Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DECEMBER 2010

Happy Holidays To You and Your Loved Ones!


Dear Reader,

December is a month when almost everyone is celebrating something. There is Hanukkah from Dec 1-9; the Winter Solstice, full moon, and total lunar eclipse on Dec 21, Christmas on Dec 25, and New Year's Eve on Dec 31. And of course we have just had Thanksgiving. So you probably have, or will have, celebrated something before we meet again. I wish you moments of grace and peace during those celebrations and I wish we could celebrate together. Because you may not know this, but I consider you my large extended family. I was at a gathering recently where a woman introduced herself as the wife of one of our members and I squealed in delight, "Oh I know him, he's a member of Prison Action Network! Please tell him I send my best regards." Now I don't know her husband well, but I see his name on an envelope every month, and I believe he may have written us a letter or two in the many years he's been a member. My heart sang when I heard his name. I consider him family. That makes you my family, and his, as well. And isn't that the truth that we so often forget? The truth that all of us are related through our human natures. Each of us benefits when any one of us benefits. Therefore let us go forward into 2011 struggling to be the best person we each can be, so that all peoples everywhere may become more just, compassionate, and humble. So be it!

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


IN MEMORY

Jules Plevy, 57, died on 6/18/10, approximately 1 month before his 5th parole board hearing. He was from NYC. He had been in prison since 1977.

Placido S. Rosa, age 62, from the Bronx, died on 10/23/10, 3 years before his first parole appearance. Mr. Rosa had been in prison since 1989.

We are sorry to lose these members of our PAN family.


Index of Articles:

1. Activism: actions, meetings and events
2. Buffalo’s Jerry Balone inspires students
3. Introducing the In Your Face Movement
4. The New Jim Crow, Chapter 2 quotes
5. Lifers and Longtermers Clearinghouse by Larry Luqman White
6. NYS Parole Reform Campaign - time to take 2 steps forward!
7. Parole news, including Graziano update

[For copies of any document, article or legislation referred to, or excerpted from, in this issue, please contact PAN with a request clearly stating name of the document and the date of the Building Bridges in which it was seen -Ed.]


1. ACTIVISM: ACTIONS, MEETINGS AND EVENTS HAPPENING AROUND THE STATE THIS MONTH:

ACTIONS
MAKING THE ACQUAINTANCE OF THE STATE LEGISLATORS WHO REPRESENT YOU.

The NYS legislature has two "houses": the Senate and the Assembly.  We all have one of each, a Senator and an Assembly person, representing us.  Let's make sure they do.

You can find out who they are by visiting http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/. Below the map is a place to write your address. Use standard abbreviations, as in: 54 W 152 St, New York 10021. Don’t click on “find” yet. Instead go down to where State Assembly is checked off. Leave that checked, and also check off State Senate. Then go back up to the address line and click on “find”. Give it a minute. The information in the right hand column will change.

Below 'US Congressional District demographics' your State Senator will be listed, with links to their contact info; then you will have to scroll down past your 'State Senate District demographics' to get to your State Assembly person.  You are looking for your State Senator, not our US Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand.  Don’t let that confuse you.

Please keep the information in a place you won't forget. You'll need to use it frequently if we are to win this or any other criminal justice struggle.
 
This is the first step the NYS Parole Reform Campaign is asking you to take. [see article 6 for the next step]


EVENTS:
MANHATTAN:
COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS’ CWP HOLIDAY RADIO SPEAK-OUT AND FUNDRAISER
Saturday, December 18, 11 am - 4 pm

Do you have an incarcerated loved one? Do you care about reforming the criminal justice system?
Call and speak out for justice! You will be able to send a shout out to someone you know on the inside and hear how the Coalition for Women Prisoners’ committees are working on issues that impact our lives and communities.
You can also engage in some holiday networking, make connections, share ideas and be festive.

For more info call Stacey Thompson
212 252 5700 x333 or send an email.


SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 6:30 - 9:30 PM IN YOUR FACE MOVEMENT PRESENTS....
THE NYC AWARENESS RALLY PART III - PAROLE BOARD HEARINGS
(Identifying the Problem and Devising the Solution)
 
Many could care less regarding the ills of the Prison Industry, let alone the injustice taking place at the Parole Board Hearings.  This is mainly in part because many are uneducated in this arena and the other sad truth is that many just do not care.
 
The In Your Face Movement has put together a series of Awareness Rallies regarding this sick system to expose and shed light on how families - human beings, are being devastated by this plague.  Injustice at Parole Board hearings is taking place at a record level - this needs to be exposed and the troops need to be rallied as we press forward to create change. And create change we will.
 
Our Rally on January 15th will focus around this specific epidemic regarding Parole Board hearings.  We will hear from individuals who were and some who STILL ARE incarcerated, who have been affected by continuous Parole Board Denials based on the nature of the crime. We will also hear stories from the family members who are having their lives rerouted by such injustice when their loved ones are 'resentenced' at these hearings.
 
The IYF movement is blessed to have guest speaker Judith Brink from PAN as she shares her passion and plan to right the injustices that, with the efforts of her and her team, will set so many free.

If you have a story you would like to share, email us at informreform@aol.com. Please come, and encourage your families to join us for our In Your Face Awareness Rally Part III. FREE Admission.

Location: Pearl Studios 500 Eighth Avenue (rm 1204) (btw 35th & 36th St) NYC 10018


MEETINGS:
ALBANY:
EVERY MONDAY 7-8:30 PM PRISON FAMILIES OF NY SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS
We Help Each Other! Location: 373 Central Avenue Albany
For information contact Alison 518-453-6659

EVERY TUESDAY AT 6PM P-MOTIONS (PROGRESSIVE MEN OPERATING TOWARDS INITIATING OPPORTUNITIES NOW)
A men's support group which meets weekly at the SEFCU building, 388 Clinton Ave (look for the bright red roof). Facilitation shared by Sam Wiggins, Monroe Parrott and Malik Rivera.  For information call Malik at 518 445-5487.


BROOKLYN:
EVERY WEDNESDAY AT 5:30PM VOCAL PAROLEES ORGANIZING PROJECT
Visit www.VotingRightsForNewYork.org and join us to build power among people who are formerly incarcerated to reduce mass incarceration and fight discrimination against people with criminal records. For more info call 917 676-8041, or write. www.nycahn.org. Location: 80A 4th Ave. in Brooklyn


BUFFALO:
EVERY WEDNESDAY FROM 5-6 PM ERIE COUNTY PRISONERS RIGHTS COALITION DEMONSTRATION
in front of the Erie County Holding Center, corner of Delaware and Church, in Buffalo.
Stand for ending abuse.

PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO
Meets the last Monday of every month, but PRP2 has never met in the month of December, and this year will be no different.
This is a very busy time but also a time for reaffirmation and rededication.
When we meet again on Monday, January 31, 2011, my hope is that we will return with renewed vigor and commitment to positive change.

Peace...Love...Strength! Happy New Year!
Karima Amin and George BaBa Eng
Buffalo, NY

"God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through." (Anonymous)


LONG ISLAND:
TUESDAY DECEMBER 28 AND JANUARY 11, AT 7:30PM PRISON FAMILIES ANONYMOUS (PFA) SUPPORT GROUP

The PFA Support Group provides a safe, nonjudgmental place where those in similar situations can connect with each another. It provides compassion, support and information to family members during their very difficult times. For more information, please contact: Barbara: 631- 943-0441 or Sue; 631-806-3903

Location: Community Presbyterian Church
1843 Deer Park Ave., Deer Park, NY


MANHATTAN:
COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS’ JANUARY MEETING SCHEDULE

Weds, January 12, 5-7pm Coalition Meeting - New Members at 4:30pm
[Please join us in giving Serena Alfieri a special farewell, as she continues her social justice work at her former organization, the Long Island Progressive Coalition].

Friday January 28, 4:30-6pm Conditions and Reentry Committee (and every 4th Friday of the month)

Thursday January 6, 10:30-12noon Incarcerated Mothers Committee

Thursday January 13, 5:30-7 Violence Against Women Committee

Stacey Thompson, Women in Prison Project Coalition Associate. 212 254 5700 x 333. or sthompson@correctionalassociation.org

All meetings are held at the CA of NY
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd, 124-125, Suite 200
2/3/A/C/B/D to 125th st.


EVERY FRIDAY 6-9PM - RIVERSIDE CHURCH BOOK STUDY GROUP - THE NEW JIM CROW, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Washington (see article #4)
For information on the study group contact Rev. Alison Alpert (abalpert@gmail.com); Jazz Hayden (jhayden512@aol.com), 917-753-3771; Larry White (lw77a3272@yahoo.com), 646-796-4203.

Location: Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave, (north of 120th St , one blk west of Bdwy.)
Ask at the front desk for directions to Room 10T in the MLK Building


NIAGARA FALLS:
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 6-7:30PM NIAGARA PRISON FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP
For further information and to leave a confidential message: Claudia 236-0257 or
e-mail niagarafamilies@aol.com

Location: Niagara Falls Public Library 1425 Main St. 2nd fl.



2. BUFFALO'S JERRY BALONE INSPIRES STUDENTS. FROM A PRISON CELL TO A PODIUM, FORMER CONVICT SHARES THE REALITY OF A LIFE SPENT BEHIND BARS

Excerpts from an article in Buffalo Law Journal & Buffalo Business First.
Mon, Nov 22nd by Matt Chandler [mchandler@bizjournals.com]:

Jerry Balone stands off to the side, largely unnoticed by the more than 80 high school freshmen filing into the Niagara Falls High School amphitheater. The group is chatty - some are laughing and sharing stories while others are busy texting. It takes just two sentences from Balone to get their attention and hold them in rapt silence for the next hour.

"On Aug. 17, 2007, I was released from prison after serving 37 and a half years in 17 prisons across New York state," he says. "I served 37 and a half years because I killed three people during a robbery." Balone delivers the words with the practiced measure of a man who has told his story many times. But on this day, with the students hearing it for the first time from the man with the dark, probing eyes and an imposing physique that belies his age, a stunned silence falls over the room. Their faces show shock, disbelief and what someone later described as morbid curiosity.

Balone says he isn't worried about how students react to his story, as long as he gets their attention. He wants to reach them with his message of making good personal choices - better than the ones he made that led to his first arrest at age 8. Balone had already served 3 1/2 years in prison when he murdered three people during a home invasion on April 24, 1973. He was originally sentenced to a term of 50 years to life in prison with a recommendation he never be released. "When I speak to a group, I know they aren't all going to embrace what I'm saying and love me," the 59-year-old Balone says after the presentation. "Some of them may advocate for my death; others may think I should still be in prison. But I want all of them to hear what I have to say."

So what does he have to say? That the lifestyle he led prior to his imprisonment was about gangs, drugs, crime sprees and eventually murder - and that it can happen to anyone. He grew up on the rough streets of East Buffalo, abandoned at birth and raised in a series of orphanages, foster homes and, eventually, reform schools. And now, here he is addressing a group of suburban teens. He quickly clears up any notion that his experiences can't happen to them because of their ZIP code. "I tell them that every prison I was in, there were plenty of these little suburban kids coming in all the time," he said. "Most of them are there for drug offenses, and once you are inside, it don't matter where you are from."

"These kids have no idea what prison life is like," he says. "I try my best to show them that you don't want to be the person I was, and prison isn't a place anyone wants to end up."

"People say to me all the time, ‘Well, if you reach just one person in the room, you've made a difference.' I don't do this to reach one student," he says. "I do it to reach every one of them."



3. IN YOUR FACE IS NEW TO PAN. WE WERE FORTUNATE TO BE INVITED TO SPEAK AT THEIR SECOND RALLY AND PLEASED THAT THE PARTICIPANTS THEY ATTRACTED WERE VERY RECEPTIVE TO OUR PRESENTATION ON EVALUATION NOT PUNISHMENT, THE PROPOSAL TO REFORM PAROLE (Art. 6). WE ENCOURAGE OUR READERS AND THEIR FAMILIES TO ATTEND THE FEB 15 IN YOUR FACE RALLY III, DESCRIBED IN ARTICLE 1, UNDER EVENTS.

In Your Face has lived in the heart of Sheneese Starr for over 4 years now, however the movement didn't begin to move until she was directly affected by this sick system; specifically the Division of Parole.  When her loved one was 'hit' at the board, it didn't take long for her to decide to do something and play a part in not only his release, yet moreso to spread the awareness of this epidemic that plagues so many families. 
 
The In Your Face Movement was birthed out of injustice yet it lives to create justice for so many.  The purpose and mission of IYF is to bring about the Awareness of this Prison Industry, this Prison BUSINESS on ALL levels.  We believe that until awareness and consciousness take place, no true change will take place. IYF has been charged to open the eyes and minds of the many whom this plague infects.  When it is time to activate and implement change, supporters must be in place in large numbers; it is our duty to make sure our force is as great as the one we are revealing. 
 
There are many organizations engaged in this struggle and each one is needed collectively for the greater good.  In Your Face is a MOVEMENT; the foundation for all change is AWARENESS. This is what we feel called to do; inspire true awareness for people to in turn evaluate and then change their own way of thinking regarding this epidemic.  People must first be made aware of the fact that there IS a problem; why it's a problem, how the problem affects them/us and what they/we can do as a body of people - a collective unified force who refuse to be silenced.  Until this is done, no true support nor change will take place.
 
IYF is indeed taking strides toward being the New Civil Rights Movement.  In Your Face is only the beginning in rehabilitating a hurt nation and the sleeping, seemingly careless minds within it!  If one can not FEEL the pain, very few will be moved to remove the pain.

Peace, Unity & Progress



4. THE NEW JIM CROW. MICHELLE WASHINGTON’S BOOK, THE NEW JIM CROW, INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS, QUOTATIONS FROM CHAPTER 2, THE LOCKDOWN.

"Rules of law and procedure, such as "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt' or 'probable cause' or 'reasonable suspicion,' can easily be found in court cases and law-schools textbooks but are much harder to find in real life." p. 59

"Once arrested, one's chances of ever being truly free of the system of control are slim, often to the vanishing point. Defendants are typically denied meaningful legal representation, pressured by the threat of a lengthy sentence into a plea bargain, and then placed under formal control - in prison or jail, on probation or parole. Most Americans probably have no idea how common it is for people to be convicted without ever having the benefit of legal representation, or how many people plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because of fear of mandatory sentences." p 83.

"Even Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has condemned the harsh mandatory minimum sentences imposed on drug offenders. ...'Our [prison] resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too loaded.'...' I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences.'" p.91



5. LIFERS AND LONGTERMERS CLEARINGHOUSE: LARRY WHITE AND THE HOPE LIVES FOR LIFERS GROUP HAVE DEVELOPED A REINTEGRATION PROGRAM CONCEPT CONSISTING OF A SERIES OF STUDY GROUP/WORKSHOPS THAT ADDRESS PARTICULAR REINTEGRATION NEEDS OF INCARCERATED INDIVIDUALS PREPARING FOR RELEASE.  THE PROGRAM HOPES TO OPERATE THE FOLLOWING STUDY GROUP/WORKSHOPS:
 
Exodus New Life Agenda Study Group (operational)
Planning for the Future workshop (in development)
Community Reconciliation Workshop (in development)
Personal Development Workshop (in development)
Undoing Racism Workshop (in development)
 
'Reentry' is not a qualitative term, but simply refers to the process of leaving prison and returning to society.  While every person released from custody undergoes reentry, not all are successfully 'reintegrated'.
 
'Reintegration' is a term we use to describe a process resulting in outcomes that include increased participation in social institutions such as the labor force, families, communities, schools, and religious institutions. Unfortunately, many men and women who reenter society do so with unresolved substance abuse problems, a substandard education, and a general lack of resources - or a genuine lack of will - to truly reintegrate.
 
The social value of reintegration is measured by a formerly incarcerated person's ability to contribute to the support of their family, provide a healthy environment for their children and enhance the positive human resources in the community.  To accomplish these ends, the community must examine and implement effective interventions that could help them on the path to productive citizenship.
 
The Hope Lives for Lifers Reintegration Program is designed to address the need for community-based services and support for incarcerated individuals who require assistance with post-prison adjustment to the free-world community.  The stigma of incarceration and the psychological residue of institutionalization require active and programmed community intervention both at the pre-release and post-release stages of imprisonment. 
 
The Primary objectives of the Hope Lives for Lifers Reintegration Program are:
 To improve the life options of incarcerated individuals,
 To address problems of post-prison adjustment to free-world communities,
 To develop a strong and abiding sense of community. 
 
The Hope Lives Reintegration Program utilizes the Empowerment Approach, Re-socialization and the Community Integration Process to achieve its program objectives.  
 
by Larry Luqman White, director of Hope Lives for Lifers



6. NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN - PEOPLE, IT'S TIME TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE! FIRST: LEARN WHO YOUR LEGISLATORS ARE, SECOND: CONTACT THEM; ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS, WE'RE ASKING YOUR PUBLIC SUPPORT OF EVALUATION NOT PUNISHMENT, THE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL TO REFORM THE PAROLE PROCESS SO THAT PAROLE APPLICANTS ARE FAIRLY EVALUATED INSTEAD OF BEING PUNISHED WITH REPEATED AND UNJUSTIFIABLE PAROLE DENIALS. AS OF PUBLICATION, 28 ORGANIZATIONS HAVE STATED THEIR SUPPORT. LET US KNOW IF YOU WILL JOIN THEM.

Step one was finding out who your legislators are.
Step Two is talking to them.

You pay their salaries; they work for you. It's time they got to meet you! Start where it's easiest; with a letter or an email, perhaps. Then graduate to a phone call. Eventually you will need to visit them, and they have an office in your neighborhood just for that purpose. You need to become very familiar to your legislators or their Criminal Justice aide. Aides often have a lot of influence on the legislator and are not to be thought of as second best.

So what will you talk about?  I suggest asking them to help get your loved one out of prison.  It never gets us anywhere to tell them what to do.  That only creates an argument about how impossible our request is.  But if you tell them about the hardships of having a loved one in prison, and the heartbreak of having your loved one denied parole every two years for the nature of their crime when you are convinced they are ready to come home and contribute to your household and the community, how can they argue with that?  Share the details.  Bring pictures.  If they say they can't help you, talk to your family and friends and think of another approach and go back again, maybe with your family and ask the question again:  "how can you help get our loved one home?"   You want them to recognize your name and your issue, and to realize there are human beings behind the labels 'prisoner' and 'criminal', and 'prison family'.  Just like we need to show DOCS our loved ones have people on the outside who are watching out for them, you need to let your legislator know that you are watching what they do, and your vote will depend on how well they represent your interests.

Who are your legislators? You can find out who they are by visiting http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/. Below the map is a place to write your address. Use standard abbreviations, as in: 54 W 152 St, New York 10021. Don’t click on “find” yet. Instead go down to where State Assembly is checked off. Leave that checked, and also check off State Senate. Then go back up to the address line and click on “find”. Give it a minute. The information in the right hand column will change.

Below 'US Congressional District demographics' your State Senator will be listed, then you will have to scroll down past your 'State Senate District demographics' to get to Assembly person. You are looking for your State Senator, not your US Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand. Don’t let that confuse you.

Why are you talking to them?  Because in order to get a Senator and an Assembly person to sponsor the bill, which is required before it can be voted on, there needs to be enough support amongst the rest of the legislators to get it passed.   Senators and Assembly members don't like to sponsor bills that don't get passed.  There's no glory in that.  And they are busy working on many issues besides our own, so they don't always make the effort to get the support.  They expect us to do that.  And that's what you're doing when you talk to your representatives.  You're softening their hearts, and showing them they have constituents who care about such things, so that they will see it's in their best interest to support our bill.  Eventually you will want to get their signature saying they'll support it.  With those signatures in our hands, we'll have a much easier time finding a sponsor. If they ask a question you don't know how to answer, tell them you'll get back to them. Then be sure to do so. The Campaign will supply you with documents you can use to answer any of their questions.


LETTER OF SUPPORT FROM ORGANIZATIONS:
Evaluation Not Punishment, a proposal to reform parole

At the core of this reform is the need to redefine the role of the Parole Board as an evaluative one. We are committed to reforms that require that parole applicants who have served their minimum sentences be evaluated on their readiness for reentry.

Changing the parole board’s responsibility from deciding the length of sentence to evaluating an individual’s readiness to remain at liberty without breaking the law will bring the parole statute into alignment with Penal Law §1.05, which was amended in 2006 to add a fifth sentencing goal to these existing four: 1. Punishment (retribution), 2. Deterrence, 3. Incapacitation, 4. Rehabilitation. The fifth goal is this: Promotion of Successful and Productive Reentry and Reintegration into Society.

Under New York State's sentencing scheme, the Judiciary, the Department of Corrections, and the Division of Parole play different and distinct roles to achieve the five sentencing goals outlined in Penal Law §1.05—by either imposing or carrying out the penal sentence.

The Judiciary, when imposing sentences, is responsible for considering all of the sentencing goals contained in Penal Law §1.05, including the seriousness of the crime and criminal history.

The Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), along with the Parole Board, is responsible for carrying out the judicial sentence, post-conviction. It implements the penal sentence. In doing so, incapacitation, rehabilitation, reentry and reintegration fall within its purview.

The Parole Board has the post-sentencing functions of determining rehabilitation and readiness for reentry and reintegration. It must evaluate the sentenced person's progress while incarcerated and specify in detail what is expected of the parole applicant in the future.

Although the Parole Board's implementation of discretionary parole release is not without shortcomings, it is necessary and can be an effective complement to our new awareness of the importance of promoting successful reentry and reintegration into society. In order to modernize and revitalize the functioning of the Parole Board, reform of the procedures the board follows are in order. At the core of this reform is a need to redefine the role of the Parole Board as an evaluative one. The critical question is whether the parole applicant is ready for reintegration. The sentencing goals of punishment (retribution) and deterrence are the sole purview of the judiciary, as described in the current sentencing scheme.

In addition, focusing on the readiness for reentry instead of the nature of the crime and the punishment can lead to substantial cost savings for taxpayers. The nature of the crime is now the most commonly cited reason for denial of parole; 63,768 persons were denied parole between 2005 and 2009, at a cost of $80,000 for each additional two years of incarceration per person for each denial. Because of these and other reasons, releases based solely on readiness for reintegration make practical as well as moral sense.

SIGNATURES ON THE LETTER AS OF 12/15/10: Albany Political Prisoners Support Committee, All Things Harlem, The Bronx Defenders, Buffalo Local Action Committee (BLAC), Center for Community Alternatives, Center for Law and Justice, The Correctional Association of New York, The Drug Policy Alliance, Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition, The Fortune Society, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), In Your Face Movement, Inside Out Art, Inc., Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment (ICARE), NYC Jericho Movement, Nassau Inmate Advocacy Group, The New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL), Prison Policy Initiative, Prison Action Network, Prison Families Anonymous, Prisoners Are People Too!, RIFT SUCCESS, RIFT SUCCESS 2nd Chance Division, Riverside Church Prison Ministry, The Sentencing Project, Social Justice Center of Albany, Social Responsibility Council of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, Western NY Peace Center

We invite more organizations to sign on in support, so if you are a member of, or receive services from, any not listed, please encourage them to represent your interests by publicly promoting changes which will bring you a brighter future. Organizations wishing to sign on may contact us by email or by calling 518 253 7533.

We have a petition for registered voters to sign which is also available by request.



7. PAROLE NEWS: PAROLE COMMISSIONER APPOINTMENTS RESULT IN NO NEW FACES; UPDATE ON GRAZIANO; EDITORIAL IN ALBANY TIMES UNION RECOMMENDS INCREASE IN PAROLE RELEASES; HEAD OF PAROLE GRANTS AWARDS TO FORTUNE SOCIETY AND LARRY WHITE

PAROLE COMMISSIONERS currently number thirteen, leaving six empty seats. Four appointments and one re-appointment were confirmed in June by the Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee. None of the new appointments were never finalized, and it looks like the process will start afresh when Andrew Cuomo takes office.

Last summer we were told the governor appointed 4 new candidates and reappointed one. Hearings were held by the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee of the Senate and all 5 were approved by the committee. Henry Lemons, the reappointee, remains listed as a member of the board. The four others never appeared at any parole board hearing nor were they listed on Parole's website.

Suddenly, this month when our legislators returned for a special session called by the governor to approve the budget, there was a hearing by the Senate in which they questioned only Seny Traveras, one of those previously approved. She was not approved at this second Senate hearing. Ms. Taveras’s refusal to answer a question before a Senate panel — prior to their vote - apparently shot down her chances of appointment. Michael Nozzolio, a GOP Senator from Seneca Falls asked her what she thought of violent crime. “She said it was an inappropriate question,” Nozzolio said, shortly after the meeting, expressing some degree of puzzlement about why a nominee wouldn’t answer questions from the very people that have to approve her nomination. The other three nominees are rumored to have been withdrawn. We'll keep you posted.



NOVEMBER PAROLE RELEASE STATISTICS WILL BE AVAILABLE IN THE JANUARY 15 ISSUE. WE ARE SORRY FOR THE DELAY, BUT THE RELEASES WERE NOT POSTED ON THE PAROLE WEBSITE IN TIME FOR US TO ANALYZE THEM FOR THIS ISSUE.
.
RELEASE REPORTS FROM MID-ORANGE
November - Ferguson, Ludlow, Ross
Appearances: 28 (3 were A1VO)
Releases: 6
Denied: 11
Postponed: 10
Deported: 1


GRAZIANO VS. PATAKI , UPDATE:
On Friday, Dec 10, Judge Seibel of the US District Court, Southern District of New York, dismissed the above-referenced case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).  The court declined to follow the law of the case decided by the late Judge Brieant, and despite not finding a change in the applicable law, decided to follow a non-binding, unpublished opinion by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  In short, the judge stated that even if the NY Parole Board is violating state law by deciding that all those convicted of murder should be denied parole, it is a matter of concern for the state courts, not the federal constitution. Robert Isseks, Alex Smith and Peter Sell, the legal team representing Graziano, et. al. intend to appeal this ruling.
Additionally, in September Judge McDonough in Albany State Supreme Court dismissed their claim on state law grounds.  They plan to appeal to the Second Circuit. [Building Bridges can send you a copy of the latter decision by email if you request it.]

BOB GANGI'S EDITORIAL IN ALBANY TIMES UNION. IN IT HE RECOMMENDS INCREASE IN PAROLE RELEASES
Albany Times Union, Tuesday, December 7
Liberate N.Y. from its prisons, by Bob Gangi, Director, The Correctional Association of NY.

Despite a sharply declining prison population and the very real need to cut state agency budgets, New York has closed hardly any of its underutilized prisons. For example, the state budget approved earlier this year included eliminating funding for just 450 beds.

More ambitious plans to shut facilities have failed largely for political reasons. Concerned about the loss of jobs, the correction officers union and legislators from upstate areas where most of the prisons are located have successfully blocked most closure proposals made by the state's past three governors: George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.

Now, however, trends that have been building for years in New York have reached a level of an almost perfect storm. The stage has been set for a major government initiative to close costly, empty prisons. Those trends include a continuing fiscal crisis with a projected $9 billion deficit for the next fiscal year alone, a prison population that has declined from more than 71,600 in 1999 to fewer than 57,000 today, a 28 percent drop in the crime rate in the last 10 years and a growing number of unused prison beds -- more than 8,000, by the state's own recent count.

Now Andrew Cuomo is coming into office with an unmistakable mandate to put state government in order. Cuomo stated during the campaign that he was prepared to stand up to the state's public service employee unions and to oversee substantial cuts in state agency budgets.

Given the convergence of these political and economic factors, given all those empty spaces and the dropping crime rate, why shouldn't the state's leaders move to close facilities?

Albany policymakers can enact additional population reduction measures that will make such a cost savings step easier to take:
Fully repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Even after last year's reforms, mandatory sentencing provisions remain on the books that will cause the imprisonment of thousands of minor drug offenders each year.

Restore work release. In 1994, more than 27,000 state inmates participated in work release, a proven, cost-beneficial program that aids in the safe transition back to the community. Now, about 2,500 are enrolled.

Expand graduated sanctions for technical parole violations. Last year, more than 8,000 people were returned to state prison for technical parole violations -- such as showing up late for an appointment or breaking curfew -- not for committing new crimes. Instead of returning people to prison, the state could enhance their level of supervision.

INCREASE PAROLE RELEASE AND EXPAND MERIT TIME ELIGIBILITY. THE STATE PAROLE BOARD OFTEN DENIES INDIVIDUALS RELEASE BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF THEIR CRIME, DESPITE THEIR POSITIVE INSTITUTIONAL RECORDS.[emphasis added] Merit time, which allows inmates to earn time off their sentences, is not available to those convicted of violent offenses. Combined, these two policies delay the release of thousands of people every year.

When New York passed the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 1973, only about 12,500 people were confined in its prisons. About 300,000 people were locked up in the nation's prisons and jails. Those harsh laws effectively triggered a mandatory sentencing movement that swept the country. Today our nation's correctional facilities house nearly 2.4 million people, a growth of more than 600 percent.

This social experiment in "mass incarceration" has been a failure by any criteria. The evidence that it enhances public safety is, at best, mixed. Some consider it criminogenic. It has been enormously expensive, costing federal and local governments billions each year. And it has had a devastating impact on low-income communities of color where a starkly disproportionate number of the people who we imprison come from.

New York can perform a pivotal role in pointing criminal justice practice in a more productive direction by downsizing its prison system and re-investing some of the money saved in proven rehabilitation and community-based prevention programs.


PAROLE CHAIR AND THE GOVERNOR HONOR FORTUNE SOCIETY: RE-ENTRY ORGANIZATION RECEIVES LINDA MILLS AWARD, GOVERNOR PATERSON BESTOWS A CITATION

HARLEM – The Fortune Society – an organization with a strong, 40-year track record of developing model programs that help former prisoners successfully return to their communities and live productive, law-abiding lives – was recognized today for its work by state Parole Chairwoman Andrea W. Evans.

Ms. Evans presented Fortune Society President and CEO JoAnne Page with the Linda Mills Award for Community Service. Named for a former parole officer who died suddenly in 1991, the award is given to those who have performed an act or provided a service which has aided the operations of the Division of Parole or has contributed to the successful re-integration of parolees in the community.

“The Division of Parole and the Fortune Society share a common mission of ensuring successful re-entry, with the ultimate goal of maintaining, improving and guarding the public’s safety,” said Ms. Evans, who chairs the Board of Parole and also serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Parole. “We have long partnered with The Fortune Society to provide housing, employment, education, substance abuse and other services, and I look forward to continuing this relationship.”

Ms. Page received the award on behalf of the non-profit organization at a ceremony celebrating at The Fortune Society’s newest venture, Castle Gardens, a recently opened 11-story facility in Harlem that provides affordable housing and support services for more than 100 men and women returning to the community after a period of incarceration. The Fortune Society created Castle Gardens with the goal of providing a living environment that promotes safe and sober socialization for clients who strive to successfully reintegrate into society, and for hard working families with limited incomes.

Ms. Evans also presented Ms. Page with a check for $1,440, which was donated by Parole employees. In return, The Fortune Society has donated a brick, inscribed with the words “unwavering dedication,” to commemorate the longstanding relationship between the two organizations. Twenty-six former offenders – the first residents of Castle Gardens – also received certificates of achievement from the Division of Parole.

Governor David A. Paterson also issued a citation recognizing The Fortune Society and acknowledging “the significant role that this organization has in assisting people who seek to rebuild their lives and become productive, contributing members of society.” Sean M. Byrne, acting commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, presented the citation on behalf of the Governor.

“If there is one thing the Fortune Society stands for it is redemption – which is really faith in our fellow human beings – faith that even those who have transgressed against society can transform themselves and become productive assets to their community,” Acting Commissioner Byrne said. “It is truly inspiring to meet and hear the stories of former offenders who, with the guidance of the Division of Parole and the assistance of The Fortune Society, have earned their redemption.”

The Fortune Society offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are outpatient substance abuse treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop in services and supportive housing as well as ongoing access to aftercare.

“I’d like to thank Chairwoman Evans, the Parole Board and the dedicated individual parole officers with whom Fortune has worked over the four decades of our existence,” said Ms. Page. “We have worked in partnership to ensure that our clients get the assistance and guidance they need to reenter their communities and lead positive, productive lives. For our clients at Castle Gardens, these awards validate their significant achievements in rebuilding their lives. Equally important, I believe that being acknowledged by Parole will encourage them to stay on the path and serve as role models for others who also face tough transitions.”

Also at the ceremony, the Division of Parole presented a certificate of achievement to Larry White, a 76-year-old former offender who established Hope Lives for Lifers, a group that brings psychiatrists, educators, clergy and others inside prison to address inmates’ concerns.  Mr. White is a former “lifer” himself and spent 32 years in prison.


HAPPY NEW YEAR! MAY WE EXPERIENCE JOY AS TOGETHER WE PRESS ON TOWARD JUSTICE.


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