Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Friday, May 30, 2008

June 2008 EDITION

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

Posted June 25: from Coalition for Women Prisoners’ Conditions on the Inside Committee

Special HIV & Hep-C Community Forum
When: Thursday June 26th from 6 – 8 pm
Where: Correctional Association of NY, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, Suite 200

Speakers include: Rusti Miller Hill (Women’s HIV Collaborative of NY), Rita “Sunshine” Brooks (Housing Works, Women’s Advocacy Project Graduate), Jack Beck (Correctional Association – Prison Visiting Project), Tracie Gardner (Legal Action Center/Women's Initiative to Stop HIV/AIDS)

Are you a formerly incarcerated woman?***
Do you work with currently or formerly incarcerated women?
Do you work with women who are HIV positive or women who have Hepatitis C?
Are you concerned about the adequacy of health care in state prisons?

Join the Conditions on the Inside Committee to find out how you can help improve healthcare for women in prison.

Did you know that the New York State Department of Health oversees medical care in hospitals and clinics in the community, but NOT in New York State correctional facilities?

Serious inadequacies exist in health care services in New York’s prisons, including care for individuals with HIV and Hepatitis C. Come and learn how you can join the effort to secure New York State Department of Health oversight for all incarcerated people living with HIV and Hepatitis C in New York State.

***Women who are formerly incarcerated can be offered two metrocards – Please call in advance to reserve them!***
Please RSVP before Monday, June 23rd to 212-254-5700 x336.
cwpeventRSVP@gmail.com



Posted June 18:
GRAZIANO VS PATAKI

The Court adjourned the conference. NO definite date has been set for the next conference. In the meantime, the lawyers are finishing up discovery and the case will be decided either on motion or trial.



Posted June 11:
NOMINATION OF 2 NEW MEMBERS TO PAROLE BOARD
Governor David A. Paterson has announced the nomination of two new members to the Board of Parole. (Note: These appointments require Senate confirmation, and we know who's in the Senate...)

Joseph B. Crangle has been nominated as a Member of the State Board of Parole. Since 2000, Mr. Crangle has been an Assistant Court Analyst with the New York State Office of Court Administration. In this role, Mr. Crangle is assigned to the Domestic Violence Part of the Buffalo City Court where he monitors defendants compliance with court orders. From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Crangle was a Probation Officer with the Genesee County Probation Department, where he oversaw the Pretrial Release Under Supervision program. Mr. Crangle received his BA from Canisius College and his JD from the City University of New York.

Mary Ross has been nominated as a Member of the State Board of Parole. She has been a Staff Attorney with the Legal Aid Society in Queens, New York since 1998. From 1990 to 1995, Ms. Ross was the Executive Director of Providence House, directing this nonprofit corporation that provides transitional and permanent housing for female ex-offenders, homeless women and their children. Ms. Ross was previously the Program Director of Providence House from 1984 to 1990. Ms. Ross was also the Campus Minister at Queens College from 1982 to 1984 and was the Director of Administrative Services at the Diocese of Brooklyn from 1978 to 1982. She received her BA in Education from St. Josephs College, her MS in Education from Brooklyn College and her JD from the City University of New York.

Salaries for Members of the Parole Board are set at $101,600. These appointments require Senate confirmation.



BUILDING BRIDGES, JUNE 2008

Dear Reader,

It’s time to start working toward Family Empowerment Day 4. The Family Empowerment Project Executive Committee met on May 24. We decided to schedule the NYC event around the same time as in past years, on a Saturday in late October, so either October 18, 25 or November 1, depending on when we can reserve space. We're looking into spaces including the possibility of Columbia Law School again. You are the ones who pay for it. Are you willing to send a donation of at least the same amount as you did last year? Please respond with your pledge so we know whether people think Columbia is worth it. (The committee pretty much agreed that a law school feels like a good match for our event.) The theme this year will be "A Call to Action", which will build on the education and community building of past years to move us forward.

We will have less workshops than last year to choose from, and we'd like to have representatives of community based advocacy organizations and formerly incarcerated people lead them.

If time is in our favor (meaning if the final version is complete by then) we will start the day with the World Premiere of The Visitors, the documentary by Melis Birder about the trip from NYC to upstate prisons. We are considering following it with 2 -3 breakout sessions inspired by issues arising from the film.

After lunch a speaker (or panel) will report on the state of parole, followed by an exhaustive question and answer session with the audience.

Right now is the time for you to give feedback. Do you have another theme you'd prefer? Is there a speaker you'd especially like to hear from? What group/s or organization/s do you belong to that provide services or advocate for incarcerated persons or their families? Have any of you started the work as a result of past FED events? Is there an action you’d like to see us take as the culmination of the day’s event? Please send your suggestions within the month of June, as we have to move quickly with the planning. Thank you for all you do.

Together we can!

Please send a link to BUILDING BRIDGES to your friends or family. Our success depends on us all being on the same page!

In this Issue

Dear Friend penpal project
Employment services
Journalism project
Lifers and Longtermers
Mental health issues
Merit time bill S7889
Parole
Paterson's gun violence legislation
Post-release supervision (PRS)
Prison Action Network projects
Prison Action Network outside reps
Prison-radio schedules
Reentry tips
Seen in other media
Thoughts from Inside
Transportation to prisons
What’s happening around New York State



DEAR FRIENDS (PENPAL PROJECT) SENDS APOLOGY

The founder and director of the Dear Friends Pen Pal Project has been ill and it set her back temporarily in her ability to respond to all your requests. She asks you to accept her apologies and thanks you for your patience. She WILL reorganize! Thanks to all who’ve written.



EMPLOYMENT SERVICES AVAILABLE AT NO COST TO QUALIFYING INDIVIDUALS

WAGE$ (Work And Gainful Employment $ervices) is a free job readiness and placement program for men and women in recovery. They must be in a treatment program in Nassau County. They only need to be clean 1 month and 97% of our clients have convictions. They can call me with any questions at 516  227-8527 or write: Kathleen Kearns, Job Developer, WAGE$, 60 Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Uniondale, NY 11553



JOURNALISM PROJECT CREATES RESEARCH AND WRITERS’ BUREAUS, APPOINTS A LIBRARIAN , AND BEGINS COMPILING A RESOURCE LIST.

The goal of Prison Action Network’s Journalism Project is to promote in the media those issues that are important to us, and to respond quickly and effectively to press reports—both positive and negative—about those issues. We plan to become a go-to organization for journalists who are seeking reliable sources and information, solid story ideas and dependable guidance on placing issues in proper context.  We are currently setting up the project’s infrastructure, including: 
Researchers—We have recruited eight volunteer researchers and have begun using the electronic research tool “Really Simple Syndication” to easily and effectively gather a range of articles important to our cause. The researchers will collect and distribute articles that demand our attention and, over time, will create a data bank of media contacts and resources on various topics. We will use the information to persuade columnists, reporters and editors to report on all sides—including ours—of the issues we care about. As we determine the researchers’ specific interests, we may ask them to specialize in one subtopic. 
Writers—We are seeking writers who can respond effectively to media reports. We are advertising for volunteers who have good writing skills and who care about our issues. We will provide them with sample letters and guidance on how to correspond or respond in a way that has impact. 
Resources--We are collecting a file of people and organizations who have uniquely powerful stories to tell in support of the issues that are important to us.
Librarian--We have a volunteer who will collect and maintain files of articles useful to us in supporting our contentions.

We also are considering a workshop at Family Empowerment Day 4 to teach others how to work with and respond to the media in order to get the word out about our unique perspectives. 



LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS’ CLEARINGHOUSE OFFERS GUIDANCE & DIRECTION, OUTREACH, AND INFORMATION. FEEDBACK IS REQUESTED FROM LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS ABOUT THE SERVICES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE. WHAT HAS BEEN VALUABLE; WHAT IS STILL NEEDED?

The primary purpose of establishing a lifers clearinghouse is to provide the following services:

1)  Guidance & Direction Because lifer and long-termer organizations are authorized and approved by DOCS Directive 4760, which governs the operation and organizational procedures of all approved inmate organizations, it is crucial that lifer organizations abide by the policy and procedures outlined in the Directive.
Although Directive 4760 governing Inmate Organizations provides policy and procedures for the operation of lifer organizations, it does not sufficiently provide procedures to be followed when the process breaks down. The Lifers Clearinghouse seeks to provide prison organizations with guidance and direction in resolving these difficulties when they arise.  In addition, the Clearinghouse will offer unsolicited guidance and direction in matters it thinks will provide lifer and long-termer organizations with beneficial information and direction that brings such organizations into accord with criminal justice approaches being utilized by community advocacy organizations.

2) Outreach The Lifers Clearinghouse will seek to provide community contacts, community sponsorship, and community resources that lifer organizations require to effectively provide programs and services to their membership and to the general population.  In this regard the Clearinghouse is in the process of compiling a listing of community-based organizations willing to offer services to lifer organizations. WE ARE SEEKING INPUT FROM PRISON ORGANIZATIONS about which community organizations are working with them, what services are being provided, and what are still lacking?

3) Information Through this column in Building Bridges, and special mailings to our reps in prison, we will provide information pertaining to criminal and social justice activities and approaches for the attention of lifer organizations. 

Current Activities of the Lifer Clearinghouse: Contacts and meetings are being arranged to develop a coalition of community and faith-based organizations that will commit to the task of addressing the needs and issues of long-termer and lifers-without-parole segments of the general prison population. With the advent of re-entry as the dominant theme in criminal justice nationally, most if not practically all concerns are focused on providing services after the imprisoned are released.  This leaves long-term and lifers-without parole dependent upon the services provided to them by DOCS.  DOCS has openly admitted to being unable to develop programs and service specifically designed to address the unique problems of those serving long term sentences. We insist that the community has an indisputable claim as a stake holder in the correctional process and that the community therefore has an obligation to provide input in the correctional process.  Such a stance, which is a legitimate one, will help us in organizing faith and community organizations to offer services to lifers and long-termers.

-- Lawrence White



MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE GETTING ATTENTION: UNION CALLS FOR REMOVAL OF MENTAL HEALTH UNIT, NAMI DISCUSSES MENTAL ILLNESS AND THE DEATH PENALTY

Union calls for removal of mental health unit at prison
Reported By Don Lehman, dlehman@poststar.com

Thursday, May 1, 2008 9:05 PM EDT

The union that represents correction officers at Great Meadow Correctional Facility is calling for the state to scrap a new prison unit for the mentally ill because of security concerns. Great Meadow was one of two state prisons that established so-called "behavioral health units" in 2005 after the settlement of a lawsuit against the state Department of Correctional Services over mental health care. As part of the settlement, the state designated a 38-cell area as a behavioral health unit at the maximum-security prison in an effort to better treat the severely mentally ill who are in the prison system.

The units are operated, though, by the state Office of Mental Health, and that has led to problems between correction officers and the Office of Mental Health employees who run the behavioral health unit, said Scott Bishop, chief sector steward at Great Meadow for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association. "The safety and the security of the facility should be of the utmost importance, but we don’t feel that’s the case (in the behavioral health unit)," he said. "The officers who are there feel they are handcuffed, and they don’t have any recourse." Bishop and Larry Flanagan, president of the state Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said correction officers have not been able to provide security as they normally would, which has led to injuries among correction officers, and inmates in the behavioral health unit aren’t disciplined for their offenses.

"It has created a great deal of frustration for us," Flanagan said. "DOCS can’t dictate to mental health, and it’s leading to problems. I don’t believe the Department (of Correctional Services) is aware of the changes that are being made there daily." One of the major problems is that inmates who act out in the behavioral health unit haven’t been disciplined as they should be, Bishop said. State prisons use a three-tier system of discipline for inmates, depending on the seriousness of the offense, and that system is not being used in the behavioral health unit, he said. "Civilian staff and the security staff are really bumping heads," Bishop said.

Erik Kriss, a spokesman for DOCS, said behavioral health units are a "collaborative effort" of DOCS and the Office of Mental Health, and DOCS has significant input on security matters. DOCS has received only one report of a correction officer assigned to the behavioral health unit being hurt, and that injury was minor. Officers can also request transfers out of the behavioral health unit. Kriss said the disciplinary proceedings were changed for those in the behavioral health unit cells so they aren’t subject to "misbehavior reports," as other prisoners are. Instead, they receive "informational reports." Kriss said they are still disciplined, though. As of earlier this year, 233 disciplinary actions had been taken against prisoners in Great Meadow’s behavioral health unit, he said. "The (behavioral health unit) is a risky place," he acknowledged. "But we are under court order not to treat the mentally ill as we have in the past. We think the changes make sense."

Jill Daniels, a spokeswoman for the Office of Mental Health, said the behavioral health units are "operated primarily" by the Office of Mental Health. She said they are for inmates who otherwise would have been confined to special housing units. "(Behavioral health units) are the most intense level of mental health services provided to prison inmates prone to disciplinary infractions," Daniels said in an e-mail statement. "The program is designed to meet the mental health needs of these individuals while taking into consideration their disciplinary status and safety and security requirements."

.................................
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an education, advocacy, referral and support organization with more than 1,200 local affiliates across all 50 states.  Kathleen Bayes, whose husband struggled with mental illness, is the Executive Director of NAMI Fort Wayne, in Indiana.  Kathleen spoke about why ending the death penalty is important to her: “The death penalty is often given in cases of particularly violent or baseless crimes.  Such crimes are often committed by people who suffer from serious brain disorders.  These are not crimes of choice.  When such people are medicated and find out what they have done, they are as horrified as anyone else would be. This very well could have happened to my husband. Today, after treatment, he is a brilliant, kind, and gentle person, just as he was before he became ill.  It is the worst nightmare of NAMI families to have a loved one hurt someone and face the death penalty.  What the capital punishment system does to a family is horrific, with the torment of publicity and appeals that last for years and years -- all for something the person would not have done if they were in their right mind. The failure of our society to treat people with mental illness is a disaster.  As we have closed our state mental hospitals around the country, jails and prisons have taken over, becoming in effect our country's largest mental institutions.  We are criminalizing mental illness, when we should be treating it.”

Across the country, state and local groups in the movement to halt executions have joined with mental health advocacy organizations to call for more funding for preventive mental health care, and for the prohibition of the death penalty for persons with serious mental illness.



MERIT TIME BILL: S7889 SPONSOR: SEN. MONTGOMERY; A10716 ASSMBLY. AUBREY
SUMMARY: AMENDS S803, REPLACED SUB 2-B, COR L [Click here to locate the actual bill]

Allows all qualifying inmates to be granted a merit time allowance; increases the merit time allowance credit against indeterminate and determinate sentences to one-third of the minimum and maximum periods.



PAROLE - IMPORTANT UPDATE ON THE GRAZIANO CASE; AN EXPLANATION OF WHY PAROLE DATES WERE MOVED UP; AND PAROLE STATISTICS

Graziano vs Pataki
There will be a pretrial conference on June 13, but only to (hopefully) schedule the actual trail. No reason to attend. Check this website after June 16 for updates. It will be important to be there, both to show our support to Graziano et.al. and to show the court and any press that attends that there are a lot of us who agree that current parole policies do not follow the intent of the law.

Parole Hearing Updates:
Last month people inquired why the Parole Board was moving the dates of parole appearances up. The reason given is so that there is more time to prepare for reintegration, to actually connect returning individuals with the services they will need when they go home. The release date, if parole is granted, does not change..

Parole Statistics:
There’s an addition to the Parole website at which all parole releases are listed by month. A researcher who is looking up people with long terms to see the rates and numbers of releases, has offered to share her reports with us. We’ve deleted the names to protect the privacy of the individuals. Of course they can be found at the website. Below is the first report based on this website [except Woodbourne and A.K.-May, which came from another source].

March 2008 Interviews
126 Interviews:  19 initial, 107 reappearances
13 Released:  0 initial, 13 reappearances
94 Denials: 17 initial, 77 reappearances
19 Postponed: 2 initial, 17 reappearances
Total Interviews without postponements is 107

The following are reports on individuals. The first number refers to the minum sentence of a particular person, the second is which board this was for the individual. For instance, in March five long termers were released at A.K., the last one listed was serving a sentence whose minimum was 15 years and he was released at his 4th board.

March Releases
Arthur Kill - 25 years - 3rd board; 20 on 2nd; 1-life on 1st?; 25 on 3rd; 15 on 4th
Collins - 25 on 2nd
Clinton - 20 on 3rd
Mid Orange - 15 on 11th; 25 on 4th
Otisville - 20 on 5th,
Riverview - 25 on 2nd
Taconic female - 15 on 3rd
Wende - 15 on 8th

April 2008 Interviews:
146 interviews:  19 initial, 127 reappearances
17 releases:  2 initial, 15 reappearances
102 denials: 14 initials, 88 reappearances
27 postponed: 3 initials, 24 reappearances
Total interviews without postponements would be 119.
  
April Releases
Arthur kill - 15 years on 5th board; 22 on 2nd; 15 on 2nd; 20 on 2nd; 20 on initial
Bayview Female - 18 years on initial
Cayuga - 15 years on 2nd board; 15 on 9th
Collins - 25 years on 9th board
Fishkill - 25 years on 4th board
Greenhaven - 17 years on 7th board
Mid Orange - 22 years on 3rd; 18 on 2nd
Midstate - 15 years on 2nd board
Otisville - 16 years on 9th board
Riverview - 20 years on 2nd board
Woodbourne - only 1 out of 25 made the board.

May at Arthur Kill: 98 seen, 27 given dates (1 a deportation), 39 were initials, of those 10 were granted parole, 7 were postponed. 47 were reappearances, of those 12 were granted, 9 were postponed. 11 merit time interviews, 2 were granted, 7 were postponed. Commissioners: Lemons, Gallivan, Loomis



ONE YEAR AFTER VIRGINIA TECH TRAGEDY, GOVERNOR PATERSON PROPOSES LEGISLATION TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE, LEGISLATION INTRODUCED WOULD STRENGTHEN REGULATIONS FOR GUN SELLERS AND REDUCE SALES TO CRIMINALS; REFORMS WOULD IMPROVE BACKGROUND CHECKS WHILE PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF LAW-ABIDING GUN OWNERS

May 19, 2008 Contact:  Errol Cockfield | Errol.Cockfield@chamber.state.ny.us | 212.681.4640 | 518.474.8418
Governor David A. Paterson today proposed legislation designed to reduce gun violence without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. The proposed legislation would increase public safety by providing law enforcement officials with more complete information to ensure guns are purchased legally. The legislation also includes proposals in response to the Virginia Tech shooting last year.
In particular, the bill: (1) allows relevant mental health records to be included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); (2) improves the use of the State's Combined Ballistic Identification System (CoBIS) in solving serious gun crimes; (3) updates and clarifies the State's gun licensing laws; and (4) provides for increased security at gun shops, including requirements for licensing and training of employees who handle guns.
The Governor's proposed legislation contains numerous other provisions to enhance public safety, including measures that would help law enforcement prevent guns from getting in the hands of criminals. For example, the bill:
• Requires employees of gun shops who handle and sell guns to undergo a criminal background check, and eventually to obtain a gun license;
• Requires that all applicants for a gun license successfully complete a gun safety course
• Requires the Superintendent of State Police to issue regulations to ensure that gun shops are operating securely and to ensure that gun shop employees are properly trained in gun safety and laws regulating the purchase and sale of firearms;
• Clarifies the circumstances under which gun shops will be subject to inspection by the State Police; and,
• Updates and clarifies confusing provisions in New York's gun licensing statutes that have led to their inconsistent application.
• These amendments will not restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners, but will greatly enhance law-enforcement efforts to reduce criminal activity in the State, including crimes involving the use of firearms.



NEW YORK'S HIGHEST COURT RULES THAT DOCS CANNOT IMPOSE POST-RELEASE SUPERVISION ON INMATES AS THEY EXIT PRISON WHEN THE SENTENCING JUDGE NEGLECTED TO

New York court rules that only judges can impose post-release supervision after prison terms.
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN, Associated Press
Last updated: 6:02 p.m., Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ALBANY -- New York's highest court ruled Tuesday that the Department of Correctional Services cannot impose post-release supervision on inmates as they exit prison when the sentencing judge neglected to. ..."The sentencing judge -- and only the sentencing judge -- is authorized to pronounce the PRS component of a defendant's sentence," Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote. Chief Judge Judith Kaye and judges Victoria Graffeo, Susan Read, Robert Smith, Eugene Pigott and Theodore Jones concurred. "PRS represents a significant punishment component that restricts an individual's liberty."
[Email PAN for the entire article]



PRISON ACTION NETWORK PROJECTS INCLUDE PAROLE SUPPORT AND TRANSITIONAL HOUSING (PLEASE CONTACT THE CHAIRPERSONS TO OFFER ASSISTANCE)

Parole Support Project
Joe Rudd, 917- 423/5757
The Parole Support Project is re-evaluating its strategy for generating community support for the people our paroled members left behind. One thing is certain however, there will be a table at FED4 with parole support petitions for those people endorsed by the project committee.

Transitional Housing for Lifers and Longtermers
Sonny Rudert - drudertsonny@yahoo.com
Sonny is looking for appropriate buildings and ways of personally financing the purchase. Once the residence is ready for occupancy, interested community groups, including PAN, will be offered a chance to purchase and manage a set number of rooms for the use of their people.
Another possibility exists. There are people already running recovery residences who are interested in opening a new residence exclusively for people on parole, with services available for people who've been away for long sentences. Some of PAN's members are involved as consultants and may indeed be hired to direct the residence. So without having to raise vast sums of money and apply for permits, etc. we are already influencing the creation of housing that meets the needs of our members who will be reintegrating into society.



PRISON ACTION NETWORK IS LOOKING FOR MEMBERS TO REPRESENT US AT PRISON EVENTS. TO QUALIFY YOU MAY NOT HAVE PERSONAL CONTACT WITH A PERSON INCARCERATED IN NYS.

We are frequently invited to attend conferences and retreats given by prison groups, as well as requested to become a sponsor and attend the organization's regular meetings. Prison regulations classify such visiting as a volunteer activity and require that we fill out a volunteer application form. On this form we are asked whether we have personal contact with anyone in a NYS Correctional Facility. If we answer yes we are denied gate clearance. PAN's executive team at this time does not contain anyone who is not on parole or who does not have personal contact with "an inmate at a NYS Correctional Facility". Therefore we cannot accept these invitations. If you could, and would like to, represent us either at one event or as an ongoing participant at organization meetings,please give us a call [518 253 7533]. We guarantee you a worthwhile experience!



PRISON RADIO SCHEDULES: BE THE CHANGE, A NEW WEEKLY SHOW, WILL ADDRESS ISSUES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS; FANCY BROCCOLI: JUNE GUESTS: TINA STANFORD, JEFFRION AUBREY, SHEILA RULE. .

The producers of Fancy Broccoli are broadcasting a new show, "Be The Change". It will air every Wednesday from 5-6pm, and discuss issues of social justice and human rights with listeners.

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 June 1 their guest will be Tina Stanford, Director of NYS Crime Victims; Assemblyperson Jeffrion Aubrey on June 8th, and Sheila Rule, Owner, ResillienceMultimedia Publishing on the 29th of June. And make sure to put August 10 on your calendar, when George Alexander will be there to answer questions.

Visit archives www.fancybroccoli.org to find lots of other good interviews. Write Fancy Broccoli Show, WVKR, Box 726, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604-0726



REENTRY TIPS: MANY PEOPLE KNOW THESE, BUT WE’RE FREQUENTLY ASKED ABOUT TRANSITIONAL HOUSING IN ALBANY BY PEOPLE WHO ARE FROM NYC OR THEY WERE CONVICTED THERE. SOME HAVE ASSUMED THE AGENCY PROVIDING RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS WOULD MAKE THE ARRANGEMENTS WITH PAROLE. IT’S THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

All people eligible for parole must discuss with their prison's Institutional Parole Officer the options for Transitional Housing as well as whatever programming is required of them, prior to release. Once approved, Institutional Parole will contact Regional Parole, who will then contact the agency providing the housing and/or programs.

As far as housing is concerned it is our understanding that, without exception, individuals being released to parole supervision must return to the County of last known address or County of Conviction. Certainly if the person is able to propose a stable residence with family, it is more likely that he or she would be approved for an alternate county. If they propose a residence with friends it is likely that it would have to be deemed a stable residence and there would need to be a logical reason for proposing that particular site/county.

However, it is advisable to investigate options in the person's county of origin before discussing with the facility officer in order to be an informed consumer. Make sure the housing situation meets the needs of the person coming home. Some residences focus primarily on recovery and are not necessarily helpful for people who have served long sentences, been clean for years, and have lost all connections with the outside. [The Clearinghouse Project is working on a chart listing some of the differences.]



SEEN IN THE MEDIA: PAN MEMBER CHARLES CULHANE HAD HIS OPINION PRINTED IN THE EVERYBODYSCOLUMN OF THE BUFFALO NEWS
Archived here


Public pays steep price for badly broken system

The recent News article reporting a Buffalo city police officer retiring on a pension of $98,000 should not have been too surprising. It’s not an uncommon practice for state and municipal employees to pump up their retirement package by working overtime in their last working years, sometimes earning double and triple their normal salaries.

Several years ago, The News reported on salaries of guards at the Erie County Holding Center, where a nonranking officer earned $129,000 in one year.

Similarly, resistance by state corrections unions to prevent closure of four minimum-security jails reflects a determination to get the most out of the public treasury. The four facilities hold about 1,300 prisoners and presently there are more than 9,000 empty prisons beds in the state.

Prisons today are filled with thousands of people who stole a few hundred dollars or peddled a few dollars worth of drugs. Racism and greed lie at the heart of our criminal justice system. The irony, of course, is the wildly extravagant price the public pays for a broken system that helps no one except those with lucrative jobs and fat pensions.

--Charles Culhane, Buffalo



THOUGHTS FROM INSIDE: DON MASON ON THE FORGOTTEN MAN/WOMAN; ANONYMOUS* ON PAROLE BOARD DECISIONS

In 1884 William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) wrote two essays: “On the Case of a Certain Man who is Never Thought Of” and “The Case of the Forgotten Man Further Considered. He wrote of the common people who were good examples of taking personal responsibility, working hard, paying their taxes, and rarely if ever needing government services, and who end up having no voice in government spending decisions, and, in essence, becoming forgotten. During the Depression, Roosevelt used the phrase “The Forgotten Man” in several speeches, in reference to the person who was then unemployed and desperate. Roosevelt sold the New Deal by tugging heart-strings through his use of the phrase The Forgotten Man.

There are at least two instances today that create Forgotten Men/Women. The first is the responsibility of incarcerated persons, the parole board commissioners are responsible for the second.

First, some people in prison never stop to think of the financial burden that our arrest, trial, county time, and state incarceration have been to the average taxpayer (including our own family members). We have become part of the reason that NYS spends more each year for DOCS than SUNY. Each time we go to the mess hall, doctor, dentist, State Shop, the Forgotten Man/Woman (taxpayers) that get up each morning and go to work are paying for it.

Second, the parole board commissioners too are culpable. When they ignore Executive Law 259i, have no set criteria for who is released and who isn’t, and place primary emphasis on the nature of the crime and almost no recognition of prison accomplishments and positive change they contribute to the Forgotten Man/Woman’s situation. Each two year hit by the board costs the taxpayers at least $70,000 more.

Let us begin to ask, as Sumner did, “Who will pay for it? -- Don Mason

------------------------------------
I am going to appear before the Board in January 2009, and frankly I am awfully concerned about the arbitrary and capricious nature of the decisions coming down. For instance, they often decline to release you because you might not remain at liberty without violating the law; or you are a threat to society. As I see it, these arguments are illogical. No one can clearly say whether a person like me will commit another crime. It’s absurd; it is a conclusion not supported by facts. The fact that the Parole Commissioners keep using these types of arguments, and are not challenged by logicians, upsets me to no end... *[Name withheld by editor to protect the writer from possible retaliation, since we have no clue what influences parole board members in their decisions.]



TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS: VOLUNTEERS STILL NEEDED TO DRIVE PEOPLE TO VISIT THEIR LOVED ONES IN PRISON. CALL PRISON ACTION NETWORK [518 253 7533] TO DISCUSS POSSIBILITIES. OTHER OPTIONS FOLLOW.

From the Capital District:
NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow CFs on Sat, June 7($30 adults, $20 children), Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson on Sat, June 14 ($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, June 21 leaving Troy at 5 AM. Sullivan trip (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan) on Sat, June 28 leaving at 6:30 AM ($40 adults, $25 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.

The NEST Gospel Fundraiser ensured that the shuttle can keep going another year! People had such a good time that we are considering doing this again next year. We will need to raise the price on each trip by $5 in July to help offset gas prices, but we can pay for the insurance, inspection and new brakes now! Thank you all for your support and kindness!

Door to door, free rides are offered from Albany to prisons within 150 miles by a volunteer 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: ADVOCACY FOR THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MERIT TIME BILL, THE DOCUMENTARY, “PRISON LIFE STORIES” SHOWING IN BFLO, COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS HIRED MAGGIE WILLIAMS, BECOMING THE PROMISED LAND: FAITH, COMMUNITY, AND THE PRISON REENTRY POPULATION, A TWO DAY CONFERENCE IN NYC

ALBANY: Thursday June 5 - the Violence Against Women Committee of the Correctional Association of NY will advocate for the Domestic Violence Merit Time Bill, S.3164/A.6150 in Albany. To participate, you MUST attend training. Please contact Maggie Williams, 212 254 5700, x334, or mwilliams@correctionalassociation.org
for information about how to do this.

BUFFALO: Prisoners Are People Too! meets monthly in Buffalo at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street from 6:30-8:30pm.

At its next meeting on Monday, June 23, 2008, Prisoners Are People Too! will screen the documentary, “Prison Life Stories” (2008), produced and directed in Philadelphia, PA by Michael Kuetemeyer, Deborah Rudman, and Anula Shetty of the Termite Television Collective. Through the voices of imprisoned people, family members and justice advocates, the audience will be led to explore the many ways that incarceration affects individuals, families, and communities.

As Prisoners Are People Too! celebrates its third year, we fully recognize the value of people sharing their stories of imprisonment and freedom, pain and triumph, and everything in between. The stories make our mission clear and give us hope. Guest “storytellers” will include a person who has “served time” behind bars; an individual, with an imprisoned loved one, who has “served time” on the homefront; and a social justice advocate who believes in equal justice and fairness for all.

The next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too! is scheduled for July 28. 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

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NEW YORK CITY:
The Coalition for Women Prisoners has hired a new Associate Director. Maggie Williams formerly founded and directed the Voter Enfranchisement Project (VEP) at the Bronx Defenders, which she left to accept a 5-month fellowship with MoveOn.org Political Action, focusing on grassroots organizing using the internet. Prison Action Network congratulates Maggie and the Correctional Association for choosing to work together to change criminal justice policy in NYS.

Becoming the Promised Land: Faith, Community, and the Prison Reentry Population, a two day conference from June 12-13, 10am-6pm. Free and open to the public, registration is required: 212 662 4315, or cmj@auburnsem.org. Auburn Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway at 121st St. NYC 10027.

This conference will explore the biblical and theological foundations and contexts for work with and among the prison reentry population. It will consider ways in which churches and other communities and organizations can and do work with formerly incarcerated women and men to bring about God’s healing and wholeness.


Prison Action Network is grateful to Community Church of NY, Unitarian Universalist, for their support.

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