Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

APRIL 2009

Please scroll down to read the April edition, following these late breaking announcements.

POSTED APRIL 3: From Prison Action Network
NYS State Voted to Drop the Rock!!!

Victory!!!! At 10:15pm last night the Senate passed the Rockefeller
Drug Law reforms, after 6 hours of discussion!! It had already
passed in the Assembly, which means judicial discretion in many drug
cases has been restored, and sentencing minimums have become more
reasonable in New York State. It was a huge step forward!! It's time
to thank some of the heros of last night's debates! I'll start by
thanking you, who in all likelihood took some action in the past to
support the Drop the Rock campaign. We can use this momentum to
energize our campaign for parole reform and other causes we support.

Senator Schneiderman, as Senate sponsor of the bill, had to answer
all the sometimes infuriating questions from opposing senators, and
he never lost his cool, and calmly but firmly stuck to his ground,
that this legislation was smart and would benefit all New Yorkers.
His email address appears below. Please, if you do nothing more than
just send the words, 'Thank you for a job well done!", it would go a
long way to let him know we're watching and we appreciate his hard
work on our behalf.

Senator Montgomery also deserves a note of thanks. She spent her
precious 2 minutes in explaining her vote by thanking, among others,
Bob Gangi, dir of the Correctional Association who spearheaded the
Drop the Rock Campaign, Charles "Chill" Hamilton, who while
incarcerated led the inside movement for justice, and other formerly
and currently incarcerated people, whose names I did not recognize.
She deserves an email hug for her humanity. Please send her your
thanks too.

When you send your message, be sure and mention your membership in
the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies. In our numbers
lies our strength.

Email Sen Schneiderman
Email Sen Montgomery





POSTED APRIL 2:
The Visitors premiers at international film festivals

The Visitors, a film that was screened in it's rough cut version at Family Empowerment Day 3 in Albany, and FED4 in NYC, is finally complete and having its world premier at Full Frame Film Festival on April 3rd, where it is up for 6 awards.

www.fullframefest.org

Then it will be at Istanbul Film Festival on April 15th
www.iksv.org/film/english/program

Congratulations to Melis Birder, the filmmaker!



BUILDING BRIDGES APRIL EDITION
Dear Reader,

It is very important to us that those in prison continue to work on preparing themselves for rejoining the communities to which they will return. We want them to be as well prepared as possible, because it’s difficult even for us to survive in today’s world. We welcome your suggestions for how we can support their efforts to do that. For you, it’s important that you join us in working to advocate for policies that will provide a fair evaluation of your incarcerated loved one’s readiness to come home. Please read these pages thoroughly. There is a lot of information here. Overwhelming at times, we know. But take it slow; one article at a time, and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. After all, you have a whole month before the next one arrives. Share your opinions with your family or friends. And take advantage of all the opportunities to make a difference announced in these pages. This is new territory for many of us, but together we can create change!

Be well, have hope, and please, tell people about this website.


ARTICLES:
1. Activities to educate, motivate, and mobilize
2. Budget speech by Commissioner Brian Fischer
3. Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies - NYC
4. ICARE Reports
5. Legislation
6. Lifers and longtermers clearinghouse
7. Parole news
8. Prison health care report
9. Prison libraries research project
10. Prison media
11. Prisoners of the Census
12. Reentry unit opens
13. Reentry speech by Commissioner Fischer
14. SHU Bill commentary by Sol Wachtler
15. Transportation to prisons

1. ACTIVITIES TO EDUCATE, MOTIVATE AND MOBILIZE: OPPORTUNITIES FOR WORKING FOR JUSTICE APPEAR BELOW. GEORGE ALEXANDER WILL ATTEND THE COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES MEETING ON 4/25. PLEASE GET INVOLVED!

TROY
Friday, April 10, 2009 at 7 PM 30 Years in Solitary Confinement and Found Innocent

Robert Hillary King, who spent almost 30 years in solitary confinement at the notorious Angola State Prison in Louisiana before the state admitted his innocence and released him, will speak at The Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Avenue in North Troy).

Admission to the talk is by donation ($10 suggested, $5 student/low income). Call (518) 272-2390, email MediaSanctuary, or visit www.MediaSanctuary.org for directions and more information. In his recently published autobiography, "From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King”, King tells of his attempts to break out of this system, and his persistent pursuit of justice where there is none.


BUFFALO:
Monday, April 27, 6:30pm - 8:30pm Prisoners Are People Too, Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo.

This meeting will deal with Buffalo N.Y.’s Drug Treatment Court, created in December 1995 by Hon. Robert T. Russell, Jr. who continues to serve as its Presiding Judge. Like other Drug Courts around the country, it works to stop the abuse of alcohol and other drugs and related criminal activity. Part of its mission is building a closer relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals who maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement for Drug Court participants. Guest speakers will include Hon. Robert T. Russell, Jr. and Donna Lewis, a mother, Youth Development professional, and formerly incarcerated person who has benefitted greatly from the level of supervision and therapeutic sanctions provided by Drug Court in her past.

The documentary film being screened is “Drug Mules.” Although it focuses on the lives of poor, foreign-born women who end up incarcerated for lengthy periods for bringing drugs into the US, it also highlights the lives of all women whose lives are negatively impacted by the Rockefeller Drug Law.

PRP2 programs are sponsored by The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng. For further information, contact Karima Amin: 716-834-8438; karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.


NEW YORK CITY:

Wednesday, April 22nd, 1 to 3pm The New York Reentry Roundtable
105 East 22nd street, Room 4A. We’ll discuss Advocacy Day which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12th. We provide lunch. For more info, email Gabriel Torres-Rivera


Sat., April 25, 10:30am -1pm Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies-NYC Chapter Meeting

Special guest George Alexander, former Chairman of Parole, will discuss his situation and his desire to return to his former position now that he’s been exonerated.

Meeting will be at Fortune Society’s Offices, 29-76 Northern Blvd.(Rte 25A) between 40th Ave and 41st Ave in Long Island City. It’s the door on left side of building. Parking is difficult, we advise subway: Queens Plaza stop on the R, E, V trains; Queensboro Plaza stop on 7, N, W trains; 39th Avenue stop on N, W trains. (It's only 1 stop after the train leaves Manhattan). Are readers are invited to attend and bring friends and family. More info below in Article #3.


Tues., May 12, all day Community Service Society Lobby Day.

Let’s have a large Prison Action Network contingent this year. Please consider making arrangements to take the day off so you can join us. Breakfast, lunch and transportation from NYC provided . A good way to start learning to lobby. Buses will depart from Community Service Society, 105 East 22nd Street, corner of Park Ave South, and from the Fortune Society Castle, corner of 140th Street and Riverside Drive. Departure Time: 6:30am SHARP. Returning Time: 7:00pm
For more info, email Gabriel Torres-Rivera


TODAY, all day, statewide Women in Prison Project Call-in Action.

Take action on supporting the Domestic Violence Merit Time BillS S3438 [see details in article #4 on legislation]:

This bill allows certain people convicted of a violent crime that was the result of domestic violence to be eligible for merit time. The bill is at a critical juncture.  Within the next couple days the Senate and Assembly will work together to submit a budget to Governor Paterson.  The DV Merit Time Bill has a good chance of being included in this budget and in the budget negotiations the legislature has with the Governor. 

We need you to help reach out to members of the Public Protection Budget Committees in the Senate and the Assembly (listed below) to ask them to include the DV Merit Time bill in the budget and support it during the negotiations:
 
Senator Hassell-Thompson, Chair, Crime, Crime Victims & Corr. Cmte. 518-455-2061
Senator Eric Schneiderman, Chair, Codes Committee 518-455-2041
Senator John Sampson, Chair, Judiciary Committee 518-455-2788
Senator Eric Adams, Chair, Veterans Affairs 518-455-2431
Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, Chair, Corrections Committee 518-455-4561
Assemblymember Joseph Lentol Chair, Codes Committee 518-455-4477
Assemblymember RoAnn Destito, Chair, Gov. Operations Cmte. 518-455-5454
Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, Chair, Judiciary 518-455-5462
Governor Paterson 518-474-8390
 
Here is a sample call dialogue:
"Hello, my name is _____.  May I speak to Senator/Assemblymember  _____  or his/her Counsel please?  (If no one is there, leave a message using the language below). 

I am calling to ask you to include the DV Merit Time Bill in this year's budget.  This bill allows incarcerated domestic violence survivors to earn Merit Time and be eligible for early release.  Moving this bill forward with the budget is critical: it would help New York begin to address years of injustice for incarcerated survivors and it would save the state nearly $3 million during the first year and over $6 million annually. Thank you for your consideration."

If the elected official wants more information or has any questions you cannot answer, you can tell them to contact Serena Alfieri directly at 212-254-5700 x311.  Please take a moment to call!



2. BUDGET NEWS: COMMISSIONER FISCHER SPEAKS TO THE CITIZENS CRIME COMMISSION ABOUT SAVING MONEY WHILE ALSO IMPROVING THE STATE PRISON SYSTEM

In his speech to the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City on February 18, 2009 Commissioner Fischer talked about the decrease in numbers of people incarcerated in NYS, the decrease in crime, the 7,000 beds currently unused, and outlined proposals to improve the State prison system.

He countered the opposition's claim that closing prisons puts citizens in danger by citing the statistic that every year since 1999, fewer than 11 percent of ex-offenders have returned to prison for a new crime within three years of release. He credits this success to the current focus on reentry.

DOCS employs more than 31,000 people at a cost of $2.5 billion per year, making it the costliest executive agency in State government in terms of state operations. Fischer supports Governor Paterson's proposal to close four correctional camps and some prison annexes, saving taxpayers nearly $30 million a year with virtually no layoffs, since more than 40 COs leave the payroll every two weeks, mainly to retire.

He mentioned the Governor's endorsement of three key recommendations of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, of which Commissioner Fischer was one of 11 voting members:
• Graduated sanctions for minor and technical parole violations as an alternative to a costly and inappropriate return to prison;
• A six-month credit time allowance for offenders – including some violent offenders but no first-degree murderers or sex offenders – who behave themselves and complete enhanced program requirements during incarceration, and;
• Expanded eligibility for our Shock Incarceration program.

The Governor has also endorsed expanding medical parole from terminally ill offenders to certain incapacitated offenders who pose no reasonable threat to society.

These proposals will not only free up more prison space, but will also provide incentives for offenders to improve themselves and, in the process, keep our prisons safer.

Regarding the cuts in State contracts with private, not-for-profit substance abuse treatment programs he stated "you may not know that more than 8,500 inmates are currently receiving treatment through DOCS, mostly within prison walls. Last year, more than 30,000 inmates participated in Department substance abuse programs." He implies DOCS programs are as successful as those that are no longer available.

Commissioner Fischer supports determinate sentencing, claiming that "while fixed sentencing was originally called “Truth in Sentencing,” it might be better defined as “Fairness in Sentencing.”" He believes that determinate sentencing addresses the problem of disparity of sentences and also "provides offenders with a clear understanding that to earn time off their court-imposed sentence, they must complete mandated treatment programs as well as avoid serious disciplinary problems." He believes it will encourage accepting personal responsibility for the outcome of their incarceration.

[The speech is available on the DOCS website:www.docs.state.ny.us/.]



3. COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES: MOMENTUM IS GROWING; WE ARE IN THE MEETING AND DISCUSSION PHASE OF OUR CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE PAROLE POLICIES. GEORGE ALEXANDER WILL BE OUR GUEST AT THE APRIL 25 MEETING.

In the month of March we were busy researching ways to work on reforming the laws governing the Parole Board. We met with members of the advocacy community who have previously been involved in writing or supporting legislative changes to parole law. We also had a meeting with several of our favorite thinkers on legislative matters to discuss a proposal from our executive committee. The ideas generated from these two meetings were presented to members who attended our March 28th meeting. In April we will meet again with those interested in continuing as an ad hoc Policy Committee.

Former head of Parole George Alexander will be a guest at our general meeting on April 25, in his first public appearance in NYC since his ouster. Please spread the word! Saturday April 25 from 10:30 to 1 at the Fortune Society Offices, 29-76 Northern Blvd.(Rte 25A) between 40th Ave and 41st Ave in Long Island City. See article 1, under NYC, for more travel directions.



4. ICARE REPORTS ON LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY EFFORTS AND CIRCLES OF CARE MINISTRY PROGRAM

During budget season, much of the conversation in Albany has been focused on the Rockefeller Drug Laws and ways to reduce wasteful spending that does nothing to improve the lives of people in prison or in communities.   ICARE is continuing to educate members of the new Senate majority about issues of reentry and incarceration by asserting the importance of amending or proposing legislation that strengthens employment opportunities for people with criminal convictions.  Reducing discrimination is a key factor for gaining employment and for the long-term work of stabilizing communities disproportionately impacted by incarceration.  

We have also continued to build our small "Circles of Care" ministry program, recognizing that community support is essential in the reentry process.  In mid-March we hosted a New York City gathering for the volunteers who correspond with participants in our "Circles of Care" program, and we are now working to establish an ongoing network of communities of faith around the state who are involved in supporting incarcerated people and their families. 



5. LEGISLATION: CENSUS BILL HAS JOINT SPONSORSHIP; NEW MERIT TIME BILL LIMITS THOSE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE AND DOES NOT INCREASE THE TIME CUTS; DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MERIT TIME BILL INCLUDES PEOPLE WITH CRIMES RESULTING FROM ABUSE . [Copies of all bills mentioned are available at public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menuf.cgi. Call PAN if you need help using that site. 518 253 7533.]

S1633/A5946 CENSUS BILL
February 3, 2009 Introduced by Sens. SCHNEIDERMAN, BRESLIN, DIAZ, DILAN, DUANE, HASSELL-
THOMPSON, KRUEGER, MONTGOMERY, ONORATO, OPPENHEIMER, PARKER, SAMPSON, SAVINO, SERRANO, STAVISKY, THOMPSON -- read twice and ordered printed,and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Elections. Introduced February 23, 2009 by Members of the Assembly A. ESPAILLAT, BENJAMIN, PEOPLES, BOYLAND, LAVINE -- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A. CLARK, DIAZ, GREENE, HEASTIE, HOOPER, PERRY, ROSENTHAL -- read once and referred to the Committee on Election Law

It states that each facility for the incarceration of persons convicted of a criminal offense, including a mental health institution for those persons, shall submit a report to the state board of elections, which includes, along with other information, the last address at which the person resided before the person's current incarceration. That information will be used in creating Congressional, Assembly, Senate and County Legislative Districts. If passed it would go into effect immediately.


S2932/A6487  MERIT TIME BILL #2
(S49, same as A172 - reported last month - is before the Committee also)
MONTGOMERY, AUBREY
Correction Law
TITLE....Relates to the expansion of merit time
STATUS: 03/06/09 REFERRED TO CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION

Section 1 of the bill amends section 803 of the correction law to allow all inmates to earn merit time allowance except those serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, those convicted of an A-1 felony offense (other than those A-1 felony offenses which are defined in Penal Law Section 220), and those convicted of a sex offense or convicted of an act of terrorism. (Thus it includes some who have convictions for violent crimes not currently eligible for Merit Time.)
The merit time allowance would be one-sixth of an indeterminate and one-seventh of a determinate sentence. This section of the bill also expands the criteria that a person in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) may meet in order to earn merit time.
 
Justification: Merit time affords inmates with the ability to earn a reduction of their sentence after completing significant programming and maintaining a positive disciplinary record. Current law only allows inmates with certain nonviolent convictions to earn merit time. However, the availability of merit time allowance motivates inmates to complete necessary programming and maintain a good disciplinary record. The program has been shown to reduce violence in prisons and studies show that inmates granted merit time and released early have lower recidivism rates. This bill facilitate those positive outcomes by expanding the eligibility for the merit time program.


S3438/A4516-A  DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MERIT TIME BILL
MONTGOMERY, HASSELL-THOMPSON, WEINSTEIN (MS) 
Correction Law
TITLE....Relates to the accrual of merit time by certain inmates
STATUS: 03/19/09 REFERRED TO CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION
Amd Ss803, 805, 806 & 851, Cor L

Allows certain inmates to be granted a merit time allowance; allows inmates who are able to prove that they were subjected to substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse, that the abuse was inflicted by a member of their same family or household or a member of the person's immediate family, and that the abuse was a substantial factor in causing them to commit the crime, to be eligible to earn merit time in the amount of one-third off either their minimum sentence (if inmate has an indeterminate sentence) or their flat sentence; allows such inmates to be eligible for presumptive release; expands the criteria that a person in custody of the department of correctional services may meet in order to earn merit time. [For an action you can take in support of this bill please see Article 1]



6. LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS CLEARINGHOUSE - NEW SENTENCING MODEL CALLS INTO QUESTION THE TRADITIONAL ROLE OF PAROLE; ESSENTIALLY STRIPPING IT OF ANY SANCTIONING FUNCTIONS

I want to give recognition to those who responded with their ideas how to make discretionary release on parole more just and equitable. John Mackenzie, Lynn Rudolph and Kenneth Bazil, Joseph Conyers and Raymond Roe, to name only a few, put forth well researched ideas on the laws, policies and procedures governing parole release in New York State.

It must be remembered that the parole laws, policies and procedures currently complained of were proposed and legislated during a period when parole was the dominant release scheme in New York State. However, given the declining relevancy of parole in an era of determinate sentencing, the time has come to seriously question the role of parole and the parole board. 

This is especially true in light of the legislative changes enacted on June 7, 2006 affecting sentencing in New York. Penal Law #1.05(6) was amended to add a new goal "the promotion of their (convicted person's) successful and productive reentry and reintegration into society.." to the four traditional sentencing goals of deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution and incapacitation.
This legislative change in the sentencing goals in New York is consistent with the reintegrative sentencing model that was developed by the Center for Community Alternatives and championed by an alliance of interfaith, direct service providers  and policy organizations. 

All Lifer and Long-termer organizations, as well as prison legal researchers and legislative committees should ask for a copy of "Unlocking the Potential of Reentry and Reintegration" from Center For Community Alternatives,115 East Jefferson Street, Syracuse, New York 13202, or 39 West 19th Street, New York 10011

The proposed Reintegrative Sentencing Model is gaining acceptance in legal and judicial circles and aspects are being applied.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the new sentencing model is that it calls into question the traditional role of parole.  For those who paid attention to the NYS Sentencing Commission Hearings held in 2007, the declining relevancy of parole in an era of Determinate Sentencing was clearly made public.  The notion of parole as having both an evaluating and sanctioning function is seriously being called into question especially in light of the reintegrative sentencing model that requires a more substantive role in pre-sentence reporting as well as individual career planning during incarceration.  Parole would be required to play a more evaluative role for those sentenced to indeterminate sentences when determining their release potential.  There would no longer be a need for parole to serve a sanctioning role as they now attempt to do. Under the reintegrative sentencing model sanctions would be determined at the sentencing stage.

The new role for parole is reduced to two primary functions: (1) to evaluate the release potential during the incarceration stage, and (2) to provide post release supervision (monitoring and program participation) for those released on determinate sentences, and monitoring and reintegrative services for those released on indeterminate sentences. Parole would be stripped of any sanctioning functions.

Larry White



7. PAROLE NEWS: ALEXANDER’S CHARGES DISMISSED; PART 5 OF PAROLE HANDBOOK;
FEBRUARY and MARCH PAROLE STATISTICS

Parole Board chief gets dismissal George B. Alexander, forced to resign as head of the state Parole Board after he was accused of stealing a laptop computer, was granted a six-month adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on March 13. [The two felony charges were dismissed outright and the misdemeanor put on reserve calendar for final dismissal on June 23rd. ED.]

Buffalo City Judge Jeffrey F. Voelkl issued the ruling for Alexander, 56, who had faced stolen property charges. The state attorney general also agreed to the sentence. Alexander’s lawyer, John V. Elmore, said Alexander, who had previously served as Erie County probation commissioner, handed over a $500 check to Erie County for having the laptop for a year. Elmore said Alexander “just forgot” he left the laptop in his Buffalo home in the swirl of activity that sent him to Albany for his job on weekdays, his attorney said.

Under the arrangement, Alexander’s adjournment will expire June 23 — six months after he was arraigned in Buffalo City Court on felony grand larceny and stolen property charges — “and he’ll have a clean slate,” Elmore said. Alexander currently is a part-time criminal justice instructor at Buffalo State College.

Alexander, who returned to Buffalo on weekends, oversaw a parole operation with an annual $279 million budget and 2,300 employees. However, he neglected to surrender to the county the $1,700 Gateway laptop, which he brought home so his computer-savvy son could check out its bells and whistles, Elmore said. Elmore said Alexander admitted in writing that he had the laptop from January 2007 to April 2008, when he returned it to the county, and admitted he “deprived” the Erie County Probation Department of its use. Assistant State Attorney General Michael McCabe, who handled the court proceeding, could not be reached to comment.

Alexander resigned from his state job in late December after state Inspector General Joseph Fisch found that he had kept the laptop— property of Erie County but purchased through a grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. The computer, which was used by the county Department of Probation and Youth Detention Services for work on trying to reduce juvenile violence, was traced to Alexander’s home through anti-theft software operated by the state. --By Matt Gryta, Buffalo News Staff Reporter


PART 5 ON THE STRUCTURE OF PAROLE, FROM THE NYS PAROLE HANDBOOK [available online at http://parole.state.ny.us/Handbook.pdf ]

Last month we were at the part which explains four ways a person can be released: Board Release; Presumptive Release; Mandatory Conditional Release (CR); or Completion of the Maximum Sentence (max-out). We presented Board Release, so we’re now at Conditional Release (CR):

CONDITIONAL RELEASE (CR): All inmates, except those serving life sentences, are eligible to have their sentences reduced for good time served. Conditional Release (CR) must be granted when your total good behavior time is equal to the unserved portion of your maximum term. For indeterminate sentences, this occurs when you have not been granted release by the Board of Parole, but have served two-thirds of your maximum sentence and there has been no loss of good time. For example, if serving an indeterminate sentence of one to three years, you could be released by the Parole Board after serving the minimum of one year. If not, you are eligible for conditional release after serving two years.

For determinate sentences, created by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1995 (modified in 1998 to include post-release supervision), there is no parole eligibility, and conditional release occurs when you have served six-sevenths of your sentence and there has been no loss of good time.

Conditional release is a statutory type of release that the Board of Parole does not have discretion to grant or deny. However, no matter what kind of sentence you are serving, you must meet two conditions to be eligible for conditional release:
• You must request conditional release; and
• You must agree in writing to abide by the conditions of parole for conditional release until the expiration of your maximum term, or the expiration of your term of post-release supervision, if applicable. The conditions are essentially the same as those imposed upon other parolees.


FEBRUARY 2009 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1997
unofficial research from parole database

[the editor apologizes for being unable to present these in an easier to read manner]

Total Interviews # Released # Denied Rate of Release
19 initials 6 13 32%
66 reappearances 16 50 24%
85 Total 22 63 26%


February Initial Release

Facility Sentence Offense # of Board
Fishkill 16-Life Murder 2 Initial
Mid Orange 15-Life Murder 2 Initial
Mid Orange 15-Life Kidnap1 Initial
Mid Orange 18-Life Murder 2 Initial
Mid Orange 25-Life Murder 2 Initial
Otisville 20-Life Murder 2 Initial

February Reappearances

Facility Sentence Offense # of Board Eligibility Date Arthurkill 18-Life Murder 2 3rd 7/1/05 Butler 17 ?-Life Murder 2 2nd 6/24/07
Fishkill 1 ?-3 Murder 2 2nd 6/17/07
Fishkill 20-Life Murder 2 4th 3/4/03
Mid Orange 25-Life Murder 2 3rd 6/15/05
Mid Orange 25-Life Murder 2 7th 5/16/97
Mid Orange 25-Life Murder 2 2nd 6/6/07
Mid Orange 16 ?-Life Murder 2 2nd 6/11/07
Otisville 20-Life Murder 2 6th 6/24/99
Otisville 25-Life Murder 2 4th 6/11/03
Otisville 20-Life Murder 2 3rd* 10/18/05
Otisville 18-Life Murder 2 2nd 6/5/07
Otisville 25-Life Murder 2 2nd 6/13/07
Sullivan 25-Life M2 2x 2nd 6/5/07
Woodbourne 25-Life Murder 6th 6/26/99
Woodbourne 20-Life Murder 2 2nd 6/14/07


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

ARTHUR KILL
March/April Ferguson, Casey, Thompson
46 appearances, 3 were paroled.
28 were initial appearances, 2 were paroled, 7 were postponed
17 were reappearances, 1 was paroled, 1 was postponed
1 Merit Time interview, 1 postponed

MID-ORANGE
March Ferguson, Ross, Hagler
23 appearances (4 were A1VO),
3 were paroled (1 for deportation, none were A1’s),
4 were postponed
All denials were for 2 years

SULLIVAN ANNEX
March Ferguson, Casey
6 appearances (1 Lifer)
0 were paroled: 2 initials, 3 reapp 1 Merit
Merit got an 18 mo. hold, others were 24 mo.


WOODBOURNE
March Ferguson, Ludlow, Crangle
13 Appearances: 2 granted parole; 8 denied, 3 postponements
A1VO: 7 seen, 0 granted.


GRAZIANO VS PATAKI: The parties are still waiting for a decision on the motion to compel the Pataki deposition.



8. PRISON HEALTH CARE REPORT RECENTLY RELEASED BY THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION'S PRISON VISITING PROJECT REPRESENTS THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF MEDICAL SERVICES IN A SINGLE STATE'S PRISON SYSTEM EVER PREPARED.

Undertaken at the request of the New York State Assembly's Health and Correction Committees, Healthcare in New York Prisons, the report is based on observations and information gathered at 19 prisons visited by the CA over the course of three years. It concludes that despite some recent progress in the delivery of healthcare in New York's prisons, significant problems persist. Among these are: (1) staff shortages; (2) inadequate routine healthcare; (3) gaps in chronic diseases care; (4) inconsistencies with specialty care services; and (5) inadequate access to medications.

The study makes concrete recommendations on how Governor Paterson, the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and the Legislature could improve the quality of healthcare in the state's prisons, including requiring Department of Health oversight of care, promptly filling medical staff vacancies, and enhancing salaries for positions that are not currently competitive with community rates.

The CA has released the report to DOCS, DOH, and key legislators in the New York State Assembly and Senate.

The nearly 100 page report is available for $10 from the The Correctional Association of New York, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd., Suite 200 New York, New York 10027, (212) 254-5700



9. PRISON LIBRARIES: RESEARCHER WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU IF YOU ARE, OR EVER HAVE BEEN, A USER OF A PRISON LIBRARY.

Devra Schor, a second-year student at Sarah Lawrence College, is writing a conference paper about prison libraries and basic access to knowledge while incarcerated in state penitentiaries.

She is looking for information about what the libraries and librarians are like; if they are adequate, helpful, sufficient, or not.  Is it easy to get books, both from the libraries and in the mail, from friends and family and books to prisoners programs? Anything and everything that you think is relevant.
 
Letters should be sent to: Devra Schor, Sarah Lawrence College, 1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708



10. PRISON MEDIA: RADIO’S FANCY BROCCOLI SCHEDULES GUEST JERRY BALONE FOR 4/5; NEW BLOG; NEW NETWORKING SITE,

April 5th at 3:30 P.M.  Fancy Broccoli’s guest will be Gerald T. Balone, MS, MPS, author of  A Former Insider's Guide to Parole: A Manual for Anyone Trying to Get Out of Prison. 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.

NEW BLOG: www.thinkoutsidethecell.com features Joe “Donkor” Robinson, author of the highly praised book, “Think Outside the Cell: An Entrepreneur’s Guide for the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated,” in a twice-weekly blog column. Visit the site to find his incisive commentary on prison life, prisoner reentry, entrepreneurship, current events and politics.
 
A NEW SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE:  www.justicetroops.com. Join the community of advocates for fair criminal justice policies on their new social networking site. It’s an effective way for members of the community to raise awareness, share news and information, tell their stories, gain support for letter-writing and other campaigns, quickly spread the word about their organizations and events—and so much more.  By becoming active members of www.justicetroops.com you can flex your personal and collective power, speak your truths and make sure that your voices are heard.



11. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS - THE PRISON POLICY INITIATIVE’S WORK HAS LED TO LEGISLATION GAINING SUPPORT IN NYS

In New York in the 1990s, two out of every three people to move to upstate New York were prisoners. This has created districts that would otherwise be illegal under federal law. As a result of this information discovered by Peter Wagner, two bills (S1633/A5946) are now in committee in the NYS legislature (see article #5 on Legislation).

This project relies on the generosity of people and organizations to support our work. Despite great progress and the rapid approach of the 2010 Census, funding remains our biggest challenge. Can you make a contribution to help us continue this work? Contributions can be made by sending a check to PPI, PO Box 127 Northampton MA 01061. Please contact Peter Wagner if you have any questions about supporting this work.



12. REENTRY UNIT AT HUDSON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY OPENED ON MARCH 1 2009 FOR MALE OFFENDERS RETURNING TO CAPITAL DISTRICT

The Hudson unit is the Department’s third specialized reentry unit, following units that opened at Orleans Correctional Facility in Western New York in August 2007 and October 2008 for Erie and Monroe County releases, respectively. DOCS plans a fourth reentry unit - and the first for female offenders - at Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan this spring for women due to be released back to New York City. These efforts follow an ongoing reentry program that began in 2001 at Queensboro Correctional Facility in Queens, which releases about 4,500 male offenders per year to the New York City area. The Hudson unit is reserved for inmates due to be released to Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia and Schenectady counties.

Community agencies or organizations that wish to assist the Hudson reentry project should contact Hudson’s Supervising Correction Counselor, Roberto Belmonte, at (518) 828-4311, extension 4300.



13. COMMISSIONER BRIAN FISCHER GAVE OPENING REMARKS AT THE NEW YORK MINORITIES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE REENTRY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES' WORKSHOP, PART OF THE NEW YORK STATE BLACK, PUERTO RICAN, HISPANIC & ASIAN LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS’S ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE WEEKEND ON FEBRUARY 14, 2009. THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME EXCERPTS:

Re-entry really means assisting any offender to be better prepared to meet the challenges of making it in the community. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we all have a stake in offenders’ success upon release; it means the difference between the offender respecting the law, working, paying taxes and contributing to public safety vs. reverting to crime, returning to prison, consuming taxes and making our neighborhoods unsafe.

Re-entry should mean providing assistance and programs that help individuals before they come to prison, while in prison, upon their release and for as long as the person needs assistance after release. Re-entry must be a holistic concept.

Family support is critical for any offender’s ability to deal effectively both with incarceration and life after prison. To encourage this we offer programs in prison that deal with family dynamics as well as Family Reunion, family visiting and special family event days. Community and legislative support are essential to remove obstacles ex-offenders face in securing housing, employment and even education and training.
Other suggested programs/services:

Internet literacy program to ensure offenders preparing to leave know how to access the Internet upon their return.
Bank cards rather than checks or cash upon their release.
An avenue for offenders in prison to deal with court-ordered child support requirements so they do not leave prison owing amounts that often place an unreasonable financial burden upon them while they seek employment.
A program called Thinking For a Change, which offers help in improving social skills and morale development - often referred to as “soft skills.”
An agreement to move Parole Board hearings back four months prior to an offender’s earliest possible release date, rather than two months as had been the case, allowing the Department to transfer the offender into a re-entry program like Orleans with enough time to more fully assist him in getting ready for his return home.
The Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility, where Parolees having difficulty in the community, primarily with drug abuse, are provided short-term intervention treatment and returned to their home rather than be sent to an upstate prison. While we call this program part of a graduated sanction initiative, it is really all about assisting in the successful re-entry of offenders.

Lastly, the Department fully supports many of the recommendations put forward by community advocates and our State legislators. Proposals such as an offender’s right to vote upon release, dropping a non-sex offender from our website after some period of time or court resolution, requiring local social service agencies to assist with timely Medicaid assistance and access to TAP funding for prison college courses are all critical to the success of everyone – both the offenders and the community alike - in re-entry.
[The complete speech is available on the DOCS website: www.docs.state.ny.us/.]



14. SHU BILL: DON'T DELAY HUMANITY ANY FURTHER; EFFORT TO PUSH OFF NEW BILL TO PREVENT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT OF MENTALLY ILL IN PRISON IS UNCONSCIONABLE, BY SOL WACHTLER, A FORMER CHIEF JUDGE OF THE NEW YORK COURT OF APPEALS, NEWSDAY OP ED  MARCH 5, 2009


Sol Wachtler, a former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, teaches constitutional law at Touro Law School and is the author of "After the Madness: A Judge's Own Prison Memoir."

After an enormous effort by individuals and organizations, last year the New York State Legislature passed, and then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed into law, the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) bill, which provides that seriously mentally ill inmates cannot be placed in solitary confinement.

It took a law suit, the weathering of a veto by former Gov. George Pataki, and the commitment of dozens of individuals and organizations over a period of many years to have the legislature, with almost unanimity, provide more appropriate and humane in-prison residential and treatment services for these seriously mentally ill prisoners. The SHU (pronounced "shoe") bill also ensured that correctional officers would be provided with adequate mental health training.

Although the law is not scheduled to take effect until 2011, Gov. David Paterson has proposed in this year's executive budget to diminish and delay the protections afforded by the SHU legislation, putting off implementation of the law until 2014. Accompanying legislation also calls for the elimination of about half of the correctional beds from the requirements of the SHU law, and cuts the training requirements for correctional officers.

The bill was already a carefully constructed compromise, and it will have no fiscal impact on this year's budget. So the administration's effort to significantly alter and scale back its scope, by way of the budget process, is not only inexplicable, it is shameful. The governor is simply and arbitrarily walking away from the state's commitment to provide humane treatment to those with psychiatric disabilities who are most vulnerable.

Locking up seriously mentally ill people in solitary, claustrophobic 8-foot by 10-foot (or even smaller) cells for 23 hours a day - with only one hour in an outdoor, zoo-like cage - isolated and idle, only exacerbates their symptoms and leads to greater mental dysfunction.

I have seen and been with mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement. They are mostly untreated or under-treated and as a consequence of neglect, they deteriorate. Their behavior becomes unpredictable - they may react violently to the goading of other inmates, or they may rant or engage in incoherent babble. This infuriates their guards. They may not respond to direction and, instead, cower silently. They may respond to voices only they can hear, or talk to invisible people in a world constructed from their own hallucinations. They may self-mutilate and riddle their bodies with scars. Many try suicide.

This acting out, this aberrational behavior, constitutes infractions that are punished by their keepers - most often by continuous and protracted interment in the SHU.

This explains why a disproportionate number of the 8,000 seriously mentally ill in our New York State prisons end up serving an average of three years in the SHU. The closing of mental hospitals has resulted in a dramatic increase of prisoners diagnosed with serious mental illness. Placing these persons in the SHU is uncivilized - and considering that most of these inmates will be back in our communities far more disabled by their confinement, it is also dangerous.

When the linear thinking of a seriously mentally ill inmate in the SHU does not allow him to understand that his misbehavior is the reason for his punishment, he continues to act out. To further punish him, he is fed the loaf - a brick-like mixture of vegetables and flour served with a dish of raw cabbage and water. As a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services once told The New York Times, the loaf is given when "there's nothing left to take away."

Bread and cabbage given for punishment has been condemned by the American Correctional Association, and was eliminated from the federal prisons and most states - but not in New York. In fact, during the Pataki years, use of the loaf diet was increased by 100 percent, and too many of those put on the diet were seriously mentally ill. It wasn't until passage of the SHU bill that any kind of outright ban on the use of the loaf for people with a psychiatric disability was enacted.

The protections of the bill should not be further stalled. It is unconscionable for Gov. Paterson, based on a nonexistent budgetary pretext, to postpone the implementation of this law for an additional three years.

It is now up to the legislature to allow the bill to go into effect as scheduled in 2011 - that's three years after it was signed into law. It will cost nothing this year to do it, and the cost over the next couple of years is probably far less than the sum of all the SHU and mental health-related prison lawsuits and settlements the state has been compelled to pay out in recent years. And the return, in terms of basic humanity to New York State, is incalculable.



15. TRANSPORTATION: CAPITAL DISTRICT
NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt. McGregor, Washington, and Great Meadow CFs on Sat, Apr 4 ($35 adults, $25 children), Coxsackie, Greene, and Hudson on Sat, Apr 11  ($20  adults, $15 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, Apr 18 leaving Troy at 5 AM. Sullivan trip (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan) on Apr 25 leaving at 6:30 AM ($45 adults, $30 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.




Building Bridges is the newsletter of Prison Action Network: prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com, 518 253 7533, PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206, and is aided in distribution by the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany's Justice Committee

We are deeply grateful to the Community Church of NY, Unitarian Universalist, for their support.