Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

JULY 2011












Latebreaking Announcements follow; please scroll down to bypass and go directly to the July issue of Building Bridges.

POSTED JULY 24: NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATIVE TASK FORCE ON DEMOGRAPHIC RESEARCH AND REAPPORTIONMENT
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARINGS

PURPOSE:
To gather public input regarding congressional and state legislative districts following the Census of 2010. Meetings are scheduled in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and White Plains. You must sign up if you wish to speak. Click here for details.

The Task Force will be deciding the boundaries of our legislator’s districts. It could change who represents you. More importantly it could lessen the weight of your vote if they do not abide by Part XX, which you probably know as the Prison Gerrymandering Bill, that passed into law and mandates that prisoners be counted in their home districts, not in the communities where they are incarcerated.

A member of the task force has publically stated that they will not be applying that law to their decisions, since it is being appealed. Until a judge rules on the appeal, they are obligated to follow the law. Please come to the meeting near you to make sure they understand we are paying attention and want our vote to count as much as anyone else’s vote.



POSTED JULY 23 -CIRCLE OF LOVE FORUM CANCELLED

A COMMUNITY FORUM, HOSTED BY THE CIRCLE OF LOVE PRISON SUPPORT GROUP HAS BEEN CANCELLED. THE DISCUSSION WAS TO BE ABOUT THE CLOSING OF ARTHURKILL CORRECTIONAL FACILITY.

DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY CONTROL THE FORUM HAS BEEN CANCELLED......
IF YOU ALL WOULD BE SO KIND TO LET ANYONE THAT YOU MAY OF CONTACTED ABOUT THE FORUM, PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE OR LET THEM KNOW.
THANK YOU, RUTH HANEY

I AM SO SORRY THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED.........................FOR ANY FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT ME RUTH HANEY @ (718) 813-2324 OR E-MAIL ME.





POSTED JULY 22 - NEWS ON PELIKAN BAY PRISON HUNGER STRIKE

California Prison hunger strike ends after 20 days; advocates say strike raised awareness about prison conditions
Thadeus Greenson and Kaci Poor/The Times-Standard

California prison officials and prison advocacy groups announced Thursday the end of a three-week hunger strike that saw thousands of inmates at more than a dozen institutions refuse meals.

Dorsey Nunn, a mediator between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the striking prisoners, said he spoke with Pelican Bay State Prison inmates over the phone Thursday who confirmed the news.

”The choices they were confronted with were torture or death,” Nunn said. “Those really aren't choices. I think they chose to live to fight (for) justice another day.”

To read the entire report please
click here
.







BUILDING BRIDGES, JULY 15

Dear Reader,

This edition focuses heavily on legislative reports and prison closures. There are lots of other important issues but current events have brought these topics to the forefront. Of course Prison Action Network’s main concern is the passage of the SAFE Parole Act, and we won't cut back on that! But some of the harmful bills introduced in the Senate get our blood pressure up, and the prison closings, which of course we wanted, couldn’t have been much more threatening to our ultimate goal. See article 2 for updates on significant criminal justice bills and article 5, which analyzes the prison closures from 4 different perspectives. Hopefully these reports will encourage you to remain vigilant and engaged.

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

SUMMARIES OF ARTICLES:

1. Activism: actions, classes, events and meetings happening around the state this month

2. Legislation introduced this year. Twenty-six bills, some good, some bad. None passed.

3. The NYS Parole Reform Campaign is planning group District Visits during the summer. If you know who your legislators are, perhaps we can plan to visit them at their district offices.

4. Parole News: May releases and May Board Members (as known)

5. Commentary on closures of four minimum-security facilities for men: Buffalo Work Release; Camp Georgetown; Summit Shock; and Fulton Work Release, in addition to three medium-security facilities for men: Arthur Kill; Mid-Orange; and Oneida.

6. Risk and Needs Assessments - what we know about them is they’re in the law, and we’ve seen a copy used for reentry purposes. We don’t know how they’re scored, nor how they’re applied to parole board decisions.

7. Registration is now open for "Think Outside the Cell: A New Day, A New Way,". Anyone who wants to attend the free, day-long symposium is urged to register immediately, since space is limited. Free breakfast and lunch will be available at the event, which is funded by the Ford Foundation.

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


1. ACTIVISM: ACTIONS, CLASSES, EVENTS AND MEETINGS HAPPENING AROUND THE STATE THIS MONTH
We sometimes publish things that have happened by the time you get this. While it may be too late for you to attend them, you might still be pleased to know such opportunities exist. And you might want to ask the organization to put you on their mailing list.

ACTIONS:
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.
_________________________________________________________________________________________

CLASSES/WORKSHOPS:

QUEENS workshop:
SATURDAY AUGUST 6, 12:00PM-1:30 PM CITIZENS AGAINST RECIDIVISM
The first in a 13 week series of classes for adults who recognize they have difficulty managing their anger
Contact us to register or to make a referral: P. 347.626.7233 – F. 347.626.7743
website - information
Location: 137-58 Thurston Street, Springfield Gardens, New York 11413
__________________________________________________________________________________________

EVENTS:

MANHATTAN events
WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 1-3PM NY REENTRY ROUNDTABLE
Justice for Domestic Violence Survivors in the Criminal Justice System
Presented by Coalition for Women Prisoners’ Violence Against Women Committee
The film, Strength of a Women, followed by a panel discussion.
Guest speakers: Jaya Vasandani, Sr. Mary Nerney, Jesenia Santana, LaDeamMa McMorre, Sharon Richardson

Please RSVP to Gabriel Torres Rivera, by email, 212-614-5306, website
Location: The Community Service Society of New York (CSS)
105 East 22nd St corner of Park Ave So. Conf Rm 4A
Take the 6 or N/R trains to 23rd Street

FRIDAY JULY 22, 9:30 PM. NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN 58TH ST BUS MEETUP
Join us to hand out flyers about the SAFE Parole Act and enlist people to take action on the campaign’s website. Call Judith 518 253 7533 or Maria 917 885 2541 to sign up so we can bring enough flyers for you.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
MEETINGS

BUFFALO
MONDAY, JULY 25, 6:30-8:30PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. MONTHLY MEETING.
Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. is a justice advocacy initiative focused on issues of prison reform.

The next meeting will explore juvenile justice by taking a look at what Erie County has to offer. We will attempt to get a better understanding of what the Office of Child and Family Services delivers through its Office of Youth Development. Our guest speakers will be Mr. David Rust who is the Deputy Commissioner of Youth Services and the Director of Erie County’s Secure Youth Detention Center in Buffalo. Our second speaker will be Mr. Otis Barker who is the Executive Director of Buffalo’s Division for Youth.  (Documentary film TBA.)
 
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 email Karima.
 
Location: Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street
__________________________________________________________________________________________
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) Malik at 518-445-5487.

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

LONG ISLAND:
WEDNESDAYS JULY 13, JULY 27 7:30PM PRISON FAMILIES ANONYMOUS MEETINGS (note change to Wednesdays)
The Community Presbyterian Church 1843 Deer Park Avenue

TUESDAY AUG 2 (& 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. LEGISLATIVE REPORT: STATUS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILLS THAT AFFECT OUR MEMBERS:

NOTE: These are the bills that were introduced this year in the Assembly’s Correction Committee and/or the Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee. None of them became law. Several of the worst have no Assembly sponsorship, and the editor is tempted to think they are only meant to give us high blood pressure. Two bills we support were voted down in Committee: Merit Time and Educational Opportunities. Two we oppose were passed in the Senate,one of which* has a sponsor in the Assembly: *FRP and VFO Registry

Assembly bills are reintroduced every 2 years. So this year’s Assembly bills will still be there next session. Senate bills need to be reintroduced every year and get a new number. Both houses of the State Legislature go back into session in January 2012. It will be an election year.


2011 BILLS:
A3658 - AUBRY -NO SENATE BILL
CERTIFICATE OF RESTORATION
Cospnsrs: Lentol, Wright, Glick, Lopez V, Camara, Jaffee, Boyland, Robinson, Jeffries
Mltspnsrs: Cahill, Clark, Gottfried, Heastie, Hikind, Maisel, Markey, McEneny, Peoples-Stokes, Reilly, Rivera P, Titone, Weisenberg
Establishes a certificate of restoration (to replace the certificate of good conduct and certificate of relief from disabilities) and streamlines the process to obtain such certificate.

A3809/S5428 - AUBRY / HASSELL-THOMPSON
CONDITIONAL OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT
Assembly cospnsrs: Wright, Gottfried, Camara, Boyland, Lopez V, Millman, Jaffee, Kavanagh, O'Donnell, Robinson, Jeffries
Assembly mltspnsrs: Clark, Dinowitz, Glick, Heastie, Hevesi, Maisel, McEneny, Peoples-Stokes, Pretlow, Reilly, Rivera P, Schimel, Weisenberg
Establishes it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any prospective employer to make an inquiry about, or to act upon adversely to the individual involved based upon, any criminal conviction of such individual unless such employer first makes a conditional offer of employment to such individual.

A5357/S969 - AUBRY / HASSELL-THOMPSON
DIRECT RELATIONSHIP BILL
Assembly cospnsr: Rivera P.
Senate cospnsr: Diaz, Duane, Krueger, Montgomery, Parker
Amends the correction law to change the definition of "direct relationship" and provides 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.

A7282 - AUBRY -NO SENATE BILL
CONFORMING CERTIFICATES
The correction law provides that a certificate of good conduct shall be issued where the Parole Board is satisfied that the applicant is eligible, the relief to be granted by the certificate is consistent with the rehabilitation of the applicant and is consistent with the public interest. This bill conforms the provisions of the correction law governing certificates of relief from disabilities to provide for the same standard.

A7782/S5427 - AUBRY / HASSELL-THOMPSON
BAN THE BOX BILL
Amends 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
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.

A7874/ S5436 - AUBRY / HASSELL-THOMPSON
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILL
Assem.cospnsr: Rivera N, Clark, Perry, Lifton, Peoples-Stokes, Boyland, Titone
Assem mltspnsr: Cook, Goodell, Markey, Rivera P, Weisenberg
Expands 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.

S0107 / A5355 - MONTGOMERY/AUBRY
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Senate cospnsr: Hassell-Thompson
Assembly cospnsrs: Colton, Rivera P
Assembly mltspnsrs: Abinanti, McEneny
Provides inmates the opportunity to obtain a general equivalency diploma; instructs the department of corrections to ensure that academic education programs provide the appropriate curriculum and certified academic staff for GED instruction.
3/29/11 Defeated: Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee vote:
Ayes (3): Montgomery, Kruger, Kennedy
Ayes W/R (3): Rivera, Hassell-Thompson, Peralta
Nays (8): Nozzolio, DeFrancisco, Gallivan, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie

S0311 - MONTGOMERY -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
MEDICAID APPLICATIONS
cospnsr(s): Adams, Duane, Hassell-Thompson, Huntley, Krueger, Parker, Perkins, Sampson, Savino, Serrano
Provides that correctional institution officials shall provide instruction to and assist certain prisoners, at least ninety days prior to their release, to apply to receive Medicaid after their release.

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

S0470 - NOZZOLIO   -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
TAX ON INMATE COMMISSARY PURCHASES
Cospnsrs: Francisco, Johnson, Larkin, Maziarz, Ritchie
Authorizes the head of any correctional institution to charge taxes on sales of commissaries and canteens.

S0476-A/A7870 - NOZZOLIO / TEDISCO
$7 CO-PAYMENTS FOR PRISON MEDICAL CARE
Senate cospnsrs: Larkin, Maziarz, O'mara, Ritchie
Assembly cospnsr: Murray
Assembly mltspnsr: Kolb
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.

S1885 - OPPENHEIMER -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
ABUSE BY VICTIM/S
cospnsr(s): Diaz, Sampson
Requires guidelines for setting minimum period of imprisonment to include any history of violence or abuse directed at sentenced person by the victim to assure that the parole board considers a history of violence or abuse directed at a criminal by the crime victim as a mitigating circumstance when making parole determinations.

S1986 - GOLDEN -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
INCREASES PENALTIES FOR VFOs
cospnsr(s): Defrancisco, Griffo, Johnson, Larkin, Lavalle, Little, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Saland, Young
Relates to prohibiting good behavior allowances for violent felony offenses and increasing penalties for aggravated assault against a police or a peace officer to life without parole when the person convicted has two prior violent felonies.

S1993 - GOLDEN -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
PAROLE BOARD MUST BE UNANIMOUS
cospnsr(s): Bonacic, Defrancisco, Griffo, Larkin, Lavalle, Little, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ranzenhofer, Saland, Young
An act to amend the executive law, to add a requirement that decisions of the Parole Board to release an inmate be unanimous.

S2057 - KRUGER -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
85% OF MINIMUM MUST BE SERVED
Amends Corrections Law Section 803 to require every prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence, except prisoners serving a sentence with a maximum term of life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence as imposed by law.


S2184 - GOLDEN NO ASSEMBLY BILL
POLICE CHIEFS MAY TESTIFY AT PAROLE HEARINGS
cospnsr(s): Bonacic, Defrancisco, Griffo, Larkin, Lavalle, Little, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Saland, Seward, Young
Provides for the appearance or written statement of police chiefs to speak at parole hearings.

S3537/A07015 NOZZOLIO / SPANO
FIVE MEMBER BOARDS FOR VO's
Senate Cospnsrs: DeFrancisco, Golden, Kennedy, Larkin, Little, Martins, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Seward, Zeldin
Assembly cospnsr: Kolb, Gabryszak, Rivera P, Colton, Roberts, Stevenson, Burling, Saladino, Ceretto, Blankenbush, Markey, Gunther, Hooper
Assembly mltspnsrs: Abbate, Barclay, Conte, Crouch, Duprey, Giglio, Hawley, Tenney,Weisenberg
Prohibits parole for any inmates convicted of homicide unless five members of the parole board are present at the hearing Amends Executive Law, S259-C
S3537 Actions
• Jun. 24, 2011: committed to rules
• Jun. 1, 2011: advanced to third reading
• May 25, 2011: 2nd report cal.
• May 24, 2011: 1st report cal.853
• Mar 8, 2011: reported and committed to finance
• Feb. 24, 2011: referred to crime victims, crime and correction
FINANCE COMMITTEE VOTE: - May 24, 2011
Ayes (23): DeFrancisco, Johnson, Alesi, Bonacic, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Golden, Griffo, Hannon, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Little, Marcellino, Nozzolio, Robach, Saland, Seward, Young, Dilan, Gianaris, Perkins
Ayes W/R (5): Breslin, Duane, Oppenheimer, Peralta, Stavisky
Nays (7): Krueger, Diaz, Kruger, Montgomery, Parker, Rivera, Stewart-Cousins
CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION COMMITTEE VOTE - Mar 8, 2011
Ayes (9): Nozzolio, DeFrancisco, Gallivan, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Kennedy
Ayes W/R (2): Kruger, Peralta
Nays (3): Rivera, Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery


S3645-C/A 7015-B - GRIFFO / SPANO
“BRITTANY’S LAW” VFO REGISTRY
Senate cospnsrs: Nozzolio, Defrancisco, Gallivan, Golden, Kennedy, Larkin, Little, Martins, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Robach, Seward, Zeldin
Assembly cospnsrs: Kolb, Gabryszak, Rivera P, Colton, Roberts, Stevenson, Burling, Saladino, Ceretto, Blankenbush, Markey, Gunther, Hooper
Assembly mltspnsrs: Abbate, Barclay, Conte, Crouch, Duprey, Giglio, Hawley, Tenney,Weisenberg
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

S3694 - ADAMS -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Establishes a general education equivalency and higher education program in state correctional facilities. Education can reduce recidivism and provide the necessary tools to improve an inmate's quality of life, once he or she is released.

S3747/A8478 - NOZZOLIO / GIGLIO
FRP BILL
Senate cospnsrs: Bonacic, Larkin, Maziarz, O'mara, Ranzenhofer
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.
05/03/11 PASSED: - CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION COMMITTEE VOTE:
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
6/16/11 PASSED: SENATE
Ayes (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
Nays (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

S3913 - HASSELL-THOMPSON -NO ASSEMBLY BILL
EQUAL PROGRAMS FOR MALES AND FEMALES
Cospnsr: Savino
Requires that rehabilitation programs for female inmates in state correctional facilities be equivalent to those provided to male inmates elsewhere in the state; provides that such rehabilitation programs shall include, but not be limited to, vocational, academic and industrial programs.

S4160/A5433 - SAVINO/DENDEKKER
VICTIMS MAY VIEW PAROLE HEARINGS
Assembly cospnsr(s): Rivera N, Galef, Montesano, Markey, Robinson, Castro, Weprin
Assembly mltspnsr(s): Abbate, Boyland, Burling, Crouch, Gibson, Gottfried, Jeffries, McDonough, McEneny, McKevitt, Pheffer, Scarborough
Enables victims to view parole hearings via closed circuit television or a secure online website.

S5374/A7939 - DUANE / AUBRY
THE SAFE PAROLE ACT
Senate cospnsrs: Montgomery, Rivera
Assem. cospnsr: Hevesi
Assem. mltspnsr: McEneny
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, and if parole is denied list the steps the parole applicant can take to be released at the next hearing.

S5428/A3809 - HASSELL-THOMPSON / AUBRY
UNLAWFUL EMPLOYER DISCRIMINATION
Assembly cospnsr(s): Wright, Gottfried, Camara, Boyland, Lopez V, Millman, Jaffee, Kavanagh, O'Donnell, Robinson, Jeffries
Assembly mltspnsr(s): Clark, Dinowitz, Glick, Heastie, Hevesi, Maisel, McEneny, Peoples-Stokes, Pretlow, Reilly, Rivera P, Schimel, Weisenberg
Establishes it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any prospective employer to make an inquiry about, or to act upon adversely to the individual involved based upon, any criminal conviction of such individual unless such employer first makes a conditional offer of employment to such individual.

S5473/A7931 MONTGOMERY / AUBRY
CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS
Senate cospnsr(s): Hassell-Thompson, Perkins, Rivera
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 email us with your request, including the bill number, for a copy of any bill.]


3. THE NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN IS PLANNING GROUP DISTRICT VISITS DURING THE SUMMER WHEN LEGISLATORS ARE SPENDING MORE TIME IN THEIR COMMUNITY OFFICES. WHO ARE YOUR LEGISLATORS? PERHAPS WE CAN PLAN TO VISIT THEM.

WANT TO JOIN IN SUPPORTING THE SAFE PAROLE ACT, BILL S5374 SPONSORED BY SENATOR DUANE, AND A7939 SPONSORED BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER JEFFRION AUBRY? NOT SURE WHO YOUR LEGISLATORS ARE? At www.ParoleReform.org all you have to do is click on "take action", enter your street address (it will be kept confidential) and a letter will appear with a photo of your two state representatives and their names and phone numbers. Before you submit the letter, please write down their names and phone numbers to use later to call for their addresses or with your concerns about any legislative matter. You may sign the prewritten letter or replace it with your own.

WE'LL HELP YOU IF YOU WOULD LIKE:
1. We can help you find your legislative representatives if we know your zip+4, (if you don’t know the +4 part it’s on any bill you’ve received) otherwise your street address is needed. We will look up the information for anyone who calls us: Judith at 518 253 7533, or Maria at 917 885 2651 or gladly talk you through the website process if you’re near a computer.
2. You could also visit your public library’s computer room and get help from the librarians. Or ask someone who is experienced (younger folks usually). If you are experienced, please help your inexperienced friends.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS, IF YOU'RE WILLING TO TRY
[Once You Learn, Please Show Others]:
1. Go to www.ParoleReform.org. In the middle of the screen will be a video screen with the face of a woman testifying to the injustice of the parole system. Below and to the left of the screen are the words “Take Action”. Click on those words.
2. A screen with 3 yellow circles labeled 1,2,3 appears. Circle 1 says Sign pledge. The pledge is on the same page as the circles, so you need to scroll down to see it. Once you sign, you automatically are taken to the second circle (Send legislators’ letter)..
3. You again enter your address or zip+4, and immediately a photo of both legislators appears with their names and phone and fax numbers. You can add to or even replace the letter with your own. When you’re ready, click “Submit”.
4. Once the letter is submitted, you will be taken to the third circle, the Governor’s letter page, which only asks for the name of your city. After signing you will be shown a link to listen to other people’s stories. Please consider leaving one of your own.
Trust us, this is the EASIEST way to help pass the SAFE Parole Act .
Call Judith at 518 253 7533 or Maria at  917 885 2651 

If you visit www.ParoleReform.org and send a letter to your legislators we will be able to contact you when we plan visits to the district offices of your legislator, and if you won't be available, we can give the legislator your name and remind him/her that you, a constituent, sent a letter.



4.. PAROLE NEWS: MAY PAROLE RELEASES, MEMBERS OF BOARDS

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

Total Interviews......... # Released # Denied Rate of Release
20 Initials................................ 5......... 15................... 25%
82 reappearances..................... 12....... 70................... 15%
102 interviews......................... 17....... 85................... 17%

MAY Initial Release
Facility........... Sentence......... Offense
Fishkill........... 27-Life............ Att Murder 1
Fishkill........... 25-Life............ Murder 2
Fishkill........... 15-Life............ Murder 2
Green Haven.. 21-Life............ Murder 2
Wyoming....... 20-Life............ Murder 2

MAY Reappearances
Facility........... Sentence......... Offense.......... # of Board
Cayuga........... 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Cayuga........... 16-Life............ Murder 2........ 3rd
Fishkill........... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 7th
Groveland...... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd
Mid Orange.... 17 ?-Lfe........... Murder 2........ 7th
Mid Orange.... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 4th
Mid Orange.... 6 ?-Life............ Murder 2........ 3rd
Otisville.......... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 3rd *for deportation only *
Otisville.......... 15-Life............ Murder 2........ 3rd
Wende............ 20-Life............ Murder 2........ 5th
Woodbourne... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 5th
Woodbourne... 25-Life............ Murder 2........ 2nd


Parole Board Members in May by facility:
Cayuga: Ross and Ludlow
Fishkill: Hagler, Hernandez
Mid Orange: Ferguson, Ross

If you send us a monthly report of the Parole Board members at the facility where your loved one is situated, we will send them a free subscription to Building Bridges. Call us to sign up: 518 253 7533



5. PRISON CLOSURES: THREE HIGHLY RESPECTED ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS WEIGH IN, AS DOES A FATHER WHO'S CONCERNED FOR HIS SON INCARCERATED AT ARTHUR KILL

THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK applauds Governor Cuomo for his announcement to close seven prisons, the most significant commitment to prison reduction since the prison building boom of the 1980s. The plan includes four minimum-security facilities for men: Buffalo Work Release; Camp Georgetown; Summit Shock; and Fulton Work Release, in addition to three medium-security facilities for men: Arthur Kill; Mid-Orange; and Oneida.

Closing prisons is long overdue: New York’s prison population has dropped by over 15,500 people in the past decade and the state system has nearly 8,000 empty beds maintained at enormous cost. These closures will eliminate 3,800 empty prison beds and save taxpayers $72 million in 2011-12 and $112 million in 2012-13.

While we commend the Governor for his commitment to eliminating excess prison beds, we are concerned that approximately 50% of these beds are located in or near New York City, even though New York City prisons only house 25% of the total state prison population. Therefore the closures affect downstate prisons at a rate three times greater than prisons upstate. More than 60% of the state’s prison population is from New York City and its suburbs. Closing downstate prisons will result in incarcerating even more people far from their homes and prevent them from maintaining family and community ties, which lessen the trauma of parental incarceration on children and lead to greater success post-release. The closure of Arthur Kill, an effectively run prison with numerous programs and one of the few facilities where lifers and long termers from New York City can be housed close to their loved ones, is particularly troubling.

It is also significant that these prison closures will eliminate one-third of the state’s work release beds – an already underutilized program. Work release helps people in prison gain critical employment skills to prepare them for a smooth transition back to their communities; however, the number of participants in New York’s work release programs has already dropped by over 25,000 over the course of 12 years to only 1,900 in 2010.

We are hopeful that yesterday’s announcement is merely the beginning, and that the Governor will build on these positive steps by further downsizing prison beds in New York State. We urge the Governor to consider the following critical criteria in making future downsizing decisions: (1) the existence and quality of rehabilitative programs and specialized services in the facility; (2) the existence and quality of medical and mental health services in the facility; (3) the proximity of the facility to the geographic area in which the majority of incarcerated people lived prior to their incarceration and where they will likely return; and (4) the ability of the facility to keep incarcerated people and staff safe. We also expect that maximum-security and women’s prisonswill be included in future closures.

The Governor can take additional measures to further reduce the prison population without sacrificing public safety, including: diverting some individuals from prison into alternative to incarceration programs; releasing inmates earlier in their sentences after participation in prison programs that have better prepared them for successful reintegration into their communities; and reducing the number of formerly incarcerated individuals who are returned to prison for technical parole violations.

We commend Governor Cuomo for his dedication to eliminating excess prison capacity, moving away from an unjust overreliance on prisons as fuel for economic growth and ensuring more efficient use of taxpayer funds. We urge the Governor, along with New York State policymakers, to build on these significant steps and further reduce the state’s prison population and capacity. By doing so, we can reduce the state’s continued costly and misguided overuse of incarceration and free up much-needed funds to support in-prison programs, alternative to incarceration programs and other community-based services that build healthy, safe and productive individuals, families and communities.

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, Correctional Association of NY, 163 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027-4436
212-254-5700 x305, email

  

FROM THE FATHER OF A MAN INCARCERATED AT ARTHUR KILL: My son is at Arthur Kill,one of the seven prisons closing.  I have some concerns which I wish the Governor had considered:

1. The DMV call center for NYC is at Arthur Kill.  Where will the new call center be?
2. There will be no more special needs units in medium facilities.  Is this legal?
3. The local elected officials were not informed until it was to late.
4. The CO's had the best integrated staff of all the prisons I have seen.
5. John Jay was planning to start a college course in August and 35 people passed the CUNY entrance exam. John Jay was going to accept 8.  My son is one of the 35.

I am drafting a letter for my Democratic Club to send to Governor Cuomo against the closing. I tell people all the time to get to know their elected officials and write, call, email or go visit their district office besides helping them at election time.  This helps when I have problems with my son. Luckily they’ve been minor problems and I was able to contact my Senator and get help instead of calling the facility up which might have resulted in my son being punished.
 
I am concerned about the people who have a conditional release date in the near future. The people who would have made the decision for my son know him. How will the new people get to know the real person? Arthur Kill made sure when released the men have all the benefits they are legally allowed to have. I hope the new prison will be as responsible.

We should think about protesting Governor Cuomo's office in Manhattan.


THE NYS JUSTICE COALITION RESPONDS:
Can Closing Prisons Make Mass Incarceration Worse?
Yes, if they are the wrong prisons closed for the wrong reasons.

Governor Cuomo’s announcement that he is closing seven prisons in New York State should have come as welcome news to New York’s prison justice advocates, who say that New York’s prisons over-incarcerate, sentences are too long, conditions too harsh, and the system is based on vengeance rather than healing.

However, it would be hard to imagine a way to close prisons less helpful to a model of justice than the one just announced by the Governor.

(1) Not one less person will be incarcerated. The 3,800 bed reduction does not even close the gap of existing over-capacity.
(2) The prisons that will be closed are nearly all prisons in close proximity to urban areas, where most prisoners come from, while the vast web of prisons in the rural, distant far north has not been touched. Intrepid New York City families who try to stay in contact with their loved ones in places like Dannemora have to ride an overnight bus for eight hours, wait for three more, visit for four or five hours, then get back on the bus for the long ride home.
(3) The prisons that were closed had some of the too-few programs allowing prisoners a chance to shorten their sentences through rehabilitation: two work release and one shock incarceration program. Advocates have argued for many more of such programs, instead of fewer.
(4) No maximum security facilities have been closed. Maximums, which have the harshest conditions, were “off the table” for closure because they have no excess capacity. Why are the maximums full? Because prisoners are classified as maximum security unnecessarily, for example, for minor disciplinary infractions. Closing mediums and minimums creates more pressure to classify prisoners into the maxes.

Governor Cuomo once said incarceration is not a jobs program. These prison closings, based solely on budget considerations, belie his words.

New York State Prisoner Justice Coalition, 33 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12210
518-434-4037 email


MILK NOT JAILS says Cuomo needs to better understand that farms, not prisons, are our state’s hope:  On Friday, July 1, 2011 Governor Cuomo announced the specific prisons that his administration will close in the coming year. These closures comply with the 2011 Budget requirement that the state close 3,800 prison beds due to a declining inmate population and in an effort to reduce state spending.

The state’s closure plan includes four male minimum security facilities and three male medium security facilities. These facilities are either in close proximity to urban areas, where the majority of people in prison call home, or provide programs that reduce recidivism.

Many more obsolete correctional facilities are ready to be converted into savings for New York’s taxpayers. The Governor not only missed the urgent opportunity to close more prisons, but he failed to meet the challenge he so strongly gave himself in his 2011 State of the State Address, “Incarceration is not a jobs program.” If he had closed just one North County prison, he would have acknowledged the truth of his January speech.

What Cuomo needs to better understand is that farms, not prisons, are our state’s hope. New York is a place where agriculture and economies can grow. The Governor cannot tie our rural communities to a backwards, doomed corrections system. He must promote viable industries that will help the North Country put healthy food on tables not downstate people in cages.

The numbers of people in New York’s prisons are declining. The number of people ready to work in New York is not. Let’s put the unemployed to work building a robust food economy.

Communities affected by the closures will be able to request economic development assistance from the state, which includes money from a $50 million fund as well as additional tax credits available to help end the reliance on prisons as the major source of employment and economic sustainability. This fund would make much more of an impact if it is applied to rural areas where prisons dominate a small, undiversified, local economy.

Governor Cuomo’s closure plan reinforces the importance of MILK NOT JAILS’s work to build a new urban-rural relationship. We hope that our new line of dairy products will demonstrate the growth potential of other economic sectors and make a case for more rural, distant prisons to be closed in the future. And we’ll be watching that $50 million reinvestment fund to see if there are opportunities for MILK NOT JAILS to apply for those tax dollars and build a new urban-rural relationship.

Milk Not Jails can be reached at milknotjails@gmail.com.



6. RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENTS - WHAT WE KNOW, AND WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

1)  Correction Law § 112 (4):
4. The commissioner and the chair of the parole board shall work jointly to develop and implement, as soon as practicable, a risk and needs assessment instrument or instruments, which shall be empirically validated, that would be administered to inmates upon reception into a correctional facility, and throughout their incarceration and release to community supervision, to facilitate appropriate programming both during an inmate's incarceration and community supervision, and designed to facilitate the successful integration of inmates into the community.

2) Executive Law § 259-c(4):
* 4. establish written procedures for its use in making parole decisions as required by law. Such written procedures shall incorporate risk and needs principles to measure the rehabilitation of persons appearing before the board, the likelihood of success of such persons upon release, and assist members of the state board of parole in determining which inmates may be released to parole supervision; * NB Effective September 30, 2011

Building Bridges has in our possession a copy of a Risk and Needs Assessment used in reentry programs in 2010. We hope it is NOT what will be used to make parole decisions. We've asked Parole for a copy of the one used by the Parole Board, but they have not provided one so far. The one we have is very disturbing. For instance: under Work and Financial, the person administering the test is asked if “this person (the parole applicant) faces employability problems upon release?” Well, yes, that’s true of 99% of all the people getting released! The system is rigged against finding employment. In a self efficacy section, the subject is asked if it will "be difficult to find a steady job?” “Will money be a problem for you when released?” Almost anyone who said no to either of those questions would be seriously out of touch with reality, yet no is probably the answer that will get the better score. But the reality is that in New York, a criminal record follows a person for their entire lifetime and creates barriers to employment, as well as housing and educational opportunities. More than 60% of employers report that they would not knowingly hire someone with a criminal record. Employment prospects of formerly-incarcerated individuals in New York State are further circumscribed by a myriad of occupational licensing laws that exclude them from participating in many trades. New York State has struggled to lessen the negative effects of a criminal record by developing certificates of rehabilitation, and by requiring employers to show a "direct relationship" between one or more criminal offenses and the specific license or employment sought (see Article 23-A of the Correction Law). Approximately half of persons released from prison are precluded from even applying for a certificate of rehabilitation until they have been in the community for a period of three years or more. While many persons leaving prison have participated in prison programming and have earned early release, they are still ineligible for a certificate of rehabilitation at the time of their transition back into the community.

Much of this information is found in the justifications for bills reported in Article 2: A3658, A3809, A5357, A7782, A7813. When those bills are passed it will be much easier to get a good score on the Risk and Needs Assessment tool - if our assumptions are correct.



7. REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR "THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL: A NEW DAY, A NEW WAY,"A MAJOR NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM THAT WILL BRING TOGETHER AN IMPRESSIVE ARRAY OF WELL-KNOWN SPEAKERS ON SEPT. 24TH AT RIVERSIDE CHURCH IN NEW YORK CITY FOR A RARE HIGH-PROFILE CONVERSATION ON IMPORTANT ISSUES AFFECTING THE INCARCERATED, THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED AND THEIR LOVED ONES.

Anyone who wants to attend the free, day-long symposium is urged to register immediately at www.thinkoutsidethecell.org, since space is limited. Free breakfast and lunch will be available at the event, which is funded by the Ford Foundation.

Participants will include the Rev. Al Sharpton; Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker, named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People; CNN journalist Soledad O'Brien; Randall Robinson, best-selling author and social justice advocate; Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; "Chef Jeff" Henderson, formerly incarcerated motivational speaker, author and star of the Food Network; Rossana Rosado, CEO 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, CBS national correspondent Byron Pitts; and Marc Lamont Hill, a leading hip-hop generation intellectual and host of the nationally syndicated television program, Our World with Black Enterprise.

The symposium is made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation to the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, which was founded by Sheila Rule. It is being presented in partnership with the Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy, the College and Community Fellowship and the Riverside Church Prison Ministry.

Building Bridges is published by Prison Action Network as our way of communicating with our members.
If you'd like to become a member, please email or call us at 518 253 7533.