Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

JUNE 2011












LATEBREAKING NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS ARE POSTED HERE BETWEEN ISSUES. IF YOU WANT TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE JUNE ISSUE, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN.

POSTED 6/19 BY Prison Action Network Re: FRP bill and $7 medical co-pay bill

FRP Bill #S3747 now has sponsorship in the Assembly

Assembly member Giglio introduced a same-as bill in the Assembly on Friday, Bill #8478. It's been sent to the Corrections Committee. A.M. Giglio represents the 149th Assembly District which includes all of Cattaraugus County, thirteen towns in southern Allegany County and seven towns in eastern Chautauqua County. In total, there are 52 towns, 20 villages, two cities and parts of three Seneca Nation of Indians reservations. It is one of the largest in the State in terms of size.

Make sure the Assembly member who represents you knows you don't want him/her to vote for it, and tell them why you feel so strongly about it. Do it NOW because today could be the last session until January.


S476A- $7 Medical Co-pay Bill

If your representative voted FOR it, and you wish they hadn’t, you might want to send them a note or call them. Alternatively, if your representative voted AGAINST it, and that makes you happy, they need to hear that as well.

VOTE: FLOOR VOTE: - Jun 15, 2011
Yes (34): Addabbo, Alesi, Ball, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Gallivan, Golden, Griffo, Grisanti, Hannon, Johnson, Kennedy, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Martins, Maziarz, Nozzolio, O'Mara, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Robach, Saland, Seward, Skelos, Valesky, Young, Zeldin

No (22): Adams, Avella, Breslin, Diaz, Dilan, Duane, Espaillat, Gianaris, Hassell-Thompson, Klein, Krueger, Montgomery, Oppenheimer, Parker, Perkins, Rivera, Sampson, Savino, Serrano, Squadron, Stavisky, Stewart-Cousins
Abstains (6): Bonacic, Huntley, Kruger, McDonald, Peralta, Smith



S3747 The FRP Bill. The same applies to this bill as to S476 above. Check the list below, and let your representative know how you feel about his/her vote.

VOTE: FLOOR VOTE: - Jun 16, 2011
Yes (38): Alesi, Ball, Bonacic, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Farley, Flanagan, Gallivan, Golden, Griffo, Grisanti, Hannon, Johnson, Kennedy, Klein, Kruger, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Martins, Maziarz, McDonald, Nozzolio, O'Mara, Peralta, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Robach, Saland, Seward, Skelos, Valesky, Young, Zeldin

No (22): Adams, Addabbo, Avella, Breslin, Dilan, Duane, Espaillat, Gianaris, Hassell-Thompson, Huntley, Krueger, Montgomery, Oppenheimer, Parker, Perkins, Rivera, Sampson, Savino, Serrano, Squadron, Stavisky, Stewart-Cousins
Abstains (2): Fuschillo, Smith

For more details please call: Prison Action Network: 518 253 7533 or email PAN



BUILDING BRIDGES JUNE 15, 2011

HEADLINES:

THE SAFE PAROLE ACT S5374 NOW HAS SPONSORS IN BOTH HOUSES:
ASSEMBLY MBR JEFFRION AUBRY HAS INTRODUCED IT AS BILL A7939
A.M. McENENY SIGNED ON

Dear Reader,

Building Bridges can now be translated into Spanish, and a few other languages by clicking on the Google translate box in the upper left. If you have friends or family who would benefit from this service, please tell them about it.

You probably are weary of hearing me say this every month, but everyone reading this will have to help if we are going to get The Safe Parole Act, S5473, A7939 passed into law. These are not idle words. We get calls and letters all the time asking for help to get a loved one’s parole denial reversed. Well, some of our members drafted a bill proposal and now everyone needs to help to get this bill passed. The SAFE Parole Act is a great bill! If passed a lot of the men and women whose stories we hear would come home on their next board. But their families and communities have to want them home, and have to work hard to make it happen. We need to persuade our legislators to support the SAFE Parole Act. We need to talk to neighbors and friends and persuade them to call their legislative representatives also.

The NYS Parole Reform Campaign has a great tool that makes it easier. www.parolereform.org is an interactive website (developed and managed by Thousand Kites Narrative Campaigns) where it takes only minutes to send letters in support. All of us need to go to that website and join the other 190 people who have already done so.

If you are willing to share your story, you can post it by calling the free, 24/7 story phone: 877 518 0606. Your story will be added to those already available on the site.

This is the age of visuals; even more people will hear you if you appear in a video. We have volunteer videographers in Albany, Buffalo, and NYC who will make a short one, like those already on the website, of you telling your story. Please email us to arrange a 5-minute taping. Your stories have the ability to inspire others to take the actions available on the site.

The website also keeps track of how many letters have been sent. 133 people have sent letters to their legislators; 108 also sent a letter to the governor. 162 have signed the on-line petition. When you send a letter, you will see the phone # of your legislators. It’s time to give them a call. All you have to do is say “I want you to vote for The SAFE Parole Act, S5374 (if it’s your senator) or A7939 (if it’s your assembly member). Hurry, the legislative session is over on June 20!

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


SUMMARIES OF ARTICLES:

Article 1. NINE ACTIONS, EVENTS AND MEETINGS YOU CAN ATTEND TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION:

Buffalo weekly demonstration at the Erie County Jail in protest of abuses
Rally for Justice for the wrongfully convicted -at Manhattan’s City Hall
WORTH Roundtable and Vigil honoring lives lost in the War on Drugs, Manh.
Forum on Solitary Confinement in NY State Prisons, Manh
Think Outside the Cell event in Sept that you won’t want to miss, Manh
The next NYS Prisoner Justice Network meeting in Albany and by phone
Buffalo’s 6th anniversary celebration of Prisoners are People Too
The next Coalition for Women Prisoners general meeting at the Correctional Association
Receive and give support, at groups in Albany, Brooklyn and Long Island

Article 2. CITIZENS AGAINST RECIDIVISM offers 13-week program for adults who want help with their anger problem

Article 3. LEGISLATIVE REPORT on a good bill that was vetoed, 2 bad bills that were passed, and bills that are in process; 12 bills in all that are important to members of Prison Action Network

Article 4. MEDIA COVERAGE OF OUR ISSUES; Charles Blow in NYTimes OpEd speaks eloquently on the racial disparities of the War on Drugs; Bob Gangi addresses the same issue at Alternet.org.

Article 5. THE NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN encourages use of interactive website: www.parolereform.org, to contact legislators and record your stories; house parties to organize for the SAFE Parole Act.

Article 6. PAROLE NEWS reports only one A1VO initial release in April and one rescission of a March release. Readers have begun to report which commissioners were at each facility.

Article 7. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS: Civil Rights Organizations File Motion to Defend Law Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering.

Article 8. THE SAFE PAROLE ACT: what a ‘markup’ bill is, and another way to vote beside the ballot box.

Article 9. On Sept. 24th at the Riverside Church in New York City, "THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL - A NEW DAY, A NEW WAY,” will feature a range of well-known speakers together with hundreds of formerly incarcerated men and women and their loved ones to grapple with issues affecting those who live in the long shadow of prison .

Article 10. VOCAL-NY's PAROLEE ORGANIZING PROJECT is demanding voting rights for parolees. PAN is one of 22 organizations who signed a letter urging Governor Cuomo to restore the vote for approximately 41,000 New Yorkers currently on parole. (Next step, PAN hopes, is to expand the right to vote to people in prison.)

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


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

BUFFALO VIGIL: 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.
____________________________________________________________________________
EVENTS:

MANHATTAN events
JUNE 16, 9AM RALLY FOR JUSTICE

The NYS Justice system has acknowledged that there are men and women in prison for crimes they did not commit. Yet no resolution has been reached. Join the family and friends of the wrongfully convicted as they bring their plight to NYC City Hall. Justice delayed is justice denied!
Contact James: 910 868 9936, nickmickron@yahoo.com
Location: NY City Hall, 260 Broadway
By Subway: 2,3 to Park Pl;  A,C to Broadway-Nassau St;  J,M to Fulton St; R to City Hall j
4,5,6 train to the Brooklyn Bridge station or Fulton Street station


FRIDAY JUNE 17, 1:00PM: WORTH ROUNDTABLE AND VIGIL honoring lives lost in the War on Drugs

Join the women of WORTH, community leaders, organizations, churches, and many more for a Roundtable discussion and a Vigil honoring the lives lost.
Location Harlem State Office Bldg, 8th flr, 163 West 125th St
For more info: Mercedes Smith, 646 918 6858, msmith@weareworthit.org


TUESDAY JUNE 21, 7:00PM: FORUM ON SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN NY STATE PRISONS hosted by The Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture.

A public event on the use of solitary confinement and other forms of torture and abuse within the New York State Prison System.
Speakers:
Mary Beth Pfeiffer, a reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal
Jack Beck, director of the Visiting Project for the Correctional Association of New York
and a third speaker from Riverside Church’s Prison Ministry talking about the ministry’s work inside NYS prisons
Location: Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Avenue (above 120th Street)


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. FOR MORE DETAILS SEE ARTICLE 9

_____________________________________________________________________________

MEETINGS:

ALBANY meeting
SUNDAY JUNE 26, 7:00 PM. THE NEXT NYS PRISONER JUSTICE MEETING. Agenda: strategy, legislative follow-up, outreach
Location: Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave
by conference call: 712-432-0111 access 106 007 #

_____________________________________________________________________________

BUFFALO meeting
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 6:30-8:30PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. MONTHLY MEETING.

Six Good Years for Prisoners Are People Too, Inc.
by Karima Amin

This last year has had an abundance of ups and downs but we have continued to move forward in our quest for justice for prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. The roadblocks have been incredible as they are of long-standing and have government support. Yet, we have honored our mission to help as many as we can and we have worked hard to dismantle those rules, regulations, and laws that deny the humanity of those who have suffered incarceration.

Since July of 2010, eleven monthly meetings and programs have been held, covering a variety of topics, including: “The Realities of Reentry,” “Family Court Crisis,” and “The Psychology of Imprisonment.” Our outreach activities have involved us in several local community and statewide campaigns: “Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated People” (with the NYCLU); “Milk Not Jails” (a consumer-driven campaign, mobilizing NYS residents to support the dairy industry and not the prison industrial complex); “Seeking Justice at the Erie County Holding Center” (with the Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition); and “Fighting for NYS Parole Reform” (with the NYS Prisoner Justice Network and the Prison Action Network). Prisoners Are People Too is also a member of the “National Fuel Gas Accountability Coalition.” This past year has seen more members of Prisoners Are People Too speak out for justice in the media, both broadcast and print, and at county legislative meetings, conferences, and forums. This year, sixteen of us went to Albany on May 3 to speak to our state senators and assembly members about our deepest concerns regarding prisoner rights issues.

Finally, after many months of petitioning, we had the first of several meetings with Sheriff Timothy Howard and Undersheriff Mark Wipperman in December of 2010. Finally, after many months of advocacy, we have an Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board, which held its first meeting on February 15. Finally after several years of doing the “peoples’ work,” Prisoners Are People Too incorporated on April 21, 2011. The following individuals comprise the board: Karima Amin, Director; George “BaBa” Eng, Program Director; Artelia “Tia” Lewis; Charles “Chuck” Culhane; and Lesley Haynes. Rev. Eugene L. Pierce will chair the Advisory Board.

At this month’s meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, we will meet on June 27, at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo, 6:30-8:30pm. This meeting will be a celebration of six years of programming. There will be an overview of our accomplishments; an update and report from Lesley Haynes regarding Legislative Awareness Day; and a brief report from our summer intern, Sahil Jain. Sahil is a student at Cornell University who is interning with Prisoners Are People Too. He will describe his work and what he has learned so far from his summer interning experience. Our documentary film that evening will be a 35-minute “rough cut” DVD produced by Rev. Eugene L. Pierce. He will highlight the mission of the Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition.
 
The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng are the sponsors of PRP2, Inc. programs. For further information, contact Karima Amin: 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.

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

MANHATTAN meeting
FRIDAY JUNE 17, 10AM-NOON COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS GENERAL MEETING at the Correctional Association.

For info: Jaya Vasandani Tel: 212-254-5700 x334, or email Jaya
Location: 2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. Suite 200
_____________________________________________________________________________

SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS:
ALBANY: EVERY MONDAY 7-8:30 PM PRISON FAMILIES OF NY Support Group Meetings Alison 518-453-6659
EVERY TUESDAY AT 6 PM P-MOTIONS (Progressive Men Operating Towards Initiating Opportunities Now)  For information call Malik at 518 445-5487.

BROOKLYN:
EVERY WEDNESDAY AT 5:30PM VOCAL PAROLEES ORGANIZING PROJECT For more info call 917 676-8041

LONG ISLAND:
PRISON FAMILIES ANONYMOUS meetings changed to Wednesdays at 7:30pm
June 15, June 29, July 13, July 28
We will still be meeting at the Community Presbyterian Church, 1843 Deer Park Avenue
Sorry for any inconvenience this might cause. As prison families we should be used to unexpected transfers.

TUESDAY JUNE 7 (& ALL FIRST TUESDAYS), 7:30pm at St Brigids Catholic Church, 75 Post Ave, Westbury, NY.
For information, please contact: Barbara: 631-943-0441 or Sue: 631-806-3903
_____________________________________________________________________________


2. DO YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY MANAGING YOUR ANGER?
Citizens Against Recidivism is offering a 13-week program for adults who recognize they have anger problems:
Gaining Control of Ourselves: A Complete Guide to Anger Management
With a focus on Stress Management, Emotional Intelligence & Communication skills

Next Cycle Begins Wednesday June 22, 6:00 – 7:30 pm. Call to register or to make a referral
137-58 Thurston Street, Springfield Gardens, New York 11413
Ph. 347.626.7233 website or email



3. LEGISLATIVE REPORT: STATUS OF BILLS IMPORTANT TO US:

Please note that NONE OF THE BILLS LISTED BELOW HAVE YET BECOME LAW. A bill needs a sponsor in BOTH the Senate and the Assembly in order to be viable. It then needs to be voted on by the committee/s where it has been sent. Most of the bills you will read about in Building Bridges start out in the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee (CVC&CC) and the Assembly’s Correction Committee. If a bill is approved by a majority of the committee, it is ready to be presented to the entire Senate or Assembly. Two bills in the following list were passed by the committee and one was presented to the the Senate, where it was passed. The one that passed is the Felon Registry Bill S3645 , which will not become a law unless it attains a sponsor in the Assembly, is passed out of the Corrections Committee, approved by the Assembly, and finally signed by the governor. The FRP bill was passed by the committee, but not yet voted on by the Senate. There are 4 more days when both houses are in session. Anything could happen! The SAFE Parole Act has not yet been introduced to the committee. The Merit Time Bill was defeated at the 3/29 CVC&CC meeting.

S0338/A0154 - Montgomery/Aubry MERIT TIME BILL
Mar 29, 2011: Defeated in Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections
Ayes (3): Rivera, Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery
Ayes W/R* (2): Kruger, Peralta *with reservations
Nays (9): Nozzolio, DeFrancisco, Gallivan, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Kennedy


A5457/S969 - Aubry/Hassell-Thompson DIRECT RELATIONSHIP BILL
Amends the correction law to change the definition of "direct relationship" and provide that in order to deny a person employment or a license based on a criminal record, there must be a connection between the specific duties or responsibilities of the job or license and the nature of the criminal conviction and such connection must create an unreasonable risk to property or public safety.

A7782/S5427 - Aubry/Hassell-Thompson BAN THE BOX BILL
AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to requiring employers to make a conditional offer of employment before inquiring about any criminal convictions of a prospective employee

A7813  Eric A. Stevenson - no Senate bill CONFORMING TWO CERTIFICATES
This bill conforms the requirements for a certificate of relief from disabilities to the requirements for a certificate of good conduct. The department shall issue a certificate of relief from disabilities WHEN the department is satisfied that the Board is satisfied that the person is an eligible offender, the relief is consistent with the rehabilitation of the offender, and the relief is consistent with the public interest. The process for acquiring both certificates will be the same.

A07874/ S 5436 - Aubry/Hassell-Thompson DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILL
To expand upon the existing provisions of alternative sentencing for domestic violence cases and to allow judges the opportunity to re-sentence currently incarcerated persons for offenses in which certain domestic violence criteria was a significant element of the offense.

S470 Nozzolio   no Assembly bill TAXES INMATE COMMISSARY PURCHASES
01/05/11 Referred to crime victims, crime and correction
03/08/11 Reported and committed to finance
Authorizes the head of any correctional institution to charge taxes on sales of commissaries and canteens


S476-A/A7870 Nozzolio/Tedisco $7 CO-PAYMENTS FOR PRISON MEDICAL CARE
Requires state and county inmates to make medical co-payments of seven dollars upon receipt of medical treatment; provides that an inmate shall not be refused treatment for lack of ability to pay co-payment charges; directs all moneys collected to be made available for the operation of such correctional facility

S3537  Nozzolio   no Assembly bill REQUIRES 5-MBR PAROLE BOARDS FOR HOMICIDE CRIMES
Amends Executive Law, S259-C Prohibits parole for any inmates convicted of homicide unless five members of the parole board are present at the hearing

S3645-C  no Assembly bill GRIFFO “BRITTANY’S LAW”
Amends the correction law to require violent felony offenders to register with DCJS upon discharge, parole or release from any state or local facility, hospital or institution and to allow dissemination of and access to certain information to the general public. Annual registration requirements and corresponding procedural guidelines are established to allow local law enforcement agencies and the state to monitor the whereabouts of violent felony offenders.
05/17/11 PASSED IN SENATE (4 Senators voted against: Perkins, Serrano, Parker, Duane. Montgomery was excused), all others voted in favor

S3747 Nozzolio, no Assembly bill FRP Bill
Requires the commissioner of correctional services to permanently terminate the conjugal visit program, commonly known as the family reunion program; further directs such commissioner to prohibit the establishment of any program designed to provide selected inmates and their families the opportunity to privately meet for an extended period of time.
COMMITTEE VOTE: - Crime Victims, Crime and Correction - May 3, 2011
Ayes (9): Nozzolio, DeFrancisco, Gallivan, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Kennedy
Ayes W/R* (2): Kruger, Peralta * with reservations
Nays (3): Rivera, Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery

S5374/A7939 - Duane/Aubry THE SAFE PAROLE ACT
Relates to the modification of the procedure for interviews of parole applicants and to the disclosure of parole applicant records; requires the Parole Board to determine whether there is or is not reasonable cause to believe that the release of the parole applicant would create a present danger to society using specified criteria to arrive at such determination.

S5473/A7931 Montgomery/Aubry CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS
Requires that inmates be notified of their right to seek modification of child support orders; provides a 180 day stay of enforcement following release; makes provisions permitting modification applicable to inmates incarcerated prior to effective date of such amendments.

[Please send an email request, including the bill number, for a copy of any listed bills.]



4. MEDIA COVERAGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUES: DRUG BUST, BY CHARLES M. BLOW, NY TIMES OP ED, TYRANNY IN NYC, BY ROBERT GANGI, ALTERNET [Condensed versions of both]

DRUG BUST, CHARLES M. BLOW, NY TIMES JUNE 10 www.nytimes.com/2011/06/11/opinion/11blow.html
[June 10] marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: the war on drugs

(Since 1971, more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses.) And no group has been more targeted and suffered more damage than the black community. As the A.C.L.U. pointed out last week*, “The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.”
*Posted by Vanita Gupta, director of the ACLU's Center for Justice on the ACLU Blog of Rights, June 1.

An effort meant to save us from a form of moral decay became its own insidious brand of moral perversion — turning people who should have been patients into prisoners, criminalizing victimless behavior, targeting those whose first offense was entering the world wrapped in the wrong skin. It feeds our achingly contradictory tendency toward prudery and our overwhelming thirst for punishment.

Last week, the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

The White House immediately shot back: no dice. The Obama administration presented a collection of statistics that compared current drug use and demand with the peak of the late 1970s, although a direct correlation between those declines and the drug war are highly debatable. In doing so, it completely sidestepped the human, economic and societal toll of the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, many for simple possession.

No need to put a human face on 40 years of folly when you can swaddle its inefficacy in a patchwork quilt of self-serving statistics.


TYRANNY IN NYC: THE NYPD'S WASTEFUL, INEFFECTIVE, ILLEGAL, AND UNJUST TARGETING OF BLACKS AND LATINOS, BY ROBERT GANGI, ALTERNET
Posted on June 9, 2011, www.alternet.org/module/printversion/151260, Printed on June 13, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has escaped criticism where it is long overdue, with a truly objectionable practice of the Police Department, namely our city’s wasteful, ineffective, unjust, illegal and starkly racially biased arrest methods.

The vast majority of arrests in New York City are for low-level offenses, such as misdemeanors like possessing a small amount of marijuana or violations like selling umbrellas or flowers on the street without a license. By any criteria, almost none of these activities could be considered dangerous or predatory. At worst, most city residents would view them as public nuisances.

Last year, for example, the city’s police made over 370,000 arrests. Most of these arrests occurred in New York’s low-income communities of color, although the majority of people who use marijuana are white, 86 percent of the individuals arrested for marijuana possession last year were black or Latino.

Common sense tells us, as does more and more social science research into the perceptions of “procedural justice,” that the extent to which arrested people see and experience the criminal justice process as fair, respectful, consistent and impartial will determine their willingness in the future to respect the police and to comply with the rule of law.

According to accounts heard over and over from people in different communities and who do not know each other, police often stop individuals, usually young black or brown men, for no apparent reason -- the persons involved are not engaged in what could be considered furtive or suspicious activity; they may have been walking to or from their school or workplace or been on a personal errand. The police confiscate the hidden marijuana and later claim to the court that the substance was open to public view, the condition necessary to charging the individual with a misdemeanor -- under state law, simple possession only rises to the level of a violation, which is not by legal standards even considered a crime.

Most victims choose not to contest these illegal practices -- it would usually take 8 to 10 separate appearances at court to fight the charges. They usually accept a plea to a lesser offense, a violation instead of a misdemeanor, and thereby achieve their freedom until the next time the police stop and frisk them on the street.

However, bad consequences can, and often do, result from convictions for a misdemeanor or even a violation, including limiting access to housing, education, immigration (one misdemeanor conviction can lead to deportation), employment (even where arrests do not legally or technically prohibit employment, employers will always prefer job candidates who have had no contact with the criminal justice system), driving, and public assistance.

Many recently gathered statistics point to the undeniable conclusion that New York City’s aggressive arrest-driven policing is marked by stark racial bias. Experience tells us that the general public, and especially the people who live in disadvantaged inner city communities, know this fundamental sorry truth about local policing: white people can possess marijuana with virtual impunity; if you are a person of color, however, then you must regularly look over your shoulder and watch out for the long harsh arm of the law.

Such a racial disparity -- not merely disproportionate but virtually exclusive -- is not an accident. It is a function of the policies and practices of the New York City Police Department.

At this historical moment, the New York City Police Department is a revered, sacrosanct and politically untouchable agency. It is effectively accountable to no political figure including the city’s current mayor, or any government or civic body. Its commissioner is, for better or worse, an iconic figure; he and his policy setting team have to report or account to no one when they set arrest priorities or any other policy for the Police Department. Such unlimited power is dangerous, and should be unacceptable, to all New Yorkers, not just the black and brown residents of our inner city communities who bear the brunt of the Police Department’s harsh current policies.

It is way past time that the New York City Police Department stop its wasteful, ineffective, illegal, unjust, and racially biased arrest practices. It is way past time that the city’s citizens and elected officials demand transparency from Police Department leaders. New York City should take a page out of the Boston or San Diego Police Departments’ book and engage in collaborative problem-solving policing that cuts crime while stabilizing rather than disrupting communities and fosters adherence to social norms while building positive rather then hostile relationships with local residents. Such an approach would help provide New Yorkers of every race and income level with the chance to fully experience a more safe, livable, and inclusive city.



5. THE NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN - PLEASE VISIT www.parolereform.org AND TAKE ACTION, CALL THE TOLL FREE STORYLINE 1 877 518 0606 TO TELL YOUR STORY

If you want to do more, here are some suggestions: invite everyone you know to visit www.parolereform.org to take action - to send a letter to their representatives and to the governor and follow up with a phone call in a week (the numbers are listed when anyone signs on to send a letter). For people without a computer, let them use yours or take them to their local library and show them how to go online and explore the website for information, listen to the stories, record their own. Scores of people have done this already; lets make it thousands by this time next month!

If you find yourself in a group of people who are complaining about their loved ones' past parole board denials, encourage them to tell the story to the toll free Campaign Storyline at 1 877 518 0606. Not only will it feel better to tell their story, but it will be posted where it might move other people to get involved.

Thousand Kites offered free copies of The Visitors to the first 10 applicants among the people who have taken action on the website. They had to agree to show it to other people and encourage them to join our campaign also. More people applied than there were copies! Just think, if every screening encourages 10 people to get involved, we'll easily have a hundred more letters sent, and if they each .... you get the picture: 10x10x10x10 =10,000!

We also need volunteer videographers in the Ithaca, Syracuse, and Binghamton areas. 1000 Kites supplies the cameras and the training, please email parole.reform@gmail.com if interested.



6. PAROLE NEWS: APRIL PAROLE RELEASES, MEMBERS OF BOARDS

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

Total Interviews......... # Released...... # Denied........ Rate of Release
13 initials................................ 1......... 12................... 8%
65 reappearances..................... 12....... 53................... 18%
78 interviews.......................... 13....... 65................... 17%


APRIL Initial Releases (still none in the Elmira or Watertown Hubs, which makes 0 for Elmira, 2 in Watertown in the last 4 years. ??? why is that?)
Facility....................... Sentence......... Offense.........
Mid Orange................ 15-Life............ Murder 2.......

APRIL RESCISSION
Bayview....................... 18-Life............. Murder 2........ *Last month was Initial hearing – her release has been rescinded


APRIL Reappearances
Facility....................... Sentence......... Offense.......... # of Board
Arthur kill................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Attica.......................... 17-Life............ Murder 2........ 8th (
Auburn...................... 12 ?-Lfe........... Murder 2 JO.... 8th
Bayview..................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Fishkill....................... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th?
Fishkill....................... 7-Life.............. Murder 2........ 6th
Mid Orange................ 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 5th
Otisville..................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 3rd
Otisville..................... 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Marcy......................... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th *for deportation only
Mid Orange................ 11-Life............ Murder 2 JO.... 10th
Woodbourne............... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 10th

[If all of these people have been getting 2 year hits, then 4 of them have served at least 2x their minimum sentence! This appears drastically unjust, unless they were incorrigibly violent for most ot the time. Kudos to the Commissioners who finally released them! Ed.]

Parole Board Members in April by facility:
Cayuga: Ferguson, Thompson
Otisville: Hernandez, Lemons, Smith
Thank you to our reporters, many of whom sent May info which will be posted next month.



7. PRISONERS OF THE CENSUS - VOTERS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS INTERVENING IN SUIT TO ENSURE THAT ALL NEW YORKERS ARE EQUALLY REPRESENTED IN STATE AND LOCAL LEGISLATURES

Top civil rights organizations filed a motion in New York Supreme Court asking to intervene to help defend New York's new law allocating people in prison to their home communities for redistricting and reapportionment.

The Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Law and Social Justice, Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Prison Policy Initiative, representing fifteen rural and urban voters and three statewide nonprofit organizations, are seeking to defend the new law against a legal challenge brought by New York State Senator Elizabeth Little and others. The lawsuit, titled Little v. LATFOR, names the New York State Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) and the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) as defendants.

The new law requires that incarcerated persons be counted as residents of their home communities, in accordance with the New York State Constitution's provision that incarceration does not change one's residence. The legislation applies to state and local legislative redistricting, and would not affect federal funding distributions.

Previously, legislative districts with prisons were credited with the population of the disenfranchised people temporarily incarcerated there. This practice, often called prison-based gerrymandering, gives extra influence to voters who live in the district with the most prisons, and dilutes the votes of every resident of a district with no (or fewer) prisons. The new law corrects this bias and assures that all communities in New York have equal representation in our government.

Sen. Little's lawsuit seeks to have the new legislation struck down, the effect of which would require legislative districts - most notably her own, which contains 12,000 incarcerated persons - to include prison populations in their apportionment counts to the detriment of all other districts without prisons. Returning to this practice would not only unfairly inflate the districts of those with prisons at the expense of those without but also violate the New York State Constitution.

The organizations seeking to intervene include: The NAACP New York State Conference, Common Cause-NY and Voices of Community Activists and Leaders - New York , or VOCAL -NY.



8. THE SAFE PAROLE ACT, THE CURRENT PAROLE STATUTE, AND ANOTHER WAY TO VOTE

Some readers reported confusion about the markup copy of Bill S5374/A7919, the SAFE Parole Act, which appeared in last month’s Building Bridges. The markup is the current legislation created by the Governor’s Budget Bill, with changes proposed by the new bill. Some of the changes are in the form of deletions from the law [in brackets] and some are additions (in CAPS). Until the SAFE Parole Act becomes law, parole board decisions will continue to follow the law as it currently stands - which is seen in the parts within brackets and the parts that are in lower case.

Do you vote? Going to www.parolereform.org is another way to cast a vote, only here you get to say why you want what you want. First you can sign a petition. Then there’s a page where you can send a prewritten letter - which you may personalize - to your legislators, without even having to look them up; the computer does it for you. And because your story might convince a visitor to the site to join us in our campaign for parole reform, there’s the toll free 24/7 storyline 1-877-518-0606 where you can describe - into a recorder - how the parole denial of your loved one affects you and your whole family.  Within a day or two it will be available for others to hear on the website. We need these stories to put a human face on the misery our unjust criminal justice policies cause.   It will take a change in the public perception of the criminal justice system to change the system. Please help!



9. “THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL: A NEW DAY, A NEW WAY,” IS A MAJOR SYMPOSIUM PLANNED FOR SEPT. 24TH AT THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH IN NEW YORK CITY TO GRAPPLE WITH ISSUES AFFECTING THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE LONG SHADOW OF PRISON.

A range of well-known speakers will come together with hundreds of formerly incarcerated men and women and their loved ones to grapple with issues affecting those who live in the long shadow of prison.

Participants will include the Rev. Al Sharpton; Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker, recently named one of Time Magazine’s  100 Most Influential People; Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow; CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien; Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Rossana Rosado, CEO and publisher of El Diario La Prensa, one of the nation’s top Spanish-language newspapers; Khalil Muhammad, noted historian and new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Alan Rosenthal, co-director, Justice Strategies, Center for Community Alternatives; Terrie Williams, youth advocate and author of the book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, and “Chef Jeff” Henderson, formerly incarcerated motivational speaker, author and star of the Food Network.

“America’s incarceration policies are exacting a crushing human cost,” said Sheila Rule, founder of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, which received funding from the Ford Foundation to organize the symposium. “ If we don’t have an informed national conversation about this critical issue now, society as a whole will pay an even greater price. The symposium will bring people together for that kind of conversation. “

The symposium is free and open to the public. Registration by email will begin on Monday, June 20, or by calling 877-267-2303. People are urged to register early, since space is limited.

The Think Outside the Cell Foundation is presenting the event in partnership with the Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy, the College and Community Fellowship and the Riverside Church Prison Ministry.



10. VOCAL-NY PAROLEE ORGANIZING PROJECT IS DEMANDING VOTING RIGHTS FOR PAROLEES

No More Jim Crow in NY: We Demand Voting Rights for Parolees!

On June 9th, the NYS Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian legislative Caucus began circulating a letter urging Governor Cuomo to restore the to vote for approximately 41,000 New Yorkers currently on parole. We also began circulating a similar statewide, community sign-on letter. We hope to deliver both letters at a strategic moment after the legislative session.
For more information about VOCAL-NY's Parolee Organizing Project, contact Alfredo Carrasquillo at alfredo@vocal-ny.org or (718) 415-9254.

BACKGROUND
Voter disenfranchisement laws are used to keep people of color from voting around the country, violating a fundamental right and undermining our democracy. For example, 8% of African Americans nationwide (2 million) cannot vote because they are incarcerated, on parole or otherwise disenfranchised by the criminal justice system. This is one of the clearest examples of how the criminal justice system has created a new system of racial control, similar to Jim Crow laws yet supposedly colorblind, that author and activist Michelle Alexander has described.

The letter:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

We, the undersigned, urge you to issue an executive order that would restore voting rights for New Yorkers who have completed their prison sentence and are currently on parole.  We are grateful you have prioritized reforming our criminal justice system in your administration and feel this policy change is well aligned with your vision for a more just New York.

About 41,000 New Yorkers on parole, nearly 80% of who are African American or Latino, are currently denied the right to vote in New York. Voting is a fundamental civic duty and should be an essential part of the re-entry process for someone returning to their community.  Law enforcement officials and criminal justice experts across the nation, including the American Correctional Association, American Probation and Parole Association, Association of Paroling Authorities International, and the National Black Police Association, agree that restoring the right to vote after completion of a sentence builds community ties, reduces recidivism, and protects public safety.  These renowned organizations view civic engagement, including voting, as a crucial tool in preventing recidivism.  We strongly believe that people who are back in our communities, working and paying taxes, taking care of their families, and participating in religious and community activities should also be part of our civic life by helping choose our elected representatives.

There is a strong and bipartisan movement to expand voting rights for people with criminal records nationally.  Fourteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow people on parole to vote and nearly half of all U.S. states have enacted reforms to felony disenfranchisement laws since 1997, according to an analysis by the Sentencing Project.  New York should maintain its progressive tradition by joining other states that have restored voting rights to people on parole.

The current policy of disenfranchising New Yorkers on parole disproportionately prevents people of color from voting.  According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, New York's criminal disenfranchisement provisions were historically rooted in a concerted effort to exclude African Americans from participating in the political process.  Now is time to end this history of discrimination and restore the right to vote to New York citizens who are out of prison and living in our communities.

As Governor, you have a unique opportunity to reverse this injustice.  The New York Constitution gives the Governor unlimited and unreviewable clemency powers, including the power to grant a partial pardon restoring voting rights. Individuals on parole currently have only one obstacle-ridden avenue for the restoration of their right to vote: a lengthy and cumbersome application to the Board of Parole. With an executive order, you could reaffirm your commitment to voting rights, racial equality, and criminal justice by restoring voting rights to the tens of thousands of New Yorkers on parole who are living and working in our communities.   

[Prison Action Network proudly signed onto this letter.]


Building Bridges is published by Prison Action Network as our way of communicating with our members.
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