Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Monday, February 14, 2011

February 2011

Dear Reader,


This newsletter is our way of communicating with our members, who have it delivered to their email or street addresses. But we want as many people as possible to know about the hidden members of our society - those behind prison walls - so we post it here hoping to catch the interest of a few wanderers. Welcome to our world!

We - all of us - the entire Prison Action Network - need you to take action to help us. We need information, we need your state legislative representatives to support the SAFE Parole Act, and Charles Rangel to include criminal justice among the choices on his website (see article 1, Actions).

We need your participation at the NYSPJN Legislative Awareness Day on May 3 (see article 1, Events), especially those who were part of Family Empowerment Day 4, where the idea behind the SAFE Parole Act was born. Together we CAN make a difference, but that means we ALL need to do some challenging things. That's why "Action' is our middle name!

Please be well, keep the faith, share the news, and for the sake of all of us, get involved!


SUMMARIES OF ARTICLES

1. ACTIONS, EVENTS, AND MEETINGS ARE LISTED GEOGRAPHICALLY so you can easily check for those in your area. There's information regarding researching parole denials, writing to the governor in support of the SAFE Parole Act, using an outline provided to help you communicate with your legislators, asking Charles Rangel to add criminal justice to his agenda, and last but not least, reserving Sat.May 3rd to attend the NYS Prisoner Justice Legislative Advocacy Day.

2. THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION HAS APPOINTED J. SOFFIYAH ELIJAH as their new Executive Director. An accomplished advocate, scholar and educator, Ms. Elijah brings decades of experience addressing the urgent needs of the marginalized, silenced and indigent people in our criminal and juvenile justice systems.

3. FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT - Activists directly affected by the prison industrial complex have begun organizing to develop a national civil rights movement. NY’s Tina Reynolds is part of the steering committee.

4. MICHELLE ALEXANDER AND ANGELA DAVIS discuss incarceration as a system of racial control at WBAI 99.5 FM Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report. The program will be posted on WBAI’s archives until June 7th.

5. MONEY OR MORALITY - Martin Luther King, Jr. could have argued that separate water fountains were too expensive, a waste of money. He would have been right about that. But cost was beside the point and it should be beside the point today. Michelle Alexander, in “Obama’s Drug War”, her article in the Dec 9 issue of The Nation.

6. NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN REPORT includes a list of 51 organizations that have signed on; the Campaign’s easily understood list of reasons (called the Statement of Purpose and Intent) for specific changes in the SAFE Parole Act, and a call for help translating the Campaign’s literature into Spanish and designing a logo for the Campaign's under-construction website.

7. PAROLE NEWS - Gov's budget bill calls for reducing number of parole board members to 13, combining DOCS and the Div of Parole into one agency called the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, with the Parole Board remaining an administratively independent decision making body; December A1VO statistics.

8. THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL ANNOUNCES NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON SAT. SEPT. 24. The event is a reflection of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation’s mission to overturn the dehumanizing stereotypes of men, women and children who live in the long shadow of prison, and to help members of this population embrace their personal power. Excerpts from the new 3-book series, and a call for submissions fo

[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, EVENTS AND MEETINGS HAPPENING AROUND THE STATE THIS MONTH

ACTIONS
MAIL US YOUR PAROLE DENIAL INFORMATION: Have you or your loved one been denied parole solely because of the nature of the crime? How many times? Governor Cuomo's new budget contains a revision to Exec. Law 259-i that does nothing to prevent the parole board from basing parole release denials on the nature of the crime.  Since he wants to save money, we want to point out to him that each unnecessary parole denial costs up to $70,000 per 2-year hit.  The trouble is we don't know if there are any statistics showing how many denials are based solely on the nature of the crime. You can help by sending us the person's name (just so we don't count one person more than once) and the number of times s/he has been denied solely on the nature of the crime. Please try to send your response by Friday Feb 25. If you have a copy of the denial/s, please send them as well so that when we communicate with the governor we can back up our information. Please send to NYS Parole Reform Campaign, PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206 or email parole.reform@gmail.com.  Together we CAN make a difference!

WRITE A LETTER TO THE GOVERNOR in support of the SAFE Parole Act: www.NYcitizenscampaign.com is the website he created, with a form for comments on the budget crisis. I sent him the following note, which you may copy and sign if you agree with it. Please feel free to change it or write your own:

"You presented a revision of Exec. Law 259-i as a way to save money. Leaving the nature of the crime as the primary criteria for consideration by the Parole Board for denying parole wastes close to $70,000 per each denial. It is the present dangerousness of the person today which is the crucial consideration, not the act for which they were convicted and which can never change. They will be released someday. The nature of the crime will be the same then as it is now and was at the completion of their minimum sentence. If there is evidence that they are a community-ready person, then why waste money keeping them in prison at a total cost of close to $40,000 a year? We have a better suggestion. The Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act. I'll be sending it to you. Thank you."

You may also send your letter to him at Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224


HERE'S AN OUTLINE THAT MIGHT HELP YOU find the words to introduce yourself to your State Assembly member and Senator [please call us if you need help finding out how to reach them: 518 253 7533].

Dear [Assembly member, Senator]:

“I’m writing/calling/visiting because I have a problem which requires legislative action, and you are my representative in the legislature.” My [mother, brother, son, husband, wife, sister, uncle, father, aunt, daughter] has been in prison for [x number of] years, serving a sentence of [x years] to [x years, Life]. They are/were eligible for parole on [month and year]

Describe the hardships this incarceration has caused you and/or your family. Describe how he/she has changed over the years. Talk about the good things he/she has done while in prison. Describe his/her plans for life back home. If your loved one has seen the board already, tell how many times, and describe the pain those denials cause you and the other members of your family. Tell about how when he/she appears before the parole board they don’t release him/her because of the nature of the crime (if that's the case). Describe how hopeless and helpless this makes you and the rest of the family feel. If your loved one has not yet seen the board, talk about the stories you’ve heard on visiting days from others about parole hearings, and how afraid you are that your loved one will be denied when it’s his/her turn.

“I am asking you to pass legislation that would require the parole board to base their decisions on who my loved one is today, not on what he/she once did and can never take back.”

REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE RANGEL IS SEEKING OPINIONS on what is the most important issue Congress should address. Well, on his list Criminal Justice Reform is absent even though we have 1.4 million African American males locked in cages all across this country.  Visit his website www.Rangel.house.gov ; click on "other" and ask him why this is not on his list and tell him why it should be.  [Submitted by Joseph Jazz Hayden, Jazz]


EVENTS:
ALBANY events

MAY 3RD - - SAVE THE DATE!
NEW YORK STATE PRISONER JUSTICE NETWORK LEGISLATIVE AWARENESS DAY
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.

Legislative Awareness Day will be a chance 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. For more information, call the Albany Social Justice Center at 518-434-4037, e-mail nysprisonerjustice@gmail.com, or write to NYSPJN, 33 Central Ave, Albany NY 12210.

Location: New York State AFL-CIO Bldg, 100 Swan Street in Albany.


LONG ISLAND event
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 5:30 PM (SNOW DATE MARCH 3RD) PRISON FAMILIES ANONYMOUS, INC.

"The Visitors- A Film"
Hosted by the Criminal Law Society of Touro Law Center.

This documentary film by Melis Birder depicts the emotional journey taken by a group of NY families as they travel to distant prisons in order to maintain ties to their incarcerated loved ones. Time will be allotted for a discussion after the movie, and members of Prison Families Anonymous will be available to answer questions. There is no admission fee. PFA is a 501(c) (3) organization and donations are appreciated.

Call Barbara: 631-943-0441 or Sue: 631-806-3903631-943-0441 for more information.

Location: Touro Law School (auditorium),
225 Eastview Drive, Central Islip, NY 11722


MANHATTAN events
SATURDAY, MARCH 19 SAVE THE DATE!
MICHELLE ALEXANDER SPEAKING ON THE NEW JIM CROW
Sponsored by Riverside Church Lecture Series and Campaign for Black Male Achievement; Open Society Foundations Details to be announced. To help with planning, please contact Jazz Hayden (917) 753-3771

NATIONAL events
SUNDAY, MARCH 13, 1:00 PM WALK TO WASHINGTON WITH THE IN YOUR FACE MOVEMENT
Rain, Sleet or Snow, 'The Your Face Movement' will be walking to Washington DC. This walk to Washington is predicated to be monumental, historical and unforgettable. The Walk to Washington is looking to make a huge impact on thousands of people as they journey through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington D.C.  When arriving in Washington D.C, In Your Face will be conducting an Awareness Rally, where speakers, activists, and organizations will gather.
The Walk for Justice will be walking from Harlem, New York to Washington D.C 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.

For More Information on The In Your Face Movement and/or  The Walk To Washington
Please contact the organizers or (646) 406-9650
To register



MEETINGS: [From now on, after the first announcement, we will list only the name and contact information for ongoing meetings that don’t have changing agendas.]

REGIONAL NEW YORK STATE PRISONER JUSTICE NETWORK MEETINGS
Thursday, March 10, 4 p.m. North Country Region: SUNY Plattsburgh
Saturday, March 12 Central New York Region, SUNY Binghamton

The New York State Prisoner Justice Network is holding a series of regional meetings 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 from around the state to attend the Legislative Awareness Day for Prisoner Justice on May 3rd in Albany.

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


ALBANY meetings
Every Monday 7-8:30 pm PRISON FAMILIES OF NY SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS - Alison 518-453-6659, PFNY

Every Tuesday at 6pm P-MOTIONS (PROGRESSIVE MEN OPERATING TOWARDS INITIATING OPPORTUNITIES NOW) - Malik at 518 445-5487.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 7-8:30 P.M. PRISON FAMILIES OF NEW YORK
Informational discussion with Tom Grant, former NYS Parole Board Commissioner.
FREE. For more information, please email PFNY or call 518-453-6659.
Location: 373 Central Avenue, Albany, NY


BROOKLYN meeting
EVERY WEDNESDAY AT 5:30PM VOCAL PAROLEES ORGANIZING PROJECT 917 676-8041, email

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

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 6:30-8:30PM PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO! MONTHLY MEETING
We will revisit the challenges of reentry. The documentary film being screened is “Omar and Pete” and we will hear from several organizations that have been instrumental in helping formerly incarcerated people navigate “this new world.” Although this film was screened before, five years ago, our guest speakers have never presented at a PRP2 meeting: Pastor Clay from the Stepping Stones Outreach Facility; Mrs. Brenda McDuffie, President of the Buffalo Urban League; and Mr. Leroy Jones, House Manager at Supportive Living on Northrup.

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


LONG ISLAND meetings
TUESDAY FEB. 22 AND MARCH 8TH, 7:30PM PRISON FAMILIES ANONYMOUS (PFA) SUPPORT GROUP
For more information, please contact: Barbara: 631-943-0441 or Sue: 631-806-3903


MANHATTAN meetings
EVERY FRIDAY 6-9PM RIVERSIDE CHURCH BOOK STUDY GROUP - The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Washington. For information on the study group contact Jazz Hayden email, 917-753-3771

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1-3:00PM NY REENTRY ROUNDTABLE
How Compstat-Based Zero Tolerance Policing Creates Reentry Barriers; NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Policies
Speakers:
Annette Warren Dickerson, Director of Education and Outreach, Center for Constitutional Rights
Prof. M. Chris Fabricant, Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at Pace University School of Law and at John Jay Legal Services, Inc.
Loyda Colon from the Justice Committee

Please RSVP: Gabriel Torres Rivera, J.D., Director, Reentry Initiatives
grivera@cssny.org 212-614-5306 www.cssny.org
Location: The Community Service Society of New York (CSS)
105 East 22nd Street at the corner of Park Avenue South, Conference Room 4A
Take the 6 or N/R trains to 23rd Street

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 10 AM COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS Strategic Planning Meeting
The Violence against Women Committee will introduce our new legislation, “The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act” This will be a combination of the legislative meeting that was canceled in January and the Violence Against Women Committee Highlighted meeting, so we will still be welcoming guest speakers Tracie Gardner, Maggie Williams and Roberta Meyers-Peeples, and last but not least, we will be wishing a farewell to Serena at this meeting also.

Stacey Thompson (212) 254-5700 x333
Coalition Associate, Women in Prison Project, Correctional Association of New York
All meetings are held at the CA of NY
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd, 124-125, Suite 200
2/3/A/C/B/D to 125th st.


NIAGARA FALLS meeting
EVERY THIRD TUESDAY, 6-7:30PM NIAGARA PRISON FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP
Claudia 236-0257 or email



2. THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION HAS APPOINTED J. SOFFIYAH ELIJAH TO BE THEIR NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.

Ms. Elijah will serve as the Association’s first African-American executive director. ...Ms. Elijah comes to the Correctional Association from the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, where she has been a clinical instructor for the past 11 years and the deputy director for the past eight years.  ...A native New Yorker, Ms. Elijah practiced criminal and family law in New York City for more than 20 years.  She was a member of the faculty and Director and supervising attorney of the Defender Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law and a supervising attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and worked as a staff attorney for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society. 

Ms. Elijah will join the staff of the Correctional Association on March 14, 2011.  She will succeed Robert Gangi, who has served as Executive Director since 1983.  During Mr. Gangi’s 29-year tenure, the Correctional Association has grown into a powerful and effective multi-million dollar advocacy organization.


3. FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT

From February 28th -- March 2nd, Alabama will play host to formerly incarcerated activists from across the country as they convene in an effort to organize what may well be our nation's next major civil rights movement.

The conference, which is being organized by a steering committee comprised of prisoner rights and criminal justice reform activist leaders, [including NYC's Tina Reynolds, cofounder of WORTH] will draft a campaign platform calling for the restoration of civil rights, a halt to prison expansion, the elimination of excessive punishments, and the protection of the rights and dignity of family members of the incarcerated. Conference events, which are slated to occur in Montgomery, Dothan, and Selma, will include a backwards march over Edmund Pettis Bridge.

Who better to lead this movement than those who have first-hand experience of the dehumanizing, unjust nature of our prison system? They know all too well the inequities that exist within the system, the abuses that occur behind prison walls, the suffering that families of prisoners must endure, and the struggle that those returning from prison face in the search for housing, jobs, and a sense of belonging.

In this incarceration nation, where more than 2.3 million people wake up each morning behind bars, and another 10 million are on some form of court supervision, few of us remain untouched by the demolition caused by the system's wrath, but none are more equipped to spearhead the fight for reform than those whose lives have been most directly affected.

The recent prisoner strike in Georgia has been integral in building the critical mass necessary for a successful campaign. Thousands of people have demonstrated solidarity with Georgia's prisoners - and their demands for decent living conditions, fair wages for work, access to families, vocational and self-improvement programs, educational opportunities, access to health care, and an end to cruel and unusual punishment - through signing online letters of support. The convention in Alabama is yet another step towards the formation of a strong, determined leadership core for the movement - one that will demand the attention of decision makers and inspire others to act.

A number of grassroots prisoner rights, criminal justice reform, and service organizations are rallying in support of this movement. Among them are All of Us or None, World Conference of Mayors, Drug Policy Alliance, Equal Justice Initiative, Prodigal Child Project, National Justice Coalition, A New Way of Life, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), MN Second Chance Coalition, and The Ordinary People Society.

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


4. MICHELLE ALEXANDER AND ANGELA DAVIS DISCUSS INCARCERATION AS A SYSTEM OF RACIAL CONTROL
WBAI 99.5 FM: Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report, Produced & Hosted by Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash A Building Bridges Special

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

with Michelle Alexander, civil rights advocate and litigator, author
and Angela Davis, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz;a leading advocate in the movement to end the prison-industrial complex.

The program aired on February 7 but you can listen to it until June 7 on their archives.


5. MONEY OR MORALITY: MICHELLE ALEXANDER DEBATES WHETHER THE DRUG WARS ARE AN ECONOMIC ISSUE OR A MORAL ONE.

Obama's Drug War by Michelle Alexander | December 9, 2010, The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)

[Condensed from the published article]
For the first time in decades, politicians across the political spectrum, including some who were once "get tough" true believers, are wondering aloud whether the drug war has become too expensive.

Could this be the beginning of the end of the drug war, a war that has reportedly cost more than $1 trillion in the past few decades, with little to show for it beyond millions who have been branded criminals and felons, ushered behind bars and then released into a permanent second-class status? More than 30 million people have been arrested since 1982, when President Reagan turned Nixon's rhetorical "war against drugs" into a literal war against poor people of color. ... In some states, 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders admitted to prison have been African-American, and when released they find themselves ushered into a parallel universe where they are stripped of many of the rights supposedly won during the civil rights movement. ... Could the economic crisis finally put an end to this madness? Is the drug war machinery that produced a vast new racial undercaste finally winding down?

Given the belt-tightening mood in Congress and the reluctance of the administration to show leadership on issues of race, the thinking goes, now is not the time to link drug law reform to a broader movement for racial justice. Ending our nation's racial divisions and anxieties is pie in the sky, a utopian dream. Better to stick with cost-benefit analyses of drug treatment versus incarceration, and show the public that it's cheaper to send a kid to college than to prison. The problem with that strategy is that it won't work, even during a time of economic crisis.

Why the pessimism? Two reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that the current economic crisis cuts both ways. The same fiscal concerns that have inspired a growing number of states to reconsider harsh and expensive mandatory minimum sentences have also inspired the Obama administration to increase funding for failed law enforcement initiatives, like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Byrne grant program—two programs the Bush Administration had begun to phase out.

... a peer-reviewed study in the journal Criminology found that the COPS program, despite the hype and the cost—more than $8 billion—"had little or no effect on crime." ... These programs have successfully ushered millions of poor folks of color into a permanent undercaste—largely for engaging in the same types of minor drug crimes that go ignored in middle-class white communities and on college campuses.

....The channeling of stimulus dollars to law enforcement may help some keep their jobs, but as New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently observed, it's a "callous political calculus.... The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register."

This brings us to the second, and more important, reason fiscal concerns won't end mass incarceration: the race card will be played by those who seek to preserve the system. In the absence of a major social movement that proactively deals with race in a constructive way, old racial divisions will trump new concerns about cost.

If you doubt that's the case, consider what is at stake. If we were to return to the rates of incarceration our nation had in the 1970s—a time, by the way, when many civil rights advocates thought incarceration rates were egregiously high—we would need to release four out of five people currently behind bars. More than a million people employed by the criminal justice system could lose their jobs. Most new prison construction has occurred in predominantly white, rural communities already teetering on the edge of economic collapse. Those prisons across America would have to close. Private prison companies and all the corporate interests that profit from caging human beings would be forced to watch their earnings vanish.

... Few people would openly argue that we should lock up millions of poor people just so other people can have jobs or get a good return on their private investments. Instead, familiar arguments would likely resurface about the need to be "tough" on "them"—a group of people defined in the media and political discourse not so subtly as black and brown.

Although colorblind cost-benefit approaches often seem pragmatic in the short run, in the long run they are counterproductive. They leave intact the racial attitudes, stereotypes and anxieties that gave rise to the system in the first place. The problem lies in the nature of the system itself, not the cost. And the only way to dismantle the system is by building a broad coalition of Americans unwilling to accept it at any price.

Martin Luther King Jr. could have argued that separate water fountains were too expensive, a waste of money. He would have been right about that. But cost was beside the point. It should be beside the point today.


6. NYS PAROLE REFORM CAMPAIGN

The NYS Parole Reform Campaign has two subcommittees, the Strategy Team and the Policy Committee.

The Strategy Team is planning ways to move the SAFE Parole Act forward.

The Strategy Team has received signatures from the following 51 organizations attesting to their support for the SAFE Parole Act: Albany Political Prisoners Support Committee, All Things Harlem, Binghamton Justice Projects, The Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Buffalo Local Action Committee (BLAC), Center for Community Alternatives, Center for Law and Justice, Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc., Coalition for Parole Restoration (CPR), College and Community Fellowship, Community Service Society of New York, The Correctional Association of New York, The Drug Policy Alliance, Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition, Exponents, Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment (FREE!), The Fortune Society, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), In Your Face Movement, Inside Out Art, Inc., Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment (ICARE), Legal Action Center, Narcofreedom Inc., Nassau Inmate Advocacy Group, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, NYC Jericho Movement, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL), New York State Defenders Association, New York State Defenders Justice Fund, The Osborne Association, Prison Action Network, Prison Families Anonymous, Prison Policy Initiative, Prisoners Are People Too!, Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, RIFT SUCCESS, RIFT SUCCESS 2nd Chance Division, Riverside Church Prison Ministry, Second Chance Committee, The Sentencing Project, Social Justice Center of Albany, Social Responsibility Council of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, SOhopeful of New York, Southern Tier Advocacy & Mitigation Project, Incorporated, TASC of the Capital District, The Think Outside the Cell Foundation, Inc., VOCAL New York, Western NY Peace Center, WORTH Women on the Rise Telling HerStory, Youth Represent.

What a great feeling it is to have so much support! We're not alone!!!!

The Campaign will be taking part in the NYSPJN Legislative Advocacy day planned for May 3.  Parole reform will be one of the issues so we are hoping to get a large turnout from all the Campaign's membership organizations. Members of PAN will give a briefing on the SAFE Parole Act, followed by visits to your representatives.

On another note, we are looking for volunteers to translate our Campaign literature into Spanish, and to design our website's logo. If you are willing and able to donate your time to either of these important tasks, please email parole.reform@gmail.com or write the NYS Parole Reform Campaign at PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206. Thank you!


PURPOSE AND INTENT STATEMENT FOR THE SAFE AND FAIR EVALUATIONS (SAFE) PAROLE ACT

DELETION OF SUBDIVISION 1: This section of the statute is outdated and no longer relevant. In 1980, the legislature placed the full responsibility for setting the minimum period of imprisonment on the courts, determining that the courts were better suited than the Parole Board to perform this function. Since the change in 1980, the courts have set the minimum for all indeterminate sentences.

THE INTERVIEW SHALL TAKE PLACE WITH ALL PARTIES PRESENT IN THE SAME ROOM: In-person interviews result in a more engaged, effective and meaningful process for parole applicants and parole commissioners. By increasing the opportunity for fairness, concern and serious consideration, such hearings increase the applicants’ trust in the process and in the goal of reintegration. At the same time, by their very nature, in-person hearings create an environment in which the parole board can more fully and fairly evaluate applicants.

THE INTERVIEW SHALL BE RECORDED AUDIO/VISUALLY: Videotaping interviews ensures that the final record is accurate and comprehensive, and eliminates the mistakes and omissions commonly found in transcripts. Recording the interviews in this way allows for a more effective review of the hearing, the atmosphere in which it takes place and the demeanor of all parties—and holds everyone accountable for their conduct. The cost of videotaping hearings and providing copies, when requested, to parole applicants is more than offset by the savings realized by eliminating the cost of stenographers and, in many cases, the cost of transcripts.

NO DOCUMENTS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO THE PAROLE BOARD SHALL BE CONSIDERED CONFIDENTIAL EXCEPT WHEN FOR THE SAFETY OF THE PAROLE APPLICANT: Providing for full disclosure to the applicant of those documents that are already available to the Parole Board for consideration results in greater transparency, fairness and trust in the parole process. With full and fair disclosure, the applicant can address errors or other information, thereby ensuring a more accurate portrayal of him/her on which to base the board’s decision.

WITH THE PAROLE APPLICANT’S CONSENT, A COPY OF HIS/HER PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION AND “PAROLE RELEASE PLAN” SHALL BE MADE AVAILABLE TO A REQUESTING VICTIM, OR VICTIM’S REPRESENTATIVE. THE PAROLE BOARD SHALL CONSIDER SUPPORTIVE OR CRITICAL INPUT FROM THE VICTIM CONCERNING BEHAVIOR OF THE PAROLE APPLICANT POST-SENTENCING: This change provides more information than ever before to victims and their representatives, who have typically been uninformed about the parole applicant’s progress while incarcerated, and alienated from the parole process. With this kind of information, victims have a more complete picture of the parole applicant’s behavior since sentencing and his/her readiness for release, and they can provide input in the parole process in a more meaningful way.

RELEASE ON PAROLE SHALL BE GRANTED FOR GOOD CONDUCT AND EFFICIENT PERFORMANCE OF DUTIES WHILE CONFINED, AND PREPAREDNESS FOR REENTRY AND REINTEGRATION INTO SOCIETY, THEREBY PROVIDING A REASONABLE BASIS TO CONCLUDE THAT, IF SUCH PERSON IS RELEASED, HE OR SHE WILL LIVE AND REMAIN AT LIBERTY WITHOUT VIOLATING THE LAW: With this change, the parole board is given more specific, workable criteria by which to determine parole releases. It requires the board to more thoroughly evaluate whatever changes have taken place in the parole applicant since sentencing, based on his/her institutional record, behavior and other reliable indicators while confined.

THE PAROLE BOARD WILL BE REQUIRED TO STATE IN DETAIL THE SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN, PROGRAMS OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO BE COMPLETED, OR CHANGES IN PERFORMANCE, OR CONDUCT TO BE MADE, OR CORRECTIVE ACTION OR ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN, IN ORDER TO QUALIFY FOR PAROLE RELEASE: Requiring the Parole Board to explicitly set forth detailed conditions for release is consistent with the proposed New York State Transitional Accountability Plan (TAP), which was a collaboration between the Department of Correctional Services and the Division of Parole. This change makes for good corrections, providing a fairer, more thoughtful and transparent process by which the Parole Board can make determinations regarding current and future release. It also alleviates the frustration and confusion experienced by parole applicants when they are not given clear and complete instructions regarding what they must do in order to meet the expectations of the next Parole Board. In the end, this change holds everyone accountable—the applicant, the Department of Correctional Services and the Parole Board.

THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES SHALL PROVIDE TO THE PAROLE APPLICANT ACCESS—WITHIN 90 DAYS—TO THE PROGRAM OR PROGRAMS, ACTIVITIES AND/OR FACILITIES NEEDED IN ORDER TO PROVIDE THE OPPORTUNITY TO FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH BY THE PAROLE BOARD: Having created goals and expectations for the parole applicant, good and consistent corrections practices require that the applicant be given the opportunity to meet these goals. Such opportunities must be made available quickly, in order to take advantage of the applicant’s heightened motivation and willingness to participate. Doing so is also in keeping with the proposed TAP, and it promotes collaboration between Parole and Corrections.

THE PAROLE APPLICANT SHALL BE SCHEDULED FOR A REAPPEARANCE BEFORE THE BOARD UPON COMPLETION OF THE STIPULATED REQUIREMENTS, OR AFTER 24 MONTHS, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST. IF THE REQUIREMENTS PREVIOUSLY SET FORTH BY THE PAROLE BOARD HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED, RELEASE SHALL BE GRANTED: This change requires the initial Parole Board to be more thoughtful, thorough and specific regarding the evaluation of and expectations for the parole applicant. For example, at an applicant’s first parole hearing, the Parole Board must make a thorough, detailed assessment of the applicant’s strengths and deficits. Should the applicant be denied parole at that first hearing, the Parole Board must provide specific, detailed criteria that the applicant must fulfill in order to address the deficits. Once all criteria are fulfilled, and if the applicant’s record remains satisfactory, the applicant must be released.


7. PAROLE NEWS
The Governor's Budget Bill calls for reducing the number of Parole Commissioners to 13, which is the current number who were listed in last month's Building Bridges. Chairwoman Evans stated that with video conferencing being expanded beyond the current 26 facilities, it will be a manageable task.
The bill also combines DOCS and the Division of Parole into one agency called the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, with the Parole Board remaining an administratively independent decision-making body.


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

Total Interviews...... # Released.... # Denied....... Rate of Release
19 Initials.............................. 3.................... 16.................. 16%
63 reappearances................... 12.................. 51.................. 19%
82 Total................................. 15.................. 67.................. 18%

Initial Releases
Facility......... Sentence..... Offense
Clinton.......... 25-Life........... Murder 2
Fishkill.......... 20-Life........... Murder 2
Mid Orange... 25-Life........... Murder 2


Reappearances
Facility......... Sentence...... Offense.......... # of Board
Attica............ 7-Life............. M2 (JO)........ 6th
Clinton.......... 1 ?-Life.......... Murder 2....... 6th
Eastern.......... 25-Life........... Murder 2....... 6th
Fishkill.......... 15-Life........... Murder 2....... 8th
Fishkill.......... 20-Life........... Murder 2....... 3rd
Fishkill.......... 15-Life........... Murder 2....... 6th
Mid Orange... 18 ?-Life........ Murder 2....... 6th
Mid Orange... 20-Life........... Murder 2....... 5th
Mid Orange... 15-Life........... Murder 2....... 3rd *for deportation only
Woodbourne.. 17-Life........... Murder 2....... 6th
Wyoming....... 15-Life........... Murder 2....... 7th
Wyoming....... 2 ?-5.............. M2 (JO?)......... 6th


8. THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL FOUNDATION NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM AND CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

On Sept 24, 2011, at the historic Riverside Church in New York City, this event will provide an opportunity for those with prison in their backgrounds to raise their voices and be heard on issues affecting the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones,

The deeply moving anthologies in the Think Outside the Cell series, which Building Bridges featured in its last newsletter, will provide the framework for the symposium, a program of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation that is being presented with generous funding from the Ford Foundation and in full partnership with the College and Community Fellowship and the Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy. The event is a reflection of the Think Outside the Cell Foundation’s mission to overturn the dehumanizing stereotypes of men, women and children who live in the long shadow of prison, and to help members of this population embrace their personal power. The books that the Foundation publishes also reflect that mission.

For more information: email, or call 877-267-2303


Following are excerpts from the three anthologies in the Think Outside the Cell Series:

The Hard Journey Home: Real-Life Stories About Reentering Society After Incarceration
“I was seventy-three years old and alone… In those early months after coming home, I had only two depend-able companions. One was loneliness. It sets in quietly in prison, and you accept it. But on the streets, it’s palpable. The other companion was fear. I was scared to death of life on the outside.” -Larry White, “From Reentry to Reintegration”

Counting the Years: Real-Life Stories About Waiting for Loved Ones to Return Home from Prison
“My mother is scheduled to come home later this year. I started out waiting for her like a bird on a perch—still, watchful, uneasy. I was afraid to use my voice to sing. I was afraid to fly, as if I had committed the crime myself, as if my own wings were clipped, as if I were chained and bound by her actions.” -Jennifer Collins, “The Long Road Home”

Love Lives Here, Too: Real-Life Stories About Prison Marriages and Relationships
“I could rationalize why she felt the need to escape from a relationship with a man in prison. It probably seemed to her that I was on another planet… Maybe when she went back to the real world, she needed to still have someone there. On the other hand, if she truly loved me, wouldn’t she be here for me, no matter what the circumstances?” - Patrick Stephens, “The Ugly Butterfly”

To order books, please contact the publisher


The Foundation is now accepting submissions from people who are currently incarcerated for a book that will feature practical ways that incarcerated persons can “give back” to their communities. To contribute, simply write a two-page piece, including: 1) The name of the specific activity or volunteer service you would use in order to give back (for example, a prison-based book drive), 2) One or two paragraphs about why the activity is important, how it can help the community and what community/societal problem your activity addresses, 3) In simplest terms, a brief step-by-step guide on how incarcerated persons, either individually or as a group, can carry out the activity/volunteer service.

Submissions for this project are due by April 15, 2011, and should be sent to: The Think Outside the Cell Foundation, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525, NY, NY 10011



If you would like to join Prison Action Network please send a note and a donation to PAN, PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206. You may also call us at 518 253 7533.

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