Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

JUNE 2010

POSTED JULY 1: FOUR NEW PAROLE BOARD COMMISSIONERS APPROVED

FOUR new members of the State Board of Parole have been approved by the Senate Standing Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Chair. The governor has withdrawn a previous recommendation to reduce the number of parole commissioners from 19 to 13.

What was most disturbing about the hearings was Senator Goldin's behavior, in particular when he asked each nominee if they would vote to release a person who killed a police officer, and then followed it by asking for their personal opinion about ever releasing someone who killed a police officer. Of course all the applicants knew that they would have to say they would follow the law and make their decisions on a case by case basis, and so they all did so. Nevertheless Senator Goldin persisted in trying to get them to say they would never release nor would they want to release a person who had killed a police officer. One can only assume he did this as his way of making a very clear statement that if they do not agree with him that "cop killers" should never be released from prison, he will make sure they get treated by him and his friends at the NY Post and the Daily News in the same abusive manner as they treated Grant and Loomis when they voted twice to release Shu'aib Raheem.

On Thursday, June 17, 2010 The Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction approved the following nominations:

Henry Lemons, as a Member of the State Board of Parole
Edward M. Sharkey, as a Member of the State Board of Parole
Lynn Anne Tabbott, as a Member of the State Board of Parole
Seny Taveras, as a Member of the State Board of Parole

Nicholas A. LaBella, as a Member of the Citizen’s Policy and Review Council

See video of the hearing

Their bios (with the exception of Henry Lemons) come from their self introductions to the Committee, and when available, from the internet:

Henry Lemons was not present. He was not replaced when his 2007 appointment to fill an unexpired term came to an end in 2008, so he was now formally appointed to serve out the remaining 4 years of the new 6 year term. The parole website tells us he served from 2004 to 2007 as Deputy Chief Investigator for the New York State Attorney General. Prior to that , he was the Assistant Chief Investigator for the Kings County District Attorney. He is a former Sergeant and Detective with the New York City Police Department. He also served for four years of active duty with the United States Air Force. Mr. 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. Mr. Lemons was raised in the Bedford – Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and Queens, where he still resides.

Edward Sharkey: Education: SUNY at Buffalo, B.A., Mathematics, 1968; SUNY at Buffalo, School of Law, J.D., 1977, Employment: District Attorney, 1998-Present; Personal Injury Litigation, 1984- 1997, Olean, NY; Erie County District Attorney's Office, 1977-1984. Appointed by Cattaraugus County Legislature to Criminal Justice Coordinating Advisory Council; served on Cattaraugus County Arson Task Force Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Committee's Sexual Assault Advisory Panel. Served in the Airforce during the Vietnam War. Created a victim's advocacy agency in Cattaraugus County.

Lynn Anne Tabbott: S.I. native, attended Fordham and Bklyn Law School, worked for the Bklyn DA's office. Domestic Violence Coordinator. Worked for the NYS Attorney General's office where she prosecuted white collar crimes and defended Parole Board decisions. Practiced as a Criminal Defense Attorney; served as a local court judge in night court in Orange County.

Seny Taveras, from Brooklyn; attended Hofstra Univ's School of Law, then John Jay. Worked for NYC Human Resources Dept's Energy Assistance as an investigator. Moved on to the State Police where she worked as an investigator, working with DA offices and local precincts to consider ways to reduce crime. Worked for law firm on L.I.; as a legislative aid in a Senate minority office where she dealt with constitutional issues and helped constituents navigate the legal system. Appointed by Spitzer to work as a special assistant to the deputy secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Nicholas A. LaBella*, 20 years experience on the Utica NY police force. President of LB Security and Investigation firm ("in preparation for my retirement") which is reviewed on this Utica City forum.
*Note: appointed to the Citizen’s Policy and Review Council, not the Board of Parole.


10:00 AM, Monday, June 28, 2010
The committee approved the nomination of Richard J.Clarke to the State Board of Parole:
See video of this hearing

Richard J. Clarke
Grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx, where he attended high school, went to boro college, majored in business. In 1981 joined NYC police dept. where for 26 years he supervised a task force on gun running. Retired in 2007 to job as head of security for parks and recreation.




POSTED JUNE 23: THE LEGAL ACTION CENTER CALLS FOR ACTION!

The Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas.

BACKGROUND:
Public protection budget discussions in Albany may close in the next week. The governor's budget proposes a cut of more than 10% in Alternatives to Incarceration funding, an amount of $1.6 million, and neither the Assembly nor Senate budget resolutions restored any of that. All told, ATI programs stand to lose as much as $4.5 million, a blow that could decimate the system.

SEND A MESSAGE TO LEGISLATORS:
Use available federal funds to maintain Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) and reentry programs that reduce crime and the prison population and play an essential role in the successful implementation of Rockefeller drug law reform. Join us in urging that the governor and legislature use some of the millions of dollars of federal criminal justice funding allocated last year to continue ATI programming. As you know well, funding for ATI programs is critical to ensuring the success of drug law reform and ending the cycle of addiction and crime. Indeed, what could be a more appropriate use of these funds than identifying good candidates for diversion from prison to treatment or other community sanctions, advocating for their diversion, providing them treatment and other services they need, and monitoring their progress?

ACTION:
Call the governor, legislative leaders, public protection committee chairs and your own Assembly member and Senator (governor at 518-474-8390; Assembly at 518-455-4100; Senate at 518-455-2800) and ask them to use unspent federal funds to protect ATI and reentry programs, which are essential to public safety and the backbone of Rockefeller reform.
Assembly
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (e-mail him)
Senate
Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson (e-mail him)
Joseph R. Lentol, co-chair (e-mail him)
Jeffrion L. Aubry
Roann M. Destito
Helene E. Weinstein
Ruth Hassell-Thompson
Eric T. Schneiderman
Craig M. Johnson




POSTED JUNE 23: THE COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS

THURSDAY JULY 15th, 5 PM MEMBER MEETING
Topic: "LGBTQ Communities and the Criminal Justice System"
New Members Orientation at 4:30 pm.

We are gearing up for our Summer Grassroots fundraiser, which will be a Bake Sale every Thursday for the month of August. I will be reaching out to CWP members soon to ask you to contribute in any way you can. You can do this by volunteering time, contributing funds, and baking goods.

We hope to see you soon and enjoy your summer,
Stacey

Stacey Thompson, Coalition Associate, Women in Prison Project
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Suite 200, New York, NY 10027
212-254-5700 x.333 www.correctionalassociation.org




GROWING OLD IN PRISON:
Long sentences that were handed out decades ago are catching up with the American justice system.
Prisons across the country are dedicating entire units just to house the elderly.
During difficult economic times, the issue has hit a crisis point. Estimates are that locking up an older inmate costs three times as much as a younger one.
How are prisons dealing with this issue? Who are the prisoners that are turning gray behind bars?
Josh Rushing gains exclusive and unprecedented access to jails and prisons across the country to tell the story.

[If you would rather watch it without the interference of our links column overlaying it, you may click here]






Dear Reader:

Some people advise me to keep quiet about some of our efforts, and especially about some of our successes, so as not to stir up the opposition. That goes against everything I believe as a journalist. My job, as I see it, is to spread the news so that all of us may respond intelligently in our own way. Many of us complain that the media never focuses on the good things that happen. I say lets be proud of our values, and excited to share our successes! We should be shouting them from the rooftops, to let all the thousands of people who share our values know they are not alone. Why should we let those who oppose us set the agenda? What hope is there for changing minds if we never speak up about what we're doing and why? We - I hope I am not speaking just for myself - come from a place of wanting a better world, where love, compassion, forgiveness and justice dominates. Where families can live together and have enough food, a decent home, a good education and guaranteed healthcare. Where people are judged by their current behaviors, not for what they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. We have let ourselves be cowed by the opposition, but I think it's time we stop acting as if we're ashamed of our dreams for a kinder more just society.

In a discussion with one of my close friends recently, she said, 'You think the truth will set us free!' And I realized that if I can't speak about our values and the ways we are changing the criminal justice system, then indeed I am not free. Living on a foundation of truth is freedom.

Please be well, keep the faith, and share the news!



ARTICLES

1. Activities for advocates: Statewide, Albany, Bronx, Buffalo, Manhattan
2. CCR has filed federal lawsuit
3. Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies - on 259-i
4. ICARE Community Educator
5. Legislation
6. Parole news
7. Prison media

[For copies of any document, article or legislation referred to in an article in this issue, please send your request to PAN 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

WRITE A LETTER TO GOVERNOR PATERSON IN SUPPORT OF LOOMIS AND GRANT:

The terms of two members of the NYS Board of Parole are about to expire in June:  Tom Grant and Deborah Loomis.  You can will read more about them in Article 6 on Parole. They're the two commissioners who voted to release Shu'aib Raheem on both of his last two parole board hearings. Along with Mary Ross, they were recently on a Parole Board that released 28 men out of 40. It appears that they share our belief that people can change and parole hearings should focus on determining whether a person is ready to live a crime free life, rather than on whether they think the judge gave a harsh enough sentence. They also appear to have studied the evidence that shows that people who have served long sentences for murder are the least likely to reoffend once they are released.  So if you share a desire to see more community ready people released, why not write a letter to Governor Paterson and urge him to reappoint Thomas Grant and Deborah Loomis to the NYS Board of Parole.  In the light of all the negative attention the decisions of these two have gotten recently, let's show the governor that even more of us think they should be rewarded for being smart on crime. If everyone who reads this call to action would write a letter, the Governor's office is sure to take notice! It's the right thing for you to do, and the right thing for the governor to do. And what do any of us have to lose?

We think the Parole Board is meant to be an evaluative body, not a punitive body.  The Court is responsible for determining the sentence, DOCS is responsible for providing opportunities for rehabilitation, and the Parole Board's challenge is to evaluate whether the incarcerated person has become ready for reentry and reintegration.  

There are certainly Board members who still think their job is to determine the length of the person's sentence.  It is very difficult to know who falls into which camp.  But if Grant and Loomis are gone, the balance may well tip to that camp.

The governor's address:  David A. Paterson, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224   
Phone: 518-474-8390

Email: Gov. Paterson
PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS. 


ALBANY:
Saturday July 24, noon - 4pm
COALITION FOR PAROLE RESTORATION (CPR) PAROLE WORKSHOP

Includes advice on the preparation of a release plan (Parole Packet) and information about the NYS Division of Parole, its policies and practices. If you have a loved one preparing for an appearance before the Board within the next year and you will be submitting a release plan, you will learn more on how you can help your loved on prepare for their appearance.

To register, please call 518 334 -8735. There is a charge of $20 which pays for the workshop, lunch, 1 year membership in CPR including a subscription to the Deuce Club newsletter, and CPR's Parole Preparation Manual. Please register soon, as space is limited to 20 people.

Location: One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Ave., Suite 1900, Albany


BRONX:
Wednesday June 30.
BRONX DEFENDERS BLOCK PARTY

Join the Bronx Defenders to celebrate our neighborhood at our annual block party. The Bronx Defenders Community Block Party is a fun, safe venue for children and community members to enjoy free food, music and entertainment, play games, participate in arts and crafts, register to vote, compete in a basketball competition, and connect with local community groups and important social service organizations.
This year, we will have performances by local groups, raffle prizes, DJ, face-painting, a pony-ride, carnival games and treats, and a moon bounce. We will provide information on our services for community members, and our partnering local community service groups will be providing medical advice and information, immigration help, affordable housing info, and much, much more! Contact Dawit Getachew, dawitg@bronxdefenders.org for more information or if your organization would like to have a table.

Location: 160th between Courtlandt and Melrose in the Bronx


BUFFALO:
Monday, June 28, 6:30-8:30pm
PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO MEETING

The next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too will celebrate the organization's fifth anniversary. What started out mainly as a community education initiative, has become an important player in the world of "prison life," especially in Western New York, educating, motivating and inspiring incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones. This meeting will afford us an opportunity to celebrate our achievements and announce plans for the future.

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


MANHATTAN:
Wednesday, June 16, 1 - 3 pm
NY REENTRY ROUNDTABLE

Viewing and Discussion of Your Rights, Your Future Preparing for Reentry, a Visual Progression produced by the Legal Action Center and the Organization for Visual Progression

Hosted by the Community Service Society of NY (CSS)
RSVP Gabriel Torres-Rivera grivera@cssny.org

Location: 105 East 22nd St, corner Park Ave So. Conf Room 4A
#6 or W/R train to 23rd St.


June 17th at 6:30PM
PREMIERE OF 'NO TOMORROW' DEATH PENALTY DOCUMENTARY

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.

Location: Walter Reade Theater of Lincoln Center in NYC


Thursday, June 24, 7:15 pm
SNEAK PREVIEW OF ADVISE & DISSENT

The first documentary to go behind the lines and into the trenches of the judicial confirmation wars. SCOTUSblog has called it "a fascinating, balanced insider look," and Politico named it "a must see." Timely and timeless, the film illuminates the collision of politics and justice.

The screening is followed by a dialogue event featuring E. Joshua Rosenkranz (Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe), Jamal Greene (Columbia Law School), filmmaker David Van Taylor, and other Special Guests. This screening is generously underwritten by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

Space is limited. An RSVP is required, by June 21: susan.lehman@nyu.edu 
 
Location: New York University, Lipton Hall 108 West Third St (between Sullivan and MacDougal Streets)


Saturday, June 26 at 1 pm
CAMPAIGN TO END THE DEATH PENALTY BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION ON:

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander, a civil rights advocate and litigator, explains that while the United States celebrates Barack Obama's election as a "triumph over race", the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status—much like their grandparents before them.  She argues that, rather than ending racial caste in America, we have simply redesigned it. She shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness.

**FIRST SESSION: READ INTRODUCTION AND CHAPTER 1** **RSVP**

Location: Hue-Man Books, 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd, (Between 124th and 125th Streets)


SAVE THE DATE 
September 25th, PRISON TO PROSPERITY FAIR
 
The Prison Ministry of the Riverside Church is sponsoring a day-long, holistic fair for formerly incarcerated men and women throughout New York City.  The fair is being held in collaboration with the Fortune Society, the Osborne Association, Exodus Transitional Community Inc., and the Think Outside the Cell Foundation.
 
The Prison to Prosperity Fair will feature a range of workshops, including those on building social networks, finding good life coaches/mentors, starting a small business, establishing good credit, battling depression, relieving stress and strengthening family ties.  There will also be information booths, plenary sessions on topics relevant to this population and speakers, including successful formerly incarcerated men and women. 
 
The idea for the Prison to Prosperity Fair was born in the visiting room of an upstate prison. Joe Robinson, who’s in his 19th year of a 25-to-life sentence, and his wife, Sheila Rule, a long-serving member of the Riverside Church Prison Ministry, grappled during some of their visits with a largely ignored problem: As the bleak economy was putting a squeeze on the dreams of most Americans, it was placing a virtual chokehold on the aspirations of the men and women being released from New York prisons and jails. Joe and Sheila decided that they had to put their concerns into action, and the result was their idea for the Prison to Prosperity Fair. The Prison Ministry, which has for more than three decades been in the business of easing the plight of men and women with prison in their backgrounds, voted unanimously to put their muscle behind the fair.
 
Please join us in making this fair a success. We encourage corporations, faith-based and community organizations, political leaders, government agencies and the general public to lend their support to this unique and important event with monetary or in-kind contributions. 
 
For more information, to contribute, to sponsor an information table/booth, or to register, please call 877-267-2303 or email resiliencemultimedia@verizon.net.
 
Location: The Riverside Church,  490 Riverside Drive, at W. 120th Street



2. CCR HAS FILED FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE CENSUS BUREAU FOR RACE AND NATIONAL ORIGIN DISCRIMINATION IN THE HIRING OF TEMPORARY WORKERS

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), co-counsel Outten & Golden and other organizations have filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the Census Bureau for race and national origin discrimination in the hiring of temporary workers. In Johnson et al. v. Locke, CCR says that the U.S. Census Bureau's practice of running job applicants' names through the FBI criminal records database-a notoriously inaccurate and incomplete database-disproportionally excludes applicants of color and deters them from completing the application process.

The class action lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Census Bureau for its alleged violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by importing discriminatory bias of the criminal justice system into its hiring practice when it denied temporary jobs to potentially thousands of individuals with criminal histories.
http://www.censusdiscriminationlawsuit.com



3. COALITION FOR FAIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICIES - REPORT ON PROGRESS OF PROPOSAL TO AMEND EXEC LAW §259-I

Exciting news! Senator Tom Duane has agreed to sponsor our bill!! We are still working with Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, who has agreed to sponsor it in the Assembly, to alleviate some of his concerns. What happens next is the bill gets sent to the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission to be put in bill form. No law may be enacted in New York State unless it has been adopted by the Legislature in bill form. Once it is introduced in the Senate, it will go to the Introduction and Revision Office, where it will be examined and corrected, given a number, sent to the appropriate standing committee, entered into the Senate computer, deemed to have had its first and second readings and printed. That's when your work will begin.

We will be asking our members to send letters and make phone calls to educate their state representatives about the changes we're asking for and persuade them to support the bill. If you don't know who represents you, there is a website where you can easily look it up: http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/

Where it says 'Find', give your street address (not a PO Box number), your city (not the state), and your Zip code. Then go down and check the boxes next to State Assembly and State Senate, and click on Enter. Give it a minute. The names of all your NY representatives will appear, starting with the Governor, then your US Senators, then a long list of demographics. Immediately below that list will be the name of your State Senator and your State Assembly Member. Clicking on their names will take you to their websites where you can find their contact information.

If you need help identifying your state representatives, feel free to call Prison Action Network at 518 253 7533. We'll help you.



 4. ICARE COMMUNITY EDUCATOR JAFAR ABBAS WAS INVITED TO THE GRACE FULL BAPTIST CHURCH IN AMITYVILLE LONG ISLAND TO SHARE A PART OF HIS STORY AT THEIR NEWLY FORMULATED STOP THE VIOLENCE PROGRAM.

I knew little about the program or its agenda, but the idea of going back to the community in which I grew up to share my story in a positive way was too good to turn down. 

The program was put together by a member of the Church who had herself been the victim of a violent attack which damaged much of her left side, leaving her unable to use her left arm. One would think her family was cursed with violence as she talked about the long string of family members who have also been victims of violence.  She wants to break the curse, if ever there was one, on her family and community.  This is why she screams at the top of her voice, “Stop the violence!“.  Her church gently gathered their support around her and on this night of speaking out against violence the Church was packed with members and concerned people from surrounding communities. There were no public officials present although they were invited; however this night wasn’t about them, it was about us speaking to and about our community.

I wish you could have seen how the program opened: a line of children came through the doors behind the pews carrying large pictures of people in the community who had been victims of violence. Some of the pictures had birth and death dates at the bottom; most of the people were young African-American men. While these pictures were being carried and placed facing the audience at the alter their names were being read, along with their bios and the act of violence they were victims of.

My heart was crushed when a ten year old girl walked to the podium with her brother, introduced herself and read a letter she had written about the things she liked doing with her father. “I liked when we would take pictures of my Mom when she was sleeping. I liked watching movies with my father we always had a big bowl of cheese puffs and my father would say if I eat too many I would turn into a cheese puff.”  She laughed, then wiped her eyes.  Her father had been killed in a drive-by shooting.

When it was my time to speak I was so taken by the stories that I feared my story was no longer relevant. I now wanted to tell them how it feels to see the pain we caused others, how I wish we could have that moment to do all over again.  The host introduced me and I got up having no idea of what I was going to say.  The room was still with silence when she handed me the microphone, and I was filled with more anxiety than I had ever felt before in front of an audience.

The first words I said to them were, “If there was a way in which 'I apologize' could be said that would take away all the hurt, all the disappointments, all the broken promises, all the let downs, the tears, the anger, the pain I born into this world, what I would give to know it.  To say it, over and over and over again, 'I apologize'.“  I then told them that what I had just recited was a poem I had written to my community while I was in Sing Sing Correctional facility and it was a blessing to be there to recite it to them in person.  I shared with them how moved I was by the pictures and their stories, and how difficult it is for me to stand before them being one of the perpetrators of the violence we were speaking out against. I told them I had planned to use this opportunity to tell them a part of my story, but apologizing to them (for myself and all those incarcerated men and women who have made, and are still making, positive changes in their lives) was far more important.

As I would like to ask any of you who are survivors of crime, I asked them for forgiveness.  And I urge survivors to take your voices, and stories, and pictures into the prisons to be seen and heard by those who need to see and hear them.

[ 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 rima@nyicare.org.]
.


5. LEGISLATION: A LIST OF BILLS WHICH ARE BEING REPORTED FOR THE FIRST TIME OR WHERE THERE HAS BEEN SOME PROGRESS TO REPORT SINCE THE MAY 15 BUILDING BRIDGES.

NEW LISTING:
A8178 Aubry / S4684 Hassell-Thompson: Allows modification of child support orders or judgments for persons whose income has been reduced due to incarceration.
1/10 Referred to Assembly's Judiciary Committee, 5/10 reported and committed to Senate's Finance Comm.

UPDATES:
A1827-A Wright/ S5846-B 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.
In Senate, on 2/25/10 amended and recommitted to Finance, printed with number S5846B.

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.
In Jan it was returned to the Assembly where it was ordered to Third Reading, which means ready for a final vote. No final vote at this time. As of 5/11/10 the bill is sitting in the Finance Committee of the Senate.

A5462 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.
This bill passed both houses and was delivered to the governor on June 4. While the Legislature is in session, the Governor has 10 days (not counting Sundays) to sign or veto bills passed by both houses. Signed bills become law; vetoed bills do not. However, the Governor's failure to sign or veto a bill within the 10-day period means that it becomes law automatically. Vetoed bills are returned to the house that first passed them, together with a statement of the reason for their disapproval. A vetoed bill can become law if two-thirds of the members of each house vote to override the Governor's veto.

We need to keep the pressure on. If you have not weighed in already, please urge the governor to sign the bill: Email Gov. Paterson.
PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS. Then call him to emphasize it: 518-474-8390.


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 in the amount of time off.
Amended 4/26, recommitted to Assembly's Corrections Comm., renumbered with a 'b'; 4/26 sent to Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, renumbered with a 'b' and committed to Codes.

A6853 Camara / S3559 Adams: Requires written notice of eligibility to vote be given upon release from prison.
On Feb 8 this bill advanced to the Order of Third Hearing in the Senate (which means ready for a final vote). There has been no final vote as of our deadline.

A8727-b Kavanaugh/ S1352-B 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.
In both houses it was amended at Third Reading and renumbered with a 'B'

The Prison Gerrymandering Bill was misidentified in the May issue. These are the correct numbers: A9834a Aubry / S6725-A Schneiderman: Directs prisoner's home address be used to define political districts. On 06/09/10 it was amended and printed with an 'a' after the number, for 'amended".



6. PAROLE NEWS: PAROLE BOARD STATISTICS; SHU'AIB RAHEEM'S RECISSION HEARING; NY TIMES ARTICLE ON PAROLE

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

Total Interviews.................. # Released........... # Denied...... Rate of Release
18 initials............................. 3 ................... 15................. 20%
87 reappearances.................. 15.................. 72 ................. 17%
105 total ............................ .. 18.................. 87................. 18%

APRIL Initial Releases
Facility ..................... Sentence .... Offense...... # of Board
Fishkill.................... 15-Life ........ Murder 2 ..... initial
Fishkill.................... 25-Life......... Murder 2 ..... initial
Woodbourne.......... 20-Life........ Murder 2 ..... initial

APRIL Reappearances
FACILITY.................. SENTENCE............ OFFENSE.... # OF BOARD
Arthurkill................... 18-Life..................... Murder 2...... 7th
Arthurkill................... 25-Life..................... Murder 2...... 2nd
Bayview.................... 20-Life..................... Murder 2...... 2nd
Fishkill..................... 15-Life..................... Murder 2...... 4th
Fishkill..................... 20-Life..................... Murder 2...... 4th
Fishkill..................... 25-Life..................... M2 2x............ 2nd
Great Meadow........ 17 ?-Life.................. Murder 2...... 4th
Great Meadow........ 20-Life..................... Murder 2...... 4th
Great Meadow........ 25-Life..................... Murder 2...... 2nd
Hudson.................... 15-Life..................... Murder 2...... 4th
Marcy........................ 20-Life..................... Murder 2...... 10th
Marcy........................ 25-Life..................... Murder 2...... 2nd
Midstate................... 15-Life..................... Murder 2...... 9th
Orleans.................... 15-Life..................... Murder 2...... 2nd
Woodbourne........... 15-Life..................... Murder 2...... 3rd


APRIL-MAY RELEASE REPORTS FROM PRISON: (Please note that the following statistics are not limited to people convicted of A1 Violent felonies - but they all are people with indeterminate sentences)

MID ORANGE
April - Ferguson, Loomis & Smith
Scheduled: 27
Postponed (by the applicants): 8
Released: 3 (no A1 Lifers)

May - Loomis, Ross & Grant
Appearances: 40
Releases: 28 (16 were A1 Lifers)

OTISVILLE
May - Loomis, Ross & Grant
Appearances: 17
Releases: 11


ON JUNE 3, SHU'AIB RAHEEM WAS GRANTED PAROLE RELEASE FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THREE YEARS.  
For readers not familiar with Shu'aib Raheem's case, here's a short synopsis.  In 1973 he and three other men tried to rob a Williamsburg sporting-goods store to get guns to defend themselves against an imminent attack they expected from a rival Muslim sect who only hours before had murdered a family belonging to Mr. Raheem's religious order.  The police showed up as the crime was taking place; one police officer was shot to death and two others were wounded before Raheem and the other 3 men surrendered after a two-day standoff.  Though it was not clear who fired the fatal shot, Mr. Raheem and his 3 codefendants were later convicted of murder, kidnapping and robbery, and Mr. Raheem received a sentence of 25 years to life.  In the following years Raheem was a model prisoner. He not only stayed out of trouble but earned college degrees and worked as a paralegal and AIDS counselor.  

Parole Hearing History: 
Shu'aib Raheem completed his minimum sentence in 1998, but was denied parole 5 times for the "nature of the crime", until 2007, when a Parole Board consisting of Tom Grant, Deborah Loomis, and Henry Lemons voted 2 -1 to release him, citing Mr. Raheem’s “clean disciplinary record since October of 1999,” his participation in a program to help young people and his “recent multiple collegiate degrees”.  This outraged the police and they lashed out, saying the victims hadn't had the opportunity to make a statement.  In response, the Parole Board offered 3 days of victim impact hearings. On Dec 26, after the initial victim hearing , Parole temporarily suspended Mr. Raheem’s release. On Feb. 2008, after the final victim hearing, Parole scheduled a rescission hearing to consider whether to revoke the parole release decision. Shu'aib took it to court but after losing in Supreme Court and subsequently also in the Appellate division, he had a rescission hearing on June 3, 2010.  

According to his lawyer, Lawrence Sterns, " the hearing lasted 7 hours with 13 witnesses, including a priest, a reverend, Imams, a prison warden and other corrections officials, a scholar of Islam among black Americans, a professor at Medgar Evers college, the CEO of a well-known advocacy organization, and family members.  It was quite stirring and dealt directly with issues of black Muslim history and its impact on Shu'aib's crime and its role in prison, and victims' emotions and the role of government in criminal justice, and the individuation of the causes of criminal acts, this one in particular, rehabilitation, and what constitutes evidence of character.  I believe it was a unique experience for all concerned. The Board seemed interested and attentive throughout the day, and made no attempt to shorten it. They were very patient and courteous, and asked questions, although I could not read their sentiments. In the end, I understand, the same two members who voted initially for release did so again, and the same dissenter dissented, but I have written this without seeing the Board's decision. Rescission hearings are unique in that there are the rights to counsel and presentation of witnesses , which are not accorded in regular parole hearings. It was held at [the facility] where Shu'aib is held, hopefully for not too much longer."

Again the response from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was filled with anger: “Every citizen should be as outraged as New York City police officers are today,” said Patrick J. Lynch, the police union president.  Senator Martin Goldin joined the call for vengeance, saying in a press release posted on his website: "We need to send a message that if you kill a police officer, your punishment will be swift, certain, and severe.”  Louis Mattarazzo, Legislative Director, NYPD Detectives and past-President of the NYPD PBA said: “Cop killers display a total disregard for human life, and now this dangerous criminal is back on our streets where he can cause even more harm.  He deserves to be behind bars for the rest of his life.”  

Gov. Paterson's spokesman Morgan Hook, in response to an accusation by Senator Goldin that Paterson coddled “hardened criminals” and that the administration had blood on its hands, said, “The two Parole Board members who voted in favor of releasing Shu'aib Raheem are Pataki appointees. Both of their terms expire this month and they will both be replaced by Gov. Paterson.  Not only does he get the facts wrong, but Sen. Goldin should be ashamed for injecting partisan politics into this tragedy.”

“I don’t understand this decision at all,” said Officer Gilroy’s widow, Patricia, in a statement provided by the police union. “My family and Steve’s family and the families of the hostages and all the police officers involved are left to wonder what exactly justice is. It sure isn’t this decision.”

Building Bridges respectfully disagrees. This decision does reflect justice, and if Senator Goldin, Pat Lynch, Louis Mattarazzo, and the Governor had ever made the effort to open their hearts and meet Shu'aib Raheem, they would not have found a hardened criminal.  There are reasons why a person who committed a violent crime should be released after serving their minimum sentence. They may have been convicted of a crime they didn't commit. Or they killed someone out of fear and desperation or self-defense, such as when a woman kills her abuser. Even people who committed terrible crimes that horrify us, even they are capable of transformation.  It is for the Parole Board to decide whether a person is ready to become a productive citizen.

What has happened to us? Where have forgiveness and compassion gone?  Where are the voices calling for real justice?  Their silence is the true tragedy of this story; we don't know what tragedy the governor was referring to in the quote above.


CONVICTED OF MURDER AS TEENAGER AND PAROLED AT 41 N.Y. TIMES ARTICLE FOLLOWS DIANA ORTIZ THROUGH 4 PAROLE HEARINGS. IN 3 OF THEM THE DECISION WAS TO DENY HER BASED ON THE NATURE OF THE CRIME. FINALLY ON THE 4TH SHE WAS RELEASED. ROBERT DENNISON WAS ON THAT 4TH BOARD. THE FOLLOWING ARE QUOTES FROM THE ARTICLE.

by Trymaine Lee, published June 4, 2010, NY Times N.Y. / region
“Many times, the parole commissioners feel differently than the judge and probably say to themselves or say to one another, ‘I don’t really care what the judge gave the person, I don’t feel comfortable letting this person out. And I am going to hold him for two more years.’ And that can go on and on and on forever.” said Mr. Dennison, who was appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki to the state’s 19-member Parole Board in 2000 and became its chairman in 2004. “I never got any direct pressure from Pataki not to let certain people out,” Mr. Dennison said, “but he did make it clear in the newspapers that he didn’t want violent felons released.” “The way it works is that you are free to make whatever decision you feel is the right decision,” he explained. “However, if you were sponsored by a particular state senator and you made a decision he didn’t like, it is conceivable that the next time you are up to be reappointed, he may not push your name to the governor.” “It is an easy job if you don’t have courage and you don’t have compassion,” he said. “Because then you really don’t care. And then it is easy to make whatever decision you want without feeling guilty, without feeling, ‘Gee, maybe I made the wrong decision.’ ”

“It’s hard, because you always hope people will just see the true you and judge you that way,” Diana Ortiz says, “Like they’ll say ‘O.K., she did this, but that’s not who she is.’ And it’s never like that.” At first she was cautiously optimistic. “I was 18 years old, first-time offense, drug use — now I have a master’s degree,” Ms. Ortiz recalled thinking. “And my role, my role in the crime: I wasn’t the actual shooter. I wasn’t actually there when it happened. So this is what I kept telling myself: ‘This is going to happen.’ But Parole denied.” After three more denials, Ms. Ortiz grew weary of the emotional roller coaster, unsure what more she could do. “I want to say all of these great things that I’m doing, this great person that I am, but how do you balance that with a life was taken?” she said. “ “He was an off-duty police officer,” Mr. Dennison said of the victim, “and, basically, people didn’t want to let her out because of that.”

In a little coffee shop in Harlem not long ago, [after she was finally released] Ms. Ortiz’s eyes were wet again after she spilled her soul. Now she, like Mr. Dennison, is helping other recently released inmates adapt, working with Exodus Transitional Community, a nonprofit group where 85 percent of the staff has served time. She completed her parole last year. “I still have those dreams of not being able to leave prison, like I’m still in there trying to get out,” Ms. Ortiz said. “I’m no longer part of the system, but I keep having them. Why am I still struggling to get out?”


7. PRISON MEDIA - ALL THINGS HARLEM, FANCY BROCCOLI, ON THE COUNT, SOUL SPECTRUM

ALL THINGS HARLEM - Graham Rayman, reporter for the Village Voice, met with All Things Harlem to discuss his series on abusive police practices and the work that allthingsharlem was doing on policing in the Harlem Community.  Here is his latest piece on this most critical issue facing communities of poor people of color; read it and pass it on, organize group discussions in your neighborhoods.   www.villagevoice.com/2010-06-08/news/

The people are beginning to take matters in their own hands; last week, in Harlem and the Bronx, there were gatherings of community organizations that held organizing meetings to form coalitions to address the problems of policing in their communities.  It is time to push back!
 
Visit us on the websites below.
Graham Rayman, grayman@VillageVoice.com
 
The People's Voice! Joseph Jazz Hayden, CEO
Still Here Harlem Productions, Inc. 212-694-2887
 
info@allthingsharlem.com;
www.allthingsharlem.com;
www.allthingsharlemproductions.blogspot.com;
www.youtube.com/allthingsharlem;


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



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