Late-breaking News and Announcements:
(please scroll down to read the September issue of Building Bridges):
INVITATION TO THE VISITORS' NEW YORK PREMIERE
Posted 9/17, sent by filmmaker Melis Birder
Urbanworld Film Festival
Manhattan's AMC 34th Street Theater
Thursday Sept 24th, 12:15
Friday Sept 25th, 3:30
To read some letters written by men in prison who saw Visitors at Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, please visit the Visitors website.
BUILDING BRIDGES, SEPTEMBER 2009
You know I’m always behind in my correspondence. I complain about it all the time! Some of you wrote me over a year ago and still haven't gotten a reply and probably never will, because the present always presses harder than the past. But a couple of weeks ago, when I was taking a few days to catch up on some of my mail, I realized how much I rely on your letters, both snail and email, for guiding Prison Action Network. We didn't begin this work with an agenda beyond being an informational conduit for the people most directly impacted by incarceration. But as time went on, the volume of mail about certain causes demanded more than reporting and we got involved in actions, such as Family Empowerment Days and campaigns for certain bills and certain political appointments, and now as the lead organization for the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies which is currently working to modernize Parole Board practices. So I'm through feeling guilty about the mail that goes unanswered and instead I want to thank readers for all the information and opinions and problems that you report. All mail gets read and filed in my memory (such as it is) for future reference. So please keep it coming! But don't expect a reply (although I will continue to try...).
Be well, have hope, and please, share your copy of Building Bridges.
In this Issue
1. Actions you can take
2. Center for Community Alternatives - 2 stories
3. Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies
4. Fiscal crisis in corrections
5. ICARE Reports
7. Lifers and longtermers clearinghouse
8. Parole news
9. Prison media
10. Transportation to prisons
11. Karen Lewis is found!
1. ACTIONS: WHAT CAN YOU DO? HERE’S A LIST OF THINGS:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 8:30 AM TO 3:30 PM THE LEGAL ACTION CENTER NATIONAL H.I.R.E. NETWORK, in collaboration with Youth Represent and the Center for Community Alternatives.
4th Annual NYS Reentry Policy Conference - Youth and Criminal Records
National, state and local experts, including young people, will be addressing issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline and the effect of the criminal and juvenile justice system on young people and their families.
Hostos Community College Center for the Arts and Culture Auditorium, 450 Grand Concourse, the Bronx. Please RSVP. Seating is limited and reserved on a first-come basis.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT 9 - FRIDAY, SEPT. 11, 9AM-5PM NULEADERSHIP POLICY GROUP presents a Criminal Justice Symposium.
The event will include a series of seminars to help professionals in various disciplines work more effectively with formerly incarcerated people and their families. Seminars will be taught by Dr. Divine Pryor and Mr. Eddie Ellis, M.P.S.. Seminars are open to community or faith-based service providers, law enforcement officers, social service workers, educators, govt. agency personnel, attorneys, students and others. Coffee and light morning refreshments served. Pre-registration required by Sept. 2. 718 270 6400. 1637 Bedford Ave. Room S-122, Brooklyn. One day: $95, three days: $195. NYC
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 6:00-8:00PM COUNTY LEGISLATOR BETTY JEAN GRANT will host a public meeting:
We will discuss the alleged abuse of inmates at the Erie County Holding Center. Former inmates and their families are invited to attend this meeting to voice their concerns. Sheriff Howard, County Executive Collins, County Attorney Green, the Anti-Crime Task Force and others have been invited.
Frank E. Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Avenue @ East Utica, Buffalo.
Contact Legislator Grant for more information: 716-536-7323 or 716-894-0914.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 6:30-8:30PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO. September’s meeting will open with a screening of the film, “Tree Shade” (Women Make Movies, Lisa Collins, 1998), in which an African American teenage girl, Savannah, takes an imaginative journey through time and space to witness the prison convictions of her great grandmother Etta Mae, her grand-aunt Olive, and her aunt Denise. This is a film that speaks volumes about identity and self-worth where shame and embarrassment are defining factors.
Our guest speaker, Dr. Catherine Fisher Collins, is an Associate Professor at SUNY Buffalo’s Empire State College who works with graduate and undergraduate students in the fields of Health Care and Criminal Justice. She is a respected author of several publications, mostly dealing with the incarceration of Black women. Her most recent research will be published later this year as The Incarceration of African American Women: Causes, Experiences, and Effects (1997-2007). Following the Attica Uprising, Gov. Hugh Carey appointed her to serve on the NYS Commission of Corrections’ Medical Review Board. As the first nurse appointed to this position, she served in this capacity for five years, reviewing all New York State prisoners’ health complaints and deaths.
Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street, Buffalo, NY
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 6:00 - 8:00 PM THE NEW YORK LAWYER CHAPTER OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY, the Legal Action Center and Fordham Law School's Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics present: Rockefeller Drug Law Reform: A Step Towards Smarter Sentencing Policy for the 21st Century
The Honorable Jeffrion L. Aubry, 35th Assembly District, New York State Assembly
Martin F. Horn, Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation and Commissioner, New York City Department of Corrections
Alan Rosenthal, Co-Director, Justice Strategies, Center for Community Alternatives
Cy Vance, Jr., Member, New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform and Former Attorney, New York County District Attorney's Office
Moderated by: Anita Marton, Vice President, Legal Action Center
Fordham University Lowenstein Building, 12th Floor Meeting Room
(entrance is at West 60th Street and Columbus Avenue) New York, NY
Please RSVP, or by phone: 202-393-6181. For more details: send an email.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 9:00 AM TO 10:30 AM THE PRISONER REENTRY INSTITUTE AT JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE kick-off lecture in the Fall 2009 Occasional Series on Reentry Research
Speaker Derrick Franke, Doctoral Candidate, University of Maryland at College Park, will present his research on the role of restorative justice in prisoner reentry and its application. Preliminary findings will be shared from a randomized controlled trial designed to test the effectiveness of victim/offender conferencing among adult males housed in a reentry-oriented correctional facility. Joining in the discussion will be Susan Herman, Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, Pace University and Reverend Petero Sabune, Pastor and Chaplain, Sing Sing Correctional Facility
John Jay College 899 Tenth Avenue (betw 58th and 59th Streets), Room 630.
Please RSVP to Amelia Thompson (212.484.1399; email@example.com.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 5-7 PM COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS MEETING (New Members Meeting at 4 pm)
Correctional Association of New York, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., between 124th & 125th streets, Suite 200. Take the 2/3/A/C/B/D to 125th Street. For more information contact Stacey Thompson, Women
in Prison Project Coalition Associate, at: 212-254 5700 x333 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW YORK CITY
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, HALF THE DAY FAMILIES AGAINST MANDATORY MINIMUMS (FAMM) is looking for families in the New York City area to participate in a video shoot. We are seeking families that have been impacted by harsh sentencing laws, particularly for nonviolent drug offenses.
FAMM is working with John Forté, a Grammy-nominated singer songwriter best known for his work with the Fugees, to raise awareness of the impact of harsh sentencing laws on families through a project called "The Waiting Project." The project will benefit In Arms Reach, a New York-based program that works with the children of prisoners. The video will accompany a new song by John Forté called, "Who Will Play My Cards for Me." The video begins with a photographer, played by John Forté, as he positions a mother, two children and an elderly grandfather for a family portrait. He sings as he hands the family members a card with the name and prison identification number of their missing family member. In the video, the family is photographed twice -- from the front and then in profile. The photographer ushers them out and a new family enters. Their portraits are a means to tell a story. It's an endless line of families, their lives all put on hold, waiting for their loved one to return from prison.
The Waiting Project is also planning a website and book that will feature the stories of families. Families will be asked to sign a release form giving permission to use your story in the video, website and book.
What we need:
Names and ages of everyone in the family.
A family photo.
A one page description of your experience waiting for a loved one in prison.
Available for a half day shoot on Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Please email Monica Pratt Raffanel, Communications Director if you think you know a family or are a family that can help. Families come in all shapes and sizes and we want to hear from you.
SEND IN YOUR TESTIMONY ABOUT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: MENTAL HEALTH ALTERNATIVES TO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (MHASC) is collecting testimonies from families who've been told about, or people who've experienced first hand, being in solitary confinement. As mental health advocates we're especially interested in stories from people who've suffered with psychiatric disabilities while incarcerated. Please write to Alexandra Smith at: Urban Justice Center, 123 William Street, 16th Floor , NY NY 10038, 646-602-5683
2. THE CENTER FOR COMMUNITY ALTERNATIVES (CCA) RECENTLY SHARED TWO STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION: "MY JOURNEY" BY ALAN ROSENTHAL, "A SECOND CHANCE", THE STORY OF ALEJANDRO TORRES
"My Journey" by Alan Rosenthal (Chronicle of Philanthropy, July 6, 2009) tells of Alan's help starting Justice Strategies, CCA's policy and research division. "Success," writes Alan, "is not measured by winning cases but by change systemwide." Alan is now co-director of Justice Strategies.
An excerpt from Alan’s story:
In law school, back in the early 1970s, my interests quickly gravitated to poverty law, public-interest law, and prisoners' rights.
This turn was driven by two events. As an undergraduate at Syracuse University, I had spent a semester studying in Italy. Seeing the United States from an outside perspective provided me with an opportunity to more critically observe the existence of widespread poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world.
Then, during my first week at Syracuse University College of Law in 1971, the Attica prison rebellion began. Within months, I would get to meet directly and through correspondence the men who survived the retaking of the prison. I would come to know them as human beings crying out to be treated as such.
[copies of the article can be had by sending a request to PAN with the name of the article and the month of this issue.]
"A Second Chance" (Hora Hispana, July 9, 2009) describes the help that Alejandro Torres, a Brooklyn youth, received from CCA after he was arrested. Shortly after the article appeared, Alejandro's case was dismissed for lack of evidence that he had committed a crime.
An Excerpt from the article by JOSÉ MANUEL SIMIÁN
Alejandro Torres swears he is innocent. A year ago, he says, he was walking down a street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, when someone accused him of robbery—an incident he describes in few details, as if trying to forget a bad memory. In spite of being underage—he was 15 at the time—, the fact that he was charged with a violent crime sent his case to the New York Supreme Court, where he was tried as an adult. Wanting to avoid sending him to Rikers Island while the trial was resolved, the judge gave him an alternative sentence: participate in the Youth Advocacy Project, one of several programs of the Center for Community Alternatives.
[copies of the article can be had by sending a request to PAN with the name of the article and the month of this issue.]
CCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote reintegrative justice and reduce society's reliance on incarceration. We help indigent defendants from the time they are arrested by advocating on their behalf in court and by providing community treatment programs where judges can send them as alternatives to jail or prison. These programs are far less costly than prison and have achieved excellent results for helping participants live safe, healthy lives and avoid re-arrest. We also help women, men, and youth who are newly released from prison with re-entry and recovery programs. Our Justice Strategies division works for systemic reform that will end the over-use of prison as a response to crime.
Their postal addresses are 115 East Jefferson St., Suite 300, Syracuse, New York 13202
39 West 19th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10011, and 25 Chapel Street, 7th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11217
3. COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES REPORTS ON GENERAL MEETING AND POLICY COMMITTEE PROGRESS
The General Meeting met in August to design cards for our campaign to de-stigmatize the image of incarcerated men and women and their loved ones. Due to low attendance, we are discontinuing our monthly meetings. Our next planned event will be sometime in the fall when we will have a street action where we will hand out our cards and talk to people about their perceptions of us. [See Article 1: NEW YORK CITY for a similar project, by FAMM, using video, that we support.]
The Policy Committee has been meeting weekly whenever possible. We invite your input about parole policies as we continue the work of revising 259-i. We are especially interested in what you think about the use of risk assessment tools, and what criteria you think should be considered in making parole decisions. Please send your ideas immediately to PAN so we have them at our next meeting. We will include your contribution in our deliberations and report back to you with our decisions, on which you will be invited to comment. A first draft is expected to be ready in September, at which time we will seek a final opinion from all those who contributed their ideas. We plan to have a final draft by January 1.
4. THE FISCAL CRISIS IN CORRECTIONS: RETHINKING POLICIES AND PRACTICES, A REPORT PUBLISHED BY THE VERA INSTITUTE'S CENTER ON SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS, EXAMINES HOW STATES ARE RESPONDING TO THE CURRENT FISCAL CRISIS AND ATTEMPTING TO MAKE CHANGES IN THEIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS THAT WILL NOT ONLY REDUCE COSTS BUT ALSO ENHANCE PUBLIC SAFETY AND REDUCE RECIDIVISM.
The policy framework created by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States in 2008, reported on p. 12 of the report. " The framework includes five innovative policy options that have already been implemented in several states: *Evidence-based practices * Earned compliance credits *Administrative sanctions * Performance incentive funding * Performance measurement. Although each of these policies has the potential to reduce recidivism and control corrections costs on its own, they promise an even greater impact when implemented together."
Interestingly the report also mentions NY's expanded eligibility for Medical parole which they claim has a projected cost savings of $2 million annually. I've yet to hear about one person being released on medical parole this year. If any reader knows of such a case, please let us know.
[Copies of the report can be had by sending a request naming the article and the issue to PAN.]
5. ICARE REPORTS: THIS COLUMN IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES EMPHASIZING THE ETHICAL ISSUES RELATED TO VARIOUS ASPECTS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PRISONS IN NEW YORK STATE.
Bringing a Justice Agenda to a Fractured Capital
By Rima Vesely-Flad, Founder, Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment (ICARE)
The five-week stalemate in Albany at the end of the 2009 legislative session highlighted the paralyzing politics wrought by gerrymandered senatorial districts, which have consolidated political power at the expense of approximately 63,000 incarcerated persons. As advocates begin to prepare legislative agendas for the next session, it is critical that we understand the demographic context in which prisons have been built and sustained, despite the exorbitant financial cost and devastation to New York’s urban families and communities.
As Peter Wagner and Eric Lotke chronicle in their 2005 article “Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences of Counting Prisoners Where They Go, Not Where They Come From,” the U.S. Census Bureau counts people in prison where their bodies are confined—in prison—not the communities from which they come. This has extraordinary consequences for the political dynamics of New York State. There are seven senatorial districts that do not have enough residents in them without counting incarcerated persons (See the Prison Policy Initiative). Redistricting in 2002 revealed that Senator Dale Volker, the former chair of the Codes Committee and member of the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, along with Senator Michael Nozzolio, the chair of the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee and member of the Codes Committee, together held 23 percent of the state’s prisoners in their two districts. Thus incarcerated men and women are an important means of consolidating conservative Republican political power, not unlike the process in which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person as means to elevating Congressional political power in the antebellum South.
During the 2009 session, in which the Democrats gained the majority in the Senate by two seats, the Republicans’ loss of committee chairmanships, office space, and staff resulted in a backlash which ultimately harmed the efforts of advocates seeking support for ethical criminal justice bills—legislation that would enhance job seeking opportunities for people with criminal convictions and fair parole practices, amongst others. To be sure, important changes were made to the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the rules of shackling women in labor. However, the vast majority of issues affecting 63,000 incarcerated residents and their families were sidelined in a game of political volleyball, in which the same party that benefits from keeping people in prison to maintain senatorial district boundaries attempted to hijack the floor from fairly elected representatives.
For advocates, this bears on our strategic approach to successfully arguing for a moral agenda. We tend to be issue-oriented, sometimes extending our emphasis to include economic development and voting rights. We need to extend our reach to emphasize redistricting as a primary strategy to change criminal justice policy. This approach to reform in Albany was argued persuasively by an August 8 New York Times editorial and is critical for those of us who push a progressive criminal justice agenda.
We have one more session during which the Democratic leadership definitively holds the reigns in the Senate, and now is the time to expand our advocacy strategy from pushing proposals to focusing on long-term changes to the district boundaries in New York State.
6. LEGISLATION: ANTI-SHACKLING BILL SIGNED BY GOVERNOR; UPDATE ON 6 MO LIMITED TIME CREDIT; RULING ON FEDERAL EXCLUSION POLICY; UNIFORM COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF CONVICTION ACT [Copies of all bills mentioned are available from PAN by asking for the bill by number and the month in which we reported it.]
ANTI-SHACKLING BILL S1290-A/ A3373-A Sponsored by Sen Montgomery and A.M. Parry.
To prohibit the use of mechanical restraints including handcuffs and shackles, on any pregnant female prisoner who is about to give birth during transport from a correctional facility to a medical facility or other accommodation for the purpose of delivering her child.
SIGNED! The Coalition for Women Prisoners has exciting news! Governor Paterson signed into law the Anti-Shackling Bill on Wednesday August 26th! The Governor had 3 more days to make a decision.
It is in large part because of your willingness to put yourselves out there - to make sure the lawmakers and the public understood what was really going on - that this law is now a reality.
Congratulations to all. We hope to see you at the next Coalition meeting on September 29th [see Art. #1 above].
The Coalition for Women Prisoners, coordinated by the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York, is a statewide alliance of individuals and organizations dedicated to making the criminal justice system more responsive to the needs and rights of women and their families.
SIX-MONTH LIMITED TIME CREDIT - Passed into law, it should be implemented any day now. A list of those persons who are eligible will be sent to each facility, and those on the list will be notified that they are eligible to apply. Applications will be reviewed by Central Office.
FEDERAL EXCLUSION POLICY RULED INVALID. Appeals panel says the Federal Bureau of Prisons has not adequately explained why inmates who have committed murder, rape and other violent crimes can't participate in an early release program.
By Carol J. Williams- LA Times, August 26, 2009
A Federal Bureau of Prisons policy excluding murderers, rapists and others with violent crimes on their record from an early-release program is invalid because authorities have failed to explain why those inmates are ineligible, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the prison administration to reconsider the application for sentence reduction from Jerry Crickon, a federal prisoner in a Long Beach halfway house due for release in six months.
Crickon, convicted of drug offenses in 2000, was offered a drug rehabilitation program two years ago but was told that, because of a 1970 voluntary manslaughter conviction, he wasn't eligible for the one-year sentence reduction other inmates could get.
... Bureau of Prison rules for sentence-reduction incentive programs categorically exclude inmates with prior convictions for homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The 9th Circuit panel didn't say the bureau couldn't make such exclusions, just that the bureau hadn't adequately explained its rationale for doing so. Under the federal Administrative Procedures Act, government agencies are required to justify their rules and procedures, then offer the public an opportunity to comment or make proposals.
[copies of this article can be had from PAN if you name the article and the date of this issue]
UNIFORM COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF CONVICTION ACT: Today’s offenders learn – often too late – that they have only begun to suffer the consequences of their convictions after they have served their sentences.
More and more, states are imposing subsequent penalties and disabilities on those convicted of particular crimes. These “collateral consequences” are in addition to those imposed at sentencing. The sanctions vary from state to state, but they generally relate to restrictions on voting, occupational licensing, vehicle licensing, firearm restrictions, offender registration, and public benefits. Preliminary studies show that, in many states, literally hundreds of these consequences may apply. Unlike direct consequences of conviction, collateral consequences are often unknown, may prove devastating, and often last a lifetime.
To deal with this issue, the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act was approved today (July 15, 2009) by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) at its 118th Annual Meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Act includes provisions to ensure that defendants are aware of the existence of collateral sanctions before conviction, are reminded of them at release, govern the effect of out of state convictions, and provide limited means by which some offenders may obtain relief from many such consequences.
Concern about the impact of collateral consequences has grown in recent years as the numbers and complexity of these consequences have mushroomed and the U.S. prison population has grown. There is a real concern on a societal level that collateral consequences may impose such harsh burdens on convicted persons that they will be unable to reintegrate into society.
The Act requires collection in a single document all of the collateral sanctions and disqualifications contained in state statutes or administrative regulations. Fortunately, this task has been simplified by a recent complimentary federal legislation which requires that the Director of the National Institute of Justice identify collateral sanctions in the constitution, codes and administrative rules of the 50 states and the territories. Accordingly, the federal government will do the bulk of the initial work.
......... The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act is an effort to clarify the state’s collateral consequences in such a way as to make the criminal justice system both smarter and fairer to all involved.
The Uniform Law Commission, now in its 118th year, comprises more than 300 practicing lawyers, governmental lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators from every state as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Uniform Law Commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws that are designed to solve problems common to all the states.
After receiving the ULC’s seal of approval, a uniform act is officially promulgated for consideration by the states, and legislatures are urged to adopt it. Since its inception in 1892, the ULC has been responsible for more than 200 acts, among them such bulwarks of state statutory law as the Uniform Commercial Code, the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Partnership Act, and the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.
[copies of the article can be had from PAN if you name the article and the date of this issue]
7. LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS CLEARINGHOUSE: THE STRUGGLE TO CHANGE PAROLE LAWS NEEDS COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROVIDE REHABILITATION PROGRAMS INSIDE PRISON TO JOIN IN ADVOCACY EFFORTS.
The struggle to change parole law is an ongoing effort of the lifer and long-termer organizations throughout the system. The ability to marshal support in this struggle is a key strategic undertaking that requires an examination of the relationship between state prisoners and the community organizations that provide direct program services to state prisoners.
Community organizations that provide direct program services designed to address the rehabilitative needs of the incarcerated should be guided by two primary goals: 1) to effect positive change in the social deficits of their clients, and 2) to improve their clients’ opportunities for release.
It must be remembered that the ultimate purpose of addressing the rehabilitative needs of the incarcerated person is to correct the social deficits that played a role in the criminal behavior for which they were sentenced. Whether the social deficits are violence, substance abuse or lack of a supportive family structure, there must be evidence that the deficits have been addressed and corrected in order to establish a basis for release.
The problem is when the parole board fails to recognize evidence that the social deficits have been addressed and corrected. Community and faith-based organizations which provide direct services to people in prison face the obligation of establishing themselves as evidence-based programs that work. The success of these programs needs to rest not only on how many individuals complete the course, but on whether successful completion results in improved opportunities for release.
From the point of view of the incarcerated person, they are participating in the program under the belief that it will at least increase their chances for release. There is also the expectation that the community organization will take steps to insure that the release apparatus (parole board) recognizes and gives proper weight to the successful completion of its program.
Community organizations must become involved in the struggle to reform parole laws so that proper evaluative functions are the primary function of the parole board. There are organizations like the New York City Reentry Roundtable composed of service provider organizations, agencies, and faith communities that are involved in providing services to currently and formerly incarcerated persons. Lifer and long-termers organizations and other active prisoner organizations should identify the community organizations providing rehabilitation programs at their facility and inform them of the need for their participation in the struggle for parole reform. - Larry White
8. PAROLE NEWS: PART 9 OF PAROLE HANDBOOK; MERIT TIME; JULY and AUGUST PAROLE STATISTICS; AND A RECOMMENDATION FOR GETTING PAROLE SUPPORT.
PART 9 ON PAROLE AND PAROLE BOARD ACTIVITIES IN STATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES
[available online at http://parole.state.ny.us/Handbook.pdf.]
WHAT IS MERIT TIME?
In 1997, Section 803 of Correction Law was amended to provide for a Merit Time allowance; a Merit Time allowance is granted by DOCS. Under this provision, early release may be granted to inmates meeting certain criteria. Inmates meeting these criteria for early release are eligible for a Parole Board interview.
If you are serving an indeterminate sentence and meet the criteria below, you may be eligible for a Merit Time allowance equal to one-sixth of your minimum term. This allowance is then applied to your minimum term to determine when you would be eligible for early release.
For example, if you were serving an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of six years, your Merit Time allowance would equal one year. When this allowance is applied to your minimum term, you would be eligible for early release by the Parole Board after serving five years.
To qualify for this allowance, you must be sentenced to an indeterminate term with a minimum of more than one year. You are not eligible for Merit Time if you are serving a sentence for any of the following:
• An A-1 felony offense (other than A-1 drug offense);
• A Penal Law sec. 70.02 violent felony offense;
• Manslaughter 2nd degree;
• Vehicular manslaughter 1st degree;
• Criminally negligent homicide;
• Penal Law Articles 130 and 263 offenses; or
If your crime of conviction does not fall within any of the above categories, to qualify for Merit Time, you must also have successfully participated in a work or treatment program assigned pursuant to Correction Law and have accomplished one of the following:
• Earned a GED;
• Acquired an ASAT Certificate;
• Earned a Vocational Trade Certificate after six months of vocational programming; or
• Performed 400 hours of community service on a work crew.
Merit Time may be withheld if, while incarcerated, you have incurred a serious disciplinary infraction, or you have initiated a frivolous lawsuit, or have had sanctions imposed against you under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for litigation that you have commenced against the state or its employees.
In 2003, Section 803 of Correction Law was amended to extend merit time provisions to Class A-1 drug offenses. If you are serving an indeterminate sentence for an A-1 offense defined in Article 220 of the Penal Law and if in the case of multiple sentences, all other sentences are merit eligible, you may be eligible for merit consideration. Merit time allowance for A-1 drug offenses is a possible one-third reduction of the minimum term.
JULY 2009 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – unofficial research from parole database
Total Interviews........ # Released............... # Denied.....Rate of Release
18 initials.............................2 ....................... 16................. 11%
62 reappearances..................8 ....................... 54.................. 13%
80 total ...............................10 ....................... 70 ................ 13%
July Initial Release
Facility........... Sentence..... Offense ....... # of Board
Otisville ........ 22-Life ........ Murder 2 ...... initial
Mid Orange... 15-Life........ Murder 2....... initial
Facility ........ Sentence..... Offense ................. # of Board
Arthurkill ..... 25-Life......... Murder pre74 .......... 7th
Attica........... 15-Life......... Murder 2.................. 6th
Fishkill......... 21-Life......... Murder 2................. 4th
Franklin........ 15-Life ......... Murder 2 ................. 6th
Franklin ........ 20-Life ......... Murder 2 ................. 3rd
Hudson......... 15-Life ......... Murder 2.................. 6th
Mid Orange.. 15-Life......... Murder 2................. 4th
Otisville........ 15-Life......... Murder 2.................. 4th* * Special Consideration Hearing
AUGUST RELEASES FROM PRISON REPORTS. (Please note that the following statistics are not all limited to people convicted of A1 Violent felonies - some include all parole hearings):
Aug - Ferguson, Loomis, Crangle
21 appearances (8 A1VO)
4 were paroled (2 A1VO)
SULLIVAN ANNEX (this will be last report, the annex is closing at end of this month)s
Aug - Ferguson, Ross, Elovitch??
2 were paroled: 1 A1VO on denovo, 1 non-viol. on first board
2 denied: 1 non-viol, initial, 2 yr hit; 1 viol, initial, CRs in 12/09.
Aug - Ferguson, Elovitch, Ross
1 was paroled
REQUESTS FOR PAROLE SUPPORT:
Prison Action Network frequently receives mail from readers who are weeks, or a few months, away from a parole appearance, and they want us to write a letter of support, or advise them what to do to enhance their chances at being released. I don't write support letters for people I don't know well, no matter how outstanding their potential contribution to society is, so please don’t ask. The Parole Board needs information that is not available in the institutional records. They need to hear from people who know the applicant well; have known him or her for a long enough time to observe changes; who can talk about why they believe that person will never again commit a crime. PAN doesn’t have that information.
But we can point you to some useful information. Although Building Bridges does not accept advertising we do occasionally recommend books and articles that could prove useful to our readers. A few months ago Gerald Balone sent me a notice of his new book, "A Former Insider's Guide to Parole, A Manual for Anyone Trying to Get Out of Prison" , and we mentioned it in our pages because I was familiar with Jerry’s story and had confidence he knew as much about it as anyone. But I didn't read it until two weeks ago. The decisions of the Parole Board are inscrutable, but Jerry, who had met with them many times before he was released, tried to put himself in their place as he prepared for his hearings. And against all odds - he had been committing crimes since he was 8 and his last was considered heinous - he was released. His book makes lots of sense to me. Much of what he says I've heard from others also, but he lays it out very neatly and very completely. So if you want help preparing for a parole hearing, your own or a loved one's, instead of writing or calling me, invest in your future and send him $20 for this book. He’s much more knowledgeable than I am. Gerald T. Balone, 345 Bristol Street, Buffalo, New York 14206-2001
Home: 716-852-0346, Cell: 716-725-7747, A Former Insider's Guide to Parole: A Manual for Anyone Trying to Get Out of Prison www.gtbspeaks.com.
- The Editor
9. PRISON MEDIA: FANCY BROCCOLI, ON THE COUNT, SOUL SPECTRUM WITH LIBERTY GREEN, ALL THINGS HARLEM,
FANCY BROCCOLI RADIO SHOW, WVKR 91.3 FM - Sundays - Jazz & Prison Talk, 3:00-6:00 pm
Box 726, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie NY 12604-0726
Fancy Broccoli streams online - go to www.WVKR.org and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'.
Visit archives to find lots of other good interviews.
ON THE COUNT, WBAI , 99.5FM. 10:30am-noon. To listen live on your computer, visit www.wbai.org. To listen later, visit their archives.
SOUL SPECTRUM WITH LIBERTY GREEN, WJFF Radio Catskill 90.5FM - Thursday evenings from 10pm to 1:30am. PO Box 546, Jeffersonville, NY 12748. Voice Box Call-in Comment Line: 845 431 6500
To listen on your computer, live, click here: www.wjffradio.org To send an email, click here: Email:email@example.com
ALL THINGS HARLEM - www.allthingsharlem.com
All of you who were at the Young Lords 40th anniversary should have seen Jazz and his co-defendant Nellie Hester Bailey covering the event and gathering interviews which will be up on the website soon. Keep checking the website because they put new coverage up regularly. Also, their TV program is on MNN. They too have been covering the candidates and will be posting interviews with them within the next two weeks. If you know of events in the community that you think are worth covering please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. TRANSPORTATION TO PRISONS:
NEST Prison Shuttle schedule: Mt McGregor, Washington, Grt Meadow CFs on Sat, Sept 5 ($35 adults, $25 children), Coxsackie, Greene, Hudson on BOTH Sat, Sept 12 & 19 ($20 adults, $15 children) leaving Oakwood Ave Presbyt. Church parking lot, Troy at 7 AM, then Albany Greyhound bus station at 7:15. Sullivan trip (Ulster, Eastern, Woodbourne, Sullivan) on Sept 26 leaving at 6:30 AM ($45 adults, $30 children). Reservations: Linda O'Malley 518- 273-5199.
Free door to door rides from the Capital District: The Justice Committee at the Unitarian Church has 3 volunteer drivers. If you have a loved one in prison and you have no other way of getting to see him or her, maybe we can help. Call us to find out: 518 253 7533
11. KAREN LEWIS, OF AL LEWIS LIVES!, IS ALIVE AND WELL. THANK YOU TO THE ANGEL WHO READ OUR CALL FOR INFORMATION, AND SHARED IT WITH HER.
Karen left New York City last December to move to California, where she’s been writing a memoir of her life with Al Lewis. She sends her warmest regards to all our readers.
Building Bridges is the monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network.
For information on joining, please call 518 253 7533, or send an email.