Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

MARCH 2012













Between issues we publish time sensitive information. Please scroll down to read Building Bridges.


POSTED 4/10 FROM CARMEN RUSSO
A call to action and support from the family, friends, advocates and all New Yorkers in favor of expanding the Merit Time Law for some A1 felony convictions.
Please SIGN THE PETITION, and link it to your website, Facebook page, or other social media.



POSTED 4/9 FROM FORTUNE SOCIETY

POST INCARCERATION DEBT:

Join The Fortune Society's Glenn E. Martin and his guests as they discuss the debt many incur as a result of incarceration. The latest episode of "Both Sides of the Bars" airs Wednesday, April 10, 2012 at 10pm. Channel 34 (Time Warner Cable), Channel 82 (RCN), and Channel 33 (Verizon FiOS).


BUILDING BRIDGES, MARCH 2012

Dear Reader,

After attending the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction meeting on March 7 [see details in Article 5] I have serious reservations about the possibility of the SAFE Parole Act becoming a law as long as Michael Nozzolio is the chair of that committee. So what can we do? Well those of us who live in his district, and admittedly that's not easy to know since the new district lines have yet to be decided, can vote Nozzolio out of office. If he has an opponent who thinks like we do, then we have to work - VERY HARD - to get that person elected. If not, then one of us has to run for office against him. Don't laugh. Most Building Bridges readers are smart enough and good enough to hold public office.

Sen Nozzolio and the 7 other Republicans almost always vote as a block. They did so on Wednesday. (The meeting can be seen by clicking here.) Even if the 6 Democrats voted together they could not win. The other thing that needs to happen is Public Financing of Elections, which levels the playing field, and puts the power back in the hands of the people. It'll be much easier for our elected officials to work for us when they don't have to spend 30%* of their time fundraising, or be beholden to corporate interests instead of people. Maybe we also can find some guidance in this quote I heard today: Q: How do you move a mountain? A: You can't move a mountain; but you can move the ground around it, and it will slide into a level field." So at the same time we are working to remove Nozzolio from office, we have to work to change the minds and hearts of those around him. No one ever said this struggle would be easy. We have a choice. Do the hard work or do nothing and complain for the rest of our lives about how awful it is. Let's agree to do the hard work!
*Sen. Gustavo Rivera's estimate of the time he spends.

Please be well, keep the faith, share the news, and for everyone’s sake, get involved! -The Editor



IN MEMORY:
Returned mail was how we discovered the death of a long time member, Carl Berk, at Clinton on January 6, 2012. He had written a letter to us just days before. He was 72 and his earliest parole release date would have been in 2023. Any information about his death or stories about his life would be appreciated.



ARTICLES:
1. ALBANY UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: A free workshop to develop legislative advocacy skills will involve interactive role play and practical tips.

2. THE BLACK, PUERTO RICAN, HISPANIC AND ASIAN CAUCUS's Criminal Justice Workshop series was a huge success and proof of the momentum that is building. People are realizing that incarceration is a justice issue, and in particular a racial justice issue. 

3. CALL OUTS: A group of advocates is looking for those affected to join efforts to end the abuse of SHU. Cornell Law School is seeking interviews with formerly and currently incarcerated women about their experiences. 


4. CAMPAIGN TO END THE NEW JIM CROW has issued a statement of solidarity with the Occupy movements. All of the 99% stand to win when injustice is uprooted.


5. Criminal Justice LEGISLATION was presented for a vote by the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee meeting on March 7. Listed are 22 of the bills including the votes. Prison Action Network was there. It was not a pleasant experience.


6. NY IS STILL IN NEED OF PAROLE REFORM Applying old backward-looking static factors while attempting to follow the new dynamic procedures for parole release decision-making based upon present and future-looking risk and needs principles creates a contradiction that the Parole Board will find very difficult to reconcile. 


7. PAROLE NEWS: In January no A1VO was released on their initial board. 23% of those reappearing were granted release. Thwaites saw a de novo Board in March.


8. PRISONER JUSTICE COLUMN Last month's Mass Incarceration article reprinted including sections which were mistakenly omitted last month.


9. The National Action Network's Political Action & Second Chance Committees are hosting a ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS FORUM for those who want to know more about what the Rockefeller Drug Laws are, and about the Criminal Justice Reform Movement. 


10. 2012 REMOVING THE BARS: "TAKE ACTION" Conference will include a Parole 101 panel discussion on Saturday March 24 from 2:15 to 3:45pm and a presentation by Angela Davis on Friday night.


11. SECOND LOOK THINK TANK from Sullivan C.F. concludes that New York State’s public safety levels—in other words, the recidivism rate—and the state’s fiscal hemorrhaging can be linked, at least in part, to the parole release decisions made by the Parole Board .


12. STAINS:CHANGING LIVES AFTER INCARCERATION is a documentary about life after incarceration, as seen from the families' perspective.

13. A COMMUNITY DIALOGUE ABOUT WOMEN AND REENTRY, Coming Home: Struggling Towards Success. Moderated by Piper Kerman, with panelists Tish, Selina Fulford, Mary McKay, Sister Mary Nerney. Special Guest Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.

14. WORK FOR SUCCESS, an initiative by Gov. Cuomo, is aimed at reducing unemployment rates for people returning home from prison. CEO will be the model program. Many advocates and legislators support this approach.

[For copies of articles referred to in this issue, please send an email with your request stating # and title of article and date.]





1. ADVOCACY IS A SKILL AND CSS IS HOLDING A WORKSHOP TO TRAIN US.

“Albany Up Close and Personal,” presented by Tracie Gardner, will feature role play that is interactive and provides practical lobby visit tips that will have people up and moving around and thinking on their feet. Your attendance is welcomed as CSS prepares for Albany Advocacy Day which is scheduled for the month of May. At the Community Service Society of NY (CSS), 105 East 22nd St., cnr Park Ave So., Conf. Rm 4A. Take 6 or W/R to 23rd St.

Wednesday March 21, 1-3pm   Please RSVP 212-614-5306, grivera@cssny.org. As always, lunch will be provided.



2. REPORT ON THE BLACK, PUERTO RICAN, HISPANIC AND ASIAN ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS WEEKEND, FEBRUARY 18, 2012

A coalition of groups concerned with injustice in New York’s criminal justice system teamed up with Black and Puerto Rican legislators, whose constituents are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, to present two workshops at this year’s Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Conference. A third workshop was presented under the auspices of Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Together the three workshops were by far the most well-attended of the dozens of workshops presented at the conference.

The first of the three workshops,"Parole Release Decisions in the Era of Reintegration", has been extensively covered in these pages previously. It was scheduled for the early morning slot, and despite that was very well attended and well received. Attempts to include a video presentation by the Second Chance Think Tank at Sullivan C.F. were unsuccessful but a paper written by them was read and applauded, and is published in Article 11. Disappointingly, Commissioner Hernandez did not commit to any opinions regarding the SAFE Parole Act's value to the Parole Board in making their difficult decisions. She did say several times that she was one of the more progressive members of the Parole Board and was very committed to making fair decisions, but on a 2 or 3 person Board her opinion does not always prevail.

The second workshop was titled “Mass Incarceration and Its Impact on Communities of Color”. The presenters discussed the impact of mass incarceration on families, communities, and currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. They emphasized the ties between mass incarceration and the history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, and called for all groups concerned with justice in general, and racial justice in particular, to organize to change the current criminal justice model of revenge and punishment which devastates poor and people of color communities and does not produce public safety.

Senator Montgomery's workshop on Reentry was last, and by then everyone seemed to be there! The large room was filled. Spirits were high. Building Bridges was not there for the whole time as there was a workshop on Public Financing of Elections: A Means to Empowerment in Communities of Color which we thought might shed some light on how we can pass the SAFE Parole Act. It definitely did, as you saw in the Dear Readers column in this issue.

The overwhelming interest in the three workshops is evidence of a shift in at least some sectors of public consciousness to a realization of the immense harm inflicted by a U.S. criminal justice system totally out of line with what is considered humane and effective in the rest of the world. Attention is being directed also to the extremely disproportionate outcomes for communities of color.

As readers of Building Bridges know all too well, it is a long way from the beginnings of a shift in public awareness to real changes on the ground that can benefit our loved ones in prison and our families and communities. However, this is a moment of possibility and the organizations that came together to produce the workshops have a commitment to follow up with the legislators who declared their support for change, to continue this process until we achieve real change with justice.  There is a hard road ahead, but we can prevail if we continue to work together! 



3. CALL-OUTS:

Cornell Law School's Advanced International Human Rights Clinic is currently researching the causes, conditions, and consequences of women's imprisonment around the world. This information is being compiled for Professor Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, to inform her work on these issues. The Clinic is seeking interviews with formerly and currently incarcerated women who are interested in sharing their personal experiences. To get involved, send email to ihrcprojects@gmail.com.

A group of advocates and concerned citizens is organizing a coalition to stop the pervasive use of Special Housing Units (otherwise known as the “Box” or “23 hour-a-day lockdown”) by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).  The coalition has created a family member/formerly incarcerated working group, which is reaching out to family members of those affected as well as those formerly incarcerated to join our efforts to end the SHU. If you are interested in joining this group, please email Scarlet Kim or Leah Gitter .




4. CAMPAIGN TO END THE NEW JIM CROW ISSUES A STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH OCCUPY OAKLAND AND THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT EVERYWHERE

The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow (New York) stands in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and denounces the brutal attack by the police on their encampment. Oakland is predominantly a city of people of color, and this recent assault — while not the first against the Occupy movement nationally — reached new levels of violence with stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The attack by police in Oakland was aimed at those most victimized by the racial and economic violence in a city devastated by police brutality, foreclosures, and unemployment. Carried out in Oscar Grant Park — re-named for a 2009 victim of a police murder — the raid underscored the depths of repression meted out against the poor and people of color. We condemn this racist violence and pledge our solidarity and support with our brothers and sisters in Oakland both on the November 2 National Day of Action in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and beyond.

We further stand in support of the Occupy movement everywhere. The 1% has long prioritized building prisons, criminalizing people of color, and policing our neighborhoods over the kinds of investments that sustain our communities: jobs, housing, and social programs. Nearly $70 billion is spent each year to keep people in cages and in the grip of the prison and parole systems, institutions that only perpetuate economic injustice through the collateral consequences of a felony conviction and the new Jim Crow. A society where the majority of those behind bars, where the disproportionate number of those unemployed, hungry and without fundamental rights are people of color, speaks for itself: this is a world we are struggling to transform.
The 99% are the incarcerated and the formerly-incarcerated, the victims of racism and the police, the unemployed and the evicted. We ALL stand to win when these injustices are uprooted. The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow is in solidarity with the Occupy movement everywhere and joins the resistance to the 1% who aim to destroy our lives.


Contact: campaigntoendnewjimcrow@gmail.com




5. LEGISLATION: VOTE TAKEN ON BILLS IN THE SENATE'S CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION COMMITTEE IS TROUBLING.

The following Senate bills, among others, were voted on at the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee's meeting on March 7. ( Watch hearing) Unless a bill receives a majority vote in both houses, and is signed by the governor, it will not become the law. So don't be too excited or dismayed by bills that do not have a "same as" version in the Assembly. They have to find a sponsor in the Assembly before they can go any further. Even when they do, the Assembly committee may never vote on them, let alone pass them.

Once a bill has been introduced, it is sent to the committee in charge of such laws; in our case that's the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. The committee's chair has the discretion to hold a bill or present it to the committee for a vote. If the chair does not present a bill, the bill's sponsor may request that it be presented anyway, and then it gets on the agenda along with other bills the chair has decided to present.

We have used an asterisk* next to a bill number to indicate that it was included on the agenda at the request of its sponsor. All others were put on the agenda at the discretion of Senator Nozzolio, the Chair.

There are 14 members of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. Eight of them are Republicans and six are Democrats. Half of them were present: Hassell-Thompon, Montgomery, Rivera (Democrats) Gallivan, Griffo (left half way), Little, and Nozzolio (Republicans). Nozzolio had proxy votes from DiFrancisco, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer and Richie. Rivera, ranking member of the minority, had proxy votes from Espaillat, Kennedy and Peralta.

The Committee had 3 options, 1. to Report (which means move a bill forward to another committee, such as Rules or Finance), 2. Not to Report (which kills the bill for this session), or 3. the sponsor can request a hold (so she/he can work on it further, and introduce it at a later meeting). Their decisions are listed at the end of each bill's description.


S103-2011*: APPOINTING THE STATE BOARD OF PAROLE
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsor(s): Diaz, Dilan, Duane, Hassell-Thompson, Krueger, Parker, Stavisky
 Distributes the appointing authority of the state board of parole among the Governor, Senate and Assembly. On and after January 1, 2012 the Parole Board shall consist of 19 members. Of such members nine shall be appointed by the governor, three shall be appointed upon recommendation of the temporary president of the senate, three shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the speaker of the assembly, two shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the minority leader of the senate and two shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the minority leader of the assembly. - NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S107A-2011*: OPPORTUNITY TO OBTAIN A GENERAL EQUIVALENCY DIPLOMA

Sponsor: Montgomery; [Same as: A5355A-2011, Aubry]
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. -NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S230-2011*: FREE DISTRIBUTION OF CONDOMS TO INMATES
Sponsor: Montgomery; Co-sponsor(s): Duane, Hassell-Thompson, Krueger, Parker, Perkins, Serrano
Requires free, routine distribution of condoms to inmates, on a regular schedule without the request of an inmate. HELD


S311-2011*: APPLICATION TO RECEIVE MEDICAID AFTER RELEASE
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsor(s): Adams, Duane, Hassell-Thompson, Huntley, Kreuger, 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. - NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S329-2011*: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ELIGIBILITY FOR MERIT TIME
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsors: Hassell-Thompson, Krueger, Oppenheimer, Parker, Serrano
Allows certain inmates who are able to prove that they were subjected to substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse, that the abuse was inflicted by a member of their same family or household or a member of the person's immediate family, and that the abuse was a substantial factor in causing them to commit the crime to be eligible to earn merit time in the amount of one-third off either their minimum sentence (if inmate has an indeterminate sentence) or their flat sentence; allows such inmates to be eligible for presumptive release; expands the criteria that a person in custody of the department of correctional services may meet in order to earn merit time. - NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S338-2011*: EXPANSION OF MERIT TIME
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsors: Dilan [Same as: A154-2011 - Aubry]
Relates to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences; relates to the expansion of merit time and repeals provisions relating to the allowance of limited credit time for inmates; to allow all inmates, except those serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, murder in the first degree, incest, an offense defined in article two hundred sixty-three of the penal law, an act of terrorism, aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any such offense, to earn merit time allowance. The merit time allowance would be one-sixth of an indeterminate and one-seventh of a determinate sentence. This section of the bill also expands the criteria that a person in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) may meet in order to earn merit time. HELD


S470-2011: TAXES ON SALES OF COMMISSARIES AND CANTEENS
Sponsor: Nozzolio, Co-sponsors: DeFrancisco, Johnson, Larkin, Maziarz, Ritchie
Directs the head of any correctional institution to charge taxes on sales of items sold in commissaries and canteens; such tax receipts to be allocated to localities otherwise prescribed by law. REPORTED TO FINANCE


S476A-2011: MEDICAL CO-PAYMENTS OF$7
Sponsor: Nozzolio [Same as: A7870-2011- Tedisco]
Requires inmates in state and county-owned or operated correctional facilities 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. - REPORTED TO FINANCE


S744A-2011: WORK RELEASE AUTHORIZED AT NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS AND PUBLIC SERVICE PROJECTS
Sponsor: Young
Authorizes the employment of state and local work release inmates by not-for-profit organizations and public service projects; provides that inmates and prisoners may refuse to participate in employment by a not-for-profit organization when such employment is contrary to his or her religious or ideological beliefs. - 1ST REPORT TO CALENDAR 320


S1209A-2011: REQUESTS FOR DELAY OF PAROLE HEARING
Sponsor: Martins
Requires inmates incarcerated for a class A-1 felony, requesting a delay of their parole hearing, to submit such request to the state board of parole in order to prevent "shopping" for sympathetic parole commissioners. - REPORTED TO FINANCE


S1418-2011: EMPLOYMENT OF SEX OFFENDERS
Sponsor: Saland, Co-sponsors: Avella, Martins
Prohibits permissible employment, and volunteer activities that may be preformed by convicted sex offenders; specifically, prohibits a sex offender to have unsupervised access to residential living quarters. - 1ST REPORT CALENDAR.320


S1508-2011*: CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE PENDING COMPLETION OF A SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsors: Breslin, Dilan, Duane,Hassell-Thompson, Krueger [Same as: A4841-2011 - Wright]
Authorizes imposition of a sentence of conditional discharge pending the completion of a substance abuse treatment programs for first or second conviction of certain controlled substance possession or marihuana possession offenses provided such offender has no prior violent felony convictions. - NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S1931-2011: PROHIBITS WORK RELEASE PROGRAMS IN RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS
Sponsor:Alesi
Prohibits prison work release programs from operating in areas zoned as exclusively residential by a municipality. - HELD


S1966A-2011: NOTIFICATION TO VICTIMS UPON CONDITIONAL RELEASE OF OFFENDER
Sponsor: Marcellino REPORTED TO FINANCE


S3249A-2011: INCREASES VICTIM NOTIFICATION RESPONSIBILITIES
Sponsor: Nozzolio
Directs board to establish a means by which crime victims can register to receive notice of the date of the parole hearing of the inmate who committed the offense against such victim; directs such board to report to the governor and legislative leaders on a quarterly basis on those inmates granted parole; requires all members of the parole board to agree on the parole of an inmate convicted of a class A felony; requires notice of a parole hearing to be provided to the district attorney and the crime victim, nine months in advance of the parole hearing of an inmate; requires the crime victims fair treatment standard pamphlet to include information on registering with the board of parole to receive notice of the parole hearing of the person convicted of an offense against a crime victim. - REPORTED TO FINANCE


S3645C-2011: REVISION TO "BRITTANY'S LAW"
Sponsor: Nozzolio, Co-Sponsors: Bonacic, Larkin, Maziarz, O'Mara, Ranzenhofer [Same as A9019-Gabryszak]
To establish a violent felony offender registry. - REPORTED TO FINANCE


S3747-2011: TERMINATION OF THE FAMILY REUNION PROGRAM
Sponsor: Nozzolio; [Same as: A8478-2011 - Giglio]
Requires the commissioner of corrections and community supervision 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. Removes the power of the Commissioner of Corrections to regulate the Family Reunion Program. - REPORTED TO FINANCE


S5473-2011*: MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsors: Hassell-Thompson, Perkins, Rivera [Same as: A7931-2011- Aubry]
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. - NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S5498-2011*: PAROLE VIOLATORS TO BE TRANSFERRED TO STATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES
Sponsor: Richie {Same as: A8484-2011-Ortiz]
Requires parole violators, after 10 days in a local correctional facility, to either be transferred to state correctional facilities or remain in such local facility with all associated costs borne by the state; provides for a 20-day extension period. - HELD


S5906-2011*: RESTRICTED USE OF SHU FOR INMATES WITH SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS
Sponsor: Montgomery
An act to ensure that inmates are not placed in segregated confinement -- a Special Housing Unit (SHU) -- unless they have engaged in highly dangerous, violent or serious escape-related behavior while incarcerated in that facility.
- NOT REPORTED (defeated)


S6044A-2011*: RULES AND REGULATIONS OF CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES CONCERNING VISITORS
Sponsor: Montgomery
Directs the commissioner of corrections and community supervision to establish and maintain a public website that provides information concerning specific visitation rules, regulations, policies and procedures for all correctional facilities. The website shall be regularly updated to ensure accuracy, and shall designate a telephone number or numbers on the website that persons may call for information about the visiting rules at various correctional facilities. - HELD


S6077-2011*: PLACES INCARCERATED PARENTS AT FACILITIES CLOSEST TO THEIR CHILDREN'S HOME
Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-Sponsors: Avella, Duane, Hassell-Thompson, Oppenheimer, Parker, Perkins, Stewart-Cousins - [Same as: A8846-2011 - N. Rivera]
Requires the department of corrections and community supervision to place incarcerated parents at correctional institutions and facilities closest to their children's home. - HELD




6. NEW YORK, STILL IN NEED OF PAROLE REFORM
by Alan Rosenthal and Patricia Warth

This article is excerpted from an article to be published in the forthcoming Spring 2012 Legislative Issue of Atticus, the official
publication of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Readers of Building Bridges should be familiar with the many changes made by the governors 2011 Budget Bill: the Merger, the use of a Transitional Accountability Plan and implementation of risk and needs "principles". But there have been other changes as well: as reported in this article, "An even greater shift in procedures is called for by newly amended Executive Law § 259-c(4) which became effective November 1, 2011. The amendment requires the state board of parole to establish written procedures for its (parole board’s) 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 person upon release, and assist members of the state board of parole in determining which inmates may be released to parole supervision.

At least one Judge, Hon. Lawrence H. Ecker of Supreme Court, Orange County, and one commentator, Professor Phillip M. Genty of Columbia Law School, have read this amendment to signal a significant shift. Each views the amendment to Executive Law § 259-c(4) as a modernization of the Parole Board that requires the replacement of static, past-focused conduct with more dynamic present and future-focused risk assessment procedures to guide the Board. In light of such a potentially sweeping shift, it is reasonable to ask whether there is still a need for parole reform.

[The authors conclude the answer is "Yes".] This statute was amended only to the extent that all of the old factors previously relied upon by the Parole Board were consolidated into one subdivision of the parole statute. Previously, factors vii (seriousness of the offense) and viii (prior criminal history) were separately set forth in § 259-i(1), which is now repealed. They have been incorporated into subsection (2), and so these static factors remain. These are the same static factors that for years were used by the Parole Board to look backward, not forward, and to deny parole based upon who the individual once was and what they once did. Therein lies the difficulty of applying the old backward-looking static factors while attempting to follow the new dynamic procedures for parole release decision-making based upon present and future-looking risk and needs principles. There is a contradiction that the Parole Board will find very difficult to conceptually reconcile.

...It is critical to understand that the eight factors set out in Executive Law §259-i need to be amended, because at least one of them, “the seriousness of the offense,” is inconsistent with a parole model that is based upon the use of risk and needs principles. As noted by a national expert and major proponent of the use of risk and needs principles, Edward J. LaTessa, Ph.D., “[r]isk refers to risk of reoffending and not the seriousness of the offense.”

Stated simply, the newly amended Executive Law § 259-c(4) is incompatible with the archaic Executive Law § 259-i. There is a significant contradiction between the old parole decision making factors in Executive Law § 259-i(2)(c)(A) and the newly amended forward-looking risk and needs principle shift contemplated by Executive Law § 259-c(4). Problematic decisions like the one in Matter of Thwaites will continue to trouble the courts and wreak havoc with parole release until Executive Law
§ 259-i is modernized.

That is exactly what the SAFE Parole Act will do as it will eliminate the contradiction between the remnants of an old decision-making system that looks backward at the “seriousness of the crime” and a present and forward-looking procedure that relies on risk and needs principles. Without the changes contemplated by the SAFE Parole Act, the Parole Board will flounder, courts will continue to be frustrated, and many men and women will suffer through continued incarceration based upon who they were many years ago rather than the rehabilitated and motivated law-abiding citizens that they have become.



7. PAROLE NEWS: JANUARY RELEASES; THWAITES PROGRESS

JANUARY 2012 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999
unofficial research from parole database

Total Interviews....... # Released....... # Denied...Rate of Release
23 Initials ......................0 ....................23 ...............0%
81 reappearances.........19...................62 ............ 23%
104 total......................19 ...................85..............18%

JANUARY 2012 REAPPEARANCES

Facility ..................Sentence........... Offense.... # of Board
Attica....................... 22 ½-Life......... M2 & K1........... 5th
Franklin................... 17 ½-Life ........Murder 2......... 5th
Green Haven............ 26 ½-Life......... Kidnap 1.......... 6th
Green Haven............ 20-Life............ Murder 2......... 8th
Green Haven............ 25-Life............ Murder 2......... 2nd
Midstate.................. 20-Life............ Murder 2......... 5th
Otisville................... 20-Life............ Murder 2......... 4th
Otisville................... 15-Life............ Murder 2......... 6th
Otisville................... 16-Life............ Murder 2......... 3rd
Southport................ 25-Life............ Murder 2......... 7th
Washington............. 25-Life............ Murder 2......... 4th
Washington.............. 15-Life............ Murder 2......... 5th
Wende..................... 15-Life............ Murder 2......... 8th
Woodbourne............ 15-Life............ Murder 2......... 9th
Woodbourne............ 15-Life............ Murder 2......... 3rd
Woodbourne............ 20-Life.............Murder 2..........4th
Wyoming..................20-Life.............Murder 2..........8th
Wyoming..................15-Life.............Murder 2..........3rd
Wyoming..................20-Life.............Murder 2......... 5th

Douglas Thwaites, as many readers know, was granted a new hearing by the Supreme Court of the State of NY County of Orange, Judge Lawrence H Ecker presiding, and appeared, as ordered, before the Parole Board in March. The judge further stated that at the new hearing Mr. Thwaites needed to be judged by whether there is a reasonable probability that if released, he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and not on his past offense. We are awaiting the decision.



8. THE NYS PRISONER JUSTICE COLUMN

Last month Building Bridges inadvertently omitted the last half (!) of this article. We apologize. Here is the entire article, with the omitted paragraphs:


MASS INCARCERATION AND THE PRISONER JUSTICE MOVEMENT IN NEW YORK STATE

Dear Prisoner Justice Network, I have been in prison for 27 years. My last parole hearing lasted 4 minutes.

Dear New York State Prisoner Justice: We, New York’s incarcerated prisoners have gone 70 years without a pay wage increase. Our pay is about $4 a week...

Dear Brothers and Sisters, My reason for writing this letter is what the black and latino prisoners are going through which is a series of staff assaults, sexual harassment and racialism. It would be appreciated if this is published. Maybe someone would do something to help us.

Dear Prisoner Justice, I was convicted for a burglary. No weapon was involved, nobody was home, and nobody was hurt. I was sentenced to 12 years to life.

Dear Friend: Injustice can make a person insane, when a person feels that nobody is listening to them and they have no court for the redress of their grievance.

These are a tiny sampling of the dozens of letters received by the New York State Prisoner Justice Network. Who are these incarcerated women and men, why are they in prison, what happens to them while they are there, and what happens when (and if) they get out?

New York’s 56,000 prisoners: 75% are people of color; 96% are male; the great majority have never had a trial (they were convicted on plea bargains); around 2/3 are poor; about half are from New York City. Some are innocent, some have committed serious crimes, and many are somewhere in between. Very few have done anything as terrible as what is being done to them in the name of justice.

Mass incarceration clearly does not do what its backers say it does – it does not keep our communities safe. It does not protect our kids from gun violence or police abuse. It does not protect women from sexual assault. It does not heal mental illness; it does not create paths to dignity and economic sustenance. It does not interrupt violence -- it feeds the cycle of violence. Mass incarceration is a false solution that gets in the way of real solutions.

Instead, the real agenda behind mass incarceration is repression, racism, power, and greed. The prison boom of the 1970s and 1980s followed the mass social justice movements boom of the 60s and 70s.

Today, careers are made out of the bloated prison system: prosecutors, police, right-wing media, prison guards, politicians, pundits, legislators, governors. 

And yet this is a moment of possibility for prisoner justice. The U.S. prison system is being challenged from many sides. The anti-death penalty and innocence movements have raised fundamental questions; Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow provided definitive evidence that mass incarceration is the leading form of racial oppression in our time; major prison strikes in California and Georgia in 2011 called attention to intolerable conditions.

In New York, modest reforms have been won in alternative and reduced sentencing for drug offenders, limiting solitary confinement for people with diagnosed mental illness, and counting prisoners in their home communities rather than their place of confinement for legislative districting. There is a strong campaign challenging the parole policies that can keep people behind bars forever with no way out.

The prisoner justice movement has a large and bold vision: a society that directs resources at the causes of social problems, including economic injustice, racism, and inequality; that implements community-based accountability; that treats violence, addiction, and mental illness as serious public health issues; that addresses the crimes and violence of the most powerful members of society as well as the least powerful. Re-thinking mass incarceration challenges us to work toward a prisonless society that would liberate not only prisoners, but all of us.



9. THE NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK'S POLITICAL ACTION & SECOND CHANCE COMMITTEES ARE HOSTING A ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS FORUM.

This is a community event that will benefit those who want to know more about what the Rockefeller Drug Laws are, and about the Criminal Justice Reform Movement. The Rockefeller Drug Laws have adversely affected all communities, more so communities of color, and now that initial reforms have begun, these communities should be aware of what that means economically, socially and politically.

Scheduled Speakers:
L. Amir Varick Amma    Student Activist
Anita Marton                  Vice President Legal Action Center
Gabriel Sayegh               State Director New York Drug Policy Alliance

Further Info: Victor Pate, ChairmanSecond Chance Committee(646)229-9869, Dawn L. Jones, Chairperson Political Action Committee(917)557-0109

Thursday March 29th, 7:30pm
Location: Harlem YMCA 180 West 135th Street bet. Lenox and & Seventh Avenues




10. 2012 REMOVING THE BARS: "TAKE ACTION" CONFERENCE, USEFUL FOR EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO BE A SUCCESSFUL ADVOCATE FOR CHANGE

Last year I attended the 2011 Removing the Bars Conference called "a skills-based conference on criminal justice" sponsored by Columbia University School of Social Work and one of the best organized and informational conferences ever! The enthusiasm of all the students and other attendees was very inspiring! This year it's a Take Action! conference and PAN will be represented on the Parole 101 panel discussion on Saturday March 24 from 2:15 - 3:45pm. You probably will want to attend the whole conference, starting at 7PM on Friday 3/23 with a presentation by Angela Davis. The conference is FREE and OPEN to all, but you need to register. Especially for Friday night!

Click here to Register for
REMOVING THE BARS CONFERENCE
AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, BROADWAY AND W. 116TH ST.
MARCH 23 AND 24TH

For those affected by the criminal justice system, to help them advocate for positive change and ultimately create systemic sustainable transformation. We hope to provide a collaborative environment for service providers; community members; students and faculty to network and strategize around criminal justice related issues and enhance awareness and knowledge of systemic issues of oppression and their relationship to the criminal justice and prison systems.

Presented by the Columbia University School of Social Work Criminal Justice Caucus in collaboration with students from the following Columbia University Schools: Law School, Mailman School of Public Health, Teachers College, School of the Arts, School of Social Work including the Feminist Caucus, Men's Caucus, Queer Caucus, API Caucus, AGE Caucus, Latino Caucus, and the Social Work Arts Group; the Students Against Mass Incarceration; The Criminal Justice Initiative: Supporting Children, Families and Communities; and the CU School of Social Work Office of Student Services.

For conference updates, please visit the Criminal Justice Caucus blog Questions? Send Email.



11. SECOND LOOK THINK TANK STATEMENT ON PAROLE REFORM.
[The Second Look Think Tank is an Approved Policy Group at Sullivan Correctional Facility that Researches, Analyzes and Proposes Policy on Parole Issues]

New York State’s public safety levels—in other words, the recidivism rate—and the state’s fiscal hemorrhaging can be linked, at least in part, to the parole release decisions made by parole board commissioners.

Statistics by the state’s own Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) show that, of all felony offenders, A -1 violent felony offenders who are incarcerated for second degree murder are the least likely to commit a new crime when they are paroled. And the crimes that led to their convictions tend to have been committed in the heat of passion. Their offenses are situational in nature, not habitual. Yet, men and women in this felony classification who are clearly ready to return to their communities are routinely denied parole due to the “nature of the crime,” something they cannot change. They are systematically denied their freedom not because of realistic public safety considerations, but because of fear of violent crime and fear of tabloid-fueled negative public opinion.

This type of repeated denial is clearly wrong. It actually undermines public safety rather than promotes it.

To date, no systematic, performance-based analysis of parole policies and procedures has been instituted to determine best practices that would eliminate programs and processes that are ineffective and fiscally wasteful, and replicate and expand those that actually promote public safety and reduce the financial burden on taxpayers. If we are to seriously address the twin issues of public safety and successful reintegration, we must take a hard, evidence-based look at the New York State parole board’s entire operation.

Second Look presents the following recommendations to this prestigious legislative conference in an effort to bring about fair and effective parole policies and procedures:

Following in the footsteps of the Commission on Sentencing Reform established by Executive Order No. 10 (issued March 5, 2007) and continued by Executive Order No. 9 (issued June 18, 2008), a Commission on Parole should be established to investigate, examine and determine the actual public safety and fiscal ramifications of parole release determinations. The commission should study and compare the release and return rates—that is, the recidivism rates—of a broad cohort of violent and nonviolent offenders. In this way, it can accurately determine whether current parole release policies and practices improve or negatively impact public safety. A permanent Commission on Parole with oversight responsibilities is necessary to ensure a lasting effect on parole policies—and to avoid the antiquated, inequitable parole board practices that have plagued this state and its citizens for the last 20 years.

The Commission on Parole—or, until it is established, the Governor or the Legislature—should require the New York State parole board to submit every year an evidence-based public safety report card that lays out the “state of parole.” This annual report card, which would be made available to the public via an online database, would be designed to bring about real-time transparency and accountability to the parole board, an independent body that currently has neither.

An independent appellate body should be established, as authorized by Executive Law 259 (3), to expeditiously and impartially review and render final decisions on administrative parole appeals.

We pray that our recommendations are given the serious consideration they deserve. As stakeholders in public safety and successful reintegration, we implore you to act on them.

Thank you,
Members of Second Look Think Tank:
Stanley Bellamy, Bruce Bryant, Dwight R. Delee, William Holmes, Mario Perez, Joseph Robinson



12. STAINS: CHANGING LIVES AFTER INCARCERATION
You're invited to a showing of "Stains: Changing Lives After Incarceration", [StainsTheMovie] a feature length documentary confronting the challenges of life after incarceration, paying particular attention to the stigma faced by the formerly incarcerated. The film includes the perspective of the friends and family who are left behind, and repositions the community population as a resource in addressing the problem of recidivism in disenfranchised neighborhoods.

Presented as part of The Films and Dialogue series by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Saidiana Productions

Saturday April 14, 4-6 PM
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcom X Blvd, New York, NY 10037



13. Women and Reentry, Coming Home: Struggling Towards Success

A Community Dialogue Moderated by Piper Kerman, with panelists Tish, Selina Fulford, Mary McKay, Sister Mary Nerney. Special Guest Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. RSVP, 212 669 4462

Co-Sponsors: Office of the Manhattan Borough President, McSilver Institute, The Riverside Church, Think Outside the Cell, WPA
Saturday March 17, 1-4 pm. The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive (at 120th St.)



14. WORK FOR SUCCESS, A JOBS INITIATIVE FOR FORMERLY INCARCERATED NEW YORKERS, WAS ANNOUNCED ON FEB 17 BY GOV. CUOMO

Aimed at reducing the high unemployment rate among the thousands of New Yorkers returning home from prison, Work for Success will develop a comprehensive statewide approach to increase job readiness and improve employment outcomes for the formerly incarcerated. This initiative will benefit all New Yorkers by creating more tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, which will make streets safer and strengthen the state's entire economy.
 
"Tens of thousands of people leave New York State prisons each year and without employment most are at higher risk of returning to incarceration," Governor Cuomo said. "The 'Work for Success' initiative will reduce poverty and joblessness for some of our state's hardest to employ citizens, while enhancing public safety and improving economic conditions for the families and communities to which they return." .
 
Senator Michael Nozzolio, Assemblymember Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr., and Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, all made statements of support for Governor Cuomo's initiative. As did Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Mindy Tarlow, Legal Action Center Director and President Paul Samuels, and JoAnne Page, President & CEO of The Fortune Society, Inc.

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to stay in contact with its members. 
Call 518 253 7533 or email prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com if you want to join.