Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MARCH 2011

We post latebreaking news or announcements here during the month. Please scroll down to read Building Bridges' March issue.

Job Opportunity: Prison Partnership Coordinator
Application Deadline: April 4 2011

The Prison Partnership Coordinator ("the Coordinator") position has three broad objectives; to make the churches of the Hudson River Presbytery aware of the morally bankrupt and financially disastrous nature of the New York State Judicial and Prison Systems; to encourage hands-on ministries to prisons and prisoners within local church communities; and to develop and implement a systematic and broad program of advocacy to encourage legislation toward a more just, equitable and prudent criminal justice system.

NOTICE: The position is currently funded for only one year and may not be continued if additional funding is not secured.

The Coordinator will accomplish the above objectives through:
• Creating -taking these broad objectives and creating or proposing specific initiatives to put them into practice.
• Communicating -ensuring that ideas generated in one part of the Partnership are spread throughout the Presbytery. This may entail
Putting information, programs, and contacts on the HRP website.
Spreading good ideas from one congregation or person to many through email, personal visits and area meetings.
Developing, maintaining, and communicating through email and snail mail lists information about the criminal justice system.
Preparing a monthly "newsletter" summarizing and encouraging activities of prison work/ministry.
Following key legislative and regulatory issues and identifying ones where specific advocacy initiatives could be effective; then coordinating such initiatives throughout the presbytery.
• Coordinating -ensuring that the activities of all parts of the Presbytery relating to prison work/ministry are coordinated with one another, so we neither reinvent the wheel nor misapply resources.

Some important skills/background:
Committed Christian
Demonstrated knowledge of and passion for prison ministry
College degree preferred
Skilled with computer technology and research
Very good verbal and writing skills
Team player
Able to communicate in the language of faith, and the relationship of faith to prison work
Have own car and a willingness to travel

Part time: 19 hours per week, May 1, 2011 –April 30, 2012.
Salary: $20,000 per year
Vouchered travel expense up to $1,000
Resume must be received by noon on April 4, 2011

Email submissions only to: Rev. Chris Shelton chris@hudrivpres.org
Presbytery of Hudson River
655 Scarborough Road
Scarborough, NY 10510

POSTED 3/18 by The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Prisoners’ Rights Project of The Legal Aid Society

We are investigating how DOCS ion scan searches affect families and friends who visit their loved ones in prison. Have you been scanned? If so, please tell us about it.

Email: ionscanproject@nyclu.org
Call: Caroline at (212) 577-3450


Dear Reader,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! for the generous donations so many of you continued to send during the past month. Building Bridges is no longer in crisis. Thank you so much for showing your support for those less able to financially support us to the level they would wish.

Thanks also to the many people who sent copies of their parole denials. We are open to receiving more. It’s one thing to hear about them; it’s another to read the reports themselves. The most disturbing ones were from people who were convicted of crimes which statistically have a low recidivism rate, who were acknowledged by the parole board to have shown remorse, excellent institutional records and lots of support from the community, yet the denial repeats in lurid detail the facts of the crime and says that to release someone who had committed such a crime would "so deprecate the serious nature of the instant offense as to undermine respect for the law". Most upsetting, which is why the SAFE Parole Act addresses it, is the complete absence in almost every one of the documents we received, of any suggestions as to what the person could do in order to overcome that obstacle. When there was a suggestion, it was something like “continue to focus on positive goals". The question is, “for how long? for what purpose?” People need to be rewarded for good behavior. All of us do. Not to be rewarded is demoralizing and in the case of denying parole to a person with years of good behavior and realistic plans for the future, the parole board is seen to be itself undermining respect for the law.

Please be well, keep the faith, share the news, and for everyone's sake, get involved!

Summaries of Articles

1. Actions, events, and meetings are listed geographically and chronologically, so you can easily check for those in your area at times you are free. Three legislative advocacy days are listed (under Actions). These are excellent opportunities to get comfortable talking to legislators. If you support the S.A.F.E. Parole Act, you really ought to attend one of them. Winning over legislators will be an important part of our success.

2. Bob Gangi, former Exec. Dir. of C.A. is moving on, not to retire, but to take the position of Senior Policy Advocate at the Urban Justice Center. On Monday, April 4th, he will begin work there on justice related issues like the questionable arrest policies of the NYC Police Department. He looks forward to having contact, professional and/or personal, with many of you in the future.

3. Bronx Community Solutions - Your organization is invited to participate in the Bronx Reentry Community Forum and Resource Fair: “I’m Home ... What’s Next?” on Saturday, May 7, by hosting a resource table, contributing items for door prizes, or by bringing participants or students from your program.

4. Formerly Incarcerated People’s Movement - A gathering of formerly incarcerated persons began efforts to launch a campaign against the New Jim Crow. We marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, met with state legislators, and began organization building. We will be doing the same on the east coast. There were people there from around the country. You can see some video footage on www.YouTube.com/allthingsharlem

5. In Your Face heads to Washington D.C., on foot! - Readers can keep informed about the In Your Face WALK 2 WASHINGTON on the In Your Face Movement FaceBook pages, where you can also read the numerous write-ups they've received.

6. NYS Parole Reform Campaign Report - The latest organizations to sign a letter in support of the SAFE Parole Act are Exodus Transitional Community, National H.I.R.E. Network, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Campaign members helped design a logo for the Campaign's Thousand Kites campaign website, soon to come online.

7. NYS Prisoner Justice Network - Everyone is invited to any of their series of regional and local meetings (listed in the article) and events taking place around the state to inform people in local communities about the statewide network, to share ideas and strategies for challenging and changing New York’s criminal INjustice system, and to encourage people to attend the Legislative Awareness Day for Prisoner Justice on May 3rd in Albany.

8. Parole News- January A1VO statistics show only one release on an initial hearing. A recent FOIL request asking the date and location of Parole Board Release Hearings and the names of the Parole Commissioners who were on each Board produces more questions than answers. You can read an article by Joel Stashenko in the NY Law Journal, in which he claims Parole Boards would lose authority under Cuomo, posted on rethinkingreentry.blogspot.com

9. Prison Media: Thread News! www.threadnews.org is a digital multimedia magazine available online and free of charge. Their first issue deals with the complexities of prison re-entry, as seen through the eyes of 35 year old recent parolee Manny Borras, a playwright, who must now navigate life on the outside. You can submit your stories for future consideration.

10. Think Outside the Cell: Their upcoming National Symposium on Sept. 24th will bring together national experts and policy makers, as well as hundreds of those who live in the long shadow of prison, whose voices and concerns have rarely been raised on the national stage. The Rev. Al Sharpton, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien will be among them. Anyone with prison in their backgrounds is encouraged to attend. An audience of more than 800 is anticipated.

[For copies of any document, article or legislation referred to, or condensed, in this issue, please email PAN with a request clearly stating the number of the article and the date it appeared -Ed.]



Cut Crime/Save Money/Build Communities
By closing empty prisons, repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, reforming parole policies, expanding work release and merit time, and investing in our neighborhoods.

If you’ve never talked to a legislator before, this is a good way get some training and experience.  To sign up and find out about buses leaving from your area, contact Kirsten Escobar at the Correctional Association:  212 254 5700 or email kescobar@correctionalassociation.org.

You must register by Tuesday March 15, 2011 to ensure a seat on the bus. NOTE: This year, the Juvenile Justice Coalition and the Drop the Rock Coalition (above) are sharing buses to Albany and a press event, but will be advocating for different things, and will have separate meetings with legislators. For this reason, they are keeping registration separate. 

Advocacy Day provides the opportunity for young people, families, and community members impacted by the juvenile justice system to travel to Albany and meet with New York State legislators.

Please join us as we advocate for:
1. Downsizing New York's youth prison system;
2. Restoring funding to preventive programs for children and families and
3. Restoring state funding for runaway and homeless youth programs.

For more information or to reserve your seat on the bus, please fill out the form at: http://www.sites.google.com/site/jjadvocacyday/home.  Please register using this form even if you previously sent an e-mail to someone at the Correctional Association stating you/your organization would like to participate. 

Please note that all participants under 18 must have a signed valid permission slip to get on the bus [contact Jax Jackson if you need a blank one.] Juvenile Justice Coalition at (212) 254-5700 x 316

Legislative Awareness Day for Prisoner Justice: More Justice, Less Prisons
Prisoner justice activists from around the state will talk with legislators and their staffs about issues including parole reform, the implementation of the SHU bill, prison closures, and others.  Participants will network with each other, be briefed on the issues, and go in delegations to pre-arranged meetings with legislators.

Join in this effort to show legislators and all New Yorkers that there is an alternative to the current culture of punishment and vengeance which keeps more than 57,000 people behind bars. It will demonstrate that there is a statewide constituency to change New York's harsh and unjust criminal justice policies. It will strengthen the statewide movement for prisoner justice by giving participants information about each others' issues and a chance to learn about and support each others' campaigns.

The day is free and everyone concerned about New York's prison system is invited to attend.  Buses will be leaving from NYC.  To reserve a seat or for more information, call the Albany Social Justice Center at 518-434-4037, email, or write to NYSPJN, 33 Central Ave, Albany NY 12210.

BUFFALO: Every Wed 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.

ALBANY events
Federal Prosecutors can hold defendants before trial in solitary confinement under a legal device called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). Pre-trial solitary confinement can last for years and impair the defendants’ mental ability to cooperate in their own defense or testify coherently. 
Defendants may also be sentenced to isolation units called Communication Management Units (CMUs), in retaliation for expressing their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or for challenging rights violations in the federal prison system.

Rachel Meeropol Esq., Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney
Aysha Ghani, Muslims For Justice, PhD Candidate, Stanford University
Jeanne Finley, Muslim Solidarity Committee
Marlene Jenkins, Mother of Tarik Shah - 33 Months in Solitary
Moderator - Stephen Gottlieb, Esq, Constitutional Law Professor, Albany Law School

For More Information Contact: Stephen F. Downs, Esq. at 518-767-0102 or swdowns68@aol.com

Location: Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave
Rochester Moot Court Room (Room 209 in the Main Building)

BRONX events
I’m Home . . . What Next?

A Community Forum and Resource Fair

A FREE hands-on community forum for understanding what it takes to come home after incarceration.
Do you have questions about Bronx based parole, probation, and reentry programs?
Do you need someone to talk to about having a loved one in prison?
Join Bronx-based organizations and individuals who have successfully returned home after incarceration.
The day will include: 1. Keynote presentation 2. Panel of community members who have reentered from prison and jail. 3. Resource Fair and Lunch 4. Breakout sessions
For more information call either Pamela Valera 718-920-5682, pamela.valera@einstein.yu.edu or
Mandy Restivo 718-618-2495, mrestivo@courts.state.ny.us

Location: Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice
244 East 163rd Street Bronx, NY


Sun. Feb. 27, 2-5pm:  Know Your Rights
Sun. Mar. 20, 2-5pm:  Spring Cop Watch
** It is preferable, but not necessary, to attend both trainings.  *
What Would Police Accountability Look Like?

for either: RSVP and specify which training(s) you wish to attend.**

Who Should Attend:
-  Groups of 3-5 who wanna start Cop Watch teams.
-  Folks who wanna learn about their rights when approached by the cops (esp. poc, youth, immigrants, trans and queer folks).
-  Folks who are tired of watching police violence in their neighborhoods.
-  Folks who wanna plug into PJ's work.
-  Lawyers who want to help hold the NYPD accountable to NYC communities.
-  Folks who wanna talk to their communities about issues they face.

Peoples' Justice / 212.614.5343 / www.peoplesjustice.org / info@peoplesjustice.org

LOCATION: Community Service Society, 105 E. 22nd St. at Park Ave., Rm 4A
6 or N Trains to 23rd Street


Meet and hear from Mumia’s new legal team: Christina Swarns, Esq., Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Criminal Justice Project, and Judith Ritter, Esq., Professor, Widener Law School in Wilmington, Delaware 

4:00 – 5:00 pm.
Private reception $10 advance purchase of tickets required  Call 212 330-8029 to order tickets

5:30–7:00 pm 
Presentations by attorneys

Both Christina Swarns and Judith Ritter have argued before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for Mumia. They are now formal co-counsel representing him in the ongoing appeal of his murder conviction and death sentence. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), as the premier legal organization in this country fighting for racial justice, has committed itself to “sweep the grave injustices embodied in this case into the dustbin of history.” 

Limited space is available for reception. We suggest you order your tickets now. 

Location: Riverside Church Rm 9T
120th St and Riverside Dr., Manhattan 

The Use of Criminal Records in College Admissions Reconsidered 
Marsha Weissman, PhD, Executive Director, Center for Community Alternatives
Discussants representing the worlds of policy and practice to be announced. RSVP to pri@jjay.cuny.edu
*Event will also be webcast live via the National Reentry Resource Center website.

“Generating conversation between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in an effort to improve policy and practice.”
Location: Prisoner Reentry Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Avenue (b/w W. 58th and 59th Streets), Room 630.

SAVE THE DATE: SAT. SEPT. 24 AT THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH: The Rev. Al Sharpton, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien will be among the participants at the upcoming national Think Outside the Cell symposium on issues affecting the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones. (see more in article 10.)

REGIONAL meetings:
A series of regional and local meetings and events around the state to inform people in local communities ABOUT THE NEW YORK STATE PRISONER JUSTICE NETWORK, to share ideas and strategies for challenging and changing New York’s criminal INjustice system, and to encourage people to attend the Legislative Awareness Day for Prisoner Justice on May 3rd in Albany. (see article 7 for list of places and dates.)

BUFFALO meetings
Prisoners Are People Too is a justice advocacy initiative that meets monthly on selected Mondays in Buffalo. Most meetings feature a documentary film, related to some criminal justice issue or issue of prison reform, and one or more guest speakers who address that issue.

On Monday, March 28, our special guest speakers will be members of the strategy team that is spearheading plans for the upcoming May 3 Legislative Awareness Day in Albany. This special day of action, being planned by the NYS Prisoner Justice Network, will “…bring prisoner justice activists together from around the state to talk with legislators and their staffs about issues including parole reform, the implementation of the SHU bill (barring prisons from placing prisoners with psychiatric diagnoses in isolation), prison closures, and others.”

The meeting in Buffalo is one of several regional meetings being held around the state to inform and develop a constituency that is dedicated to changing the current culture that impacts more than 57,000 people behind bars in NYS, from one of punishment and retribution, to one of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng are the sponsors of PRP2 programs. For further information, email Karima Amin or call 716-834-8438.
Location: Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street, Buffalo

MANHATTAN meetings

WELCOME HOME! For individuals living in Manhattan with histories of convictions or incarceration who need assistance upon release and/or referrals to social service agencies, and other programming including employment and substance abuse.

Just come by and ask for Anisah Thompson, Reentry Aid (212. 360. 8747) or Debbie Boar, Reentry Task Force Coordinator (212.360.4131) • Debbie Boar / www.rethinkingreentry.blogspot.com

Services are free of charge / Health insurance is not required / No age requirement / No income requirement / Spanish-speaking staff

Harlem Community Justice Center **
170 East 121st Street • (6, 4, 5 to 125th Street)
**NOTE: we are located in a courthouse. Please be prepared to walk through the metal detectors

ALBANY: Every Monday 7-8:30 pm PRISON FAMILIES OF NY Support Group Meetings Alison 518-453-6659
Every Tuesday at 6pm P-MOTIONS (Progressive Men Operating Towards Initiating Opportunities Now)  For information call Malik at 518 445-5487.

Every Wednesday at 5:30pm VOCAL PAROLEES ORGANIZING PROJECT. For more info call 917 676-8041

LONG ISLAND: Tuesday April 12 PRISON FAMILIES ANONYMOUS (PFA) Support Group will host a regional meeting with the NYS Prisoner Justice Network, and on the 26th there will be a support group meeting, both at 7:30pm. Barbara: 631- 943-0441 or Sue: 631-806-3903 Deer Park, NY



On Friday, 3/11, after 29 years in the position – in my case, longevity did have advantages – I will step down as the CA’s executive director. As you know from our previous announcement, Soffiyah Elijah, a skilled and experienced advocate, will assume the organization’s helm and I look forward to supporting her as she leads the CA in its continuing and critical efforts to improve and reform the criminal justice system.        

I also look forward to having contact, professional and/or personal, with many of you in the future. I will move on, not retire, to take the position of Senior Policy Advocate at the Urban Justice Center. On Monday, April 4th, I will begin work there on justice related issues like the questionable arrest policies of the NYC Police Department. My new contact information will be: rpagangi@gmail.com and 917-327-7648.

In concluding, I refer to my previous message sent to CA friends and supporters some time ago. These words, meaningful then, still very much apply:
I will always be proud of what we at the CA, collaborating often with like-minded allies, have been able to achieve in improving the criminal justice system and making a better world particularly for some of the most vulnerable persons among us.  And I will always feel an enormous sense of gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderful people who worked and played with me, who supported and challenged me, who helped me by diverse means to make my way, through happy times and hard times, over the last three decades.  

Thank you all, and a heartfelt salute to you, for being there for me and for the cause.  - Bob Gangi


Your organization is invited to participate in the Bronx Reentry Community Forum and Resource Fair: “I’m Home ... What’s Next?” on Saturday, May 7, by hosting a resource table, contributing items for door prizes, or by bringing participants or students from your program. The event will be from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, located at 244 East 163rd Street.

You will need to register by April 5, 2011, by filling out a form detailing your organization’s commitment. You will receive a confirmation by April 11, 2011. Please email Mandy Restivo for the form or call her at 718-218-2495.

The Bronx Reentry Working Group is a locally-based coalition of academic-community partners, policy-makers, reentry professionals, and residents committed to addressing the social and health disparities of Bronx residents with a history of criminal justice involvement. There is no cost to you or your organization to participate in this event.


Group of formerly incarcerated people organize to turn around direction of prison system.
By Scott Johnson • March 3, 2011 Montgomery, AL. Article can be found at: Montgomery Advertiser

They have turned around their own lives, and now they want to turn around the direction of the U.S. prison system. That is part of the message being presented by a group of formerly incarcerated people from across the country that employs the slogan "Serving our Country after Serving our Time."

Dubbed the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People Movement, it is the first time the group has gathered in one location, and the choice of Montgomery and Selma was no accident. "It is like our path was cut in the civil rights movement, and we are just bringing it back where it started," said Dorsey Nunn, a rights advocate and former inmate from San Francisco who helped organize the meeting.

The group met Monday in Montgomery to discuss strategy. Members marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Tuesday and met with state leaders at the State House on Wednesday.

The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan helped organize the gathering. Glasgow is the founder of The Ordinary People Society, an outreach group. Glasgow and group members spoke with legislators Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Gov. Robert Bentley. Glasgow said the formerly incarcerated bring a valuable voice to discussions about prison reform. "When they use us (as a resource), they are talking to experts by experience -- those who have been there, done that," Glasgow said.

Group members emphasize their focus on public service, and they visited an alternative school in Selma on Tuesday as part of a gang- prevention effort. Glasgow said the group also plans to work with victim rights groups to help make amends for crimes.

In addition, they hope to change some public policy, and reform the way the nation's prison systems operate. To stress the importance of their cause, members point to issues such as the cost of prison overcrowding and how barriers to re-entering society might make felons more likely to return to crime.

Susan Burton created A New Way of Life, a Los Angeles re-entry program, in 1998. She said her drug and alcohol addictions led to six trips to prison, with her last release in 1996. Burton said the time has come for like-minded people to unite on the issue of prison reform. "We have no other way to go but to get together and figure it out," said Burton, who was named a CNN "Top 10 Hero" for 2010.

Malik Aziz, founder of the National Exhoodus Council, said the group wants to be an active partner with law enforcement without alienating those who still are incarcerated. "We want to be a community partner -- a legitimate, recognized partner (with law enforcement). We won't be an informer. That is not what our relation with the police is," said Aziz, a former gang leader from Philadelphia.

Many of the group members talked about the large numbers of prisoners being released back into society. More than 700,000 prisoners have been released from state and federal custody each year from 2005 to 2009, the most recent year for which the U.S. Department of Justice has gathered statistics. Many of those people will return to poor economic conditions on top of the barriers to their re-integration into society, said Eddie Ellis of New York. "There's been no real discussion of what to do with those people," said Ellis, co-founder of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions at the City University of New York's Medgar Evers College.

Gabriel Sayegh, New York director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said prison reform is a non-partisan issue. Sayegh pointed out that critics on both sides of the political aisle have called for prison reform, including Newt Gingrich and the conservative group Right on Crime. "There is widespread recognition that what we've got has failed," said Sayegh, who was part of a group of supporters who joined the gathering but are not formerly incarcerated. The Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit organization with a stated goal of ending the War on Drugs, helped fund the gathering.

Nunn said the three-day gathering was a success because it was the first time it has happened. He said the next one will be in Los Angeles and will be even bigger as group members recruit other activists. "It will be double or triple the size of the people we had here," Nunn said.

There are videos at www.youtube.com/allthingsharlem

The convention in Montgomery will be followed by another gathering in Los Angeles, slated for November 11, 2011.


The In Your Face walk to DC, which began on Sunday, March 13, is intending to make a huge impact on thousands of people as they journey through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington.  They are walking to spread awareness on a larger scale; causing people to look, think and then take action. It will send a message to the masses and our incarcerated loved ones alike that we haven't forgotten about the oppressed housed behind the prison walls and that we too are aware of the 'true' agenda of the Prison Industry.


The NYS Parole Reform Campaign is reaching out to all people who have been victims, including those who are never asked their opinion. Many people who commit crimes have been victims preciously. In fact self-preservation may have been their motivation. There are victims’ groups who focus on rehabilitation and we want to find them and work with them. We are committed to creating a voice for victims, because we recognize that currently all they can make statements about is the impact the crime had on them. What's important to many victims is will they be safe once their offender is released. In order to comment on that they will need access to more information than is currently allowed. The SAFE Parole Act gives them access if their offender gives permission. How many readers have been a victim in the past? We'd like to hear from you.  

We support the Correctional Association’s Women In Prison Project which represents women who have been on both sides: incarcerated for crimes connected with being victims. CA's Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act allows judges to give lower sentences for survivors convicted of crimes and, in some cases, send survivors to alternative-to-incarceration programs instead of prison.  It would also require the parole board to consider the impact abuse had on the crime when deciding whether to release an incarcerated person. All of the above support our message that the criminal justice system does not have to be driven by retribution, but can be better served by reintegrative justice.

We will be actively involved in the NYS Prisoner Justice Network Legislative Awareness Day, on May 3. The NYS Parole Reform Campaign will do a briefing in the morning and lead members of PAN, the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Polices, and the NYS Parole Reform Campaign on visits to their legislators in the afternoon. All members are encouraged to attend. Please call us about transportation to Albany, if needed. Prior to May 3, we will participate in NYS Prisoner Justice Network’s Regional Meetings (see article directly below) around the state to drum up excitement about the event.  Representatives of our Campaign will be present at each event.

A NYS Parole Campaign website is being developed with the support of The Thousand Kites Narrative Campaign.  We have a logo for the site designed using feedback from Campaign supporters who took an on-line survey.  On March 20 the first training class for flip videographers will take place and interviews with affected people around the state will begin. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED AND AVAILABLE, BY PHONE, AT 5:30 ON MARCH 20, PLEASE CALL 518 253 7533 OR EMAIL NOW.

We encourage the writers among you to send letters to the editors of your local papers, in support of the issues addressed by the SAFE Parole Act.


Come and share your ideas and strategies for challenging and changing New York’s criminal INjustice system, and learn about the Legislative Awareness Day for Prisoner Justice to be held on May 3rd in Albany.

(1) New York City: Presentation at monthly meeting of Riverside Church Prison Ministry, took place on February 27th, at Riverside Church
(2) North Country Region: SUNY Plattsburgh, took place on March 10.
(3) Central New York Region: SUNY Binghamton, took place on March 12.
(4) Albany: Prison Families of New York, March 28, 7:00 p.m. 373 Central Avenue
(5) Buffalo/Western New York, March 28, 6:30-8:30, Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street Buffalo 14204. Hosted by Prisoners Are People Too
(6) Albany: SUNY Albany Student Activist Conference Workshop, April 2nd
(7) NYC: Saturday April 2, 12pm Riverside Church Room 10T (490 Riverside Drive, New York, NY) enter on Claremont Ave between 120th and 121st Streets and go to the tenth floor
(7) Long Island: Prison Families Anonymous, April 12, 7:30 p.m. Community Presbyterian Church, 1843 Deer Park Avenue, Deer Park, Long Island
Mid-Hudson Regional Meeting - To be scheduled. [Please visit the website linked below for updates.]

Everyone is invited to these regional meetings. For more information: 518-434-4037, nysprisonerjustice@gmail.com, NYSPJN, 33 Central Ave, Albany NY 12210. Website: www.nysprisonerjustice.org


Mid-Orange prisoners report that Loomis, Brown, and Ross were the commissioners in January.

JANUARY 2011 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999 unofficial research from parole database

17 initials............................... 1.................... 16.................. 6%
94 reappearances................... 22.................. 72.................. 23%
111 total................................ 23.................. 88....... 21%

Mid Orange... 22-Life......... Murder 2

FACILITY.................. SENTENCE........ OFFENSE.......... # OF BOARD
Arthurkill................... 7 ?-Life............ Murder 2........ 10th
Arthurkill................... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 5th
Attica......................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Bedford Hills........... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Cape Vincent.......... 2-Life.............. Murder 2........ 5th
Fishkill................ .... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 6th
Gouverneur............. 20-Life............ Murd. pre-74... 11th
Groveland................ 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Mid Orange............. 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Mid Orange............. 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 6th
Mid Orange............. 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 3rd
Mid Orange............. 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 8th
Mid Orange............. 17-Life............ Murder 2........ 6th
Mid Orange............. 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Oneida..................... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 6th
Oneida..................... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 7th
Otisville................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Otisville................... 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 9th
Otisville.................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Walsh Med.............. 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Walsh Med.............. 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Woodbourne........... 1 ?-Life............ Murder 2........ 5th

BUILDING BRIDGES SUBMITTED A FOIL REQUEST TO PAROLE AND RECEIVED 9 MONTHS WORTH OF COMMISSIONERS’ NAMES WHO WERE PRESENT FOR HEARINGS FROM 1/1/10-9/15/10 (APPROX. 180 HEARINGS).  We wanted to learn if there was any substance to readers' protests that some commissioners never release people with A1 violent felony convictions at the completion of their minimum sentence, and that commissioners were not assigned randomly, as the Parole Board has claimed.  We also were trying to see if there was any evidence to support claims that hearings are predetermined, as is the almost universal opinion of men and women who appear before the parole board.  Bear in mind that parole boards are made up of either two or three commissioners, and the decisions are made in the name of the lead questioner at the hearing, so there is no way to know how specific individuals voted.
That said, here is what we saw as we looked at the record: Some commissioners were paired with each other more often than would be expected to randomly occur, specifically Ferguson and Elovich, Gallivan and Greenan, Hagler and Smith, Grant and Loomis.  Some, particularly in Western NY, tend to be on boards in their home area more often than not, with Gallivan appearing on 5 out of the 7 hearings held at Gowanda during the Foil period, Greenan on 4 out of 7 at Wende/Collins and Crangle on 4 out of 7 at Albion.
Crangle, Hernandez, Lemons, Ludlow and Thompson were each twice on boards that released a person with an A1VO on his/her initial appearance, while Ferguson and Gallivan each were only once on a board that released an A1VO on his or her first board.  We could find no initial releases of A1VOs under boards with Smith, Greenan, Hagler or Elovich during the Foil period (9 months).

All A1VO initial releases came out of mediums except for 3 which came from max’s. All three of those at max's were released by Grant, Loomis and Ross.  We do not understand this.  Surely the Board understands that being in a maximum facility does not mean that the person is any less deserving of release than someone in a medium.  There are many reasons a person could be in a max; not all are punitive by any means.  For example, a person can request to be transferred to one.  Max's have cells as opposed to dormitories and some people prefer the privacy. They also have family reunification programs, and weekday visiting hours, which makes prisoners with families nearby prefer them.

No A1VO was released on an initial board from any of the facilities in the Elmira hub, not just in the 9 months of data Foiled but in the four years that Building Bridges has published these statistics.  The Elmira hub consists of Elmira, Auburn, Five Points, Cayuga (med) and Southport.  The second hub least likely to be released from on a first hearing is the Watertown hub - Gouverneur, Watertown, Cape Vincent, Ogdensburg and Riverview (all mediums) - which has seen the release of only two A1VOs on initial boards in the last four years, while Elmira has seen zero, according to our research.
That was perhaps the most disturbing fact of all -  that some facilities have no/virtually no initial board releases of A1's.  It gives support to the theory that decisions are predetermined and not based on individual merit.  We will continue to search for the reasons.  If readers can add anything to our research, please do so.

Will DOCS and the Division of Parole merge under Cuomo?

In an article by Joel Stashenko published in the NY Law Journal, he claims Parole Boards would lose authority under Cuomo. He begins: "Parole boards would lose their authority to set restrictions on the lives of former prisoners under a provision of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed budget. Mr. Cuomo's proposal would give the commissioner of a newly created Department of Corrections and Community Supervision the power to set details of parole, such as requiring curfews and attendance in drug or alcohol programs, that are currently up to parole commissioners to decide. The bill also would give the commissioner of the new agency the authority to revoke parole and to shorten its terms. Those decisions now are the ultimate responsibility of the chair of the full Board of Parole, a position the governor wants to abolish.
To read the rest of the article please visit rethinkingreentry.blogspot.comwhere it is posted.

PLEASE NOTE: the above article was published after our deadline, so it will not appear in Building Bridges copies that are mailed this month to people without email access.


A digital multimedia magazine produced by a collective of educators and journalists, Thread News! launched its inaugural issue March 1st. Each issue, consisting mostly of an original short-form documentary video, will feature one story, or Thread, for two weeks. Their first issue deals with the complexities of prison re-entry, as seen through the eyes of 35 year old recent parolee Manny Borras, a playwright, who must now navigate life on the outside. The site includes a public video comment board, where those with the equipment can upload their comments via video. It’s a very interesting website, and Manny’s story is an excellent choice for their inauguration.

The semiweekly digital magazine is available online and free of charge. Its aim is to educate viewers, inspire them to engage with their communities and become positive agents for change.

Four times per year, a symposium will be held to discuss the larger issues touched upon by individual Threads. Policy makers, experts, and sometimes the subjects of the stories, are invited to discuss solutions to the issues at hand. For more information about Thread News, or to schedule an interview, please contact Marcos Barbery, founder and editor, at (617) 680-5308 or mbarbery@threadnews.org.


The Rev. Al Sharpton, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien will be among the participants at the upcoming national symposium on issues affecting the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones.

The profoundly moving anthologies in the Think Outside the Cell book series are providing the framework for the symposium, to be held on Sept. 24 at the Riverside Church in New York City. The event, a program of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, has received generous funding from the Ford Foundation and is being presented in full partnership with the College and Community Fellowship and the Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy.

“We are grateful and delighted that the symposium is attracting such stellar leaders,” said Sheila Rule, publisher of the anthology series and founder of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation. She and her husband, Joe (Donkor) Robinson, created the concept for the symposium. “Mayor Booker has made prisoner reentry a priority of his administration, which sets him apart. Soledad’s groundbreaking documentaries on what it means to be Black and Latino in America touch directly on the issues that will be explored at the symposium. And, of course, Rev. Sharpton’s ceaseless efforts against racial and social injustice put him in a league of his own.”

The Sept. 24th event will bring together national experts and policy makers, as well as hundreds of those who live in the long shadow of prison, whose voices and concerns have rarely been raised on the national stage. Anyone with prison in their backgrounds is encouraged to attend. An audience of more than 800 is anticipated.

For more information about the series and the symposium, please contact Sheila Rule at thinkoutsidethecell@verizon.net, 877-267-2303 or the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525, New York, NY 10011. The website is www.thinkoutsidethecell.org.

Sheila Rule, in a recent article titled, "Prisons, Crime and Budgets: Time for a New Paradigm" published by Huffington Post, says in speaking of current policies, "...these policies have conspired with long-held negative attitudes to create the building blocks of modern-day inequality." and "...the long shadow of prison continues to so dramatically obscure the humanity of those who have spent time behind walls that the kind of support they need in order to realize their plans of reintegrating into society and building meaningful lives is tantamount to wishful thinking." [You can link to the article here.]

Building Bridges is published by Prison Action Network as our way of communicating with our members.
If you would like to join, please give us a call at 518 253 7533 or send an email.