Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

APRIL 2010

THE MAY ISSUE WILL BE PUBLISHED ON THE 15TH, AS WILL BE ALL FUTURE MONTHS.

BUILDING BRIDGES posts late breaking announcements and reports when they occur between our monthly editions. Following are this month's. [To go directly to the April 1 edition, please scroll down a bit.]




POSTED MAY 11 Gerard T. Balone

Just a quick reminder that my story of rehabilitation and redemption is going to be featured on The 700 Club on Thursday, May 13, 2010. I know that in the Buffalo NY area, it's going to be shown on Chanel 4 between 9:00 and 10:00 A.M. In other areas, people will have to check their local listings. Please share this information with your family and friends. After watching the show, I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks. - Jerry

Gerald T. Balone, MS, MPS, Email



POSTED APRIL 28 Correctional Association

Saturday May 15 11am - 3pm Drop the Rock Empowerment Day. Join in the movement to reduce incarceration in NYS. Petition for prison closures, criminal justice reform, and community reinvestment.
Register New Yorkers to vote.
Educate New Yorkers on the prison industrial complex.

Sign up for your neighborhood team by contacting Caitlin Dunklee.



POSTED April 28 NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)

The NAACP has crafted a new brochure, educating readers to the injustice of denying citizens convicted of felonies from voting, not only while incarcerated, but in some cases for the rest of their lives. Click here to see it, and spread the word.



Posted April 20 All Things Harlem

We are looking for video editors and post-production people with experience to join our team. Our mission is to continue to provide a video platform for the Harlem community to have their voices heard. If you aren't familiar with our work check us out at www.allthingsharlem.com or www.youtube.com/allthingsharlem.

If you are looking to practice or perfect your craft while being a part of a meaningful organization and mission then this is the place for you. College students/Grads looking for internships are welcome and encouraged to apply. Please send your resume and a brief description of why you would like to work with us to info@allthingsharlem .

For more information about our who we are read this NY TImes article www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/nyregion/18harlem.html?_r=2.

Thanks, Jazz



POSTED APRIL 19 The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation for Low Income Women and Children

Offering 5 grants of up to $2000 each to low income mothers who are enrolled in education and/or training programs. Applications will be accepted from May 1, 2010 through July 15, 2010.

Please see the foundation website, www.patsyminkfoundation.org, for eligibility criteria and application materials.



POSTED APRIL 13 A National Speaking Tour of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty
"Lynching Then, Lynching Now: the Roots of Racism & the Death Penalty in the U.S."

Wednesday, April 21, 7 PM Join us for a teach-in tour stop at City College of New York City,

This year's tour looks at the historic link between the death penalty and lynching in the United States. Hear from those who have been freed from death row, activists and scholars on the role of racism in our criminal justice system and why the death penalty and unjust sentencing need to be abolished.

Speakers:
Marvin Reeves - Police torture victim and former IL prisoner, freed in 2009
Yusef Salaam – Exonerated in the Central Park Jogger case (NYC). Board member, Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Lawrence Hayes – Former NY death row prisoner
Marlene Martin - National Director, Campaign to End the Death Penalty

CITY COLLEGE NAC BUILDING
137th Street & Amsterdam Avenue
BALLROOM
7 PM

The CCNY tour stop is sponsored by Amnesty International USA Local Group 11, Correctional Assoc. of New York, Drop the Rock, Educators for Mumia, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition-NYC, Grassroots Artists Movement (G.A.Me), International Socialist Organization The Paper (CCNY)
(list in formation -- email nyc@nodeathpenalty.org to endorse).
Visit the national tour blog at cedptour.blogspot.com




POSTED APRIL 13 FROM Bed-Stuy Farm Share and Hattie Carthan Community Garden

We have worked long and hard to produce "Eating Healthy in Bed-Stuy," a comprehensive community healthy guide that addresses the specific health epidemics in the community (diabetes and heart disease) and provides health tips and a directory of community groups working to provide access to fresh produce. We won an award from desigNYC for pro-bono design work and Art Director Darhil Crooks of Esquire Magazine is doing layout for the booklet. Once printed, the guide will be made available for FREE at our neighborhood health clinics, hospitals and schools. It'll be great; we just have to get money together for printing now.

Please make a donation at IOBY.org today to help us print this guide and get it in the hands of parents before the school year is over! Any little itty bit of money will help us reach our goal.

lauren melodia
www.bedstuyfarmshare.org



POSTED APRIL 10 From AFSC Prison Watch Project

The American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch Project is planning to update the Fall 2001 "Torture in US Prisons – Evidence of US Human Rights Violations." We are seeking testimonies from men, women and children relating to the use of extended isolation and devices of torture (use of force, chemical and physical restraints, other living conditions, forced double celling in isolation, etc.). We will also be accepting drawings and photos.

Our deadline is June 15th. We will only be able to acknowledge by form letter. Unless otherwise authorized the publication will use first name, last initial and facility only. Please send to Bonnie Kerness, AFSC, 89 Market St., 6th floor, Newark, NJ 07102.

Without your input, this publication would not be possible. Our gratitude. Bonnie Kerness BKerness@afsc.org



POSTED APRIL 9: From The Center for Alternative Sentencing & Employment Services Inc. (Cases) and the Legal Aid Society -

UNDERSTANDING AND NAVIGATING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

An upcoming training, the 101 introduction to the New York City Criminal Justice System. The goal of the training is to de-mystify the complex criminal justice system and help providers learn where they can most effectively advocate for their clients.

This free all day training is intended for case managers, ACT, day treatment, clinic, substance abuse, vocational, shelter and supportive housing staff working with people with mental illness. This training follows the process of a criminal case from arrest through to conviction, indicating the points at which there is room for treatment interventions.

The training will be offered on April 23rd 2010
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
CASES, Inc.
346 Broadway, 6th Floor Training Room
New York, NY 10013

Registration is required as space is limited. To register with your name, title, agency and contact phone number, please click here.

For additional information, please call: (212) 553-6343




BUILDING BRIDGES APRIL 2010


Dear Reader: There will be no May issue of Building Bridges, as your editor is taking a month's sabbatical to answer the backlog of mail that has accumulated in the past few months. Meanwhile continue to be well, keep the faith, and share the news!


INDEX

1. Activities for advocates, statewide
2. Coalition ready to move forward
3. Downscaling prisons
4. Drug war analysis is subject of book by Michelle Alexander
5. ICARE column - census issues
6. The Judicial Process Commission
7. Lifers and Longtermers Clearinghouse
8. Milk not Jails
9. NYS Prisoner Justice Conference
10. Parole news
11. Prison media
12. Prisoners of the Census
13. Telephone Justice - new rates

[For copies of any document, article or legislation referred to in any of the above, please send an email to PAN with a request clearly stating name of the document and in which issue of Building Bridges it was mentioned.]


1. WHAT CAN YOU DO? HERE’S A LIST OF ACTIVITIES

BUFFALO:
MONDAY, APRIL 26, 6:30-8:30 PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO
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.

At the next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, the work of "Families Can," based in Buffalo, will be highlighted. "Families CAN" helps families of children involved in family court, juvenile justice, PINS (persons in need of supervision), detention and probation. The "Families CAN" brochure describes this initiative as… "an independent, non-profit organization, designed, created and directed by family members for the purpose of ensuring access to needed support, information, and services to all families in Erie County raising children with emotional, behavioral, and/or social challenges."

Guest speakers will include Mr. Kenneth Pryor who is the Program Coordinator for "Families CAN"  and Ms. Tanya Hernandez who serves as a Family Support Partner. 

Location: Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo.


CAPITAL DISTRICT:
SECOND AND FOURTH WEDNESDAYS FROM 6-8PM ROOTS "RE-ENTRY RESOURCES ORIENTATIONS" for Men and Women
at the Monastery, 428 Duane Avenue , Schenectady, NY
SECOND AND LAST THURSDAYS from 6-8 at Christ United Methodist, 35 State Street, at 4th Avenue, Troy, NY .
THIRD THURSDAYS from 6-8 at Trinity Institution, 15 Trinity Place, Albany NY

Call ROOTS at 518 434 1026 for more details.


MANHATTAN:
THURSDAY, APRIL 1ST FROM 2:30-4:30. DEMOS MEETING to discuss a downstate strategy for obtaining the right to vote and to be counted in our home communities, and to begin talking about a May action.
Please rsvp to Susan(slerner@commoncause.org) or Steve (scarbo@demos.org)

Location: Demos, 220 5th Avenue, 5 fl., New York, NY 10001


TUESDAY, APRIL 13 6- 8 PM INCARCERATED FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP SPONSORED BY COALITION FOR PAROLE RESTORATION.
Do you have questions about visitation, tickets, appeals? Is your loved one going to the parole board and needs assistance preparing for the hearing? Join us on the second Tuesday of every month.

Location: North Star Fund, 520 8th Avenue, btw 36th and 37th Ave in Manh.

CPR is also looking for individuals who visit a prison at least once a month to serve as Support Group Coordinators and to disseminate information about CPR to visitors and people in prison. They will be compensated by receiving free membership to CPR for themselves and family members in prison for as long as they serve as the Coordinator. It includes a free copy of the newly revised parole preparation manual and assistance with preparing a parole packet for their loved one in prison. Anyone interested can contact Mark McPhee or James Rivers at 718-786-4174 or by email to parolecpr@yahoo.com .


TUESDAY MAY 4, 6:30 AM TO 10 PM NEW YORK REENTRY'S ALBANY ADVOCACY DAY
Buses depart from: Community Service Society, 105 East 22nd St. corner Park Ave So. and Fortune Society's Castle, corner 140th St. and Riverside Drive. Transportation is free, breakfast and lunch will be provided.

RSVP: to Gabriel Torres-Rivera by email or at 212 614 5306


STATEN ISLAND
TUESDAY APRIL 13, 7 PM CIRCLE OF LOVE PRISON SUPPORT GROUP
Serving those and the families of those who have been impacted by incarceration and the circumstances surrounding it. For more info, please contact: Christine Brown – (917) 215-5831, Antoinette Donegan – (646) 932-3295, Arlinda McDowell – (917) 856-4301 or email.

Location: Central Family Life Center, 59 Wright St., S.I. NY 10304



2. COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES - WHILE PRISON ACTION NETWORK AGREES THAT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE REPLACED FROM TOP TO BOTTOM WITH A RESTORATIVE JUSTICE SYSTEM, WE ARE WORKING ON CREATING REFORMS NOW THAT WILL MOVE US CLOSER TO A RESTORATIVE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE FUTURE.

The NYS Prisoner Justice Conference was a success!  We had a full house, and everyone was energized and willing to work hard to correct the wrongs that we all agreed exist.   

I came away from the event with a stronger resolve than ever to answer the mandate of the Family Empowerment Day participants who joined to form the Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies.  They voted to work to move the Parole Board away from being able to deny parole based solely on the nature of the crime or criminal history.  Out of the Coalition was born a Policy Committee charged with the task of changing the law that sets Parole Board policies.  That has been done in the form of a proposal for amending Exec law 259-i.   Now we need to begin the next stage, moving our proposal into reality as a law of New York State.

The proposed changes would ensure that no one ever again gets denied parole because of the nature of their crime or their criminal history.  Instead, parole release would be solely determined by the parole applicant's success at eliminating the conditions, behaviors, and thinking that led to his or her arrest in the first place.  Once a parole applicant can produce evidence of rehabilitation and readiness for a return to society without posing a threat, they should be released.  And then it becomes the community's responsibility, with the assistance of the division of parole, to help them with their reintegration.

The first step in making our proposal a law is to find a sponsor in both houses of our legislature.  The legislators in turn need to convince other legislators to support it.  We have to find a sponsor, and we have to convince our own representatives to get on board.  

In order for legislators to sponsor a bill, we need to convince them it is in their best interests, as well as in the interests of their constituents, to change the law.  ALL the legislators in Albany will be up for reelection soon.  So no matter who your representative is, they will need your vote to get reelected.  The next few month are our window of opportunity.  We have more power right now than we will have for another 4 years.  So we must seize the moment!

One of our members suggested we come up with a statement that we then present to our legislators with a promise to support their reelection if they will pledge to support it.  I think that's a great idea.
At the same time,we need to convince those legislators in Albany who already are aligned with our interests to have the courage to sponsor our proposed bill.  
And we need to educate other voters about the issues behind our proposed changes, so that we can increase support and minimize opposition.  
These are not tasks for just a few.  We will need to all  work together.

There are many other worthy causes, but I am calling on you to join us at this time to move forward with total commitment to the passage of the proposed amendments to Exec. Law 259-i.  If you are willing and interested in joining a steering committee for moving forward, please let us know by return mail.  It will require attending conference calls. We must get started immediately.  The window will not be open for long!



3. DOWNSCALING PRISONS - REPORT RELEASED BY JUSTICE STRATEGIES AND THE SENTENCING PROJECT FINDS THAT FOUR STATES HAVE REDUCED THEIR PRISON POPULATIONS WITHOUT ANY INCREASES IN CRIME. THIS CAME ABOUT AT A TIME WHEN THE NATIONAL PRISON POPULATION INCREASED BY 12%, AND IN SIX STATES PRISON POPULATION INCREASED BY MORE THAN 40%.

From the report:
At the high end, six states expanded their prison populations by more than 40 percent – West Virginia (57 percent), Minnesota (51 percent), Arizona (49 percent), Kentucky (45 percent), Florida (44 percent), and Indiana (41 percent).

Declines:
New York: A 20% reduction from 72,899 to 58,456 from 1999 to 2009
Michigan: A 12% reduction from 51,577 to 45,478, from 2006 to 2009
New Jersey: A 19% reduction from 31,493 to 25,436, from 1999 to 2009
Kansas: A 5% reduction from 9,132 to 8,644, from 2003 to 2009

Crime rates began to decline in 1991 and within a decade residents of New York City were celebrating a 64 percent drop in reported violent crimes. Yet by 1999, New York taxpayers were spending $100 million more on prisons than on the state college system.

The first significant path around sentencing roadblocks contained in the Rockefeller Drug Laws had been blazed back in 1990 by Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney Charles J. Hynes. Hynes created the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison Program (DTAP) on the premise that many people facing a mandatory prison term as repeat felony offenders might benefit from diversion to treatment instead of imprisonment, improving their chances of rehabilitation at far less cost to taxpayers. Hynes is a veteran prosecutor and a savvy politician. He understood that damage was being done to families and communities in Brooklyn by mass incarceration policies and strict adherence to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. He listened and responded to consistent, vocal pressure from his constituents, who were demanding that alternatives be provided for their children, neighbors and friends.

Click here to view the report.



4. DRUG WAR: THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS IS THE LATEST BOOK BY LEGAL SCHOLAR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATE MICHELLE ALEXANDER, IN WHICH SHE ARGUES THAT ALTHOUGH JIM CROW LAWS HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED, THE RACIAL CASTE SYSTEM IT SET UP WAS NOT ERADICATED. IT’S SIMPLY BEEN REDESIGNED, AND NOW RACIAL CONTROL FUNCTIONS THROUGH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.

From an interview with Michelle Alexander on Democracy Now! by Amy Goodman:

The war on drugs has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies have consistently shown that people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites. In these ghetto communities millions of people of color have been branded felons for relatively minor, nonviolent drug offenses. And once branded a felon, they’re ushered into a permanent second-class status, not unlike the one we supposedly left behind. Those labeled felons may be denied the right to vote, are automatically excluded from juries, and my be legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, public benefits, much like their grandparents or great grandparents may have been discriminated against during the Jim Crow era.

The war on drugs, contrary to popular belief, was not declared in response to rising drug crime. Actually, the war on drugs, the current drug war, was declared in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan at a time when drug crime was actually on the decline. But the drug war had relatively little to do with drug crime, even from the outset.

The drug war was launched in response to racial politics, not drug crime. The drug war was part of the Republican Party’s grand strategy, often referred to as the Southern strategy, an effort to appeal to poor and working-class white voters who felt vulnerable, threatened by the gains of the civil rights movement, particularly desegregation, busing and affirmative action. And the Republican Party found that it could get Democrats—white, working-class poor Democrats—to defect from the Democratic New Deal coalition and join the Republican Party through racially coded political appeals on issues of crime and welfare.

The strategy worked like a charm. Within weeks of the Reagan administration’s publicity campaign around crack cocaine, images of black crack users and crack dealers flooded our nation’s television sets and forever changed our nation’s conception of who drug users and dealers are. Law enforcement efforts which targeted poor communities of color in the drug war have been rewarded for drastically increasing the volume of drug arrests. Federal funding flows to state and local law enforcement that boost the volume of drug arrests.

Many people think the drug war has been targeted at violent offenders or aimed at rooting out drug kingpins, but nothing could be further from the truth. Local and state law enforcement agencies get rewarded for the sheer numbers of drug arrests. And federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement officials to keep 80 percent of the cash, cars, homes that they seize from suspected drug offenders, granting to law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability and longevity in the drug war.

The results have been predictable. Millions of poor people of color have been rounded up for relatively minor nonviolent drug offenses. In fact, in 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession. Only one out of five were for sales. Most people in state prison for drug offenses have no history of violence or significant selling activity. And during the 1990s, the period of the greatest expansion of the drug war, nearly 80 percent of the increase in drug arrests were for marijuana possession, a drug now widely believed to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle-class and suburban white communities as it is in the ghetto.

This vast new racial undercaste—and I say “caste”, not “class,” because this is a population which is locked into an inferior status by law and by policy—this vast population has been rendered largely invisible through affirmative action and the appearance of success with a handful of African Americans doing well in universities and corporations. Yet the drug war waged in these poor communities of color has created generations of black and brown people who have been branded felons and relegated to a permanent second-class status for life. We have known, as a nation, for a long time now that simply prohibiting drug activity does not lead people to stop using illegal drugs. We learned that lesson with alcohol prohibition. Banning the use of alcohol didn’t discourage many people from using or selling alcohol. And people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites. Our stereotype of a drug dealer in the United States is of an African American kid standing on a street corner with his pants hanging down. But the reality is that drug dealing happens everywhere in America. Drug markets in the United States, much like our society generally, is relatively segregated by race. Blacks tend to sell to blacks. Whites tend to sell to whites.



5. ICARE COMMUNITY EDUCATOR JAFAR ABBAS WRITES ABOUT THE CENSUS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF WHERE INCARCERATED PEOPLE ARE COUNTED

Prisoners in New York State’s Department of Correctional Services are not allowed to vote and, in most cases, have no involvement whatsoever in the political process of local, state or federal government.  So who speaks for them?  Who voices their concerns on a political level and who will be their voice for the 2010 Census? 

The Census has been described as, “Your voice to the government.”  With that voice we can color a picture of ourselves and our communities.  We can tell government where our communities stand, what they stand upon, how they are growing and most of all what they need to continue growing.

But how do New York State's sixty thousand prisoners get the opportunity to tell the government about themselves and their communities?  The truth of the matter is they cannot.

I was counted without a voice or community in the 1990 and 2000 Census.  I had little knowledge of the political and economic importance the Census numbers had on communities.  To me the Census was simply a counting of people for the purpose of knowing how many were in the country.  Most of all I, like many other prisoners, had no idea that I was being claimed as a resident of upstate and therefore providing political and economic benefits to a community not my own.

Close to 70% of the NYS prison population lived in New York's urban communities at the time of their arrest.  These communities then and now struggle with social problems ranging from public safety to caring for their elderly.  Some of these problems could be resolved in part by simply counting incarcerated people among the communities in which they lived while in the free society.  This will allow for a greater portion of the 400 billion in Federal funds being spent to improve community services, (such as job training, hospitals, roads, emergency services, schools, etc.) to be spent in the much needed urban communities. 

Some upstate districts with large prison populations will be counting the people incarcerated in their prisons as residents in the 2010 Census.  Should they be allowed to do so?

This question is being addressed by bills pending in both the NYS Senate and Assembly.  The Senate Bill (S6725) was introduced by Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, and the Assembly Bill (A9834) was introduced by Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries.  These bills, if passed, will require that the home addresses of incarcerated people be collected by the Census Bureau and that the state and county governments draw new legislative districts based on this data. 

Of course there is opposition to these bills because some districts would grow politically and economically while other districts might disappear altogether.

Over 90% of incarcerated people being released will return to build lives in the communities they were arrested in.  They will return knowing their actions contributed to the drop in property values and the disappearance of businesses which found too little return on their investment.  These formerly incarcerated people will return wanting to make positive contributions to their communities.  What better place to start repairing the damage then to be counted as a resident of the community you will be coming home to.

- Jafar Abbas



6. THE JUDICIAL PROCESS COMMISSION REPORTS ON THE WOMEN'S PROJECT, AND THE NEED TO ADDRESS ANTI-BULLYING POLICIES

The Women's Project is Right on Track! By Mary Boite
  We believe that working with incarcerated women who are pregnant or have small children will reduce recidivism. We are very pleased to announce that we have recently completed part of the process that will allow us to do that. We recently trained 13 new women as volunteer mentors, who have committed to work with the Women's Project. Victims' advocates from the Monroe County Sheriff's Department donated their time to provide a training event on Victims' Trauma and Recovery, for the new mentors. JPC staff has also started to interview women in the Monroe County Correctional Facility, to begin the selection process. New staff members are being trained in the use of the SAQ, a risk assessment tool that we will be using in the project. We are grateful that they launched the Project even before the funds have arrived.

Schools Need to Address Anti-Bullying Policies, By Joel Freedman
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) recently filed a federal lawsuit against the Mohawk Central School District for failing to protect Jacob, a Herkimer County youngster, from vicious bullying by other students.
            While Jacob, who is gay and who speaks in a high-pitched voice, was constantly being assaulted, harassed and threatened by bullies, teachers refused to intervene. At least one teacher contributed to this climate of violence by telling Jacob he should be ashamed of himself for being gay. The lawsuit contends that protection from harm in public schools is a basic right protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
            An 11-year old Massachusetts boy recently hanged himself in response to constant torment at school. Bullying is being blamed for two recent suicides linked to Schenectady High School. Other tragic consequences of bullying include increased mental health problems, substance abuse among victims, and occasional retaliatory violence such as that in April 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado.
            International research confirms large numbers of imprisoned adults were bullies as youngsters.
            Bullying is uncommon on college campuses. Most colleges have zero-tolerance policies against bullying.
            In New York, BILL A 3661-B, similar to measures already enacted in several states, would prohibit at-school harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.            Sadly, this bill has repeatedly stalled in the state Senate (S1987-A).
            Whether the state mandates it by law or not, area school districts should establish zero-tolerance anti-bullying policies. Local human welfare agencies, family courts, law enforcement youth officers, district attorneys and other local officials should be included in establishing such policies.
            On a larger scale, coming to grips with the problem of violence in our society has become a major challenge. Schools are a good place to impress upon young people the need to treat others with respect, and to help establish a culture of non-violence and compassion for all.

285 Ormond Street, Rochester, NY 14605 585-325-7727; www.rocjpc.org; email info@rocjpc.org.



7. LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS CLEARINGHOUSE

Moving Toward A Statewide Prisoner Justice Network

The Prisoner Justice Network Conference held on Saturday March 27th  In Albany was a great success. More than fifty-five organizations from across the state sponsored it, and close to 200 individuals participated in what many had thought was an audacious undertaking.

To my mind the biggest hurdles to be overcome were 1) to entice a convincing number of organizations with varying and seemingly opposing ideologies to gather together in one place from all parts of the State, and 2) to measure the differences and commonalities among groups with varying criminal justice issues, so as to gage whether a unifying compromise was possible.

The fact that over fifty-five organizations showed up and had members in attendance, easily passed the test of the first hurdle.  The second hurdle was overcome by holding workshops that posed major criminal justice issues and approaches, and then sought responses from the perspective of the individual participants.  The results clearly showed greater commonality than differences, and a positive indication that unifying compromise would be possible.

And so we have the answer to the major hurdles: Yes, there is a statewide interest in forming a statewide prisoner justice network, and yes, there is positive indication that a unifying compromise between the registered organizations is indeed possible!

Above and beyond the two hurdles was the omnipresent mood among those from all sections of the State; among both the young and the aged, spanning all ideologies, there loomed an undeniable feeling, expressed verbally and on the non-verbal level, that the criminal justice system is not working! That it cannot be trusted and that instead of "blind justice", the criminal justice system had taken sides!!!

The question that that those behind the walls must ask is simply this: how will a prisoner justice network best service my interests?  One thing for sure is that such a statewide network cannot undertake the personal cases and legal problems of individuals imprisoned behind the walls. The reasons why should be obvious; the network is not designed to handle individual clients.  This is only one of the issues that must be made clear and with which we will deal in future Clearinghouse articles.

Larry Luqman White



8. MILK NOT JAILS: IF RURAL NY’S ECONOMIC SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON MY HABITS, I’D RATHER DRINK THEIR MILK THAN SEND MY CHILD TO THEIR PRISON!
 
There are two major economic crises facing rural, upstate NY:
1.Dairy farmers are being forced to sell off their herds and close their businesses, because federal agricultural policy and subsidy programs put farmers in a situation this past year where they lost money to produce milk.
 2. Prison employees are fighting to keep empty prisons open that are slated for closure amidst a major state fiscal crisis.  These prisons are situated in isolated depressed, rural towns and are, in some places, the only stable, good paying jobs in town.
 
MILK NOT JAILS is a consumer campaign to mobilize NY residents to support the dairy industry and the long-term sustainability of the rural economy.  It is a political campaign to advocate for criminal justice and agricultural policy reform that will bring positive economic growth. 

MILK NOT JAILS insists that bad criminal justice policy should not be the primary economic development plan for rural, upstate NY. 

For information or to make a comment, please send an email to milknotjails@gmail.com



9. THE NEW YORK STATE PRISONER JUSTICE CONFERENCE: "LOVE IN A PUBLIC SPACE"

The mission of the New York State Prisoner Justice Conference was to bring together the varied and diverse organizations and individuals working for prisoner justice in New York State.  In that it succeeded beyond all expectations! The day was filled with high energy and enthusiasm for the cause of justice.

At the end of the event a press conference was held which included speakers Larry White, Shoshana Brown, Karima Amin, and Victorio Reyes.

Mr. Larry White served as chairman of a number of inmate reform organizations during his thirty-two years of imprisonment, and is now the Community Advocate and Policymaker Liaison for the Fortune Society's David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy. Larry is also a member of the Policy Committee of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies.

Shoshana A. Brown, representing youth involvement in the justice movement, is a community organizer and social worker currently working at the Bronx Defenders as a client advocate.  Ms. Brown has organized welfare recipients at Community Voices Heard, is a member of Paulo Freire’s Education for Liberation/Popular Education training team, and has an extensive background in student activism. 

Karima Amin is the founder and director of Prisoners are People Too, and co-chair of the Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition, both based in Buffalo, NY.  For 30 years, Karima's activism has prevailed in public school education and the performing arts.  Her social justice work has focused on the plight of prisoners and the challenges of reentry and she was recently named "Distinguished Humanitarian of 2009" by the University of Buffalo's College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association.

Victorio Reyes is an activist, poet, musician and father of two.  He has been the director of The Social Justice Center of Albany (SJC) for over five years, an organization that works for progressive social change through mutual support and collective action. Mr. Reyes states: “The Criminal Justice System, as a whole, is the most discriminatory institution in our community and the court room is today's lunch counter."

Over the next 4 months their speeches, to the extent they are available, will be published in Building Bridges, starting in this issue with Ms. Brown's:

"'Justice is what love looks like in public.' That quote from Dr. Cornel West guides the work that I do, so I like to start off today with that in mind'", were the opening words of Shoshana Brown's rousing address. She continued:

"I grew up in the heart of the South Bronx, Forest Projects to be exact. Forest Houses is situated in between the 42nd and 41st Precincts, also known infamously as Fort Apache, an homage to the relationship and view of the community by the police that worked there. Throughout my life I have seen family, friends, and my community plagued with the over-policing and mass incarceration of my brothers and sisters. Growing up watching people constantly getting torn apart by a society infiltrated and saturated with racism, sexism, and classism pushed me to be the person that I am and to fight for justice, love in public spaces.

My privilege of education and positional power charges me with the task of holding our elected and criminal justice officials accountable.  I fight because I have witnessed the failures of a punitive system that doesn’t do what it promises to do, rehabilitate my brothers and sisters so that they can move forward in society and live productive lives. Consistently and inadvertently this system contributes to a cycle of violence, poverty, and mass incarceration. This inhumane system must be challenged.

At the Bronx Defenders I have been fortunate to have the privilege of fighting for my brothers and sisters everyday in a direct service manner and also on a larger policy and organizing level through my work with the NYS Prisoner Justice conference. The Bronx Defenders, using a holistic model that recognizes criminality as a matter of circumstance and not character, represents people in 12,000 criminal cases every  year.  Overall, over 76,000 people are arrested every year in the Bronx.   As a Client Advocate and Social Worker, I see so many clients come through the system because of the lack of education, lack of resources, and support. Many have various mental health issues that relate directly to their charges. They are forced to spend time in jail and prison with inadequate resources to treat their mental health, instead of receiving the more appropriate and effective help they need in the community to be productive and successful members of our society. They are sent far away from their families where over time connections, energy, and relationships disintegrate. They are forced to re-enter a community that can barely support itself, let alone someone who needs extra resources for re-entering into a society they have become estranged from.

I remember my stepfather going to prison, and not seeing him for over a year, because I was in school and my mother worked. We never had time to visit him so far away. After he came back the relationships he had with us were gone and he was never able to piece back together the life he once had as a productive member of society inclusive of a job.

To this day I still don’t know how jail was helpful to him, nor do I think it “taught him a lesson”. The only thing I see is a man torn apart by a system that has always been against him. Constantly in struggle to regain his life and piece himself back together without any help or resources, and no one to tell him what his rights are and/or where he would be eligible for the little amount of re-entry help available.

For all these reasons and with all these experiences this conference needed to happen. I stand before you today bearing witness and speaking truth to power. I am excited and energized by an amazing experience. This conference has blossomed into an awesome and expansive network of people and organizations. Something that hasn’t been done before started as a humble idea by a few organizers and expanded into a statewide need for unity and justice, "love in a public space"!"



10. PAROLE NEWS: PAROLE BOARD STATISTICS

FEBRUARY 2010 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999
unofficial research from parole database

TOTAL INTERVIEWS........ # RELEASED.....# DENIED....RATE OF RELEASE
17 initials.............................5......................... 12.................. 29%
47 reappearances............. 16......................... 31.................. 34%
64 total...............................21......................... 43.................. 33%

February Initial Release
FACILITY.............................. SENTENCE....OFFENSE...# OF BOARD
Midstate............................... 20-Life.......... Murder 2.......Initial
Otisville................................ 15-Life.......... Murder 2.......Initial
Otisville................................ 15-Life.......... Murder 2.......Initial
Shawangunk...................... 25-Life.......... Murder 2.......Initial
Shawangunk...................... 25-Life.......... Murder 2.......Initial

February Reappearances
FACILITY.................. SENTENCE............ OFFENSE.... # OF BOARD
Auburn..................... 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 5th
Gowanda................. 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 6th
Greenhaven............ 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 3rd
Marcy........................ 15-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 5th
Mid Orange............. 15-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 10th
Mid Orange............. 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 3rd
Mid Orange............. 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 2nd
Mid Orange............. 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 4th
Mid Orange............. 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 4th
Midstate................... 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 3rd
Oneida..................... 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 6th
Otisville........... 15-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 3rd
Otisville.................... 20-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 5th
Otisville.................... 25-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 6th
Wallkill..................... 18-Life...................... Att M1....................... 7th
Wallkill..................... 18-Life...................... Murder 2.................. 3rd
Please excuse the appearance of this data. We don't know how to correct it.

No February/March release reports from prison are available this month.



11. PRISON MEDIA - ALL THINGS HARLEM, FANCY BROCCOLI, ON THE COUNT, SOUL SPECTRUM, AS WELL AS PRINT AND THEATER

ALL THINGS HARLEM - All Things Harlem Update brings you  relevant and timely news and information:
You can view our weekly MNN channel 34 program on Thursday's, Live at 5pm Eastern time, ANY WHERE IN THE COUNTRY, by going to our website www.allthingsharlem.com and clicking on "Watch our TV show Live" in the right hand column of the website under Editorials.

Let us know what you like and don't like, we take your COMMENTS seriously...

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. - Criminal Justice & Prison Report, a radio program produced by formerly incarcerated people. Airs Saturdays 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; or here to send an email

PRINT:
The DEUCE CLUB is published by Coalition For Parole Restoration, PO Box 1379, New York, NY 10013
CURE-NY - Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants has a NEWSLETTER. Box 102, Katonah, New York, 10536.
Prisoner Legal Services puts out PRO SE. To subscribe, send a subscription request to Pro Se, 114 Prospect St., Ithaca NY 14850

THEATER:
"25-LIFE", ENCORE PERFORMANCE APRIL 16, 2010, 8 PM THE EGG, ALBANY NY
Too Deep Entertainment presents a theatrical depiction of the lives of 25-year olds discovering that every decision counts because society shows no compassion for the dangerous obstacles and difficult struggles they combat everyday.
Tickets: $17 or contact PAN at 518 253 7533 for a group rate.



12. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS: COUNTING 44,000 MOSTLY BLACK AND LATINO RESIDENTS OF NEW YORK CITY AS RESIDENTS OF UPSTATE PRISON TOWNS HAS HAD A STAGGERING IMPACT ON DEMOCRACY IN NEW YORK, AT BOTH THE STATE, AND COUNTY LEVELS.

Most of the state’s prisoners (66%) are New York City residents, but the vast majority of them (91%) are counted as residents of upstate prisons. This miscount of incarcerated people misrepresents New York State’s demographic makeup and skews its system of legislative representation. It is too late for the Census Bureau to change where it counts people in prison, but a growing campaign seeks to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering by changing how the state and counties use the Census data.

In New York State one out of every three people who moved to upstate New York in the 1990s actually “moved” into a newly constructed prison. The State bars people in prison from voting, but their presence in the Census boosts the population of the upstate districts whose legislators favor prison expansion. Without using prison populations as padding, seven state senate districts would have to be redrawn, causing line changes throughout the state.

The problem is even more serious in county government, where large prisons can dominate the comparatively small populations of county legislative and supervisory districts. For example, apportioning government on the basis of Census Bureau prison counts gives the Chair of the Livingston County Board of Supervisors more than twice as much political clout as the population of his town is entitled.

Pending census legislation
There are identical bills pending in both chambers to collect the home addresses of incarcerated people, and to require the state and county governments to draw legislature districts on the basis of Census Bureau data corrected to count incarcerated people at their home addresses.
An Act to amend the election law, which requires that redistricting be based on corrected census data that counts incarcerated people at their address of residence.
• Senate Bill S6725, introduced by N Y State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman and Senators Breslin, Diaz, Dilan, Duane, Hassell-Thompson, Krueger, Montgomery, Onorato, Oppenheimer, Parker, Sampson, Savino, Serrano, Stavisky and Thompson
• Assembly Bill A9834, a same as bill introduced by N Y State Assemblymember Jeffries, and co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Espaillat, Dinowitz, Arroyo, Rivera P, Heastie, Lavine, Benjamin, Kavanagh, Kellner, Boyland, Clark, Crespo, Glick, Hooper, Latimer, Peoples-Stokes, Perry, Rosenthal, Stirpe, and Towns.

New York area leaders
It’s impossible to include everyone who is working toward fair districting in New York, but if you are looking to get involved, these are some of the people and organizations you might want to contact:
• State Senator Eric Schneiderman, sponsor of S6725
• Jeremy Saunders and Sean Barry at New York City Aids Housing Network 80A Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn , NY 11217, Toll Free # is 877-615-2217, or 718-802-9540. Visit their website: www.nycahn.org
• Steve Carbo, Senior Program Director in the Democracy Program at Demos: 220 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001 scarbo@demos.org and www.demos.org
• Cleo Oliver at Public Policy and Education Fund of New York www.ppefny
• Monifa Bandele at the Praxis Project
• Erika Wood at the Brennan Center for Justice www.brennancenter.org

www.prisonersofthecensus.org/factsheets



13. TELEPHONE JUSTICE; NEW COMPANY IS TAKING OVER, AND IT DOES OFFER SAVINGS, THOUGH NOT CONVENIENCE.

The other day we received a message from "VAC", saying to call 1-800-786-8521 to set up an account. I called the number and learned that:
1. a pre payment of at least $25 must be made
2. we must keep track of how much we are using because they will not send a bill, and if we go over, the line will be blocked and it will cost extra money to be reconnected
3. if we use a credit or debit card a $7.97 service charge will be deducted from our balance for each transaction, ie: every time we add more money.
4. we can avoid the service charge if we pay by money order or certified check, both of which charge a fee and take longer to process
5. if our account is inactive for 180 days (6 months), a $4.95 monthly inactivity fee will be charged until the funds have been exhausted or the call activity resumes.    
6. if we want to close our account they will charge a $4.95 refund fee to cover our
administrative charges. If the account has never been used (i.e. no calls ever received) and
closed within 90 days, VAC will waive the administrative charge and issue a full refund.

You may make a payment over the phone by calling 1 800-913-6097 or online at http://www.myvconnect.com but of course you would only be doing that if you were using a credit or debit card, and it will cost you $7.97. 

They say these are the savings:
Description Old Rate New Rate
Set-up fee per call $1.28............ $0.00
Charge per minute $.068............ $.048
Cost of a 20 minute call $2.64............ $0.96

But that's not exactly accurate. Let's say you pre-paid $25 by credit card. After the $7.95 transaction fee is deducted, you would only have $17.05 left. At $.048 a minute, that would pay for 355 minutes. Which brings your cost per minute to $.07. At that price, a 20 minute call would be $1.40, a 30 minute call, $2.10 Still it's the best deal yet. GTL was charging $3.32 for 30 minutes.


Building Bridges is the monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network.
For information on joining, please call 518 253 7533, or send an email.