Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Friday, January 30, 2009

FEBRUARY 2009 EDITION

We publish calls to action and other announcements during the month. Please scroll down to see the February 2009 edition of Building Bridges. Thank you.


POSTED FEBRUARY 17: O'BRIEN NAMED INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DIVISION OF PAROLE

[Mr. O'Brien will be taking the place of Felix Rosa, who filled the position prior to his appointment as Chairman of Parole, from which he withdrew after being accused of sexual improprieties, and subsequently was demoted to a lower civil service category position while under investigation for those charges. Confused? We'll try to clarify in the March edition.]

This was posted on the Parole website on February 12th:

Timothy D. O'Brien has been named interim Executive Director of the New York State Division of Parole effective today.

Mr. O'Brien, who most recently served as Director of Upstate Parole Operations, has worked in the Division for nearly 20 years. He began his career as a parole officer in 1989 and later served as Assistant to the Director of Parole Operations. Mr. O'Brien, of Lake George, was appointed Director of Upstate Parole Operations in 2007.

Mr. O'Brien will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Division of Parole pending an Inspector General's inquiry involving Felix M. Rosa Jr., who had served as Executive Director since April 2007. Mr. Rosa has returned to his civil service position of Area Supervisor and will be assigned to the Central Office to work on the Division's re-entry program pending the outcome of the inquiry.

Mr. O'Brien will be paid $123,446 annually. Mr. Rosa's salary is $104,080.



POSTED FEBRUARY 10: GOV. DAVID PATERSON APPOINTS HENRY "HANK" LEMONS, JR AS INTERIM PAROLE CHAIR.

Lemons, who has served as a member of the Board of Parole since 2007, will fill the vacancy until a new chair and CEO is confirmed by the New York State Senate. He served from 2004 to 2007 as deputy chief investigator for the New York State Attorney General. Prior to that post, he was the assistant chief investigator for the Kings County District Attorney. Lemons is a former sergeant and detective with the New York City Police Department. He also served for four years of active duty with the U.S. Air Force. Lemons earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice and planning from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and his master’s in organizational leadership from Mercy College. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He was raised in the Bedford – Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and Queens, where he still resides. As interim chair, Lemons’ salary will be $120,800.


POSTED FEBRUARY 7: ROSA'S RESIGNATION DEMANDED BY WOMAN WHO ACCUSES HIM OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT.

The real reason for withdrawing his nomination for parole board chairman, it now appears, was that fourteen years ago a female employee accused Mr. Rosa of sexually harassing her. Rosa calls the allegations "absolutely false." (Note that in 14 years he was never charged with this offense.) It is reported that shortly after Paterson nominated Rosa, an anonymous letter was sent to the governor, union and media. (That's two anonymous letters that have resulted in first, George Alexander's forced resignation, and now Felix Rosa's. Neither charge has been proven at this time. I wonder who would want both of them removed? First Spitzer, then Alexander, now Rosa. Will Paterson be next?) For more details see the NY Post article written by Josh Saul on February 6.



POSTED FEBRUARY 5: FELIX ROSA WITHDRAWS HIS NOMINATION FOR PAROLE BOARD CHAIRMAN.

Gov. Paterson's pick to chair the state Parole Board after George Alexander resigned in the wake of computer theft charges, has abruptly pulled his name from consideration citing personal reasons. Rosa issued the following statement:"I have withdrawn my name as a candidate for appointment to the Board of Parole and the related consideration for appointment as Chairman of the Board of Parole due to personal reasons." "I am honored that the Governor considered me for this position and will continue my commitment to further the mission of this agency and Governor Paterson's initiatives in criminal justice."



POSTED FEBRUARY 3: From Amnesty International -

Troy Davis remains on death row despite public outcry due to doubts of his actual commission of the crime. The courts have yet to decide, so his supporters are calling for our support. For more information, click here.



POSTED FEBRUARY 3: SENTENCING COMMISSION CALLS FOR DRUG LAW REFORM

Panel also recommends determinate sentencing, graduated sanctions for parole violators
[full report here]

A bi-partisan panel that spent nearly two years studying New York State’s sentencing statutes today called for further reforms to the state’s drug laws and provided the Governor, Legislature and Judiciary with several different options for historic reform.

The Commission on Sentencing Reform agreed on five major principles of drug law reform:

Community-based drug treatment, especially when required in a criminal justice setting where the offender faces clearly defined sanctions for program failure, works and should be an available option in every region of the state.
The state’s network of existing diversion programs and drug courts has been effective for thousands of drug-addicted offenders, and any new diversion model must be structured so as not to undermine these programs.
New York should adopt a comprehensive plan to provide statewide access to substance abuse treatment programs.
New York must continue to reserve costly prison resources for high-risk offenders and make greater use of alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders while not jeopardizing the state’s significant gains in public safety.
While New York has a large network of successful drug treatment courts and prosecutor-based diversion programs (such as DTAP – “Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison), these programs are not always made available to deserving offenders in need of treatment. The result is a “hit-or-miss” system that leaves many non-violent, drug-addicted offenders ─ and particularly persons of color – without access to this potentially life-changing alternative. To help close this gap, the Commission supports the adoption in statute of a uniform statewide drug diversion model.
The Commission considered several different alternatives for achieving those objectives and included five different options for reform.

Under one of the proposals, the “judicial diversion” model, judges would have discretion to divert certain addicted, non-violent first- and second-felony drug offenders into treatment programs rather than prison. The Commission noted that if this model had been in place in 2006, approximately 3,000 offenders – 89 percent of them African American or Hispanic – might have been diverted from prison and instead steered toward treatment.

Other options are: the Court Approved Drug Abuse Treatment (CADAT) model that is part of a comprehensive drug reform bill pending in both houses of the Legislature; judicial diversion, but only with the consent of the prosecutor; and two variations of a proposal that would allow first-time Class B drug felons to receive a probation or local jail sentence in lieu of a one-year state prison term.

Denise E. O’Donnell, chair of the Commission and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, said all of the five proposals have benefits and drawbacks that the Legislature should take into account before implementing drug law reform.

“The Commission has heard from the prosecution, the defense, and the judiciary,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said. “We have solicited advice from advocates and renowned experts from around the nation. We held public hearings in New York City, Albany and Buffalo. We formed focus groups. We studied drug courts and drug diversion programs around the state and visited drug treatment facilities and New York State’s prisons in an effort to determine which approaches are most successful at ending the cycle of addiction and incarceration.

“I believe our report provides Governor Paterson and the Legislature with the balanced, objective and evidence-based information they need to make informed decisions about the future of New York’s drug laws,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added.

The 11-member Sentencing Commission, which was established by Executive Order in March 2007 to perform a comprehensive review of New York’s sentencing statutes, also recommended:

Adopting a largely “determinate” sentencing system to promote greater uniformity, fairness and truth-in-sentencing. Currently, New York utilizes a hybrid of “determinate” sentences where the court imposes a fixed sentence, and “indeterminate” sentences where the court imposes a minimum and maximum term and the Parole Board decides when the offender is actually released. Under a determinate sentencing system, defendants, crime victims, judges and the public have a clear understanding of how long an offender will actually spend behind bars. The Commission reviewed more than two decades of sentences that had been imposed through the indeterminate system and used that data to construct a proposed range of sentences for particular offenses.
A comprehensive system of graduated responses, which would allow parole officers throughout the state to respond quickly and proportionately to technical parole violations. Since incarceration is an expensive and, often, unnecessary response to parole violations, the Commission recommends expanded use of “graduated sanctions” – such as curfews, electronic monitoring, increased reporting – coupled with use of evidence-based risk assessments to identify parolees who pose the greatest risk to public safety.
Expanding effective and cost-efficient “shock incarceration” and “merit time” initiatives that reduce recidivism and reserve costly prison space for the most dangerous offenders.
Enhancing the rights of crime victims. The Commission recommends moving all of the various victim’s rights statutes into a single article of law, or cross-referencing to a single article, so that victims, judges and practitioners can readily ascertain the rights and benefits that may be available. Additionally, the Commission recommends enhancing victim’s rights training requirements for prosecutors and judges, as well as new laws to enhance the ability of victims to collect restitution.
Establishing a permanent sentencing commission. Over the past 40 years, portions of New York’s sentencing statutes have been amended and altered countless times, resulting in an overly complex, Byzantine structure replete with the potential for injustice. The Commission recommends the establishment of a permanent body of experts to advise the Executive and Legislative branches on proposed legislation.
Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the “Sentencing Commission has performed a valuable service, at a critical time in the state’s history.”

“By focusing squarely on the connection between public safety and sentencing policy, the Commission has provided a roadmap that will guide the state during difficult fiscal times,” President Travis said. “The Commission’s recommendations, if followed, will bring clarity to our patchwork quilt of accumulated sentencing reforms, improve reentry outcomes, and support more rational uses of our prisons and our parole system.”

Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said the report is “the product of an extraordinary effort by an extraordinary group of professionals.”

“This comprehensive report reflects the wide diversity of experience represented on the Commission, and the seriousness with which every member approached this very difficult and time-consuming mission,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said. “Although we come from different areas, different professions and different backgrounds, our overarching goals were identical – justice, fairness and public safety. I believe that, with this report, we have met that goal.”

Also on the Commission were: Anthony Bergamo, Chairman, Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, Inc.; Brian Fischer, Commissioner, New York State Department of Correctional Services; Michael C. Green, Monroe County District Attorney; Joseph R. Lentol, member of the New York State Assembly; Michael P. McDermott, O’Connell and Aronowitz in Albany; Judge Juanita Bing Newton, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives; Felix Rosa; Executive Director, New York State Division of Parole; Eric T. Schneiderman, member of the New York State Senate; Tina Marie Stanford, Chair, New York State Crime Victims Board; and Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer in Manhattan

“A lot of talented people put a lot of work into this report, which I believe will serve as a positive stepping stone for the legislature as we consider reforms to our state’s costly ─ and at times overly-punitive ─ criminal justice system,” said Senator Schneiderman, the new chair of the Senate Codes Committee. “I am especially heartened by the fact that the Commission is recommending by nearly unanimous agreement that judges be given the power to divert drug-addicted offenders to treatment, even without prosecutorial consent.”

Added Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services: “I applaud the Governor and the Sentencing Commission for recognizing addiction is a chronic illness that is better to treat than to incarcerate. We know that 72 percent of state parolees have a substance abuse problem and effective treatment is the best way to help them return to their communities, not to prison.

“OASAS is proud to partner with the Governor and Legislature on insuring that appropriate treatment is available to those individuals who can be diverted from State prison to our not-for-profit system of care,” she added. “New York State is a national leader in diversion programs, such as drug courts, and the action of this Commission once again puts New York in the forefront.”

Commissioner Fischer said the “shock incarceration” and “merit time proposals would build upon effective and cost efficient programs already being utilized by the Department of Correctional Services.

“Expanding eligibility for shock incarceration and creating limited credit time for good behavior and enhanced program participation during prison are sound, common-sense ideas based upon many years of practical experience in what works best,” Commissioner Fischer said.

“Shock has saved state taxpayers nearly $1.3 billion directly over two decades through reduced need for prison space, in addition to lowering recidivism by better preparing its participants to return to society,” he added. “Credit time would build on our very successful merit time program by providing incentives that have been shown not only to help in the rehabilitative process for offenders but also to make our correctional facilities safer and to enhance public safety.”

Added Ms. Stanford, Chair of the Crime Victims Board: “I am pleased to note that victims’ rights and concerns were studied and considered as part of the extensive process of reviewing sentencing in New York. The final product reflects fairness and forward thinking in an effort to share practical suggestions and best practices to achieve just results.”

Mr. Vance said that the “Commission’s report provides sound and bold recommendations to reform New York’s complex, sometimes unfair and often incomprehensible sentencing laws. We hope our work will be a roadmap to a more fair and effective criminal justice system for all of us.”

http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/pio/csr_report2-2009.pdf


FEBRUARY 2009 EDITION OF BUILDING BRIDGES

Dear Reader,

Change is in the air! Some of us are daring to hope that we really can make a difference. A group of people (Article 2) who were inspired by Family Empowerment Day 4 in NYC to believe that they could work together to change the policies of the parole board, voted on January 24 to put their time and energy behind changing Exec law 259-i to prevent the parole board from over and over again using the nature of the crime as justification for denying parole to people statistically proven to have the lowest recidivism rates. (We would like to hear your suggestion for amending the law. Please send it to PAN as soon as possible.) We believe that we can do it. We know it won't be easy or quick, but it is just, and we believe in justice!

Since making this decision, we have heard rumors that other organizations are working on the same thing. If that’s true, we have an even greater opportunity for success! So please, if your organization is working to change 259-i, contact us so we can join forces. We need to work together, instead of spending our precious resources duplicating the work of others.

Education is an important tool for empowerment. In order to be effective change agents we need to be informed. Beginning each issue we provide a listing of free educational offerings from experts in their fields. We hope you’ll be able to take advantage of them.

Together we can make a difference!


IN THIS ISSUE

1. Activities to educate, motivate and mobilize

2. Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies

3. Fischer’s Budget Speech

4. Former Insider’s Guide to Parole

5. ICARE Reports

6. Lifers and Longtermers Clearinghouse

7. Parole Report

8. Prison Media

9. Rockefeller Drug Laws

10.Telephone Justice

11.Temporary Release Program



1. ACTIVITIES TO EDUCATE, MOTIVATE AND MOBILIZE: IN ORDER TO CHANGE THE POLICIES THAT AFFECT US, OUR INCARCERATED LOVED ONES AND OUR COMMUNITIES, WE NEED TO EDUCATE OURSELVES. BELOW IS A LIST OF EXCELLENT PROGRAMS PRESENTED BY ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS IN NYS AND THEY’RE ALL FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

ALBANY: 
Wednesday, March 18: Gideon Day

Sponsored by the Justice Fund’s Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission. The time has not been set, but the place to gather is at The Well, of the Legislative Office Building. We need your voice for public defense reform. This year will be different. We are on the verge of public defense reform in New York State. Change is in the air and the time to make this happen is now.

Jonathan E. Gradess, Campaign Manager, jgradess@newyorkjusticefund.org, (518) 465-0519
To register : click here.

For more information about the Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission please contact
Katie Blackburn, Upstate Community Organizer,
kblackburn@newyorkjusticefund.org, (518) 465-0519     
Keith L. Kinch, Downstate Community Organizer,
kkinch@newyorkjusticefund.org, (917) 604-1396


BUFFALO:
Monday, February 23, 6:30pm - 8:30pm. Prisoners Are People Too! Meeting

Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. Our “parole crisis” will be further discussed and we will have a book signing for Mr. Gerald “Jerry” T. Balone who has self-published “A Former Insider’s Guide to Parole: A Manual for Anyone Trying to Get Out of Prison.”[see article 4 below]. Jerry was incarcerated for nearly 38 years in 17 NYS prisons. He was released on August 14, 2007.

PRP2! is a justice advocacy program that meets monthly on selected Mondays. Most meetings feature a documentary film, related to some criminal justice or prison issue, and one or more guest speakers who address that issue. 

At the last meeting of Prisoners Are People Too (01-26-09), thirty-five supporters of this program met to discuss the community’s desire for long overdue parole reform. Mr. George B. Alexander, who recently resigned from his position as Chairman of the NYS Parole Board, shared his story about the alleged theft of a laptop computer (purchased with State funds) and he answered questions about the felony charges he now faces. Mrs. Susan Wright, President of the Coalition for Parole Restoration, shared her thoughts about  Executive Law 259-i, its intent and its faulty (illegal) application by Parole Commissioners. There was a consensus among attendees to support Mr. Alexander’s fight for justice and to move toward PRP2’s securing an audience with Governor David Paterson.  More details will appear in future postings.

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:
Thursday February 6, 3-5 pm Forensics meeting at NAMI -METRO

3 people from Albany Office of Mental Health and Deb Ashline, Criminal Justice Coordinator from NAMI-N.Y.S. will be there. Bring, issues, complaints, concerns, suggestions. Focus: Forensic Hospitals & mental health care in correction al Facilities.
Location: 505 8 th Ave. Manhattan 11th floor. For details, Jayette@ {631}424-4528.


Thursday February 5, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM Strength of a Woman Film Premiere

Presented by Coalition for Women Prisoners, Correctional Association of New York. Screening of this powerful film about the criminal justice system's devastating impact on survivors of domestic violence will be followed by a brief discussion with the filmmaker, survivors and other advocates where we will further explore the relationship between domestic violence and women's pathways to prison, and discuss ways to get involved in making critical criminal justice reforms. Columbia University School of Law, 435 West 116th Street at Amsterdam Avenue. Stacey Thompson, sthompson@correctionalassociation.org, 212-254-5700 x.333.

Tuesday February 10, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM Crime, Justice and The Economic Crisis

Presented by The Center for New York City Affairs. Like New York, most states face deepening budget gaps and are slashing education and human services. Nationwide, states pour $50 billion a year into incarceration. With at least 25,000 ex-offenders returning home each year from NY state prisons, what kind of support can communities expect? With: Robert Gangi, Glenn Martin, Marc Mauer, Denise O'Donnell, Anne Swern, Moderator: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor, The Nation. Free, but you must reserve a seat. Call 212.229.5418 or email centernyc@newschool.edu. Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, 55 West 13th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), 2nd Floor.


Wednesday February 11 8:30 AM - 7:00 PM Connecting the Neighborhood Dots: Promoting Solutions to Dismantle the Pipeline to Prison.

Medgar Evers College, City University of New York (CUNY) 1650 Bedford Avenue, Bedford Building, Founders Auditorium. Presented by Children's Defense Fund-NY, CUNY Medgar Evers College and Casey Family Programs. The focus of the first New York summit will be on the communities - predominantly low-income communities of color - that feed New York's prison pipeline and explore promising approaches including policy changes, legislative action and neighborhood-based strategies to promote re-investment in these communities. Speakers include: Marian Wright Edelman, president, CDF, Dr. Edison Jackson, president, Medgar Evers College, Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, Gladys Carrion, commissioner of NYS Office of Children and Family Services. To register, go to: www.childrensdefense.org/nysummit, messages@cdfny.org, (212) 697-2323.


Thursday February 12 & Friday February 13 , 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM Coalition for Women Prisoners Meeting

A project of the Correctional Association of New York. Join us for our monthly meeting of the Coalition where we will discuss policy and projects that we are committed to working on to change the criminal justice system as it relates to women. 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., Suite 200 Contact Serena Alfieri, salfieri@correctionalassociation.org, 212-254-5700 x.311


Saturday, February 14 from 10:30am - 2pm. The Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies

At this general meeting we will continue the work of changing Exec. Law 259-i so that the Parole Board can not use the nature of the crime to perpetually keep our community-ready loved ones in prison. At the Fortune Society Academy (The Castle), 630 Riverside Dr., Manhattan (corner of W 140th St.) Nearest subway, #1 train 137th St/City College stop. For more information, please call 518 253 7533.


Tuesday, February 17 5:00 PM - 7:30 PM Spring 2009 Reel Reentry presentation of The Woodsman.
CANCELLED
Starring Kevin Bacon, the film chronicles a convicted sex offender and his experience of social exclusion, maintaining employment and personal rehabilitation. Don Greif, Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalyst, Columbia University Medical Center will facilitate the discussion following the screening. John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue (between 58th and 59th Streets), Room 630. CANCELLED. RSVP to 212.484.1399 or amthompson@jjay.cuny.edu


Friday, February 27 from 8:30 to 10:00 am Occasional Series on Reentry Research

Featuring an engaging discussion on “Incarceration and Sexually Transmitted Infections: A Neighborhood Perspective.”  James Thomas, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will present the research findings and public health implications of reentry.  The following discussants will share their responses: Kathy Boudin, Ed.D, Center for Comprehensive Care, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital; Tracie Gardner, Director of State Policy, Legal Action Center; and Dr. Farah Parvez, Director of the Office of Correctional Public Health, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue (between 58th and 59th Streets), Room 630. RSVP to 212.484.1399 or amthompson@jjay.cuny.edu


STATEWIDE:
Today: Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement, Join The Statewide Call To Action!, Call The New York State Legislature TODAY!

Urge NYS To Keep Its Promise To Prisoners With Psychiatric Disabilities!
Although the law is not scheduled to take effect until 2011, this year’s Executive Budget proposes to diminish and delay, for an additional three years, the protections afforded by the SHU bill, putting off implementation of the bill until 2014. Further, accompanying Article 7 legislation calls for the elimination of about half of the correctional beds from the requirements of the SHU bill, and cuts the training requirements for correctional officers! If approved, prisoners in nearly half of the SHU beds in the system would not be entitled to a mental health assessment or removal from SHU, despite the fact that an appreciable number of these prisoners receive treatment for a mental illness.
 
CALL THE FOLLOWING NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATORS NOW! Assembly Ways And Means Committee, Chair, Herman D. Farrell 518-455-5491; Senate Finance Committee, Chair, Carl Kruger 518-455-2460; Senate Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities, Chair, Shirley Huntley 518-455-3531; Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Chair, Peter Rivera 518-455-5102.

Sample Message: “I’m a registered voter from (your zip code) calling to urge you to keep the promise made to NY’s prisoners with psychiatric disabilities, by not delaying or weakening NY’s SHU Law.”



2. COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICES: NYC CHAPTER VOTES TO REMOVE THE NATURE OF THE CRIME FROM 259-i; CAPITAL DISTRICT CHAPTER INVITES YOU TO "PRISON HEALTH CARE: FOCUS ON MENTAL HEALTH" DIALOGUE ON MARCH 7TH.

At the NYC Chapter Meeting on January 24, members unanimously approved the following mission statement:

" The Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies is a movement of empowered families and advocates committed to ending unjust criminal justice policies and practices. Unjust policies serve as crucial building blocks of modern-day inequality, causing incalculable collateral damage that extends far beyond prison walls.  Such policies negatively impact families, children and the social, political, economic and ecological life of the communities from which the incarcerated come—and to which they will return. In the end, society as a whole is damaged.

In place of the current criminal justice system that exaggerates the power of a few and diminishes the power of millions, the coalition works to build a system that is not based on political self-interest but is rehabilitative, impartial and fair to all."

As reported in the January Building Bridges, the Coalition decided at their last meeting to retake the vote on what issue to start with in our effort to create a fair system. We know there are hundreds of unfair and unjust policies, but which one is the most effective at destroying hope and rehabilitation? We decided it was the policy of denying parole based on the one and only thing no human can change, the nature of the crime. Thus, the group voted to revise Executive law 259-i, to make it impossible for the parole board to continuously deny parole based on the nature of the crime.  Although most of us agreed that videotaping would be a worthwhile goal, we recognized that until the nature of the crime could no longer be used as a reason to deny parole, nothing else we do will result in more releases of our deserving loved ones. 

The February meeting is scheduled for Sat., Feb. 14 from 10:30-2 at the Fortune Academy (The Castle), 630 Riverside Dr, Manhattan (corner of W 140th St.) Nearest subway, #1 train 137th St/City College stop.

The Capitol District Chapter is presenting Prison Health Care: focus on mental health on Saturday March 7th in Albany, at 405 Washington Avenue (near Robin). Speakers include: Teresa Wuerdemann, Asst. Commissioner of DOCS Health Services; Dr. Timothy Whalen, Regional Medical Dir., NE Region; Richard Miraglia, Assoc. Comm. of Forensic Services for the NYS Office of Mental Health; and Doris Ramirez-Romero, DOCS Director of Mental Health Services. After introducing themselves, they will devote the rest of the program to answering questions submitted by those attending. (If you can not attend, you may send one question to PAN, and we’ll submit it.). Following lunch there will be a circle discussion of our personal experiences with mental health care in prison. Please join us. The event is from 10 am - 3 pm. A light lunch will be provided. RSVP: 518 253 7533, PAN.



3. FISCHER'S BUDGET SPEECH: TESTIMONY OF BRIAN FISCHER, DOCS COMMISSIONER BEFORE JOINT LEGISLATIVE FISCAL COMMITTEES, JANUARY 27, 2009. THESE ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE 8-PAGE SPEECH, WHICH IS AVAILABLE AT THE DOCS WEBSITE (www.docs.state.ny.us).

A 35 percent drop in crime over the last decade makes budget reductions not only possible, but sensible. A significant decline in the inmate population has resulted from the drop in crime and from various changes in the law to keep violent felons behind bars longer while providing appropriate alternatives for non-violent offenders.

The Governor’s Executive Budget restructures the prison system in several key ways:
• By closing our minimum security correctional camps and closing several correctional annexes. The decline in the number of minimum security inmates in our system means we no longer need to keep the camps open.

•By modifying and delaying implementation of a very expensive law designed to provide specialized treatment – which we are already aggressively and effectively addressing - for inmates with serious mental illness.

•Through a more appropriate use of prison space. These changes involve graduated sanctions for minor and technical parole violators and creation of incentives that would enhance prison safety while encouraging motivated offenders to change their lives in preparation for their return to society. Close prison facilities with 90 days notice in times of financial crisis. One of those times is now.

The Governor has included in his Executive Budget three key changes in statute. These changes would:
• Provide for six months of Limited Credit Time for certain violent felony offenders who prove themselves in terms of good behavior and who complete enhanced program requirements during incarceration.

•Expand eligibility for our Shock Incarceration Program to non-violent offenders who are 40 through 49 years of age, as well as for appropriate and eligible general confinement inmates who reach three years to their earliest parole eligibility or conditional release date and are under 50.

•Create graduated sanctions for parole violators. Increase supervision for minor violations of the conditions of supervision thus reducing the demand for costly prison space for low-risk parolees.

Third, the Executive Budget proposes expanding medical parole to include not only inmates who are terminally ill but also those who have documented debilitating yet non-terminal conditions – but NOT first degree murderers.

Two overriding factors should determine our need for space: the steep population decline and the changing profile of the inmate population. Since I became Commissioner in January 2007, the system has seen a drop in the number of inmates of more than 3,000, and a much lower percentage of drug offenders in our system, from 23,511, or 34% of all inmates in 1996, to 11,936, or under 20% now.

While it is true that we double-bunk some inmates, the overwhelming majority of our double bunks are in complete conformity with all minimum standards established by the agency charged with our oversight. The photographs shown on the website show double-bunks along the far wall of a prototype dormitory from the vantage point of the supervising Correction Officer. The number of inmate-on-staff assaults in the dormitory areas of our medium security correctional facilities is minimal. These photographs are starkly different from those the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association – the Correction Officers’ union - has publicized recently as part of paid ads. That’s because our photographs actually show a dormitory in a New York State correctional facility. The union’s photographs are from another state. And to clear up a common misconception, closing correctional facilities would not result in the early release of inmates; it would merely result in the transfer of the inmates to vacant beds in already-staffed housing units at remaining facilities.

We have opened reentry units at Orleans C.F. in addition to one at Queensboro C.F. We are planning additional reentry units in the near future at Hudson C.F. and the women’s Bayview C.F.

Apart from the requirements of the SHU Exclusion Law, we will open a 100-bed RMHU at Marcy Correctional Facility this year to provide an adequate heightened level of care for all inmates with serious mental illness who are housed in SHUs. All such inmates will be offered from 2-4 hours per day of out-of-cell structured therapeutic programming and/or mental health treatment as required by the court-approved private settlement agreement the State reached with Disability Advocates Inc. in April 2007.



4. A FORMER INSIDER’S GUIDE TO PAROLE, A MANUAL FOR ANYONE TRYING TO GET OUT OF PRISON BY GERALD T. BALONE. “SINCE MY RELEASE FROM PRISON ON AUGUST 14, 2007, MANY PEOPLE HAVE SUGGESTED I WRITE ABOUT MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE PAROLE BOARD IN HOPES THAT MY STORY MIGHT HELP OTHERS”

I believe my book should be read by all people in prison, and by their families and friends so that they may understand that it takes more than luck to convince parole officials to release certain individuals.

Price: $20.00 per copy, includes NYS sales tax and shipping
To order send your NAME, INMATE NUMBER, FACILITY, ADDRESS, CITY, STATE, ZIP CODE.
Please enclose a check payable to GTB SPEAKS, LLC
Return the completed form to: GTB SPEAKS, LLC, PO Box 686, Buffalo, NY 14240-0686
All orders must be pre-paid.
Order on line by going to: www.gtbspeaks.com



5. ICARE REPORTS. WELCOME TO NEW READERS FROM ICARE’S MAILING LIST! THIS COLUMN WILL BE A REGULAR FEATURE FROM NOW ON, IN LIEU OF THE OCCASIONAL COMPILATION OF INTERESTING ARTICLES PREVIOUSLY SENT BY SUSAN MARENECK.

Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment has obtained sponsorship from Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry for a "certificate of restoration" bill.  The bill creates a “certificate of restoration” (COR) to take the place of a “certificate of relief from disabilities” (CRD) and a “certificate of good conduct” (CGC).  In the case of a person sentenced to a period of probation or a definite sentence, the bill requires the court to issue the COR at sentencing, absent a showing that receipt of the certificate would jeopardize public safety.  The certificate would be effective on the date of release for a person who receives a definite sentence.  Where the certificate is not issued based on the public safety exception, a COR will be issued upon application of the person after one year at liberty in the community without a new criminal conviction or un-disposed criminal arrest.

In the case of a convicted individual sentenced to state prison who is awarded merit time pursuant to section 803 of the correction law during such sentence, the parole board shall issue a COR at time of release to parole or post-release supervision.  Absent merit time, the Parole Board will still issue a COR at time of release from incarceration in the absence of a showing that issuance would jeopardize public safety.  Where such a showing is made, the Parole Board will issue the COR if the individual remains at liberty for two years without a new criminal conviction or un-disposed criminal arrest.

In cases where a COR is issued prior to the person’s completion of probation or parole, the COR would be subject to revocation based on a violation of a condition of supervision or conviction of a new offense.

The bill also makes conforming changes to various sections of law that currently reference a CRD or CGC.



6. LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS CLEARINGHOUSE:

You've read elsewhere in this edition [Dear Readers, and Article 2] about the decision made at the Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies meeting on January 24. What I want to add is this:  Because the Coalition is primarily composed of the families, loved-ones and supporters of the incarcerated, there is a crucial need for collaboration between the organized efforts inside prison and the organized efforts in the communities.  That is where the Lifers Clearinghouse comes into play.  There are a number of prisoners' organizations involved in the effort to achieve legislative change in the parole law and these efforts are being carried out on an individual basis with no coordination or collaboration between them.  That is to be expected given the nature of prison conditions. 
 
It is, however, vital to the success of our common goal that we make every effort to make linkage between the inside and the outside.  The mission of the Prison Action Network is to coordinate joint efforts between the inside groups and the outside groups.  We plan to do this by following the rules and regulations of the NYS Department of Correctional Services that "encourage constructive interaction between inmates and the community".  It is vitally important that we do not self-destruct and ruin our chance to achieve justice and fairness. 
 
Those who are involved in organized efforts to bring about legislative change in parole laws should notify the Prison Action Network of the name of your organization and details of your efforts.  We will keep you informed of developments regarding parole release efforts of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies.  Keep us informed of what efforts are taking place inside and how we can develop strong and effective linkage.  When we act, we must do so together. There is an art to activism, and timing is all important. Let us work together for the good of all!

- Larry White



7. PAROLE: FELIX ROSA NOMINATED FOR HEAD OF PAROLE; SENTENCES - PART 3 IN OUR SERIES ABOUT THE STRUCTURE OF THE DIVISION OF PAROLE; DECEMBER PAROLE STATISTICS; GRAZIANO UPDATE. [2008 A1-VO PAROLE RELEASE RATES ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST TO PAN]

ROSA NOMINATION:
On January 16, Governor Paterson announced his nomination of Felix M. Rosa, Jr. to serve as member and Chair of the State Board of Parole. As Chair of the Board of Parole, Mr. Rosa will also serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the State Division of Parole. Mr. Rosa has served the Division of Parole for more than 20 years: as Executive Director of the New York State Division of Parole, Director of Executive Clemency and Secretary to the Board of Parole, Senior Parole Officer in various units throughout the Division, Parole Revocation Specialist and Parole Officer.

Mr. Rosa was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and immigrated to the United States at the age of two. He became a naturalized citizen at the age of 10, returned to the Dominican Republic to attend high school at Colegio Dominicano De la Salle, and upon his return Mr. Rosa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1982 and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University in 1987.

Mr. Rosa has four sons and lives in the Albany area. He has served on the board of Hispanic Outreach Services in Albany.

As Chair of the Board of Parole, Mr. Rosa’s salary will be $120,800. This appointment requires Senate confirmation.

[A more detailed biography is posted on Parole's website: parole.state.ny.us]


PAROLE HANDBOOK - SENTENCES
From the NYS Parole Handbook, available online at https://parole.state.ny.us/Handbook:

Indeterminate and determinate sentences: An indeterminate sentence is one in which the court has set the minimum and maximum lengths of incarceration within the outer limits set by statute. After you have completed your minimum sentence, you are eligible for Parole Board release consideration. If the Parole Board grants you release, you will be subject to parole supervision until you complete your maximum sentence. A determinate sentence, or “flat” sentence, is one in which the Court is authorized only to set a fixed period of incarceration without a minimum and maximum term. Under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1998, determinate sentences also include a fixed period of post- release supervision.

Jail time is credited toward service of the minimum sentence established by the sentencing Court.

Good time: Section 70.40 of the New York State Penal Law states that an inmate may earn time allowances (good time) off his or her maximum term of imprisonment for good institutional behavior. A good time allowance is granted by DOCS under Section 803 of the Correction Law.

Four ways to be released: • Board Release; Presumptive Release; Mandatory Conditional Release (CR); or Completion of the maximum sentence (max-out).
[to be continued next month]


Addendum: Last month I asked a writer who complained that he only saw his Facility Parole Officer briefly every 2 years, shortly before his parole hearing, if he had ever asked to see the FPO for guidance or direction, prior to these meetings? He sent me documentation, including a handwritten note by his FPO saying that while he was in prison he was under the supervision of DOCS and therefore it was not his (the FPO’s) responsibility until he was released to the supervision of Parole. It demonstrates that there is a lot of work to be done in convincing everyone (FPO's especially) that they must take an active role in reentry early on.  Obviously there is confusion over the roles of the DOCS Corrections Counselor and that of the FPO. I suggest the writer keep trying, and send a copy of his request to John Lowery at 97 Central Avenue, Albany, NY  12206.  I believe that Mr. Lowery is in charge of Parole’s facility operations. 



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

The editor apologizes for the appearance of these statistics. They are aligned on my screen, but they lose the formatting in transmission. Any helpful advice would be appreciated.

Total Interviews # Released # Denied Rate of Release
10 Initials 2 8 20%
69 Reappearances 17 52 25%
79 Total 19 60 24%

Initial Releases
Facility Sentence Offense # of Board
Mid Orange 15-Life Kidnap 1 initial
Oneida 25-Life Murder 2 initial

Reappearances
Facility Sentence Offense # of Board
Arthurkill 16-Life Murder-2 3
Albion 25-Life Murder-2 2
Attica 20-Life Murder-2 5
Bare Hill 15-Life Murder-2 8
Collins 20 ?-Life Murder-2 6
Fishkill 17-Life Murder-2 4
Fishkill 15-Life Murder-2 4
Franklin 18-Life Murder-2 5
Hudson 15-Life Murder-2 5
Mid Orange 25-Life Murder-2 3
Mid Orange 15-Life Murder-2 3
Mid Orange 18-Life Murder-2 3
Mid Orange 25-Life Murder-2 4
Mid Orange 20-Life Murder-2 5
Oneida 25-Life Murder-2 3
Otisville 25-Life Murder-2 2
Woodbourne 25-Life Murder-2 2

JANUARY 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):

MID-ORANGE
January. Clark, Thompson, Greenan
20 appearances
2 were paroled (1 A1V0)
8 A1’s were seen and the 7 who were hit got 2 years

SULLIVAN ANNEX
January Ferguson, Ross, Casey
9 appearances (4 A1VO + 4 non-VO + 1 unknown)
2 were paroled, 1 VO on 3rd board; 1 non-VO on 1st board
All denials included nature of the crime. All were hit with 2 years. Four on their 1st boards, two on 2nd board, one on his 4th.

WYOMING
January. Gallivan, Greenan, Hagler
29 appearances; 3 granted parole.
15 initials; 2 granted
4 reappearances; 0 granted
10 merit time; 1 granted

UPDATE ON GRAZIANO VS PATAKI: Graziano lawyers had to file a motion to compel Gov. Pataki's deposition. The Attorney General had until Jan 12 to file opposition papers. They asked for an extension and the judge has not yet issued her decision whether to grant it.

2008 A1-VO Parole Release Rates Available by emailing prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com. As with all requests please include the name of the article and the date of the issue in which it was offered]



8. PRISON MEDIA: RADIO - DAVID KACZYNSKI FROM NYADP WILL BE INTERVIEWED ON FANCY BROCCOLI; TV - ALL THINGS HARLEM HAS NEW WEBSITE.

RADIO Fancy Broccoli: On Feb 15 (originally scheduled for Feb 1) David Kaczynski from New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will be the guest.

Fancy Broccoli airs on WVKR, 91.3FM, Poughkeepsie NY on Sundays from 3 - 6 pm, Eastern Time, and streams online - go to www.WVKR.org and click on (or near) the word 'LISTEN'. Visit archives at www.fancybroccoli.org to find lots of other good interviews. Write Fancy Broccoli Show, WVKR, Box 726, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604-0726

TV "All Things Harlem" has been focusing on building its website, which will be a platform for the voiceless and the advocacy groups that are working on behalf of the powerless and the marginalized. At the same time they continue covering all significant events in the Harlem Community. Their website is www.allthingsharlem.com. Come, sign in and help them grow. Spread the word! 



9. ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS MENTIONED IN GOVERNOR PATERSON’S STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS ON JAN 7TH. PAN HOPES THEY WERE NOT EMPTY WORDS.

“Just as we invest in the programs that are working, we must also address the strategies that are not working. Few public safety initiatives have failed as badly and for as long as the Rockefeller Drug Laws. These laws did not work when I was elected Senator in 1985, and they do not work today.

“We enacted modest reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 2004. Yet these reforms still did not go far enough to expand the availability of drug treatment programs, allow judges to order low-level offenders into mandatory treatment, and assure that prisons are used for the most serious drug offenders.

“At the end of this month, the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform will deliver its report. I look forward to reviewing the Commission’s recommendations in partnership with the members of the Legislature. Together, we should move forward to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws—and institute a smart, safe and effective approach that keeps drugs off our streets.”

We at Prison Action Network certainly hope these were not empty words. We look forward to seeing some meaningful changes, including restoration of judicial discretion in sentencing in all drug cases. The wrong people are landing in jails with long sentences when the people at the top of the chain remain free and invisible. In this time of financial crisis it makes less sense than ever to spend approximately $540,000 - $720,000 to keep a person in prison for 15-20 years for possession of relatively small amounts of a drug while the real criminals continue to ravage our communities. The savings could be used to reinstate the $8.6 million in contracts the State cancelled with the Department of Correctional Services, the Division of Parole and nonprofit groups that help recovering drug addicts.



10. TELEPHONE JUSTICE: NEW PRISON TELEPHONE CONTRACT STILL DELAYED, CLASS ACTION SUIT DISMISSED BY APPELLATE COURT, HAS GTL CHARGED YOU A 19% PROCESSING FEE?

While the new prison telephone system, intended to comply with our Family Connections bill, was supposed to go into effect almost a year ago, its implementation is still being delayed in court. DOCS awarded the contract to UNISYS through a competitive bidding process.  Global Tel Link (GTL) sued DOCS in two separate courts for not awarding them the contract.  They recently lost one of their cases, meaning that NY state recognizes the legitimacy of the contract awarded to UNISYS.  They now have a hearing in the other case scheduled for mid-January.  We (and DOCS) expect GTL to fail in their other case.

UNISYS can take up to 90 days to set-up their system.  So if all goes well in court this month, we are still looking at another three months (so in April) before the new system goes into effect.

Now that NY State recognizes the contract award itself, the contract with UNISYS is public information.  We have filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the contract, and we will soon know the details of what you should expect when the new system goes into effect.  We will organize an event and conference call for people to get those specifics as soon as we have them.  And we’ll need you to help spread the word to other families so stay tuned!

UPDATE: CLASS ACTION SUIT DISMISSED BY APPELLATE COURT
From CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol:
On December 18, 2008 the Appellate Court once again rejected Walton v. New York State Department of Correctional Services.  The case, brought by CCR on behalf of the family members and lawyers of New York State prisoners, seeks compensation for years of unlawful kickbacks to the state for collect calls from New York prisoners.  The case was on appeal to the Appellate Division from an earlier dismissal by the lower court. 
 
While CCR is disappointed by the loss, we are excited and hopeful about our appeal to the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York.  This will be CCR’s second appeal to the Court of Appeals in Walton.  In February of 2007, CCR convinced the Court of Appeals to reverse the lower court’s decision to dismiss Walton as untimely.  After being instructed by the Court of Appeals to consider the merits of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims, the lower courts once again dismissed, holding that DOCS was not violating the state constitution by raising money from the family members and friends of prisoners.  Now, we will ask the Court of Appeals to reverse once again, and find that the kickback is an unlawful tax and a violation of freedom of speech and association, equal protection, and due process. 
 
We hope to move quickly on the appeal, and anticipate that the Court of Appeals will hear Walton in the late spring or summer of 2009. 
 
HAS GTL CHARGED YOU A 19% PROCESSING FEE?
We were recently contacted by a family member in California who is investigating GTL’s practice of charging people a 19% processing fee through their Advance Pay accounts.  By law, GTL is not allowed to charge you a processing fee but they have been squeezing money out of people nonetheless.  If you have ever been charged a processing fee by GTL, please contact Lauren Melodia (lmelodia@ccrjustice.org), 212-614-6481, 666 broadway 7th floor, NYC 10012) so she can pass your story on to the researcher.



11. TEMPORARY RELEASE PROGRAM COULD SAVE MILLIONS SAYS SYRACUSE BASED CENTER FOR COMMUNITY ALTERNATIVES IN RECENTLY RELEASED PAPER.

CCA released a working paper entitled, How New York Could Save Millions: The Potential Cost Savings and Public Safety Benefits of the Temporary Release Program. This paper, co-authored by Patricia Warth and Alan Rosenthal, Co-Directors of Justice Strategies, discusses the incredible potential of the Temporary Release program to save the State millions of dollars while enhancing public safety. In fact, using DOCS' own figures, they calculate that if New York were to return to 1994 levels of participation in the Temporary Release program, the State would realize a savings of approximately $137 million a year.

From the paper: "The need for thoughtful and cost-effective spending in Corrections means that we must take full advantage of those correctional programs that require the least amount of dollars to enhance public safety. DOCS’ Temporary Release program is one such program. By allowing people in prison who are nearing the end of their sentences to be released to the community for rehabilitative programming, this program not only facilitates a structured transition from incarceration to parole supervision (which is a “best practice” reentry principle), it also saves New Yorkers millions of dollars each year and generates millions more in federal, state, and local tax revenues."

[PAN will send the complete article if you email us. As with all requests please include the name of the article and the date of the issue in which it appeared]


THE LAST WORD: A reminder that the Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies seeks your input. We would like your thoughtful response on how to amend/revise Exec. law 259-i so that it minimizes or eliminates the power of the Parole Board to deny parole based on the nature of the crime. Please send it as soon as possible to PAN.

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

PRISON ACTION NETWORK
PO BOX 6355, ALBANY NY 12206
518 253 7533
prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com

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