Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August 2012


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During the month we post late breaking news and announcements on this site, so please check back now and then... 


POSTED SEPTEMBER 14
In Controversial Death Row Case, Pennsylvania Prepares to Execute Man Who Killed His Sexual Abusers


 LISTEN TO STORY  on Democracy Now!





POSTED September 10
Jazz Hayden’s Freedom is On the Line!

Two Urgent Actions to Keep Jazz Free:

THURSDAY: GRAND JURY PROCEEDINGS TO INDICT JAZZ!

Thursday, September 13th, 8:30 am -1 Hogan Place 
(near Centre and Worth Streets, around the corner from 100 Centre Street)
Trains: 4/5/6/N/R to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall; Q to Canal; A/C/J/Z to Chambers
Join us at the press conference & rally

And earlier in the week...
TUESDAY: CALL-IN DAY TO KEEP JAZZ FREE!
Tuesday, September11th
Call Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s office: Attorney William Darrow, tel. 212-335-9192
Tell Darrow to Drop the Charges Against Jazz Hayden! We want to keep Jazz Free!
This is an urgent week in the campaign to keep Jazz Free! Despite over 2,000 of us raising our voices, and despite the obviously retaliatory nature of the charges, District Attorney Cyrus Vance has re-affirmed he intends to pursue an indictment at the Grand Jury hearing this Thursday.

Jazz is a 71-year old grandfather and community activist, unflinchingly devoted to defending the people of Harlem and New York from the racist police humiliation and brutality communities of color experience on a daily basis. The NYPD and the courts are using bogus weapons charges to try to silence his cop watch activities and send a chilling message to the rest of us. Jazz is facing a possible 14 years in prison.  
TURN OUT ON SEPTEMBER 13!! We need to send a strong message to jurors and the prosecutors as they enter the courthouse: WE STAND BY JAZZ HAYDEN!

CALL THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY ON SEPTEMBER 11!! Take just two minutes on Tuesday to flood their phone lines with one clear message: drop the trumped-up charges against Jazz Hayden! Call Attorney William Darrow at 212-335-9192 and tell him to stop persecuting Jazz for his community service!

Sign Jazz’s petition and learn more about his case at www.freejazzhayden.wordpress.com
**************************
Join Jazz Hayden, Michelle Alexander, Angela Davis, Cornel West & more at Riverside Church, Fri., Sept. 14 at 7 PM!
Buy your ticket now! www.freemumia.com
Listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal's promo for the event: http://youtu.be/eD54YpRdchw







POSTED September 5
Friday Sept 14, 7pm - 10:30pm
Riverside Church  -  91 Claremont Ave. in Manhattan
End Mass Incarceration, Close Attica, Free Mumia and All Our Political Prisoners

List of speakers and to order tickets for $10:  www.FreeMumia.com
Free round trip transportion from Albany NY if you purchase tickets from NYS Prisoner Justice Network:  Call 434-4037 





POSTED August 31
On The Count: The Prison and Criminal Justice Report.

WBAI 99.5 FM
11 am  Saturdays and streamed live at stream.wbai.org


This week we examine the New York City Police Department's policy of "Stop and Frisk"which was designed to recover guns, drugs andother illegal contraband on the streets. The policy results in over 500,000 stops of Black and Latino youth annually, yet results in the recoveryof weapons less than 1% of the time. It is a policy that only seems to be enforcedin non-white neighborhoods.  NYPD argues it is a necessary tool for crime control;communities of color say it is racist harassment,illegal and unconstitutional. Our guest will be Marc Claxton,a NYC police officer and director of theBlack Law Enforcement Alliance. Join us as we explore the pros and cons of this explosiveand highly controversial city policyfrom the perspective of a Black cop.Listen and Learn.



AUGUST 2012, BUILDING BRIDGES

Dear Reader, 

Since so many of our readers are in prison, you might ask why this issue contains so much information about voting?  After all, people in prison and on parole can’t vote in NYS, right?  Well, if they have been granted a certificate of relief from disabilities, or have been discharged from Community Supervision, they can vote.  So what better time to start getting involved than now?  We encourage all readers - in or out of prison - to become familiar with the electoral process, and specifically the politics of NYS and the legislators who make and change the laws.  Because what happens down the line will be based on what happens today.  While you’re in prison, you can be educating your friends and family members about the issues, urging them to vote, and watching the process unfold.  Many readers educate us about the issues and suggest solutions.  Send a copy to your family.  Discuss it on your next phone call to them.  And on their visit.  And if you aren’t lucky enough to have anyone on the outside, educate the people around you.  Use this newsletter as one of your texts.  By the time you’re eligible to vote you’ll be equipped to be an informed citizen without having to catch up in that area at all (except for the new voting machines).  The welfare of our communities depends on educated voters.  But the vote isn’t the only power we have.  Anyone can send a donation to the campaign committees of legislators who have your interests at heart.  You can, if you’re out, work in their campaign offices making calls, delivering literature and lawn or window signs.  They would be lost without the volunteers who help them.

Murder.  Many of our members have murdered someone or have been prepared to murder someone.  And they have done long stretches of time in prison for it.  I don’t condone murder, believe me.  I’ve yet to hear from any of our self confessed guilty members that they shouldn’t have been given the time.  But I can’t help wondering about murders that happen in war and law enforcement.  Soldiers who are trained to see other human beings as less than human, and have killed them and often innocent bystanders as well.  Police killing innocent people also.  There are a lot of people walking around freely who are not doing long sentences for the murders they’ve committed.  They aren’t told their freedom deprecates the seriousness of murder, or that leaving them free on the streets is a threat to public safety.  Yet how many veterans are in prison precisely because their PTSD triggered another murder or more?  Some murders are called crimes, and others are not.  All I want to say, is there’s something very wrong with this picture, and it is high time we focused on what to do about it.  Put more people in prison?  Let everyone who’s in prison for murder out?  There are no easy solutions.  But we have to search for them if we are ever to become a peaceful compassionate nation.

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”(Arthur Ashe),       ~The Editor     

HEADLINES:

  1. Black August and the Attica Rebellion
  2. Bring back the Free Buses
  3. Campaign Finance Reform is Governor Cuomo’s Summer focus
  4. Corey’s Column on the Merle Cooper program
  5. DNA databank expansion bill is now in effect
  6. Electoral Politics; how your vote in the Sept 13 primary can make a difference
  7. Family Empowerment Day 5
  8. In Our Name: Restoring Justice in America- last call for registration!
  9. Legislation
  10. Human Rights Watch Medical Parole research project solicits your input
  11. “Munched” is donating the proceeds of a performance to WORTH
  12. Parole News: June releases, 3 John Caher articles, getting your parole hearing transcripts faster, current commissioners
  13. NYS Parole Reform Campaign plea from Rev. Stephen Lim
  14. Prison Legal News is back in NYS prisons
  15. Prison Media 
  16. NYS Prisoner Justice Network shares excerpts from their mailbox
  17. The Prisoner Rights/Civil Rights Practice Group
  18. Request for position papers
  19. Sullivan’s 2nd Look Think Tank met with Vanda Seward to discuss retooling parole   

 [Please email your requests for bills or articles that are not printed in full - with the date of this issue and the article’s title and number]

Correction: In our June report on the Auburn college graduates, the degree being granted was an Associate’s degree, not a Bachelor’s degree as reported.



1.   Remembering Black August and the Attica Rebellion,  by Karima Amin  

Since the inception of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., we have taken time every year to devote two or more meetings to acknowledging “black revolutionary consciousness” (George Jackson, Blood In My Eye), the plight of our political prisoners (regardless of gender or race), and the 1971 Attica Rebellion. We remind ourselves that the work that we do in the interest of prisoner justice isn’t always accepted or respected. We remind ourselves that there were many others before us, confined and in the so-called “free world,” who stood up and spoke out, waging battle after battle against injustice.  We remind ourselves daily that our work is important and part of our job is to make sure that the community has some knowledge of the history that compels us to do what we do.

Officially, since August 1979, this month has been used to focus on the oppressive treatment of our brothers and sisters confined to state prisons throughout the USA. Most are being held in Security Housing Units (S.H.U.), where they have had to endure dehumanizing treatment for decades. We say their names and we acknowledge their strength and we re-commit ourselves to a fight that started long before we joined the fray and that may continue long after our demise. We fight because it is the right thing to do. At our next meeting, we’ll commemorate the life and death of political prisoner George Jackson who was assassinated by prison guards at San Quentin (Marin County, CA) on August 21, 1971.


In addition to remembering George Jackson, our two guest speakers will highlight our annual effort to remember Attica.  Mr. Arthur O. Eve, former Deputy Speaker of the NYS Assembly, whose compassion for prisoners was first recognized in the late 1960 ‘s, will join us. During his tenure, Mr. Eve did not fear political backlash or avoid prison reform issues.  He served as an observer and negotiator in the wake of the 1971 Attica Prison Rebellion. He was critical of Gov. Rockefeller’s decision to ignore the prisoners’ requests and to pursue the tactical measures that resulted in the deaths of 28 or 29 or 31 prisoners (depending on the reference) and 9 or 10 hostages.


Our second guest speaker will be Mr. Thomas Robinson, a PRP2 member who was at Attica in 1971 and who was one of the first prisoners to earn a college degree following the uprising. Among the prisoners’ demands was the opportunity to pursue an education. Mr. Robinson earned an Associates Degree in Business Administration. He will talk about the uprising and its aftermath.


Prisoner Are People Too, Inc. will meet on Monday, August 27, 2012 at 6:30 – 8:30pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng will sponsor this meeting. For more information: Karima Amin, 716-834-8438, karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.



2.   Bring Back the Free Buses!

Funding for the free family bus program run by DOCCS was eliminated one year ago due to budget cutbacks.  This program was a vital means of accessing visits for the 80,000 children with an incarcerated parent in New York and for the thousands of other family members with a loved one in prison.  The elimination of the program has been devastating to families who cannot afford the often expensive trips to faraway prisons and to the incarcerated people who rely on visits to provide them with hope, healing, and the strong relationships that help ensure a successful transition home.


Join the Correctional Association and its allies in urging the New York State Legislature to restore this vital service for the children and family members of incarcerated people: http://www.correctionalassociation.org/actions/bus-petition


3.   Campaign Finance Reform

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he will use his bully pulpit this summer to build support for campaign finance reform. Though a bill failed in the legislature this spring, there has been growing support for public financing. This time around may be different, since Cuomo has hinted that he may try to push a bill through in a special session in the fall. Earlier this year, Brennan Center Chief Counsel Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. joined with other prominent New Yorkers to form NY LEAD, a group that believes the state should adopt a small donor matching funds system similar to New York City.  A study by the Brennan Center and the Campaign Finance Institute found that New York City Council candidates are more likely to solicit small donations in poor, black, Asian and Latino neighborhoods than State Assembly candidates, who do not have a matching funds system.  Sundeep Iyer and Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute wrote an op-ed for The Journal News explaining why a public matching system similar to New York City’s is the best method for preventing a cadre of large donors from controlling campaigns. And Jonathan Backer wrote in The Huffington Post that “New York can show the country that public financing can amplify the voices of small donors and expand the ‘money election’ playing field so that the ‘voting election’ results in better representative, more responsive democracy.”



4.   Corey’s Column: Merle Cooper; the program that aided my transition from prison to reentry


Merle Cooper is a very special behavior modification program located at Clinton Annex.  Originally created for the mentally challenged in the 1970’s it subsequently expanded to include individuals with sex related crimes and now is open to all offenders.

There are rigorous standards for admission, including that applicants must not have received a serious misbehavior infraction (violent or multiple drug infractions) within two years of applying for the program.  I had already completed my required mandated programing and now functioned as a dorm unit porter.  For me this wasn’t enough.  I felt stagnated.  I needed more of a challenge to move me forward toward my goal of change.  When I entered the Merle Cooper Program, boy did I get my wish! The principles of the program immediately grabbed me and took me for a ride I’ll never forget.
The program serves from 400 to 500 inmates who live apart from general population, in 3 separate units.  One perk that especially caught my attention was the family reunion program where inmates for two days would be allowed to stay in small houses on the facility grounds and spend quality time with their loved ones.  A second perk was to earn a favorable evaluation that would be summited to the parole board.  I had heard this evaluation could be the deciding factor in the parole commissioner’s decision to release individuals; especially those serving life sentences.
I was a little nervous before my first meeting because I knew I had to introduce myself, my crime, and my reason for coming to the program.  When I saw over 100 people sitting in two huge rows, I got a lump in my throat.  They consisted of inmates, staff, and visitors - ranging from older adults to young teenagers.  The program’s psychiatrist gave a disarming good morning and asked all new comers to introduce themselves.  After I gave my profile, much to my relief I was greeted with welcoming applause from the rest of the community.  When I finally composed myself, I noticed a red stool in the middle of the floor.  After your name was called you sat in this ‘hot seat’.  You were expected to say good morning to the community, and then the entire community held you responsible for every misbehavior you committed while in the program, as well as within the circumstances of your crime.  Everyone in the program had to take the red seat; including me.  To find out more about this confrontation and other constructive aspects of the Merle Cooper Program, please join me next month in these pages    ~ Corey Parks


5.   On August 1, Governor Cuomo’s DNA Databank Expansion bill went into effect. 
This DNA Databank Expansion Bill, passed by the Legislature in March, makes New York the first state in the nation to require the collection of DNA samples from anyone convicted of any felony or Penal Law misdemeanor.


Previously, only 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law offense were required to provide a DNA sample. Even with this limited information, the DNA Databank helped New York State prosecutors obtain nearly 3,000 convictions, including 626 sexual offense cases and 202 murder cases. DNA evidence also has helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers and exclude countless innocent individuals from suspicion, often at the earliest stages of investigation.
Building Bridges invites your comments.



6.   Electoral Politics make a difference

Primary elections [when political parties choose their candidates] will be held on  Thursday, September 13, 2012.  Normally not many people vote in the primaries, so your vote will have more weight.  We’ll discuss the November General Elections in the September issue.*


This is a good time to get involved if you want to see progressive bills like the SAFE Parole Act and the Merit Time Bill passed, and the FRP and Medical Co-pay bills defeated.

To find out if you’re registered and where to vote, please visit this website:  https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx

If you’re not registered to vote, you still have time. 

MAIL REGISTRATION:Application must be postmarked no later than August 17th and received by a board of elections no later than August 24th to be eligible to vote in the State & Local Primary.

IN PERSON REGISTRATION: You may register at your local board of elections or any state agency participating in the National Voter Registration Act, on any business day throughout the year but, to be eligible to vote in the State and Local Primary, your application must be received no later than August 17th.
Every State Senator and State Assembly Member has to run for election.  Some incumbents [people already in office] have no one running against them, while others will need our help to win.  

To help the S.A.F.E. Act and other progressive bills get passed, vote for those who’ve signed it and against those who oppose it.  

Assembly sponsors are:  Aubry (the main sponsor), Brennan, Clark, Crespo, Farrell, Gottfried, Hevesi, McEneny, O’Donnell, P. Rivera, Scarborough and Stevenson.  [A quick way to find out if one of them represents you is to visit www.parolereform.org, scroll down to Tool Kit, and pick legislative lookup.]  Luckily 11 of the 12 Democratic Assembly Members who signed the SAFE Parole Act Bill A.7939 have no one running against them in the primary.  Assembly Member Barbara Clark, Assembly District 33 is the one supporter with a challenger.  Please vote for her.


Senate sponsors are:  Duane (the main sponsor)(retiring), Breslin (retiring),  Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery, Perkins, G. Rivera, Serrano.  In Senate District 33, please vote for Senator Gustavo Rivera, who has an opponent, and if you can, help his campaign.  His campaign's website: http://www.gustavoforstatesenate.com



Sen. Breslin is retiring and several people are running for his seat:  Patricia Fahy, Christopher Higgins and Frank Commisso, Jr.    (PAN is torn between Fahy and Higgins.) 


Sen. Duane has retired, and Senator Serrano is running unopposed for his seat in District 29.  Liz Krueger (good woman!) is running unopposed for Serrano’s former District 28 seat.  (PAN feels positive about them both.)

Senator Montgomery is running unopposed in her new (due to redistricting) District 25. (We need her!)


Sen. Dilan and Attorney Jason Otano are battling it out in the primary for Montgomery’s former District #18 seat.  (PAN endorses Senator Martin Malave Dilan.
Prison Action Network urges you to vote against those opposing the SAFE Parole Act or the Merit Time Bill  The only obvious ones are the Republican members of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee who always vote no to progressive bills.  These are the same people who sponsor or support bills like the FRP bill and S.1861 which would increase parole hit maximums from 2 years to 5 years.

7 of the 8 Republican members of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee have no opposition: DeFrancisco. Nozzolio, Gallivan, Griffo, Little, Ranzenhofer and Richie.  That leaves George Maziarz Dist #62 (Lockport to Rochester).  Since he has expressed some support for the SAFE Parole Act, saying in order to sign it he would need “more upstate senators” to join him, you could try to convince him to show some spine and sign before 9/13,  or vote for Jimmy G. Destino, his opponent in the primary.

*Some of the unopposed legislators listed above will have challengers in the General Election in November.  Next month, after the primaries are decided, we’ll let you know which ones and who’s running against them. 


7.   Family Empowerment Day 5

Coming to the Buffalo-Niagara Region on the first weekend of October.  
Watch for details in the September issue. 
Currently being organized by PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC.,
PRP2-Niagara County Chapter, and PRISON ACTION NETWORK.

Contact:  KARIMA AMIN, 716-834-8438, karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org



8.   In Our Name, Restoring Justice in America 
Weekend retreat in Greenwich NY (not far from Albany)  August 24-26. [See details in the July issue.]

"We have had some terrific calls and contacts from prisoners’ families and formerly incarcerated people and we are really looking forward to seeing them at the conference. Please visit inourname.org. for more information and to register.  We have plenty of room and scholarships available.  See you on the 24th. "

Frank Zarro <faz@inourname.org>



9.   Legislation

The Legislature is on Summer break and the legislators are busy campaigning for re-election.  So there is no new legislation to report.  If Gov. Cuomo brings them back to vote on allowing fracking in NYS, they may also vote on a few bills they didn’t get to before June 21.


10.   Medical Parole; who qualifies, how to apply?

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a nonprofit independent international human rights organization that works on prison issues in the United States, among others. HRW is currently researching medical parole in New York State and plans to issue a report on how the process works, with recommendations for changes in policy and practice as appropriate.  You can help.

Researchers wonder if people in prison are aware of Medical Parole?  Do you know who qualifies, how to apply for it?  

Have you or a loved one tried to get medical parole (regardless of whether you succeeded or failed)?  Would you be willing to share your experience with HRW?

Please write to Samantha Reiser, US Program, Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Avenue, N.Y., N.Y. 10118.  While Human Rights Watch cannot help individuals with their cases, the experience of individuals will help it understand how the medical parole works in practice and what might be needed to make it work better.  HRW will keep the names of inmates confidential in anything it publishes.



11.  Special benefit performance for Women On the Rise Telling Herstory,

Sugar  Valley Theatricals, Bryan Webster, artistic director, in association with Isaac H. Suggs, Jr. invites you to MUNCHED, a play written by Kim Porter and directed by Petronia Paley.

A woman is convicted of an unthinkable crime. Twenty-five years later the daughter she's accused of hurting sits outside the "monster's" front door with a big box of "why?".  Kim Porter's unique treatment of Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy (which refers to the abuse of another being, typically a child, in order to seek attention or sympathy for the abuser) questions the treatment of women in the health care system and throws in a little taste of Flip Wilson for good measure.

WORTH is an association of currently and formerly incarcerated women who have been empowered by our own experiences. Through leadership development, organizing, mentoring, mutual support and telling our stories. WORTH transforms the lives of women affected by incarceration and changes public perception and policy. 

Sunday September 9, 2012 3:30pm      
Panel Discussion with Reception to Follow 

Dr. Barbara Anne Teer's  National Black Theatre,  2031 Fifth Ave (at 125th Street)

Tickets $25,  Additional Donations allow WORTH to continue our transformative work. 
Please make your check or money order out to: WORTH c/o The Osborne Association, Fiscal Sponsor.
Please put WORTH in the memo line.  Thank you for your support.
Contact us at: 171 East 122nd Street, New York, NY 10035
Phone (646) 918-6858 & (347) 239- 7759



12.   Parole News: 

June 2012 Parole Release Decisions – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999 -  unofficial research from parole database


Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
20 Initials
4
16
20%
114 Reappearances
30
84
26%
134 Total
34
100
25%


June Initial Releases
Facility............ Sentence.       Offense       # of Board  ***
Clinton
21-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
20-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
22-Life
Murder 2
Initial  *
Fishkill
22-Life
Murder 2
Initial


June Reappearance Releases
Facility.............Sentence..............Offense..........# of Board ***

Clinton
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Franklin
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Green Haven
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Groveland
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Washington
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Woodbourne
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Clinton
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Clinton
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Great Meadow
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Otisville
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Coxsackie
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Green Haven
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Washington
17 ½-Life
Murder 2
5th
Woodbourne
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Wyoming
20-Life
Murder 2
5th
Green Haven
2.5-Life
Mur prior ’74
6th **
Collins
20-Life
Murder 2
6th
Gouverneur
18-Life
Murder 2
6th
Gowanda
25-Life
Murder 2
6th
Great Meadow
25-Life
Murder 2
6th
Great Meadow
10 ½-Life
Murder 2
6th
Orleans
18-Life
Murder 
6th
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
7th
Orleans
8-Life
Murder 2
7th
Otisville
8-Life
Murder 2
7th
Bare Hill
20-Life
Murder 2
8th
Great Meadow
15-Life
Murder 2
8th
Orleans
20-Life
  Murder 2 
10th
Woodbourne
15-Life
  Murder 2
12th

In addition, a release from last year, whose release was rescinded, had another rescission hearing and was released in May 2012.  GreenHaven.  -26 ½  - Life  - Kidnap 1  - 6th board


*For deportation only
**on a parole violation (original minimum and parole release date unknown)

***Question:  Do you prefer stats listed by order of #of boards, or by facility?


Graziano Case dismissed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit 
Rejects Inmates' Bid for Relief Over Alleged Parole Policy
John Caher, New York Law Journal,  08-06-2012

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that violent felons who claim they were systematically denied parole due to an unofficial mandate of former Governor George Pataki have no avenue of relief under the U.S. Constitution.

...The majority in Graziano v. Pataki, 11-116-pr, said that even if New York politicians and policy-makers had adopted an official policy to automatically deny parole to all violent offenders, and thereby violated state law, there still would be no constitutional violation.


...Judge Stefan Underhill, a district judge from Connecticut sitting by designation, wrote a passionate dissent, arguing that if the allegations are true, Pataki and the parole board turned parole hearings into "sham proceedings."

...Graziano has been working its way through the courts since 2006, when several men serving indeterminate sentences for violent felonies alleged in a class action that Pataki conspired with the parole board to ensure that they would not be paroled, regardless of any rehabilitation.

The case revolves around a state statute that sets forth eight criteria the parole board must take into consideration when making release decisions. ...Courts have held that as long as the board considers the eight factors—which range from the nature of the offense to the offender's rehabilitative efforts—it can accord whatever weight it deems appropriate to any of the elements.

...Underhill noted that the plaintiffs' complaint clearly alleges that the board based decisions "solely on the basis of the violent nature [of the offense] and thus without proper consideration to any other relevant or statutorily mandated factor."...In his dissent, Underhill described the plaintiffs' allegations as "staggering" and said that Pataki's alleged policy turned parole interviews into a futile exercise where "inmates could present evidence and call witnesses, but they would waste their breath because the policy tied the commissioners' hands. As a result, the Governor and the Parole Board consigned hundreds of people to life in prison."  Underhill said there is no question the state could not re-sentence inmates serving indeterminate sentences to life without parole.

..."There can be no doubt that the New York legislature could not constitutionally pass a statute retroactively converting all indeterminate sentences for violent felons into determinate sentences without the possibility of parole," Underhill wrote. "Nonetheless, the majority holds that the executive can accomplish the same result for arbitrary reasons without engaging in egregious conduct violative of substantive due process."

...Robert Isseks, an attorney in Middletown who represents the plaintiffs along with Peter Sell of Manhattan, said he will seek en banc review of the decision. "We did not claim in this complaint that they were overvaluing the nature of the instant offense," Isseks said. "We claim they are not exercising discretion at all."

John Caher can be contacted at jcaher@alm.com.


Prisoner’s Bid for Parole Wins Support From Unlikely Allies, by John Caher, NYLJ,  July 26.
Those allies were prosecutors.  One of them had never written a letter of parole release support for anyone before; the other has submitted his letters of support for the last 5 hearings!  This June the prisoner, Noah Lazore, got a split decision which was reported in Caher’s article, and he was released on his return visit in July, days after the article appeared.  We wish Mr. Lazore success as he reenters society after 36 years! 


Obtaining your parole board hearing transcript:
We’re not lawyers, but someone who’s done this says he sent a FOIL request to the  Facility Parole Office (what is it called now that parole has been merged?) for his, because they get a copy of the parole hearing transcript for each parole applicant’s file.  He advises to wait a month and then submit your request. 


As of Aug 14 these are the Parole Commissioners currently in office, despite Smith and Brown having expired terms.

[To look up who’s on the Parole Board, Google NYS Parole Board Members.]


Evans, Andrea W.
Paterson
June 8, 2009
February 6, 2013
Smith, William
Pataki
Dec 17, 1996
July 06, 2011
Ferguson, James
Pataki
April 12, 2005
July 06, 2017
Hernandez, Christin
Pataki
June 14, 2006
June 02, 2017
Ludlow , G. Kevin
Pataki
June 21, 2006
June 18, 2017
Elovich, Lisa Beth
Pataki
Dec 13, 2006
December 31, 2013
Thompson, Sally
Spitzer
June 14, 2007
May 4, 2013
Hagler, Michael 
Spitzer
October 22, 2007  
August 31, 2013
Ross, Mary
Paterson
June 19, 2008
August 31, 2013
Crangle, Joseph
Paterson
June 19, 2008
June 16, 2014
Brown, Jared
Paterson
January 26, 2010
June 18, 2012
Sharkey, Edward
Cuomo
June 20, 2012
June 18, 2018
Coppola, Marc
Cuomo
June 20, 2012
June 18, 2015
Alexander, Ellen
Cuomo 
June 20, 2012 
June 18, 2014 


Group Mounts Campaigns to Block Murderers' Parole, by John Caher, N Y Law Journal, 07-30-2012

ALBANY - An organization that charges up to $250 to mount an organized campaign to prevent parole release of convicted killers has attracted the interest of defense attorneys resulting in a complaint to state and federal authorities.

Cheryl Kates, an attorney in the Rochester area who has one client who was recently denied parole after Parents of Murdered Children campaigned against his release, and five others who are targeted by the organization, is seeking an investigation.


"Community opposition is being purchased," Kates claimed in a July 10 letter to the inspector general of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and copied to the U.S. Department of Justice. "The parole board is being tricked. This is a violation of due process. Any petitions received from this organization should be removed from the inmate's file."


John Caher can be contacted at jcaher@alm.com.




13.  NYS Parole Reform Campaign:

Met Anthony for the first time last week and I was thoroughly impressed. Impressed with this man’s knowledge and wisdom; his quiet confidence and peace within himself, permeating inner joy and communion with his God.


Having served thirty years already and looking anxiously forward to his first parole hearing next year, I pray that Anthony will be released to finally go home. However, I have my doubts. Unless, the ‘Safe Parole Act’ is passed, more than likely, given the parole review’s track record, Anthony will get ‘hit’ at his hearing and be rejected, adding two more long years to his sentence while awaiting for his next review provided he stays clean and out of trouble.


There is very little incentive for the inmates to seek rehabilitation and participate in the programs as offered during their incarceration when the administration offers such programs on one hand and denies them justice with the other. What good are all the programs in the world when at the end of that program, those in charge snatch from the participants their expected reward and compensation? Namely, release to go home based on their hard earned merit.

I plead with those reading this letter to get involved and do whatever it takes to pass the ‘Safe Parole Act’ by contacting their local legislature to do something about it.    
                                                                                                                          ~Rev. Stephen Lim



14.   Prison Legal News is one of our favorite reads.  

We were surprised recently to learn that some of our members, including those who spend a lot of time in their facility's law library, were not familiar with it.  

Prison Legal News is a 56-page monthly that reports extensively on correctional facilities.  Paul Wright is the editor.  Wright's perspective on free speech in prisons comes from personal experience. He started PLN while an inmate in Washington state, and faced disciplinary intimidation for his work, including stints in solitary confinement. He covered prison conditions for PLN, which began as a 10-page stapled newsletter (much like Building Bridges is still).  Wright was released in 2003. He now runs the magazine and its umbrella organization, the Human Rights Defense Center, with his staff in West Brattleboro, Vt.  This July marked the 271st issue.
The stories are hard-hitting and disturbing. Rather than speculate, articles are mostly constructed from published cases, government regulations, and reports from human rights organizations. Prison labor, excessive force, medical neglect and the private prison industry are regular subjects. PLN has never retracted a story.
The magazine also summarizes case law, which has helped prisoners in court. Brett Dignam, a law professor at Columbia University, describes PLN as "the biggest source of information for people who are incarcerated." That's why she represented PLN pro bono between 2009 and 2010 before a Freedom of Information commission and superior court in Connecticut.  "I've represented prisoners who understood the law because of their subscription to PLN," said Dignam.




15.   Prison Media - Street Life: The Hustler's Illusion

The Poughkeepsie Journal is the only mainstream newspaper in NYS that we're aware of, that publishes a regular column by a writer who is in prison.  Matthew Hattley has an article every few weeks on their Opinion page.  His latest, published July 19, an unromanticized look at street life, can be found at: http://www.gunkjournal.com/2012/07/19/news/1207196.html, and if you search the archives you can find more.  Oh, and by the way.  He's a good writer.





16.   New York State Prisoner Justice Network: FROM OUR MAILBOX


Nobody knows prisons like the people who are locked up in them. New York State Prisoner Justice Network’s mailbox is brimming with vivid descriptions, heartbreaking stories, thoughtful analysis, and valuable proposals for change. This month we’d like to share some excerpts from prisoners’ letters.

“It is my hope the Network would begin the process of raising consciousness towards the building of a Community Prison and Parole Review Board w/Ombudsman... It is time for activists to begin the process of creating alternative institutions that challenge the status quo institutions of punishment, retribution, and profit.” – AB, Attica
If we tried European laws, 90% of our prisons would close.” –HH, Great Meadow

“I would like to give you my perspective on the new visiting guidelines, in particular, the photo ID requirement, a pilot program that will file photo ID’s in the NYSDOCCS Central Visitor Identification System... Indeed, this is the New Jim Crow. The legislators and prison officials should have their photo ID’s in a Central Identification System, so taxpayers can view the malicious and sadistic who rape, murder, assault, harass, steal, and abuse their authority.” – DG, Elmira

“I understand it is hard to make a bill become law.  Before Pataki, violent felons had a chance for work release and his executive order took it away. I believe an easier battle would be to repeal the executive order preventing violent felons obtaining work release... Instead of costing the state to house us in maximum security prisons we could go to work release and actually contribute to the state via taxes. –PD, Green Haven

“Over the years, I have done everything that I can to change the person who selfishly committed those despicable offenses ten years ago... . I just wish I was given the chance to prove myself and show society that change is possible for me...  Sadly, others as well as I are being denied a vital program, the Temporary Release/ Work Release Program, with the reason for denial being Instant Offense and/or Recidivist History...Sure lets be tough on crime, but when is enough enough? When does punishment end and rehabilitation start? ... In the meantime, communities are losing out on all the potential good we can be doing out there, families are continuing to be separated, and our youth are suffering like never before. By implementing the right mechanisms we can adhere to public safety as well as help the economy.” –AA, Fishkill

“The Parole Board seems to feel it’s their duty to sentence us, and to keep on sentencing us as long as they can. So, when an A-1 violent felony offender comes before them, after completing their initial sentence, they simply re-sentence them to an additional two years. The Parole Board refuses to look at what those prisoners have done during their sentence, regardless of what the rules stipulate. They merely focus on two factors: the seriousness of the offense and prior criminal history.... The average Parole Hearing lasts five to ten minutes. That’s it. How can anyone, in just a few minutes, make an impartial determination regarding a prisoner’s possible freedom? You can see why we have to believe that the Parole Commissioners come to hearings with a predetermined agenda.  –MH, Shawangunk

Yesterday I went before the parole board and got denied and hit 24 months. The two parole commissioners I sat before were a former police sergeant and a former sheriff/investigator sergeant. For the decision to come back so fast shows these commissioners never really took account of anything, and the decision was made before I went and sat before their panel...” –MR, Sullivan


“While your statement that long-term solitary confinement is torturous is true, the same may be said of ordinary confinement in the regular prison population... Perhaps one must really be a prisoner of color, who’s spent a lifetime struggling to obtain a liberty that works, to finally grasp how, in New York State, parole in its present form is the culprit; that is, the very revolving door mechanism, the quintessential dead end, that keeps prisoners of color ‘jumping Jim Crow,’ wheeling back and forth from imprisonment to ghetto existence (homelessness, unemployment, addiction, terminal despair)...To ‘Get Free, Stay Free,’ a greater vision (in addition to parole) is needed. New York State Prisoner Justice Network is challenged to imagine such a vision..” –JM, Wende





17.   The Prisoner Rights/Civil Rights Practice Group.

Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon, LLP and their paralegal, Martin Tankleff, proudly announce their new practice group:  The Prisoner Rights-Civil Rights Practice Group. Their combined years of legal and practical experience will provide a unique and distinct service necessary to uphold the Constitution and the rights of those incarcerated, deprived of life, liberty and freedom, and those whose freedom was taken away from them in violation of clearly established laws.


The Practice Group provides both Civil Rights Practice and Prisoner Rights Practice.  To find out how we can assist you with a criminal defense, civil rights or personal injury matter, please contact our office at 516-745-1500 or write to schedule a meeting:   Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon, LLP,  666 Old Country Rd., 7th Flr., Garden City, NY 11530 




18.   P.A.N. invites your position papers on the criminal justice issues that deeply concern you.

As an organization advocating for criminal justice reform, Prison Action Network is soliciting position papers on the issues which most deeply concern our members in prison and their family members.  As a member of the NYS Criminal Justice Advocacy and Reform Coalition, we will present them to the Legislative Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform (described in Art. 8 of July’s issue).  Our deadline is October 1.  We are inviting submissions from each Prison Lifer's (or similarly motivated) Group and groups of family members as well, to submit 1- 3 position papers.  We need carefully researched papers -using footnotes - which are about issues, not about someone’s personal story, although such stories, as well as articles from mainstream media, make very good attachments.  Statistics and comparisons with other states and countries would be helpful if the sources are cited, and when relevant, the cost savings in applying your recommendations (cite sources).   Please let us know the topic immediately and provide a date when we can expect to receive the finished product.   

A friend, an excellent writer, recommends having at the top of any proposal a clear statement of the problem, a clear statement of the proposed solution, and a very short (1-2 sentence) summary of why your reform is a good one. And then, if you decide it takes more space than that to make a coherent and powerful argument, you may decide to write more.  Keep in mind the shorter the better.  People have short attention spans these days.  Don’t write a book!  (Even a short one.)



19.  Retooling Parole, by Joseph Robinson

The New York State parole system has “moved toward evidence-based practices, case conferences before simply violating a parolee, motivational interviewing techniques and treatment matching,” Vanda Seward, Statewide Director of Reentry Services, told the men of the Second Look Think Tank at a meeting on August 2 at Sullivan Correctional Facility.

Ms. Seward also highlighted the benefits of the merger of the Department of Correctional Services and Division of Parole. Among other things, she said, it “bridges informational gaps between state agencies.”“My staff is now allowed to get information from Transitional Services, for example, that in the past was more difficult to obtain,” she said. “It’s now free flowing. There’s a cohesive exchange of information between agencies.”

The meeting was the second between Ms. Seward and Second Look, a policy group at Sullivan  that researches, analyzes and proposes policy on parole issues with the goal of bringing about systemic changes that produce fairer, more evidence-based parole board and reintegration policies. In June 2010, she and then Parole Chair and CEO Andrea Evans met with Second Look to discuss parole reform. 

The August 2 meeting covered several parole issues, including an update on some of the new diversion programs that parole has in place. Ms. Seward said that parole violators at the Orleans Reentry Unit now receive additional programming and treatment for 45 days, instead of the 90 days previously. The model is being replicated at Hudson Correctional Facility. Instead of systematically sending New York City parolees who have been rearrested to Rikers Island, they are now sent to Queensboro, where they are given paid programs. Significantly, no parole warrant is issued while they are in Queensboro, so that the time spent there is not considered delinquent time. 

“Parole is willing to look at alternative responses, to graduated responses. Not just sanctions, but rewards as well,” said Ms. Seward, who also discussed a pilot program at Bedford Hills that incorporates group therapy sessions and video conferences with community-based service providers. She said that her staff also has periodic prison “in-reach” and resource fairs.

Ms. Seward said that she and her staff “are constantly in the community, at various events and doing speaking engagements.” “Our message is simple: 85 percent of the men and women in prison will eventually come home,” she said. “You can either welcome them and try to help them in their reintegration process, or you can say no to helping them and risk being victimized. It’s our responsibility to let the community know that they have a part to play in this process. 

Joseph Robinson, a founding member of Second Look, suggested that a “formalized collaborative stakeholder approach” would bring about greater community support. “We need multilateral flows of information,” he said, “a means for all stakeholders to share ideas about how best to navigate the reintegration process." 

Second Look members stressed the importance of DOCCS showcasing the thousands of men and women who are on parole and doing well, making exceptional strides and defying negative, sensationalized media portrayals of parolees. Ms. Seward said that she and Chairwoman Evans had approached the media about highlighting such success stories, but that “they weren’t interested in those types of stories.” Nzinger Alimase, a new member of Second Look, suggested bypassing mainstream media and using social media to tell success stories.  Bruce Bryant, a long-time member of the think tank, added that it would put a human face on stories. Ms. Seward said that Parole had not considered that approach, but “we’re open to new ideas.” Second Look members pledged to send a proposal for implementing a social media platform.

On the issue of work release, think tank member Stanley Bellamy said that Governor Cuomo should sign an Executive Order expanding it and other temporary programs to all incarcerated people, using fair, evidence-based criteria to select participants. He argued that “it’s the most effective, evidence-based reentry program the state has at its disposal.” Ms. Seward agreed in substance, but said that the current economy could cause some people to be resistant to competing for jobs with formerly incarcerated individuals. She said that she favored Industrial Training, followed by work release. 

Mr. Robinson noted that DOCCS and Parole focus primarily on criminogenic program and treatment needs to address violence, drugs and sex offenses, without considering that incarcerated persons typically experience years of trauma, before and during incarceration.. He suggested that regular group and one-on-one therapy sessions be incorporated in the “needs” part of TAP and Compass.

Mr. Alimase asked why people who should be transferred to medium security prisons are being kept in maximum facilities. He said that the parole board could wrongly conclude that because a person is still in a max, he poses a threat to the community. In addition, mediums offer more access to skill-building programs and resources. Ms. Seward offered to look into this issue.  She also agreed to meet periodically with Second Look, whose other members are Dwight R. Delee, Mario Perez and  Jose Saldana.

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to stay in contact with our members.
Call 518-253-7533 or email  if you want to join.