MAY 15, 2010
JUNE 17TH - PREMIERE OF 'NO TOMORROW' DEATH PENALTY DOCUMENTARY
June 17th at 6:30PM
Walter Reade Theater of Lincoln Center in NYC
This production explores the murder of a young woman featured in a recent film about teens leaving foster care and the unexpected role that the film played in the death penalty trial of her killer. Obviously, it involves many issues that are at the heart of NYADP's mission, both past and present. You can learn more about NO TOMORROW here.
Following the screening, there will be a debate between Barry Scheck and Robert Blecker, as well as a Q&A. The organizers of the screening are hoping to fill the theater with people in the in the criminal justice, child welfare, educational, human rights, public policy, and advocacy community.
JUNE 10TH: "RE-TOOLING RE-ENTRY", All-day Forum on Re-Entry
Thursday, June 10th
Will provide much information and resources for those recently released, and family members, particularly those from NYC.
Highlights of the conference include:
Plenary Panel: "How Have the Rockefeller Reforms Impacted Re-entry?"
Panel: "Laboring and Learning: Workforce Development and Education Programs for formerly Incarcerated Individuals"
(3 tracks: men, women, youth)
Panel: "It's a Family Affair: Impact of Re-entry on Family
(3 tracks: men, women, youth)
Concurrent Panels: "The ABCs of ATIs: Working with Clients in Alternatives to Incarceration"
"Health Re-entry: Facilitators and Barriers to Prioritizing Health"
Concurrent Panels: "Keeping the Faith: the Role of Faith-Based Organizations in Re-entry"
"Target Popolations: Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Veterans"
Lunch is included and the conference is free.
Location: NY Academy of Medicine, 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Sponsored and organized by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
To register for the forum: click here
posted may 25
NOW THROUGH JUNE 13TH: PLEASE SUPPORT UJIMA THEATRE COMPANY
AND PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO
Ujima has dedicated its 2009-2010 season to social justice. As this season ends, you can enjoy and learn from "The Exonerated," the true story of five men and one woman who were convicted and sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. Collectively, they spent over one hundred years on death row before the criminal justice system corrected its errors and freed them. Through their compelling stories you will see lives destroyed and time wasted, and yet "The Exonerated" stands as a powerful testament to the kind of faith and hope that sustains us even when it seems that all is lost.
The play opened on May 21 and will close on June 13.
Please support the theater and Prisoners Are People Too, by purchasing your $25 fundraising ticket for the Thursday, May 27, 2010, 8:00pm show. On that night, both the theater and PRP2 will benefit from ticket sales.
You can get tickets in several ways. Visit Ujima Theatre which is located at TheaterLoft, 545 Elmwood Avenue near West Utica or call the Box Office at 716-883-0380 to make your reservation. Or you can contact Karima Amin, who is Founder/Director of Prisoners Are People Too, by calling 716-834-8438 or by expressing your interest via e-mail.
Prisoners Are People Too had its inception in June of 2005. It has consistently provided community education regarding issues of criminal justice and prison reform. Monthly meetings feature documentary films, guest speakers, and the opportunity for networking and camaraderie. This initiative has also provided a platform for community building and action organizing. Prisoners Are People Too took the lead in establishing the Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition (formerly Buffalo Prison Abuse Project).
"The Exonerated" is a celebration of freedom and justice. You don't want to miss it!
posted may 23
POSTED MAY 18 CITIZENS AGAINST RECIDIVISM
The Board of Directors of Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc. is delighted to inform you that after nearly 32 years of penal supervision, our Co-founder/Executive Director, Mika’il DeVeaux, has been granted termination of his life sentence and is now a free man - relatively speaking.
We thank all you who supported him and for your continued support of Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc.
Contact us at: email@example.com
BUILDING BRIDGES MAY 15 2010
Dear Reader: Surprise! I was wrong about not publishing a May issue of Building Bridges. And I haven't been able to catch up with the backlog of mail either. So here we are, 15 days late, which turns out to be a better deadline for us. So from now on look for your news in the middle of the month instead of the first.
Please be well, keep the faith, and share the news!
1. Activities for advocates; statewide
2. Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies report
3. Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition
4. ICARE - Mother's Day Poem
5. Job Training Opportunity
7. Medical Parole
8. Milk Not Jails
9. NYS Prisoner Justice Network
10. Parole News
11. Prison Media
12. Prisoners of the Census
[For copies of any document, article or legislation referred to in an article in this issue, please send an email 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
SAVE THE DATE: WEDNESDAY JUNE 30. BRONX DEFENDERS BLOCK PARTY
Open to all - we'll have performances, activities for kids, local community-based organizations, food, and more. Contact Dawit Getachew, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or if your organization would like to have a table.
Location: 160th between Courtlandt and Melrose in the Bronx.
MONDAY, MAY 17, 10:30 AM before the Public Safety Committee of the Erie County Legislature
TUESDAY, MAY 18, 5:00 PM in a Public Hearing before the entire County Legislature.
ERIE COUNTY PRISONER RIGHTS COALITION SPEAKS OUT
Six legislators have signed onto the establishment's version of the Board, and six have signed onto ours, meaning we need to sway two folks in the middle to get a majority of the 15 seat legislature. Please come, forward this as widely as you can, and bring your friends to let the County know that we will not accept a COMMUNITY Advisory Board without COMMUNITY engagement! We need your presence! [see article # 3 for background information]
Location: 92 Franklin St, downtown Buffalo, 4th floor (Old County Hall Legislative Chambers)
MONDAY, MAY 24, 5:30 - 8:30 PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO
Unlike previous meetings, this one will NOT take place at the Pratt-Willert Community Center nor meet at the regular time. This month's meeting will incorporate a booksigning ceremony and panel discussion which will take place at 5:30 pm at the "2nd Cup Restaurant," 36 Broadway, in Buffalo.
The featured author is a Tampa, Florida resident, James Scott, born and raised in Buffalo, whose family owned the Kensington Place Restaurant on Buffalo's Eastside for more than twenty years. The book he has written is entitled INTAKE and it details his 2005 experiences at the now infamous Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility. Erie County is now facing Federal and State lawsuits as both jails are the targets of long awaited investigations. Attendees will hear Mr. Scott read from his book and they will have an opportunity to ask questions. A panel discussion will feature a criminal defense attorney and a criminologist. A third panelist has yet to be confirmed.
According to Mr. Scott, "This book contains the mind of a man. It details the psychological devastation of being an inmate. Intake infringes on social views concerning the state of man. Intake uses history as food for thought. It details facts into theories of why social failures evolve. This entertaining book gives you detailed accounts of accused criminals and what led up to their arrest. Delve into the underworld of crime and punishment. The charm of the ending will fill the memory."
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; email@example.com.
Location: 2nd Cup Restaurant, 36 Broadway, in Buffalo
WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 1 - 3 PM NY REENTRY ROUNDTABLE
Debriefing on the May 4th NY Reentry Roundtable Albany Advocacy Day
Hosted by the Community Service Society of NY (CSS)
RSVP: Gabreil Torres-Rivera at grivera@CSSNY.org.
Location: 105 E. 22nd St. cr Park Ave So.
THURSDAY, MAY 20TH AT 5 PM COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS MEETING: "THE IMPACT OF INCARCERATION ON FAMILIES"
We will hear from families that are impacted by the incarceration of their loved one. If you know of a family that would like to contribute to our dialogue, please ask them to reach out to us. If you can join us for this meeting please contact firstname.lastname@example.org so we can have enough space and refreshments to accommodate. Also, we are holding a 50/50 raffle until August to raise funds to support our work, so remember "you got to be in it to win it".
If you are a new member, we encourage you to join us for a New Members Orientation at 4:30 pm.
Location: 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Suite 200, NYC, NY 10027,
Here is an upcoming event you might also want to attend:
Drop the Rock's Empowerment Day will be happening on June 15th. For more information please contact Caitlin Dunklee at: email@example.com or call 212-254-5700 x. 339
SATURDAY MAY 22 10:00 A.M - 6:00 P.M CELEBRATE DIVERSITY DAY FESTIVAL
The event is an appeal to stop racial and ethnic violence in NYC. You are encouraged to express yourselves creatively through traditional attire from any culture you wish to represent, or create your own new ideas combined with blue jeans, representing human evolution or the diverse American spirit, as we bring people in our communities together for a festive day of fun and dancing under the sun.
We are presenting a show of live music performances and artistic exhibition that reflects the collective beauty of our cultural origins and the value of our diversity in New York City. Performances include Chinese waist drum group, New York African Chorus Ensemble, Japanese Reggae, Latin band, Southern Folk music, Rock group and many more. Please visit the website for more details. celebratediversityday.org
Location: Jackie Robinson Park.
Bradhurst & Edgecombe Avenues West 145 to West 155, Harlem
MONDAY JUNE 7 - WEDNESDAY JUNE 9. NY OUT-4-LIFE REENTRY CONFERENCE
A Conference for the Prison Reentry and Policy Reform Community
Core Conveners: Hudson River Presbytery, Presbytery of New York City, Prison Fellowship, and the Osbourne Association.
All faiths welcome! Secular organizations welcome! Government entities welcome!
Registration: $100 (includes cost of materials and meals)
To create coalitions throughout the state of New York for the purpose of realizing our collective power in the areas of prisoner reentry (social services) and policy reform (social change). The scope of this network will consist of a collaboration between organizations and individuals from the private and public sectors; including government, business, education, health care, housing, policy reform and the faith based community in an effort to develop a strategic plan that builds the necessary capacity to better serve formerly incarcerated individuals.
In addition, we will discuss effective strategies centered on the reformation of our prison system and incarceration policies within our state.
For more information, including list of speakers and the schedule, or to register, please visit www.out4life.com/newyork2010
Location: Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 7th Avenue (across from Penn Station) NYC
SUNDAY, MAY 23, 4PM FREE ICE CREAM SOCIAL FREE! FAMILIES RALLY FOR EMANCIPATION & EMPOWERMENT AND MILK NOT JAILS
Learn about MILK NOT JAILS, a new campaign to transform the upstate economy (see article 8). Enjoy free ice cream & receive a copy of FREE!’s Family Survival Guide. Learn about Syracuse’s important history on the Underground Railroad & how we can work together to change the prison system today. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-422-5638 x308
Location: XL Project Space, 307 Clinton Street, Syracuse
FRIDAY, MAY 21, 7:30 PM NEST GOSPEL COMMUNITY CONCERT
Featuring Men's Gospel Choirs from: Metropolitan NT Mission Baptist Church, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church and Troy Larger Parish Community Choir
There Will Be A Free Will Offering to benefit NEST (Neighbors Establishing Support in Troy) in a church supported mission project seeking nonviolent solutions and community building. For directions or questions, call: 518 272-2771 www.unitedprestroy.org. Dessert reception follows.
Location: First United Presbyterian Church 1915 Fifth Avenue, Troy
2. COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES - AN UPDATE ON THE PROGRESS OF THE PROPOSED REVISIONS TO EXEC. LAW §259-I
Since the nature of our proposed bill would require it to be passed first by the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee in the Senate, and since Sen. Hassell-Thompson is the committee's chair, we need to give her first chance at sponsorship. We've been meeting with her staff and we expect to have a definitive response by the June 15 edition. We are also meeting with Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry to address some of his concerns about our proposal and we are optimistic that his sponsorship will be forthcoming, but probably not during this legislative session.
Some concerns about the portion of our proposal that limits what victims or their families can present to the parole board have been voiced to us by victims' advocacy groups. In order to better understand those concerns we have had several discussions and one lengthy in-person meeting with a victim's advocacy group. We are working to find common ground that would strengthen our bill and would meet their concerns. Our discussions and efforts continue.
3. ERIE COUNTY PRISONERS RIGHTS COALITION (ECPRC) HAS BEEN LOBBYING FOR MONTHS FOR THE REESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD TO OVERSEE THE COUNTY'S TWO PRISONS.
A community advisory board would make our system transparent and accountable to the community, and would stem the tide of violence in our jails long before it becomes a culture.
The Legislature has taken this moment, however, to try and create a board that they think will quiet our demand, but in reality has no direct community input or investigatory powers! It grants appointments strictly to the Sheriff, the County Executive and Attorney, members of the Legislature and a couple judges - in short, the same foxes responsible for ravaging the henhouse all this time! Christina Bove, chairwoman of the Legislature's Public Safety Committee, has put forward this paper tiger and is trying to get it passed.
ECPRC, along with allies in the Partnership for the Public Good, the National Lawyers Guild, and numerous other community organizations has put forward our own version of this Board. On TWO DATES we will get the opportunity to speak before the Legislature and express our dissatisfaction with their version of the bill, and advocate for ours. [see Article 1, Buffalo events, for details of the meetings]
4. ICARE COMMUNITY EDUCATOR JAFAR ABBAS SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING POEM FOR MAY PUBLICATION IN HONOR OF ALL MOTHERS WHO'VE STUCK BY THEIR INCARCERATED CHILDREN.
I NEVER MEANT
I brought you some flowers
Just like your smile Ma
I got you the red ones
The ones you said
You always liked
And I got you the blue ones
Daddy used to get you
All the time
The ones you never liked
But always kept
It took me a long time
But I got ‘em
I got ‘em Ma
I got ‘em just for you
For you Ma
Just for you.
I miss you Ma!
I miss you a whole lot
Begin to tell you
How much I love you
I know I should have told you this
A long time ago, but
I was sick Ma!
Too sick to see,
Too sick to feel,
Too sick to know
I was sick.
Sick of ghettoes,
Sick of fighting,
Sick of sacrificing,
Sick of doing without,
Sick of dying slowly,
So I threw back Ma…
I didn’t mean
To break your dreams!
I know with them
Broke your hopes for me
I refused to pull myself free.
Free from my wants,
Free from my pain,
Free from my world,
Free from my suffering,
Free from my far-fetched dreams.
The big picture was just too big
For my narrow vision to see
So I became lost in my own
Rapidly dying life
With my own
Rapidly dying ways, Ma…
I didn’t mean
To make your heart cry!
But, it was your heart’s tears
That fertilized my earth
And caused me to grow.
To grow tall,
To grow wise,
To grow strong,
To grow confident,
To grow fearless.
I refused your directions
Only because I was outta control
Like a crazed train running wild
I saw nothing save the tracks that
Lie before me, Ma…still
I didn’t mean
To make you mad!
But, I too was mad
And filled with rage
I was forced to walk the slim lines
And learn the tough ways.
The ways of myself,
The ways of my slums,
The ways of my people,
The ways of my streets,
The ways of my lost life.
And standing strongly through it all
Stood your undying love
For your dying son
Twice you gave me life Ma…still
I never meant
To go to prison!
I’m sorry Ma,
Please forgive me!
Jafar Abbas is available for speaking engagements. If your organization would like him to make a presentation please send your request to Rima Vesely-Flad at email@example.com.
5. JOB TRAINING OPPORTUNITY-THE ALLSTATE FOUNDATION National Network to end Domestic Violence (NNEDV) EDUCATION AND JOB TRAINING ASSISTANCE FUND PROVIDES GRANTS FOR EXPENSES RELATED TO EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT
Grants include tuition and fees for educational classes at the high school, community college and undergraduate levels, certifications, books and supplies, child care, transportation, other support services, and employment uniforms and supplies.
Award: Up to $1000 per application
Eligibility: Adult survivors of domestic violence; Applications for The Allstate Foundation Education and Job Training Fund must be submitted by 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations whose core mission is to serve or represent victims of domestic violence.
Deadline: 2010 Funding cycles: March 1, 2010; June 1, 2010; October 1, 2010
Application Guidelines/Submission: Visit the website for complete application guidelines/submission.
6. LEGISLATION: ALL OF THESE BILLS HAVE SPONSORS IN BOTH HOUSES. NONE HAVE YET BEEN PASSED INTO LAW. THESE ARE BY NO MEANS THE ONLY BILLS AFFECTING PEOPLE WHO ARE OR WERE IN PRISON, BUT THEY'RE THE ONES PRISON ACTION NETWORK SUPPORTS MOST STRONGLY. [Reminder: Bills beginning with "A" have sponsors in the NYS Assembly; those beginning with "S" are NYS Senate bills. After each bill number we list the primary sponsor (although there may be many more) and then the intent. REMINDER THAT NJ WAS ABLE TO PASS REENTRY REFORMS IN 2008-2009. WE CAN DO IT TOO IF WE LEARN FROM THEM.
A05462 Aubry / S 2233 Montgomery: Adoption and Safe Families Expanded Discretion Bill Relates to the guardianship and custody of destitute or dependent children who have a parent or parents incarcerated or in a court ordered residential substance abuse treatment program. Provides foster care agencies with the statutory guidance and support they need to recognize the special circumstances surrounding parental incarceration and move away from formulaic applications and toward family-specific, child-centered decision making.
A6853 Camara / S3559 Adams: Requires written notice of eligibility to vote be given upon release from prison.
A2445 O'Donnell/ S4643 Hassell-Thompson: Relates to voting and registration: may vote if pardoned, maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired, or serving a term of parole, presumptive release, conditional release or post-release supervision.
A2266 Wright/ S1266 Montgomery: Voting rights notification and registration act: provides eligible voters with felony convictions with notice regarding voting rights, assistance with voter registration, and data sharing among the department of correctional services, the division of parole, and the state board of elections.
A5946 Espaillat / S1633 Schneiderman: Directs prisoner's home address be used to define political districts.
A3260 Benjamin/ S1294 Montgomery: Prohibits colleges from denying formerly incarcerated individuals admittance to college based solely on their incarceration.
A8552 Aubry/ S5685 Hassell-Thompson: Establishes a commission on post-secondary correctional education to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations concerning the availability, effectiveness and need for expansion of post-secondary education in the NYS prison system.
A1827-A Wright/ S5846-A Montgomery: Allows BA and advanced degree programs to count toward the work participation rate and provides for certain educational and training activity to count towards the satisfaction of the participant's work activity requirement.
A8727 Kavanaugh/ S1352 Duane: Provides notice of availability of services to people upon their release from prison. Provides for notice by commissioner of correctional services of availability of medical, educational and other services, including alcohol and substance abuse treatment, to prisoners upon their release from state prison.
A6487-A Aubry/ S2932-A Montgomery: Merit Time bill Expands Merit time to all but those convicted of murder in the first degree, some sex crimes, an act of terrorism or aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, and with no change (if I am reading it correctly - I confess I'm confused. Ed.) in the amount of time off. [The legislative website also lists A172 as a 2010 Merit Time bill sponsored by Aubry but with no number or sponsor in the Senate. That's the bill where everyone was eligible except those who were sentenced to life w/o parole, and it gave 1/3 off.]
A5474 Boyland/ S1297 Montgomery: Prison staff must assist Medicaid application process. Officials of correctional institutions shall provide information and instruction to and shall assist prisoners who will be released from the correctional institutions in preparing and applying for the health insurance program known as Medicaid at least ninety days prior to their release
ADVOCATES IN NEW JERSEY HELPED GET AN AMAZING PACKAGE OF REENTRY REFORMS PASSED DURING THE 2008-2009 LEGISLATIVE SESSION!
People who contributed to the passage of these reforms: NJ Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Margaret Atkins, the National H.I.R.E. Network, former Governor Jon Corzine who maintained his commitment to promote successful reentry in New Jersey.
1.) Further modified its drug felon ban to fully remove the ban on eligibility for food stamps. (Bill A4197)
2.) Requires all inmates be released with: a birth certificate (NJ born only) and social security card (if attained prior to release) as well as a non-drivers' state identification; a copy of their rap sheet; voting rights information; 2 weeks prescribed medication; a comprehensive list of community programs and resources; a complete list of all programs s/he participated in while incarcerated; a written accounting of child support and other fines/fees information; a 90-day grace period for payment of fines/fees; active medicaid benefit for those in receipt of medicaid prior to incarceration; a one day transportation pass; a secured free copy of his/her medical record; and a debit or personal bank account card with any remaining inmate account balance. (Bill A4201)
3.) Created a mandatory workforce skills and education program that will be phased into the corrections system to provide GED/high school educational services, vocational skills, and computer/technology literacy courses in every correctional facility. Vocational programs are now required to be reviewed biennially to ensure the training programs reflect the current labor market needs. (Bill A4202)
7. NY'S EXPANDED MEDICAL PAROLE LAW HAS NOT RESULTED IN ANY RELEASES.
According to an article by Cara Buckley, published in the NY Times on Jan 29, 2010, the Medical Parole law which was expanded last April to include those convicted of violent crimes has not resulted in anyone being released who would not have qualified under the old law. It did result in more applications; 202 as compared with 66 in '08, but the one person who would have been the first to gain release under the new guidelines died days before seeing the Parole Board. DOCS chief medical director, Dr. Lester Wright claims, “The problem is, when we start trying to put people out, there are others in the community who are sure we’re trying to make more crime in the community". In fact statistics show that in the past 18 years only 3 medically paroled people have gone back to prison, and none of them for a violent crime.
8. MILK NOT JAILS "I’D RATHER DRINK MILK. 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.
To get involved:
The campaign is simple. We are asking prisoner families, criminal justice activists, local food consumer advocates and urban people throughout the state to purchase milk directly from NY State dairy farmers. We are asking dairy farmers to sign on to a criminal justice reform campaign in exchange for being able to sell their dairy products directly to our constituents who have agreed to buy local dairy. Through this consumer campaign, we intend to build a direct relationships between dairy farmers and people impacted by and concerned about the criminal justice system. We hope that this relationship will allow both groups to come together and agree upon a mutually beneficial statewide agenda for criminal justice policy, agricultural policy and economic development policy.
To move this campaign forward, we need:
1. Criminal justice activists to join us in agreeing to purchase local dairy products and to determine what the criminal justice reform platform of the campaign should be and what markets and distribution methods will make most sense for their organizations and constituents.
2. Prisoner Families to join us in agreeing to purchase local dairy products and to determine what the criminal justice reform platform of the campaign should be and what markets and distribution methods will make most sense for their neighborhoods and other networks.
9. THE NEW YORK STATE PRISONER JUSTICE CONFERENCE - WE CONTINUE OUR COVERAGE WITH TWO OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS, VICTORIO REYES'S SPEECH AND KARIMA AMIN'S STORY. THE CONFERENCE WAS JUST THE FIRST STEP, NOW IT'S UP TO YOU TO PLAN THE NEXT STEPS.
"We came here today to help create a NYS Prisoner Justice Network. Now this is not your typical conference; it has been organized democratically with input from every sponsoring organization's participation. And it is through this collective process that we find our strength. We shared our ideas and our strategies for accomplishing our goals. But I want to be crystal clear - it was about more than this. The ultimate goal behind this conference is to re-imagine the concept of justice in New York State. The NYS Criminal Justice system is completely unacceptable. Period. The purpose of this conference was to discover what we can do about it. Together. We never forget that the communities that are most affected by this system are people of color, specifically Black and Latino people, LGBTQ individuals, and poor people of all backgrounds. The criminal justice system is quite possibly the most discriminatory institution in the nation. Make no mistake about it, the court room is today's lunch counter. It's time to bring the fight to the appropriate battleground."
-Victorio Reyes, activist, poet, musician and father of two; and the director of the Social Justice Center of Albany (SJC) for over five years.
'There Was, There Was, and There Was Not.'
"Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved stories. He loved stories more than anything else in the world. It was his greatest joy to sit with his elders in a circle every evening, around a fire, listening to their stories.
One evening, an elder seated next to him, turned to him and said, "Son, it's time---time for you to tell a story."
The boy was stunned. This is not what he was expecting. He mumbled, stumbled, and finally muttered, "Um…I can not tell a story because I do not know how to begin."
An elder spoke, simply saying, "When you begin to tell a story it might help you to say, 'There was, there was, and there was not.'"
Once again, the boy began, simply saying, "There was, there was….Forgive me. I can not say those words because I don't understand what they mean."
Another elder spoke saying, "When you say 'there was, there was, and there was not,' what you are saying is that you are about to tell a story and it doesn't matter whether people like it or not. Go ahead now, Son, tell your story."
The boy began again, mumbling, "There was, there was, and there was not."
Once again he stopped, then said, "I can't tell a story because I don't know any stories. In fact, I don't even know how to read."
An elder proclaimed, "Books are wonderful and reading is wonderful indeed, but the best stories are not in books. The best stories are in your heart, so unlock your heart, open your mouth and tell your story."
The boy tried but this time it seemed as though the words turned to dust in his throat. The words seemed like pebbles in his mouth. He paused and couldn't go on.
Finally, he struggled to say, "I can not tell a story because…I am afraid. I'm afraid that I won't get the words just right."
The elder who had first spoken said, "There is no such thing as 'just right.' I tell in my way and the others tell in their way. Now you must tell in yours. Unlock your heart, open your mouth, tell your story."
The boy began again, in earnest, saying, "There was, there was, and there was not," and he told his story. I don't know what story he told but I do know that it was a good one because it came from his heart.
In telling this story, I know that I am preaching to the choir. Many of us here today are telling our stories as we do our work, in the interest of justice, and as we live our lives, putting our best selves forward. As we fight for what is just, fair, and humane, it is our duty to encourage and inspire others to take up the charge. Each of us, in his/her own way, has to accept responsibility for helping others to elevate, enhance, and embrace the words and actions that serve to build better communities, where justice for all is a given and not an afterthought. We must move forward in such a way that the hard work does not dissuade us and adversarial opinions do not cause us to doubt our mission. We must work in such a way that bureaucracy and red tape do not cloud our mission nor cause us to doubt the value of our work. We should say, "There was, there was, and there was not," then keep working, moving forward with clear minds and clear hearts, all focused on righteousness and victory. Everyone can make a contribution to the good and all should be encouraged to do so. Encouraging others is part of our mission too."
(Note: This story is adapted from a traditional Russian folktale that reminds us to do what we need to do, making no excuses.)
- Karima Amin, Founder/Director, Prisoners Are People Too; co-chair, Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition; co-founder, Spin-a-story Tellers, and Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of Western NY.
The big challenge is harnessing the cooperative spirit and energy of the conference to make a positive difference in the New York State criminal injustice system. For that purpose the CONTINUATIONS COMMITTEE was created to be the vehicle to move the process forward -- please join it if you want to work on creating an effective New York State Prisoner Justice Network. Our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
10. PAROLE NEWS: MARCH PAROLE BOARD STATISTICS AND SUMMARY OF "STRATEGIES FOR RELEASE" SURVEY BY CITIZENS AGAINST RECIDIVISM
MARCH 2010 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999 -unofficial research from parole database
Total Interviews......... # Released...# Denied...Rate of Release
37 initials.................... 6..................... 31................... 16%
60 reappearances......... 15................... 45................... 25%
97 total........................ 21................... 76................... 22%
Facility........... Sentence......... Offense
Attica.............. 25-Life............ Murder 2
Attica.............. 25-Life............ Murder 2
Bayview......... 20-Life............ M2 & K1
Fishkill........... 17-Life............ Murder 2
Fishkill........... 25-Life............ Murder 2
Marcy............. 15-Life............ Murder 2
Facility...........Sentence...... Offense........ # of Board
Arthurkill....... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Arthurkill....... 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 7th
Arthurkill....... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Attica............. 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 7th
Bare Hill....... 25-Life......... Murder 2...... 4th
Clinton......... 20-Life.......... M2 2x........... 6th
Clinton......... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Fishkill......... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Gouverneur. 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Lincoln......... 20-Life.......... M-pre74....... 14th or 15th
Mid Orange. 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Midstate....... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Otisville........ 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th *deportation
Otisville........ 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Wallkill......... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 9th
STRATEGIES FOR RELEASE - A REPORT OF THE PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF SURVEY DATA GATHERED IN 2009 FROM 607 MEN HOUSED IN 29 PRISONS LOCATED ACROSS NEW YORK STATE. PREPARED BY DEVEAUX AND ASSOCIATES FOR CITIZENS AGAINST RECIDIVISM, INC.
Summary of findings
More than half of those responding were African American males, averaging 42.5 years of age who had spent, on average, 16.7 years in prison.
The largest percentage (46%) thought that their release would follow an appearance at their first (18%) or later parole (28%) board hearing.
One in four thought that working on an appeal (25%) was the most important thing they could do to speed up their release.
On average, respondents spent the most time working on maintaining a good disciplinary record and were more likely to report involvement in activities related to release to improve themselves. They were more likely to choose a release option because it provided the personal control needed to obtain the earliest possible release.
Overall, a majority of respondents said that they would prefer to negotiate a contract that related performance measures to their release.
Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc. (Citizens) was founded in 1992 initially to address the needs of family members who had incarcerated loved ones. The organization was incorporated in 1996, initially providing supportive counseling to the wives and family members of the incarcerated, cultural programming in various New York State prisons, and delinquency intervention programming for youth. Citizens’ work now includes efforts to restore all the rights and attributes of citizenship among people in prison or jail and those who have been released. As part of its mission to restore the rights of citizenship to people in prison and those who have been released, Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc. advocates for reform in the New York State correctional system and for reform of New York State parole policies. The surveys were designed to give voice to the incarcerated and then to include those voices in policy discussions about issues that affect their lives.
For the unabridged results (this is a summary), please contact Citizens Against Recidivism at Box 9 - Lincolnton Station, New York, New York 10037 or email@example.com
11. PRISON MEDIA - ALL THINGS HARLEM, FANCY BROCCOLI, ON THE COUNT, SOUL SPECTRUM
ALL THINGS HARLEM - We recently covered the demonstration in Washington D.C. for Mumia Abu Jamal and posted our work on www.youtube.com/allthingsharlem. Also, we have many new posts on our blogspot www.allthingsharlemproductions.blogspot.com.
We are living in interesting times. The whole system is being called into question. Get informed. It is time for a paradigm shift, we can't keep sticking to the old model of doing things. "If you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got." Jazz
The People's Voice! Joseph Jazz Hayden, CEO Still Here Harlem Productions, Inc. 212-694-2887 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
12. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS: CENSUS BUREAU’S PRISON COUNT WON’T MEAN FUNDING WINDFALL. MOST FEDERAL FUNDING IS DISTRIBUTED IN THE FORM OF BLOCK GRANTS TO STATES AND THESE ARE UNAFFECTED BY WHERE WITHIN ANY GIVEN STATE PEOPLE ARE COUNTED.
by Aleks Kajstura, April 2, 2010 for The Prison Policy Initiative.
To say that $400 billion, divided by the current US population means that every person brings about $1,300 in federal money to a community is over-simplified to the point that it is simply incorrect.
The bulk (74%) of that $400 billion is block grants to states for highways and Medicaid reimbursement. Almost all people are incarcerated in their state of residence, so these funds are entirely unaffected. Other programs are too sophisticated to be fooled by the prison miscount. After highways and Medicaid, the next largest program is federal subsidies to low income schools. This formula used in urban areas is based on the number of poor children in the Census, and, in rural areas, the number of children enrolled in a subsidized school lunch program. In either case, the program for subsidizing poor schools distributes its funds in a way that is entirely unaffected by where incarcerated people are counted.
What’s affected? Very small federal and state programs. And ironically, most of these programs tend to be in funds that are destined for rural areas anyway. A tiny flaw in the Rural Appalachian Development Fund, for example, allows rural Appalachian communities with prisons to get an extra share of funds destined for other rural Appalachian communities.
And a tiny flaw in Dutchess County New York’s method of distributing county sales tax to towns costs 18 towns without prisons a few thousand dollars each annually, to the benefit of the 2 towns with prisons. But not a dime of this belongs in the urban areas that most people in prison call home. It’s rural money that’s being misdirected among rural communities.
Some of these formulas should be fixed. And, over time, they probably will be. But because each rural community that loses under the system loses such a small amount, these communities have found it hard to prioritize.
The funding argument is just a distraction from the very real problem of prison-based gerrymandering. Counting people in prison has a big effect on electoral representation at the state and county level. The more we study the problem, the deeper the electoral problem goes. First it was state districts being distorted in violation of the Supreme Court’s “One Person, One Vote” rule. Then we discovered that legislatures were violating their own state constitutions by using the Census Bureau’s prison counts to draw districts. We’ve drilled down to county, city and town districts finding even larger impacts.
In contrast, the more we look at the funding impacts, the less significant we find the effects to be. The amounts at stake are very small, the funds don’t move in the way most people assume, and the solutions lie more in fixing loopholes in complex funding formulas, than the Census.
But prison-based gerrymandering? That’s a straightforward problem, with a straightforward solution. State (or federal) funding decisions are not based on redistricting data.
A clip about prison-based gerrymandering from the new documentary Gerrymandering is now available on You Tube.
Building Bridges is the monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network.
For information on joining, please call 518 253 7533, write us at
PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206, or send an email