Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Friday, August 13, 2010

AUGUST 2010

THIS MONTH'S HEADLINES:

ELEVEN BILLS PAN SUPPORTED WERE PASSED AND SIGNED! (art. #6)
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE - LESSONS FROM RWANDA (art. #10)
CALL YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS IN SUPPORT OF PAROLE REFORM (art. #2)


Dear Reader:

We need to mobilize. If you care about parole reform and want the laws to reflect a change in the way the parole board makes its decisions, then please, please! get on board and call your State Senator and your State Assembly person and tell them what you want and why you want it. Don't worry about sounding like a legal expert, just speak from your heart about what is important to you. Which we imagine is a fair hearing for parole applicants, one where the Parole Board is looking, as Fr. Lemmert said they should in his statement at Shu'aib Raheem's recission hearing (see #10), "for signs of transformation in the person who committed the crime. If the person has a good institutional record, has taken advantage of educational opportunities to learn a better way of life and made positive contributions within the facility, those are good indications that a major transformation has occurred - and that the person is a good candidate for release.".

In talking to our representatives we've found that personal stories are more important than arguments. Whatever your reason is for being so passionate about parole reform, tell them. Those who believe in "locking 'em up and throwing away the key" are talking to them all the time. It's important our legislators know we also are paying attention and we vote. Let them know we'll have their backs if they have the courage to do the right thing. Which is being smart on crime! (see #2 for more details.)

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


ARTICLES
1. Activities for advocates; statewide
2. Campaign for Parole Reform
3. Castle Gardens
4. Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition
5. Job Op: Director of Reentry Institute
6. Legislation Updates
7. Parole News
8. Prison Media
9. Prisoners of the Census
10.Restorative Justice

[For copies of any document, article or legislation referred to in an article in this issue, please email your request, clearly stating name of the document and the date of the Building Bridges in which it was mentioned -Ed.]



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

Please call Governor Patterson ASAP. He has only a few more days to decide whether to sign or veto Bill S4687/A8012, the Human Rights Law Bill. Urge him to sign!

Since the July issue of Building Bridges the Legislature approved this bill which will help thousands of New Yorkers with criminal histories fight illegal discrimination! S4687/A8012 gives people with criminal histories who face discrimination from public agencies the same opportunities to seek redress for human rights violations as those facing other forms of discrimination. While this law will help all people with criminal histories find and keep jobs, it will have a particular impact on communities of color: studies have shown that people of color with criminal histories face even higher levels of discrimination in the job market. This bill will also save the state money by giving people the right to file claims administratively at the Division of Human Rights, achieving speedy results at less cost to everyone.

Get Involved! CALL (518) 474-8390.
What to say: Hello, my name is _______, and I strongly urge Governor Paterson to sign S4687/A8012.


ALBANY:
MONDAY, AUGUST 16, 7-8:30PM WHY VOTE? HOSTED BY PRISON FAMILIES OF NY
COME LEARN ABOUT EDUCATING OUR COMMUNITIES ON BEING ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. Did you know that more than 100,000 people are convicted of a felony every year in NY State? 62,300 convicted felons are currently on probation. They can vote.

RSVP: Cleo Oliver coliver@ppefny.org, 518 465 4600 x119, or 518 596-8600

Location: The Womens Building, 373 Central Ave., Albany


FRIDAY AUGUST 20, 5:30PM FAREWELL PARTY FOR CITIZEN ACTION'S SHANNA GOLDMAN
Shanna joined Citizen Action 9 years ago after completing an internship at our Binghamton Chapter. As the Capital District Organizer and then as our Statewide Organizing Director, Shanna has contributed immensely to the growth and development of our organization. We will miss her terribly. 

Please RSVP Kathleen Campbell (518) 465-4600 ext. 116 or kathleenmajellacampbell@gmail.com as soon as possible.

Location: Eldas on Lark Street


BUFFALO:
MONDAY, AUGUST 23 26, 6:30-8:30PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO MEETING
We will learn about the "Formerly Incarcerated Program," a reentry program sponsored by the WNY Independent Living Center in Buffalo,  which has been in existence since April of this year. The group currently has 7 participants who meet weekly for 2 hours. Although the program is relatively new, interest is growing.

Our guest speaker will be Mr. Ivan Ortiz, a  formerly incarcerated person who facilitates the meetings, as a "Community Benefits Peer Advisor." The  documentary film being screened is "A Hard Straight," which describes the challenges of reentry faced by parolees who are battling the possibility of recidivism.

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, Buffalo


MANHATTAN:
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH,  5-7PM COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS COMMITTEE
Parole & Probation: What you should know.
Are you on parole or probation? Do you think it is a subject worth talking about? If so, come join us in conversation.

For more information contact Stacey Thompson, Women in Prison Project Coalition Associate at: (212)254-5700 ext. 333 or via email

Location: All meetings are held at the Correctional Association of New York.
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., bet. 124th & 125th Streets, Suite 200.
Take the 2/3/A/C/B/D to 125th Street.
Metro cards available upon request for formerly incarcerated persons
who need help with transportation costs.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25TH, 9-5PM PRISON TO PROSPERITY FAIR
The Riverside Church Prison Ministry is spearheading the Prison to Prosperity Fair in order to help the formerly incarcerated reintegrate into society and have the successful lives they deserve. If you are formerly incarcerated, plan to attend this FREE day-long fair which can help you to successfully reintegrate into society!

It will feature free workshops, including: entrepreneurship, employment, education, building social networks, legal protections, battling post-prison depression & stress, dressing for success, strengthening family ties, personal finance, where to find free and cheap stuff in NYC, spirituality. There will also be free books and giveaways, free breakfast and lunch, information booths, plenary session and speakers.
 
RSVP as soon as possible. Space is limited. Call 877-267-2303 or thinkoutsidethecell@verizon.net.  

Location: The Riverside Church,  490 Riverside Drive, at W. 120th Street


SAVE THE DATE
SATURDAY OCTOBER 30, 2010, CITIZENS AGAINST RECIDIVISM, INC.

Fourth Annual Citizens Awards program at the historic Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. NYS Senate President Malcolm A. Smith will be the keynote speaker. Nominations for the awards are now being accepted. Please contact Mika'il DeVeaux for details: info@citizensinc.org.

Location: 3940 Broadway (164th and Broadway)


NEW YORK CITY
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 24 DROP THE ROCK DISTRICT DAY
Drop the Rock Coalition members will break into teams across the city and meet legislative officials in their district offices. Our aim is to show state legislators that support for closing underutilized and costly prisons is spreading and gaining more traction especially during this time of severe fiscal constraints.
 
We urge state leaders to:
• Close empty prisons
• Reform parole practices
• Fully repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws
• Expand eligibility for Work Release and Merit Time
• Invest savings in proven prison rehabilitation and community-based alternatives and prevention programs

Will we visit your legislative leader? Register no later than Tuesday Sept 7 by calling Drop the Rock at 212-254-5700.  We will work with your schedule if you are only available to take off a portion of the day.
 
If you have any questions please contact Denise Thomas at dthomas@correctionalassociation.org.



2. CAMPAIGN FOR PAROLE REFORM CALLS FOR ACTION FROM THOSE WHO WISH TO REMOVE THE NATURE OF THE CRIME FROM THE LIST OF REASONS THE PAROLE BOARD CAN USE FOR DENYING PAROLE.

Since it's too late for our proposal (see past Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies columns) to become a bill now that the legislative session is over, we will use the time before the next session, which begins in January 2011, to let our representatives know that there are A LOT of us who support being "smart on crime" and reforming our parole policies.

Instead of asking them to support our specific proposal we suggest sharing our stories about how current practices and policies are affecting us personally.

For instance, two of us from Albany visited our legislative representatives last week. We had very different personal experiences. One of us had a loved one who served time. One of us had first met a person in prison through our work. Both of us were forever changed by the experience, which showed us directly how broken the system is. We assured our representatives that they will not lose our vote by being smart on crime; and we told them about you, the members of Prison Action Network, and how many of us there are who feel the same.  

It's up to you to prove we have a lot of members. Your state Senator and Assembly person need to hear your story. You can make a call or send an email if you know who your reps are. We'll be glad to look them up for you, if you don't. All we need is your physical address. Call us at 518 253 7533, or email prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com. We'll put the info in our advocacy data base and if you would prefer to visit as a group, we'll be glad to help organize it.

If you don't do the work, it won't get done! Get your families and friends to join the Campaign for Parole Reform.



3. CASTLE GARDENS, THE FORTUNE SOCIETY'S NEW MIXED-USE, GREEN, SUPPORTIVE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMMUNITY.

With the opening of Castle Gardens this summer, Fortune is providing affordable housing and essential services at the same site, and creating long-term housing solutions for homeless people with histories of incarceration and their families, as well as low-income individuals and families from West Harlem and the greater New York area. Castle Gardens has 114 apartments available, and features an energy-efficient, green design that yields significant health and environmental benefits, and will result in significant long-term cost savings.



4. THE ERIE COUNTY PRISONERS RIGHTS COALITION (ECPRC) DOES NOT GET A VACATION.

On Saturday night, July 31, another inmate was found dead in his cell at the Erie County Holding Center - this time in a section of the jail that was not subject to the suicide prevention upgrades that most of the jail was subject to in the county's recent settlement with the US Justice Dept. In addition, there was an attempted suicide at the holding center on August 4. We do not have any particular action planned in response to this, but several folks in the media and the community have made it known that they expect to see us out IN FORCE at our weekly protests - 5 PM at the corner of Delaware and Church, outside the Holding Center, to respond to this tragedy. Please join us to strengthen our voices.

And as many of you are also aware, our fight to establish a Community Advisory Board continues in earnest after a latest setback two weeks ago, in which our resolution was sent back to committee (meaning, to be further debated by the Public Safety committee) on the day when we expected it would finally come to a vote. Despite these setbacks, we will continue meeting with, lobbying and negotiating with different legislators throughout their summer recess, and we hope that a stronger board will be the result in the fall. New figures on the Legislature have opened their ears, and we may be closer than ever. As the Justice Department continues to file new grievances, and tragedies like Saturday night's continue to unfold, we know that our issues will not be swept under the rug, and that the community's voice will be front and center in crafting solutions. - Karima Amin



5. JOB OP: THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY) ON BEHALF OF JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE IS SEEKING A NEW DIRECTOR FOR ITS PRISONER REENTRY INSTITUTE. 

As a senior staff member in a large academic or administrative department, division, or school, the new director will manage operations and administration, participate in planning and setting priorities, and oversee related projects to ensure their success. Additionally the person will

Work with management to create short- and long-term business plans, including operational, organization, and financial aspects.
Work with management and others to develop and implement operating policies and procedures.
Manage the ongoing financial, operational, and staffing activities of the department.
Manage operating budget and performs analysis and reporting to support decision-making.
Oversee legal, safety, fiscal, and other compliance requirements.
Oversee facilities, technology, and materials utilized in the department, coordinating with appropriate Campus services.
Work with other Campus or University units to coordinate and plan fund-raising, grants, marketing, communications, and outreach activities.
Independently carrie out a portfolio of responsibilities under the department's purview, such as managing committees, securing approvals, and providing communications.
Perform related duties as assigned.
  
Prisoner Reentry Institute
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
555 W. 57th Street, Suite 601
New York, NY 10019
www.jjay.cuny.edu/centersinstitutes/pri/x.asp



6. LEGISLATION: AT THE LAST MINUTE ELEVEN OF THE BILLS WE SUPPORTED WERE PASSED AND SIGNED! NEXT YEAR LET'S MAKE SURE OUR PAROLE BILL IS AMONG THOSE PASSED.

A5462 AUBRY/S2233 MONTGOMERY ADOPTION & SAFE FAMILIES ACT (ASFA) EXPANDED DISCRETION BILL: The new law gives discretion to foster care agencies to make decisions on case-by-case bases regarding termination of parental rights when a parent is incarcerated or in a court-ordered drug treatment program. 
 
S5570-A HASSELL-THOMPSON / A8952 WEINSTEIN CHILD SUPPORT BILL – Courts now have the authority to modify a child support order when there is a reduction in income due to incarceration.  Up until now, incarceration was considered “willful” unemployment, and therefore not grounds for a reduction in child support payments (despite the obvious reduction in income).
 
S7945-A ADAMS / A11177-A JEFFRIES LIMITING STOP & FRISK DATA: The bill stops the NYPD from compiling a database of those not even arrested or given a summons after being stopped, questioned, and frisked. They may collect information concerning where a stop and frisk occurs, or generic information about those stopped (race, sex, physical features), but they may not enter into an electronic database any personal information, such as the name, social security number, or address, of INNOCENT individuals who are stopped but released without further action.

EIGHT REENTRY BILLS WERE SIGNED INTO LAW IN THE BUDGET PROCESS:

o   VOTER EDUCATION – state criminal justice agencies (like DOCS and Parole) now must notify eligible voters of their right to vote and facilitate registration
o   ALCOHOL & BEVERAGE CONTROL BILL – removes the ban on people with felony convictions working in most establishments with liquor licenses (like restaurants, hotels, convention centers, etc.)  
o   DOCS LOOK-UP BILL – people who have been in DOCS custody will have their names expunged from the “inmate look-up” after five years (till now it’s been 99 years)
o   FREE COPY OF RAP SHEET FOR PEOPLE IN PRISON OR JAIL
o   FREE COPY OF BIRTH CERTIFICATE to be issued to anyone in DOCS or OCFS custody
o   COPY OF PRE-SENTENCE REPORT for People Going Before Parole Board
o   CERTIFICATE EQUIVALENCY BILL and FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT DECISIONS ON CERTIFICATES OF RELIEF FROM DISABILITIES – The first fixed a technical problem with Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct.  The second ensures that the Board of Parole will issue Certificates sought in Federal Court when recommended by the district’s chief probation officer.
o   PRISON-BASED GERRYMANDERING BILL -ensures that incarcerated persons will be counted as residents of their home communities when state and local legislative districts are redrawn in New York next year. The measure, already passed by the Assembly, was included in the budget package that Governor Paterson signed
 
WE DON'T USUALLY COVER FEDERAL LEGISLATION BUT THE FOLLOWING BILL WOULD HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON THE ENTIRE U.S. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM SO IT BEARS WATCHING. THE NATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMMISSION ACT 2010:

Many criminal justice reform advocates support the passage of Federal Bill S.714 / H.R. 5143, sponsored by Senator Jim D. Webb [VA]. The bill, which passed the U. S. Legislative Judiciary Committee, will establish a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. The commission will propose a wide range of reforms designed to responsibly reduce the overall incarceration rate, improve federal and local responses to international and domestic gang violence, and restructure our approach to drug policy. In addition, the commission will propose to improve mental illness treatment and prison administration, and establish a system for reintegrating people post-incarceration.



7. PAROLE NEWS: JUNE AND JULY RELEASES, LCTA RELEASES, BACKGROUNDS OF 3 MORE PAROLE COMMISSIONERS

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

JUNE
TOTAL INTERVIEWS .........# RELEASED.....# DENIED......RATE OF RELEASE

16 initials...........................4.................... 12.................. 25%
132 reappearances....................27.................. 105............... 20%
148 Total............................31.................. 117............... 21%

JUNE INITIAL RELEASE
Facility..................... Sentence................ Offense

Arthurkill............. 17 ?-Life.................. Murder 2
Fishkill................25-Life...................... Murder 2
Mid Orange............. 25-Life...................... Murder 2
Otisville.............. 16 ?-Life.................. Murder 2

JUNE REAPPEARANCES
Facility..................... Sentence.... Offense....... # of Board

Arthurkill.................. 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Bare Hill.................. 17-Life.......... Murder 2...... 7th or 8th
Bedford Hills........... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 4th
Cape Vincent.......... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 4th
Cayuga.................... 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 7th
Coxsackie............... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th
Eastern.................... 25-Life.......... Mpre74&K1. 7th? ***
Franklin.................... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 11th
Gouverneur............. 10-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Gouverneur............. 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 7th
Green Haven.......... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd *
Groveland................ 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 7th
Groveland................ 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Groveland................ 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Hudson.................... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Mid Orange............. 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 4th
Mid Orange............. 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Mid Orange............. 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Mid Orange............. 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Mid Orange............. 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Otisville.................... 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th
Woodbourne........... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd *
Woodbourne........... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Woodbourne........... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Woodbourne........... 17-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Woodbourne........... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th
Woodbourne........... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th
*For Deportation
***Reinstate

JULY Total Interviews...... # Released............. # Denied...... Rate of Release

14 initials......................................... 0.................... 14.................. 0%
82 reappearances......................... 16.................. 66.................. 20%
96 Total............................................ 16.................. 80.................. 17%


JULY Initial Releases -0-

JULY Reappearances
Facility..................... Sentence.... Offense....... # of Board

Cayuga.................... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd
Fishkill..................... 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 4th
Fishkill..................... 20-Life.......... Murder pre-74...10th??
Groveland................ 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Groveland................ 25-Life.......... Murder pre-74....8th
Groveland................ 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 9th
Mid Orange............. 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 4th
Mid Orange............. 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 6th
Mid Orange............. 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Mt. McGregor........... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 8th
Otisville.................... 15-Life.......... Murder 2...... 3rd
Sing Sing................. 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 4th
Sullivan.................... 25-Life.......... Kidnap 1...... 5th
Walsh Med Ctr........ 17-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th
Walsh Med Ctr........ 20-Life.......... Murder 2...... 5th
Walsh Med Ctr........ 25-Life.......... Murder 2...... 2nd


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
July - Brown, Ross, Hagler
Appearances: 23
Releases: 4 (2 A-1s).


LCTA CERTIFICATES: In May, of the 6 releases at their initial hearing, 2 had LCTA certificates.


LAST MONTH WE PUBLISHED THE BACKGROUNDS OF 10 PAROLE COMMISSIONERS. Nine of them had law enforcement backgrounds. Since then we have uncovered the backgrounds of 3 others, bringing the total we know about to 13, 11 of whom have law enforcement backgrounds.

PAT GALLIVAN: a former Erie County Sheriff, appointed by Pataki. He has also been a state trooper, and currently has his own private investigation firm.

GERRY GREENAN: comes from a prominent family in West Seneca; was appointed by Governor George Pataki; is an attorney at the prominent law firm of Harris, Beach in the Commercial Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, and Life & Asset Planning Practice Groups. .

WALTER SMITH of Clarence: appointed to two terms by Pataki, was a senior investigator for the state's Crime Victims Board.



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

ALL THINGS HARLEM - I covered a recent Democratic fundraiser in Harlem where I had a chance to get the views of Harlem residents on the ethics charges lodged against Congressman Charlie Rangel.  The result is posted on www.youtube.com/allthingsharlem.  You can add your comments to this video.  Mainstream media has not shown an interest in how we feel about the Congressman, who we elected.  Your thoughts are invited. - Jazz

The People's Voice! Joseph Jazz Hayden, CEO Still Here Harlem Productions, Inc. 212-694-2887 
info@allthingsharlem.com
www.allthingsharlem.com
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


9. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS: ON AUG 3, THE NYS LEGISLATURE PASSED A BILL THAT PUTS AN END TO PRISON BASED GERRYMANDERING, WHAT A TERRIFIC WIN! 

NEW YORK TO CORRECT MISCOUNT OF INCARCERATED PEOPLE, BY PETER WAGNER

New law caps decade-long effort to improve fairness and accuracy of data used for state and local redistricting.

The New York State Senate passed legislation ensuring that incarcerated persons will be counted as residents of their home communities when state and local legislative districts are redrawn in New York next year. The measure, already passed by the Assembly, was included in the budget package that Governor Paterson signed.

Padding legislative districts with prison populations artificially enhances the weight of a vote cast in those districts at the expense of all districts that do not contain a prison.

The bill would use data from the department of corrections to identify the home addresses of incarcerated persons and include them in the population counts for those areas prior to redistricting. Because the bill does not change the core Census data, no federal funding based on Census data would be affected. The bill will affect state senate, state assembly, county and municipal districting in the state that will begin in 2011.

“New York State has joined Maryland and Delaware in passing legislation to correct a serious deficiency in the way incarcerated people have been counted. These states are ensuring that state, county, and municipal districts will be drawn fairly, and they are sending a powerful message to the Census Bureau that counting incarcerated people as residents of the correctional facility needs to change,” said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

The problem of prison-based gerrymandering is national. Prison-based gerrymandering was not a serious problem when the prison population was tiny, but the 2010 Census will find five times as many people in prison as it did just three decades ago.

“Prison-based gerrymandering is wrong because incarcerated persons do not make their ‘home’ in the prison town in any meaningful sense; they are not permitted to interact with the prison town and they almost always return to their pre-incarceration community upon completion of sentence, on average within 34 months. New York’s decision to count incarcerated people at home for districting purposes will at last bring the state’s redistricting practices in line with the New York Constitution’s declaration that a prison is not a residence,” said Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos.

The Prison Policy Initiative and Demos have a national project to end prison-based gerrymandering, advocating for the Census Bureau and state and local governments to count incarcerated persons at their home residences. In 2002, the Prison Policy Initiative published an analysis of prison-based gerrymandering in New York. In 2005, the Second Circuit drew attention to the potential for unlawful vote dilution created by the practice, relying on an amicus brief filed by Demos and the Prison Policy Initiative. That same year, Senator Schneiderman proposed the first bill in New York to count incarcerated people at home.

While it is too late for the Census Bureau to alter its count of incarcerated individuals for the 2010 Census, the Bureau recently announced the accelerated release of national prison count data. Those figures will more

readily allow states to adjust their prisoner counts in time for state and local redistricting efforts in 2011. And the reforms passed in New York, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as the over 100 counties nationwide that already remove prison populations from their population counts for redistricting purposes, should help build momentum for the Census Bureau to alter its count on a nationwide basis prior to the next decennial census.



10. RESTORATIVE JUSTICE - FR. RONALD LEMMERT, THE CATHOLIC CHAPLAIN AT SING SING FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS, WRITES ELOQUENTLY OF HIS EXPERIENCE WITH ANOTHER WAY OF DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE COMMITTED CRIMES.

The following comes from Fr. Lemmert's testimony at Shu'aib Raheem's recission hearing:

I had an opportunity to go with several other NY State Chaplains to Rwanda in Central Africa a few years ago to tour their prisons. While there I met a Prison Warden whose entire family had been slaughtered in the Rwanda Genocide in 1994. The majority of the 6000 people in her prison had participated in the Genocide, including one young man who had raped and killed her sister. One day, that young man asked her if she could possibly forgive him. She said she had to forgive him, because it was the only way she could find any peace. She then summarized her whole prison philosophy by saying "Because these people have committed such atrocious acts, they need to be treated with a lot of love so that they can be transformed."

Their country is too poor to afford the luxury of locking people up forever. Instead they focus on rehabilitation so their criminals can be transformed into productive members of society. When that transformation is complete they are released. I think it is worth noting that their recidivism rate is extremely low, so it must be working!

I think the people of Rwanda have a lot to teach us. When we continually dwell on retribution, we are not doing the victims' families any favors. Instead we serve as "enablers" - prolonging their misery by keeping them locked in the past. I think the victims' impact statements prove that point. If they are still that traumatized after 37 years, perhaps that is because our system doesn't allow them to heal. Stirring them up every 2 years for parole hearings serves to rip old wounds open time after time.

No one can ever change the past. But we don't have to remain prisoners of it. That Prison Warden in Rwanda chose not to remain a prisoner of her past- and now she is free and happy and at peace, in spite of the horrors she experienced when her entire family and extended family were wiped out. It didn't bother her when the person who killed her sister was released from prison, because she was already living in peace.

She was not the only person in Rwanda to make this discovery. Immediately after the genocide, their new government quickly realized that pursuing retaliation would eventually led to more killing, perhaps even to another genocide. Inspired by the example of South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote No Future Without Forgiveness, the government of Rwanda recognized the necessity of forgiveness and reconciliation if they were ever to find peace. I spoke with numerous survivors throughout the country who got tired of feeling miserable from being filled with hatred and bitterness - who eventually found peace through forgiveness .

I think we owe it to our own crime victims' families to show them a better way of dealing with their pain and anger, so they too can find peace and be free. If keeping Shu'aib locked up for the past 37 years has not helped yet, I seriously doubt if more time will ever make any difference. But I do not believe people in such pain are capable of objectively evaluating how much time is required or is appropriate to repay them for their suffering. That's why we have a Parole Board! Instead of focusing on the pain, which never goes away until the person is ready to let go of it, the Parole Board should be looking for signs of transformation in the person who committed the crime. If the person has a good institutional record, has taken advantage of educational opportunities to learn a better way of life and make positive contributions within the facility, those are good indications that a major transformation has occurred - and that the person is a good candidate for release.


Building Bridges is the monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network.
For information about joining, please contact us at PrisonActionNetwork@gmail.com
or call 518 253 7533

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