole eligibility, Parole Board appearances, and parole in general should be addressed to the Parole Officer at the correctional facility. The facility Parole Officer has the responsibility for preparing the status report for your Parole Board appearance, which evaluates your criminal history, as well as all of your accomplishments and adjustments while in prison. The other function of a facility Parole Officer is to counsel and help you prepare for successful reentry into the community.

COMMENTARY FROM INSIDE: In my experience, I only get to see the Facility Parole Officer (FPO) once - for 15 to 20 minutes - before my parole board appearances. The interview takes place sometime about 2 or 3 months before my board. We are told it is to prepare the parole summary. There is no way that a FPO can make an analysis to the Board of Parole concerning the factors relevant to the granting or denying of parole release after a 15-20 minute interview! Facility Parole officers are not giving us any type of guidance or direction in the years leading up to our hearings. Since FPOs are not doing their job according to the NYS Parole Handbook you’ve read above, they play a major part in why we are not being granted parole. They are not doing anything to help us prepare ourselves. What steps should we take to insure FPO’s do their entire job and help us get prepared for parole release? - Anon.

[I would want to know if the writer ever asked to see the FPO for guidance or direction, prior to these once every two years pre-Board meetings? Ed.]




NOVEMBER 2008 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – unofficial research from parole database

Total Interviews---# Released---- # Denied----Rate of Release
17 initials --------0 ---------- 17 ---------0%
66 Reappearances--12--------- 54---------18%
83 Total---------12----------71---------14%

Initial Releases (0)

Reappearances (12)
Facility------Sentence-----Offense------# of Board
Coxsackie ---20-Life---- Murder 2--------4th
Coxsackie ---15-Life---- Murder 2--------7th
Eastern------25-Life----Murder 2 2x -----5th
Fishkill------15-Life ----Murder 2--------5th
Greenhaven--20-Life-----Murder 2--------5th
Hudson-----15-Life-----Murder 2--------3rd
Mt. McGregor-20-Life---- Murder 2--------5th
Otisville-----25-Life-----Murder 2--------4th
Wallkil------25-Life-----Murder 2 ------- 9th
Washington--22-Life-----Murder 2 --------5th
Woodbourne--20-Life----Murder 2 --------3rd
Woodbourne -9 1/3-Life-- Murder 2 --------5th


NOV-DEC RELEASES BASED ON PRISONERS' REPORTS. (Please note that the following statistics are not limited to people convicted of A1 Violent felonies - they include all parole hearings.) :

ARTHUR KILL
Nov/Dec. Ferguson, Ludlow, Elovich (whenever provided we publish names of the Commissioners)

61 were seen.
5 were granted a release date

24 initial interviews; 1 was granted parole
29 reappearances; 2 were granted parole
8 merit time interviews; 2 received release dates, 6 were postponed.

GROVELAND
Nov.

32 appearances (approximation)
3 were granted parole (not verified)
4 Lifers, all were denied:
#1 - 15-life - 23 years in - 5th board
#2 - 20-life - 24 years in - 4th board
#3 - 15-life - 21 years in - 4th board
#4 - 20-life - 23.5 yr in - denovo 3rd board
Of the short termers, 2 or 3 were released


MID-ORANGE
Dec. Ludlow, Lemon, Ross

27 appearances
8 were paroled (7 were A1V0)
2 A1’s were given 18 month holds (everyone else got 2 year hits)
3 postponements (none A1’s)

SULLIVAN (not Nov - I just found the misplaced report, so it's from the summer)
August

Six men from Sullivan's Main were seen, all six were reappearances, and all were A1 VO. All were hit with 2 years. Two on their 3rd boards, one on his 4th, two on 7th, and one on 12th.

WOODBOURNE
Dec. Thompson, Casey, Ferguson

17 appearances; 1(A1VO) granted parole on his second board. (Sadly this man, Charles "Chill" Hamilton, died on Dec 27, days later. PAN extends our condolences to his mother and others who loved him and were looking forward to his release for so long.)

WYOMING
Dec. Smith (third time in a row, and 6th for year, at Wyoming), Gallivan, Lemons

36 appearances; 10 granted parole.
16 initials; 5 granted
10 reappearances; 2 granted
10 merit time; 3 granted


UPDATE ON GRAZIANO VS PATAKI: This is the case in which a group of incarcerated men are suing the Governor for having an illegal policy of not granting parole to A1 Violent Offenders. The lawyers had to file a motion to compel Gov. Pataki’s deposition. The Court will issue a decision on it and then schedule a conference.  The Attorney General’s opposition papers are due on January 12 and Graziano’s reply, if any, on January 19.



7. POLICE RESEARCH PROJECT CALLS FOR READER’S PARTICIPATION. IT IS TIME FOR AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT CITIZEN/POLICE RELATIONS IN AMERICA. 

The security practices that were once seen only in the maximum security prisons of America have now become routine practice in the cities and urban centers of America.  Everywhere citizens go they are assured of getting the prison experience.  Airports have implemented a security procedure that treats all citizens as potential terrorists or dangerous criminals.  To board an airplane one must go through metal detectors, background checks, body frisks, luggage inspections and the whims of security staff that have wide discretion about who does or does not fit the terrorist profile.
 
These same practices and procedures have been implemented at check points along our highways and streets.  When you enter the cities these practices are in place in business and residential communities.  You are required to have identification to enter public buildings and you will have to pass through metal detectors and be subject to partial stripping and wand and body searches.  If you use public transportation you are subject to random searches of your person and property.  In all government buildings these procedures are guaranteed.

As mind numbing as these changes may seem to one who has lived in mainstream America where these practices were unseen and unimagined, their manifestations in the inner cities of America, poor communities of color, have always been routine.  What is unique to the inner city police/community relations is the escalation of the unbridled use of violence and abuse of police authority against inner city citizens.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the city of New York.  This is why we want to do an in depth study of the history of policing in New York

No day passes in New York City when incidents of police abuse of authority and the citizenry are not reported.
 
This is a call for your participation in a major research project on policing in New York State.  We want to look at policing from 1619 to the present.  We want to look at the demographics of those that have been fulfilling the police role and we want to look at those that have been the targets of policing.  We also want to look at policing in the context of the criminal justice system and at the role of the legislature.  To accomplish this research we are asking all politically and socially conscious prisoners to join us in this research project.

The research will be used in the production of a documentary that will be a full and comprehensive look at the history and the role of policing from the point of view of the oppressed.  When I was where you are at I would have jumped at the opportunity to be involved in a research project such as this.  The law librarians can do the legal and legislative research.  The lifers can do the historical and social research.  Everyone can get involved.  And, on this side we will be reaching out to all of the academics and scholars in the community and institutions of learning throughout the state.  Spread the word and get busy.  The alternative is to be an object of history, being acted upon, or be a subject, an actor influencing history.
 
Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, Still Here, Harlem Productions Inc. 201 West 138th St. Suite 1, NY, NY 10030



8. PRISONS ONCE AGAIN MARKED FOR CLOSURE AND ONCE AGAIN UPSTATE COMMUNITIES AND NYSCOPBA PROMISE TO FIGHT AGAINST IT.

Published December 16, 2008 04:39 pm - After winning efforts to keep the minimum-security prison open, workers and lawmakers look at a different fight this time.
Paterson proposes closing Camp Gabriels

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
 Staff Writer, www.pressrepublican.com

LAKE PLACID — Four prisons, including Camp Gabriels, are marked for closure in Gov. David Paterson's budget. And a new law included with it would shorten the prison-closure notice from one year to 90 days.

The specter of lost or displaced jobs and evaporation of a huge source of local revenue has returned, a year after a Department of Correctional Services study recommended shuttering the minimum-security prison and three others. The earlier plan was halted by union workers' outcry and North Country lawmakers, who lobbied hard to keep the state jobs in place.

The overall impact in the rural Town of Brighton and neighboring communities would be stunning.  Fiscal studies done by the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce last year put the local Camp Gabriels payroll loss alone at $7.1 million, with an economic impact close to $35 million affecting about 150 jobs and hundreds of people displaced. Employees at prisons that close would be able to transfer from one facility to another, cutting jobs by attrition.

PROGRAM FUNDS Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury): Closing prisons downstate would make more sense, she said, given that they are more expensive to operate, in facilities with higher property values and offer more opportunity for reuse. "It would seem as if that is how you would go about right-sizing your corrections department."

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said she and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) met with the governor and Budget Director Laura Anglin face to face Tuesday. "They told us we have to come up with a way to close that fiscal gap," she said of budget talks already begun. "He told us this is the worst crisis since the Depression."

Joy Gonyea, head nurse at Camp Gabriels said the cut would be too deep here.  "He's affecting the little people. I would ask if we could take a little from the top for a change, instead of from the bottom."

Rick Gonyea, Joy's husband and a retired correction officer, helped mount a campaign last year, sending thousands of letters to Fischer pushing to keep Gabriels open.  "I'm figuring also we should start writing letters again," Mr. Gonyea said.

UNION CONDEMNS PLAN  Union officials summarily denounced any plan to close prisons.  In a statement, New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) President Donn Rowe condemned the plan as a "shortsighted scheme."  "DOCS has made a habit of haphazardly picking facilities for closure. In order for the right decisions to be made in these difficult financial times, DOCS should work with NYSCOPBA, potentially impacted local communities and the State Legislature to make sure we make smart decisions that impact the entire prison system, as well as public safety," Rowe said.

This and other news about financing and siting of prisons can be found at www.realcostofprisons.org/blog/



9. PRISON MEDIA:
RADIO - GABRIEL TORRES FROM CSS, BONNIE ALLEN OF DUTCHESS CTY REENTRY PROJ, AND DAVID KACZYNSKI FROM NYADP WILL BE INTERVIEWED ON FANCY BROCCOLI;
TV - ALL THINGS HARLEM EP13 CONCENTRATES ON POLICE/COMMUNITY RELATIONS.

RADIO
Fancy Broccoli: Jan 4 guest is Gabriel Torres from Community Service Society where he is Director of Reentry Initiatives. Gabe convenes monthly meetings of the New York Reentry Roundtable; coordinates with the Roundtable legislative committee to formulate a reentry legislative agenda; coordinates the annual Albany Advocacy Day; issues white papers on reentry-related topic areas; and provides community outreach in support of CSS reentry initiatives and other program areas. Their Jan 18 guest is Bonnie Allen of the Dutchess County Re-entry Project. And on Feb 1 David Kaczynski from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty will be the guest.
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'. Visit archives at www.fancybroccoli.org to find lots of other good interviews. Write Fancy Broccoli Show, WVKR, Box 726, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604-0726

TV
On Thursday, December 18, 2008 @ 7:30pm, MNN Channel 34 broadcast Episode 13 produced by All Things Harlem which concentrates on the issue of police community relations, specifically in the Harlem community.  It covers the mass police presence at local events and includes commentary from activists, politicians, clergy members and community leaders.  The episode is just a snapshot of this major problem. It's available on the web at http://www.vimeo.com/2545164 (first thing you buy when you or your loved one gets out of prison should be a new computer. There's a lot of information the web you can't get from any other source.) "All Things Harlem" can be seen on Manhattan Neighborhood Network's channel 34 on Thursdays at 7:30pm. each week. The program airs coverage of the important issues affecting the Harlem Community, i.e. politics, advocacy, health care, police community relations, and all the other issues that are not being covered by mainstream media. If you missed any you can visit http://www.vimeo.com/2032210 to see Episodes 5-11. [FED4/NYC is EP9].

Send your feedback to Joseph Hayden at: 201 West 138th St. Suite 1, New York, NY 10030
Office: 212-234-0596, Cell: 917-753-3771
Jhayden512@aol.com, http://www.ovntv.com Channel 335, www.allthingsharlem.com



10. “REENTRY” UNIT TO PREPARE INMATES FOR RELEASE TO MONROE COUNTY; FOLLOWS ERIE COUNTY UNIT

The New York State Department of Correctional Services, in conjunction with the Division of Parole, recently opened a specialized “reentry” unit to help prepare male inmates due to be released to Monroe County for their transition back to the community. Located at Orleans Correctional Facility, the Monroe unit follows the Department’s first-ever specialized reentry unit, for Erie County releases, which opened at Orleans in August 2007.
Offenders meet in person with the parole officers, case workers, potential employers and others from their nearby home county who will form their key support network after release. During their 90- to 120-day stay at the unit, participating inmates join with a team made up of DOCS and Parole officials, OASAS-certified providers and community- and faith-based agencies to assess each offender’s needs, ranging from possession of necessary documents to employment and housing opportunities and issues surrounding family reunification, on a case-by-case basis. Staff emphasize the inmate’s personal responsibilities in preparation for his return to the community.
Prior to release, participants:
• Are evaluated for job training, anger management, substance abuse counseling and/or other programs in the community, depending on their needs.
• Are given help applying for public benefits.
• Participate in role-playing such as mock job interviews that allow them to practice behavioral responses in relation to issues of employment and family reunification.
• Practice cover letter-writing.
• “Reentry is a vital component of New York’s criminal justice strategy: when you reduce recidivism, you rebuild lives and enhance the public safety,” said Denise E. O’Donnell, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). “It’s very clear that a returning offender’s ability to adjust to life outside prison is linked to his or her success in obtaining housing, securing employment, dealing with drug or alcohol dependency and other health-related issues. Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “The transition between prison and society, especially for those inmates who have spent many years serving time, is often a difficult one. By providing the kind of personal contact that could make all the difference to an inmate’s successful readjustment to the community, these reentry units are invaluable to both the inmates and the citizens of Western New York.”
[email PAN with name of article and date of issue, for this or any other article published here]



11. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS
From the Capital District:
NEST Prison Shuttle
Mount McGregor, Washington, & Great Meadow CFs
Saturday, Jan 3, Feb 7, Mar 7, 2009
$35 Adults, $25 Children
Leaves Troy at 7am, Albany at 7:15 am

Coxsackie, Greene and Hudson CFs
Saturday, Jan 10, Feb 14, Mar 14
$20 Adults, $15 Children
Leaves Troy at 7am, Albany at 7:15am

Shuttle to Utica Hub (Midstate, Marcy, Mohawk, Oneida CFs)
Saturday, Jan 17, Feb 21, Mar 21
$45 Adults, $30 Children
Leaving Troy at 5am, Albany at 5:15am

Shuttle to Sullivan Hub (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan CFs)
Saturday, Jan 24, Feb 28, Mar 28
$45 Adults, $30 Children
Leaving Troy at 6:30 am, Albany at 6:45am

In Troy, meet at Oakwood Avenue Presbyterian Church parking lot on Ninth Street
In Albany at the Greyhound bus station.
Call for Reservations: Linda 273-5199

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



12. WHERE WE ARE, AT THE CLOSE OF 2008
The purpose of this article is to assess our situation after taking into account all the plus and minuses involved.  We're pleased by these accomplishments of 2008: 1) the progress of the Prison Action Network, 2) The achievements of FED4 and the promise of future Annual Family Empowerment Day Events, and 3) the establishment of the Coalition for  Fair Criminal Justice Policies.
 
The Progress of the Prison Action Network.  The mission of the Prison Action Network is to: INFORM the caring community about the prison system's impact, COUNTERACT the demonization  of those in prison and those who care about them, UNITE  families, friends and advocates of the incarcerated, and CREATE positive change in the criminal justice system.  In addition Prison Action Network (PAN) strives to serve as a direct link between the imprisoned population and the communities from which they come.
 
Success of PAN's efforts to serve as a direct link between the incarcerated and their communities can be measured by the accomplishments of the Annual Family Empowerment  Day events  and in the establishment of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies.  PAN's involvement in the development of the Annual Family Empowerment events originated in response to a request from a prison long-termer organization that had conceived the concept of a family empowerment day event as a means of mobilizing their families,loved-ones and supporters.
 
Such efforts by prison organizations to organize their communities to address the failures and injustices of the prison and parole systems have failed in the past primarily for lack of a community-based organization with the leadership and commitment to carry through with the work required in the outside free communities.  PAN proved to have both the leadership and commitment to do the job.  Because of its connections with other prison organizations and individuals throughout the system, PAN was able to make the Family Empowerment Day events a statewide effort.

FED4 was the culmination of a year to year struggle to address the issue of parole.  It was also an expression of the need to take strategic steps to address the opportunities presented by the appointment of liberal leadership at the helm of the controlling agencies by Governor Spitzer.  The open door policies articulated by the new leadership required strategic planning and bold leadership, both of which were exercised at FED4 and at the follow-up meeting that gave birth to the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies, an organization composed of families, loved-ones and supporters of the incarcerated.
 
The Achievements of Family Empowerment Day 4 and The Promise of Future Annual Family Empowerment Day Events .  The primary achievements of FED4 were 1) The establishment of an on-going open dialogue with the administration of the NYS Division of Parole, 2) the mobilization of families, loved-ones and supporters behind a single parole board issue (video taping parole board hearings) and 3) the promise of future annual family empowerment day events.  The first two achievements need little explanation; PAN established an on-going dialog with the administration of the Division of Parole that we expect to continue under the leadership of whoever is appointed to that position by the Paterson administration. Mobilization behind the parole board issue of video taping parole hearing was a public event at FED4 and has already been written about in Building Bridges.

The promise of future annual FED events is an outgrowth of the establishment of the new Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies, and an explanation of that promise will be dealt with under the following heading 
 
The Establishment of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies
Efforts to develop the new coalition (which will be composed of family members, loved-ones, community support groups, organizations, agencies, church congregations, as well as parent-teacher associations and legislative representatives) into a powerful and committed social/political entity that represents the communities most impacted by the criminal justice system is a promising accomplishment of FED4.
 
Although the original purpose was to establish an organization that would primarily represent the incarcerated, it became obvious that an organization that would represent the needs of not only the incarcerated, but the unique needs of the families, loved-ones and supporters themselves was crucial.  In fact such an organization should represent the communities most impacted by the criminal justice system.  Emphasis should be given to the fact that these communities contribute the majority of those caught in the criminal justice system and are therefore impacted by the policies and practices of criminal justice agencies.
 
And so efforts to develop a coalition that would represent the communities as a whole rather that segments of the communities was much wiser.  And so the new coalition seeks to represent the communities most impacted and as such assumes the role of a primary stakeholder in the operation of those criminal justice agencies that directly effect social, economic and political well being of the communities. 
 
As a primary stakeholder the coalition seeks community input in the development of the policies and practices of the controlling criminal justice agencies.  It also seeks state accountability by the controlling agencies.  State accountability includes an explanation of the assumptions guiding current policies and an analysis of intended outcomes.  Primarily, accountability entails a willingness to examine the social impact of current policies , and to consider modifications as a result of variances between intended outcomes and adverse social impact.
- Larry White, Primary Advocate, Prison Action Network


THE LAST WORD: 2008 had it's sad times, but it also was an amazing year! We saw America come together as never before to elect our first African-American President. It was hope in action, and we won. Let’s take that victory and use it to inform our work together in 2009. Let's make 2009 OUR year!
Peace, JB

Building Bridges is a joint effort of Prison Action Network and the FUUSA Justice Committee
We thank the Community Church of NY, Unitarian Universalist, for their support.