Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 2012






During the month we post late breaking news and announcements on this site, so please check back now and then. Scroll down to immediately read the November edition.

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Check back tomorrow, Monday Dec 17. Due to scheduling difficulties we are a few days late publishing this month's Building Bridges.  Our apologies.

Please scroll down to read the November issue.


UPDATES:


POSTED December 10 - from Sedou Odinga Defense Committee

The Impact of Political Imprisonment and Mass Imprisonment
on our Families/Communities, a “Real Talk” conversation.

With life partner Safiya Bandele, granddaughter Yuri Torres, daughter, Theresa Shoatz, sister Sharmin Sadequee, and moderated by asha bandele

60,000 NYS families are separated from a loved one by prison.  Are you one of them?

December 26 from 3-5pm at Boys/Girls High School, Fulton Street and Utica Avenue in Bklyn.

For info SekouOdingaDefenseCommittee@gmail.com or 718-512-5008





POSTED  December 3 -  Drug Policy Alliance

Movies at Riverside, Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, and the Drug Policy Alliance invite you
to a FREE community film screening of Sundance award-winning documentary

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN

What: Free screening of the film, The House I Live In, followed by a Q&A with Director Eugene Jarecki and other special guests
When: SATURDAY, December 8th at 1pm
Where: The Riverside Church - Assembly Hall, 91 Claremont Ave., New York, NY 10027

Details: Filmed in more than twenty states, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN tells the stories of individuals at all levels of America’s war on drugs. From the dealer to the narcotics officer, from people behind bars to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy. 

After the film, join director Eugene Jarecki and special guests for a discussion about ending the war on drugs and mass incarceration in New York.

Twitter: @DrugWarMovie


For more information, please contact Melody Lee at mlee@drugpolicy.org or call 212-613-8048.




POSTED NOVEMBER 18  -  Prison Action Network

Prison reform through inmate education
Sean Pica, executive director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, talks about how his organization provides educational services to men and women in four New York state correctional facilities.

View the video:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979745/vp/49875014#49875014




Posted Nov.16:  Prison Policy Institute
Movement victory:  FCC proposes to regulate prison telephone industry

36,690 SumOfUs members call on FCC to cap rates charged to families of incarcerated people

November 15, 2012 - The monopolistic prison telephone industry took a hit today when FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn announced that the FCC is considering a proposal to cap the predatory monopoly rates charged to families of incarcerated people.  She announced that yesterday Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated a regulatory proposal to the other commissioners for consideration. 
The proposed Federal Communications Commission regulation would be a key turning point in a decade-long multi-organization campaign to protect the poorest families in the nation from predatory telephone charges. The announcement was made at a rally outside the FCC offices in Washington D.C. where several organizations submitted petitions containing more than 40,000 signatures calling for the regulation. 

At the rally, the corporate accountability organization SumOfUs and partner organization the Prison Policy Initiative submitted the comments of 36,690 SumOfUs members collected from around the nation with varying connections to the criminal justice system. For example, one petitioner is a prison staff member hailing from Vermont. Just two minutes after this Vermont prison staff member signed the petition, a mother from Carson City, Nevada with a son incarcerated in San Quentin Prison in California signed the petition. Nearly all of the petitioners underscored the same point: that the families of incarcerated persons should not be forced to endure telephone prices that exponentially exceed those charged for ordinary telephone service. A coalition of organizations including Media Action Grassroots Network, Working Narratives, Prison Legal News and Participant Media also collected submissions for other petitions.

"This is a big step forward for fairness," said Drew Kukorowski  of the Prison Policy Initiative. "The Federal Communications Commission is the only disinterested party with the power to protect the real consumers: incarcerated people and their families." 

In September, Kukorowski authored a Prison Policy Initiative report, "The Price To Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization In The Prison Phone Industry," calling for the regulation of the prison telephone industry. The report revealed that the three phone companies that dominate 90% of the industry set calling rates that are excessively high, "kick back" a portion of the revenue to the states, and in exchange receive monopoly contracts with state prison systems.
"For over a decade the FCC let this injustice continue," SumOfUs Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said. "But under the weight of growing public opinion it is about to take the critical first step toward regulating prison phone costs."

"We commend the FCC and call on them to accept and implement the rule. People all over the Unites States are sick of the privatization of public services, from schools to hospitals to prisons."

"It's time the FCC made sure prison phone companies cannot prey on the 2.7 million kids in the U.S. who have a parent in prison and rely on phone calls to provide stability, comfort and a sense of normalcy."

The next step is for the FCC Commissioners to vote on the text of a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking". If approved, the FCC would open a new comment period for the public -- and the prison telephone industry -- to submit evidence on whether or not it should be implemented. 

LINKS:


Prison Policy Initiative: http://www.prisonpolicy.org 


Report: "The Price To Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization In The Prison Phone Industry: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/phones/  





Posted Nov. 16:  Prison Action Network

The Justice & Multiculturalism Project at the University at Albany is planning to host a community discussion of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  Professor Alexander is scheduled to visit Albany Law School on December 6, and groups around the city are holding discussions in preparation for that event.

Even if you have not had an opportunity to read the book, you are still welcome to join the discussion.  Brief study materials will be available through the Justice & Multiculturalism website (http://www.albany.edu/justiceinstitute/and a short video interview with the book’s author will be shown at the start of the discussion.

We will hold the book discussion on Wednesday, November 28 at 6:00 pm in Milne 200.  If you are interested in participating in this discussion, please reply to justiceinstitute@albany.edu by Wednesday, November 7 to confirm.  The event is free and open to the public, so please feel free to forward the information to anyone who may be interested.

Light refreshments will be provided.



BUILDING BRIDGES NOVEMBER 2012


Dear Reader,

I want to talk about the “fiscal cliff” we’re supposedly dangling from.  There is a connection between it and us.  This week on Democracy Now, House Speaker John Boehner [pronounced Bayner] was heard saying “Instead of accepting arbitrary cuts that will endanger our national defense, let’s get serious about shoring up the entitlement programs that are the primary drivers of our country’s massive, growing debt.” 
I cringed at the words ‘entitlement programs’.  I depend on my social security benefit.  And it’s not an entitlement program!   I paid into it for over 40 years of employment, where each paycheck included a deduction for my Social Security Insurance.  As far as I’m concerned anyone who touches my benefits is stealing from me.  Boehner is also lying when he says it has anything to do with our country’s debt!  There is no connection between an insurance benefit and the national economy.  This isn’t just about me, of course.  It’s about all of us in the 99%.  As Sarah Anderson, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, also said on Democracy Now, “To think that we need to shift the burden onto the backs of the poor and elderly is crazy, when we’re in one of the richest countries—the richest country in the world. Our problem is that our resources have been misallocated.“
It’s obvious to me that the underlying cause of poverty and crime (not necessarily, but often, connected) is the way our economy favors the rich over the poor.  The rich accuse us of wanting “stuff”!  Do you believe it?  All the “stuff” they have, multiple homes and cars, not to mention planes; all are benefits of corporate welfare in the form of tax breaks and immunity from arrest for their economic crimes.  Bill Reilly said, the day after Obama won (Whew!), “People [who voted for Obama] feel that they are entitled to things. And which candidate between the two is going to give them things?”  If those things are home, health, education and food security, I hope he’s right that President Obama is going to provide them.  [See article 4 for some others]

Here’s the big message:  Many of those rich people gave lots of money to Obama, and now they want pay-back.  Yet it wasn’t their money, but
our votes which won President Obama’s re-election.  We have to let him know he owes us!  And what we’re asking is that he save our Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security, and take away their tax breaks.  Let’s call him and let him know he has our support to block any attempts to take away our earned benefit programs, because these these basic social programs have made us a much stronger society.  [See article 9 for more demands of President Obama]
Be well, stay strong, and please, get involved,  ~The Editor     

Missing:

The reader who requested a copy of Andrea Evan’s testimony at the Assembly’s public hearing on the DOCCS merger. Your name has become separated from the document that’s waiting to be mailed.  If you wrote that request, please contact us.

The writer of a beautifully written Proposal for the Reform of Policies and Practices Affecting Public Safety, with attachments A & B.  We will be using it and would like to give credit where credit is due, and it too got separated from its envelope.

Corrections: 
Last month when we reported on several higher education programs which are available to prisoners, we made an error in describing Rising Hope, Inc.  Nyack College will accept Rising Hope course credits and apply them toward their Organizational Management Degree Program (not a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry or in General Education, as we stated).


HEADLINES:
1.  Education: Invitation to an educational session on the importance of Pell Grant access in prison.

2.  The Campaign to bring back the free prison bus service has a petition for you and your family and friends to sign.

3.  Find out if you are eligible to have your convictions conditionally sealed.

4Seven rights are listed in the Safe Community Declaration of 2013 by Corey Parks.

5.  A New York Times editorial says that denying voting rights to people who have paid their debt to society offends the fundamental tenets of democracy.

6.  “Fortune in My Eyes”, the memoir of Fortune Society’s founder, has been praised by the NY Times as a “profile in courage”.

7Michelle Alexander comes to Albany, will speak to high school students and law students.

8.  National Criminal Justice Commission Act would establish an independent national commission to conduct a review of the nation’s criminal justice system and recommend consensus-based and cost-effective reforms.

9.  Open letter to the President lists actions we would like him to take in the next 4 years, including ending the use of solitary confinement.  We want a safer and more peaceful country, where freedom and justice are primary values.

10Parole News:  September release statistics and the challenges of appointing appropriately qualified Parole Commissioners.

11Prisoners Are People Too! - their Oct. meeting was cancelled due to Super Storm Sandy.  Rescheduled for 11/26.

12Prisoners Make Us Look Good - NY Times article notes absence of prisoners in statistics regarding black progress.

13Pro Bono legal assistance will be required of all future applicants for the NYS Bar exam.

14Senate Shenanigans or not?  Will we have a Democratic majority?  And will it be a repeat of 2008?




1.  Education from the Inside Out invites you to an educational session on how Pell Grant access in prison transforms lives 

PELL GRANTS AND PRISON EDUCATION: .
December 6, 2012 (12noon-2pm)   Lunch will be provided. Limited space. RSVP Today!
Guest Speakers:  Mayor Cory Booker, City of Newark, NJ - Keynote Address;  Dallas Pell, daughter of late U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell - Opening Remarks
Rutgers University
Paul Robeson Campus Center Essex Room 231-232
350 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Newark, NJ 07102
RSVP to nsmith@collegeandcommunity.org or 646-380-7772.   Please join us for this meaningful conversation!   www.eiocoalition.org



2.  Bring back the free prison bus service 
If you have not already signed the e-petition to urge Governor Cuomo and the NYS legislature to reinstate this critical program, please do so now! As you may know, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) ran this bus service from 1973 to early 2011, as they recognized the importance of family ties for incarcerated individuals. Approximately 72,000 children have an incarcerated parent in a NY state prison, and about 4,000 children have an incarcerated mother in a state prison. We need YOUR help! It will only take a few seconds to sign the petition, forward to your family and friends, and post on your social networks.  


3. Conditional Sealing of Your Conviction Opportunity for Eligible Candidates 

The Fortune Society is seeking to alert qualified individuals involved in the criminal justice system that they may be eligible to have their convictions conditionally sealed.  Conditionally sealed convictions are no longer visible to employers, landlords and others that may conduct background checks.

For more information contact Josh Ramos at (212) 691-7554 x 305 or at  jramos@fortunesociety.org.



4.  Corey’s Column: Safe Community Declaration of 2013

Premise

Our communities are plagued with corruption, inequality, and destruction. How do we handle seeing so many homeless men and woman? How do we handle so many young teens turning to drugs or gun violence?  How do we handle being punished by a criminal justice system which promotes prisons as a community?  How do we handle no housing and jobs?  How do we handle peer pressure?  The only way to handle these issues is by being communities who will support each other through any hopeless moments.  Communities are a pillar that supports all its members, not just by applauding individual accomplishments. We will only succeed with unity.

By “Community” is meant a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, have a role in choosing their government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.  As citizens and members of our communities we are entitled to the following human and social rights.

Seven Rights:


We declare our right to:

(1)  equal opportunity in the employment market in order to establish ourselves economically and socially.

(2)  access to adequate schooling that will properly educate all those who apply themselves.

(3)  access to affordable housing for current residents and those returning to the community.

(4)  careers and legacies instead of prisons and graveyards.

(5)  be safe from all forms of violence, e.g. police brutality, street and gang violence, domestic violence, gun violence, verbal, emotional and sexual violence.

(6)  be free from all forms of discrimination by police authority, i.e. illegal stop & frisk policies and any other tactics used to fuel mass incarceration.

(7)  be free from cultural and ethnic discrimination, so everyone can practice their belief systems and participate equally in educational and social opportunities.

Community Responsibilities:

As a community we need to stand together by helping, healing, and supporting one another.  Our assets are our shared experience, a related history, determination, and a willingness to prevail over any adversity or self-hurt and any attempts to hinder our potential to excel.
Signed:  Corey Parks
 


5.  Disenfranchisement of Formerly Incarcerated Citizens
Wrongly Turning Away Ex-Offenders

The New York Times 11/04/2012 Editorial page proclaims: The United States maintains a shortsighted and punitive set of laws, some of them dating back to Reconstruction, denying the vote to people who have committed felonies. They will bar about 5.85 million people from voting in this year’s election.  In the states with the most draconian policies — including Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia — more than 7 percent of the adult population is barred from the polls, sometimes for life.  Nationally, nearly half of those affected have completed their sentences, including parole or  probation.   more...



6.  Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice and Political Passion 

An autobiography by Fortune Society’s founder, David Rothenberg was the subject of an interview with him by Glenn Martin on “Both Sides of The Bars”, the television program hosted by DRCPP.

The book, available from Applause publishing has recently been reviewed very favorably in the New York Times!  In the Metro section, columnist Sam Roberts sums up the book, and perhaps Mr. Rothenberg’s life by saying it is “a profile in courage.” 

The Fortune Society staff are justifiably proud of this praise for their esteemed founder and his work, and highly suggest you pick up a copy for yourself!


7.  Michelle Alexander speaking in Albany
December 6 at 7 pm.
Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave. Albany NY

Ms. Alexander will also be speaking to the students at Albany High School on the same day.

Contact the Social Justice Center for more details or to buy the New Jim Crow book: 518-434-4037
Sponsored by:
*Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, The Social Justice Center, A Village, The Center for Law and Justice, Friends for Racial Justice, Capital Region Chapter of NYCLU, Upstate Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Capital District Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Filling in the Gaps in American History, The New Jim Crow Study Group in Albany, The African American Cultural Center, Grand Street Community Arts, Urban Arts Experience, JC3 Consulting, the New York State Prisoner Justice Network, Social Responsibilities Council of the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Albany, the New York State Defenders Justice Fund and the New York State Defenders Association, the Muslim Solidarity Committee, Project SALAM: Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslim, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, Citizens Action.


8.  Support the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights asks that you sign on to support S. 306, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. S. 306 which would establish an independent national commission to conduct a review of the nation’s criminal justice system and recommend consensus-based and cost-effective reforms.

Given the limited number of legislative days remaining this year, we urge you to prioritize this legislation’s passage. If you are interested in signing on to the letter, please click on the link to the sign-on sheet and include your organization’s name and whether it is a national or state/local organization.  
For more information please contact: Lexer Quamie, Counsel, The Leadership Conference Education Fund (202) 466-3648 quamie@civilrights.orgwww.civilrights.org


9.  Open letter to President Obama
The Center for Constitutional Rights was a major contributor to our battle for lower phone rates for calls from inside prison.  But they are also involved in many major battles to protect our Constitutional Rights.  After the election, they sent out a message saying, “We know that we cannot rely on politicians or even the courts: only people can make meaningful change. This is a critical time for all of us to act to change the course of history and build a unified vision for a society guided by human rights. Hope only gets you so far. Let's get to work.”

So we got to work and wrote the following letter to the President.  We need to hold him accountable for upholding human rights. From CCR’s list of the changes they want to see in the near future, we selected those that focus on criminal justice issues.  We urge you to get involved in letting President Obama know what changes you want.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,  Washington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111 Switchboard: 202-456-1414
Open letter to President Obama:

Prison Action Network is thrilled that you will be our President for 4 more years.  We voted for you and campaigned for you because we believe that you will listen to our demands for civil and social rights.  We want a safer and more peaceful country, where freedom and justice are primary values.  
To that end we have listed some changes that are essential to our security:

1.  End the use of
solitary confinement in prisons across the country. 
2.  End unlawful “targeted killings” and the expansion of the Orwellian “disposition matrix.” 
3.  Acknowledge, investigate and provide reparations for unlawful civilian killings. 
4.  End the war in Afghanistan and pull all private military contractors out of Iraq and Afghanistan. 
5.  Abandon the endless global war paradigm as the basis for abusive national security policies and end the use of war force outside of war zones.
5.  Investigate and prosecute former high-level U.S. officials who bear responsibility for torture and war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the “black sites”.
6.  Provide medical treatment and compensation to people subjected to torture in U.S.-run detention facilities, including in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Guantánamo, and provide war reparations to communities in Iraq and Afghanistan for harms done to the people and the environment.    
7.  End the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists like Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning for protected First Amendment activity. 
8.  Increase transparency, sunshine and freedom of information in federal law enforcement and prisons and end overclassification of unlawful or embarrassing government conduct. 
9.  Stop the criminalization of dissent: end the stifling of activist expression under the anti-free-speech National Defense Authorization Act and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and end overbroad prosecutions for terrorism under material support laws. 
10.  Stop the criminalization and profiling of communities based on race and religion: end the devastating Secure Communities program that destroys families and spreads fear in immigrant neighborhoods. 
11.  End warrantless surveillance and stop the indiscriminate targeting and surveillance of Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities under the guise of national security. 
12.  Support human rights internationally: stop funding and training police and militaries abroad implicated in human rights abuses in places like Honduras. 
13.  Center women's equality in all policy and legislative initiatives concerning their bodily autonomy and right to health care.

10.  Parole News
SEPTEMBER 2012 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999 
unofficial research from parole database


Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
17 Initials
3
14
18%
83 Reappearances
29
54
35%
100 Total
32
68
32%



SEPTEMBER Initial Release      
Facility                        Sentence           Offense      # of Board

Fishkill
20-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Great Meadow
26 1/3-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Woodbourne
23-Life
Murder 2
Initial


SEPTEMBER Reappearances
Facility                        Sentence           Offense         # of Board

Bare Hill
15-Life
Murder 2
5th *
Bedford Hills
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Clinton
20-Life
Murder 2
4th
Clinton
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Collins
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Coxsackie
20-Life
Murder 2
8th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
17-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
7-Life
Murder 2
6th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Franklin
25-Life
Murder 2
7th
Green Haven
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Groveland
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Livingston
15-Life
Murder 2
6th
Marcy
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Midstate
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Midstate
25-Life
Murder 2
6th
Mohawk
25-Life
Murder 2
6th
Otisville
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Otisville
4-Life
Murder 2
4th
Otisville
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Otisville
18-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Shawangunk
15-Life
Murder pre-74
15th
Shawangunk
15-Life
Murder 2
7th
Walsh Med Ctr
20-Life
Murder 2
6th
Woodbourne
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd

*For Deportation Only


APPOINTING PAROLE BOARD COMMISSIONERS:  

Facts: Since the governor appoints parole board commissioners, the common perception is that the job is a political plum.  But it’s not that simple.  Although the Governor makes the appointments, the Senate must approve them.  You may recall that Gov. Paterson selected 4 people, but the Senate (in the form of the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee) never approved any of them.  Gov. Cuomo, it appears, made some deals, and when he eventually submitted the names of 6 people - 3 for reappointment and 3 new faces - the Senate Committee, followed by the entire Senate, approved.  Only one of the new appointees has given indication of being fair and concerned more with public safety than with punishment.  It appears that in order to get her and maybe one of the reappointments approved, the governor had to please the Committee with the rest.  Maybe if the Senate gains the majority, Governor Cuomo will be able to give us commissioners from diverse professional, racial, gender and ethnic backgrounds in the future.  There are 5 empty seats that can be filled.  


11.  Prisoners Are People Too!
by Karima Amin

On Monday, November 26, Prisoners Are People Too will hold its last monthly meeting for the year. Following past practice, there will be no December meeting. On Monday, January 28, 2013 we’ll continue to screen outstanding documentaries, invite knowledgeable and inspiring speakers, and consider critical issues related to criminal INjustice and prison reform.

Last month, due to safety precautions related to “Super Storm Sandy,” our meeting was canceled. The film that would have been screened in October, featuring Mr. Arthur O. Eve, Sr., will be shown this month. Additionally, there will be a discussion of our highly successful Family Empowerment Day Conference and an equally successful voter registration drive spearheaded by the Advisory Chair of Prisoners Are People Too, Rev. Eugene L. Pierce. Thanks to his persistence, nearly 100 people confined at the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility were deemed eligible to vote.

It’s not too early to say, “Happy Holidays!” We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and we look forward to meeting with you in 2013 and continuing our advocacy for prisoner justice. In the meantime, please join us on Monday, November 26 at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo, from 6:30pm – 8:30pm.

The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng are the sponsors of this program. For further information, contact Karima Amin, 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.



12.  How Prisoners Make Us Look Good
The New York Times
10/27/2012

Imprisoned black men aren’t figured into statistics about the standing of African-Americans. The consequence, according to a piece from the Times, is an overstatement of black progress in education, employment, wages and voting participation.



13.  Pro Bono Legal Assistance

Our mail from members is peppered with requests for pro bono help with appeals and other legal matters.  We know a few good lawyers who are committed to providing good defense and assisting people in prison, but there’s a limit to how many cases a lawyer can take without getting paid.  So we were excited when Hon. Jonathan Lippman ordered an amendment to 22 NYCRR Part 520 which adds a 50-hour pro bono requirement for every applicant admitted to the NYS bar on or after Jan 2015.  That means we’ve got some time to wait before anyone can take advantage of it.  Part 520.16 defines pro bono service as supervised pre-admission law-related work that assists in the provision of legal services without charge, to, among others, individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or promote access to justice.   

Albany Law School invited students, professors and other stakeholders to a discussion on implementing the new rule.  Prison Action Network was there to find out how/if we were eligible to receive the pro bono assistance.  Alas, like the appointment of parole commissioners (see art. 10), it’s not that simple.  Just because a new rule has been added doesn’t mean it can be implemented easily, if at all.  Everyone in the room supported the idea of pro bono work, which among other things would provide the human dimension of law practice.  But who will supervise these students’ pro bono work?  Professors are already stretched with their teaching responsibilities; few have hours in their day to add on the responsibility of supervising every student’s 50 hours of pro bono work.  Staff will need to be hired.  Where will the money come from?  Usually from tuition.  The students and their professors agreed that law school tuition has reached it’s highest level ever, and that students could not handle any more debt.  Any rise in tuition was impossible to consider. 

But there was good news for Prison Action Network members.  Albany Law School has a Pro Bono Society, run by students.  They have 20 projects; among them is the Prisoner’s Rights Project, which partners with Prisoners Legal Services to conduct administrative appeals for prisoners, as well as draft and file Article 78 petitions.  Samantha Howell is the contact person at PLS.



14.  Senate Shenanigans 

The votes are still being counted but according to a Times Union Capital blog entry by Jimmy Vielkind  (http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2012/11/6539250/state-senate-historic-democratic-victories-come-asterisk?page=all) the Democrats appear to have picked up enough votes to regain the majority they won in 2008.  However there are Democratic Senators who can be persuaded by the Republicans to join with them.  It happened before, in 2008, when dissident members who had problems with the elected leadership, or wanted special privileges, defected to the other side, and voted with the Republicans, calling themselves the Independent Democratic Conference.  

Vielkind writes for the Albany Times Union and is a frequent contributor to its Capitol Confidential blog This is from his blog:

Simcha Felder, an orthodox Jew who won in last week’s election, ran as a Democrat but says he’ll “caucus with any party that will allow me to deliver the most to the 17th Senate district and its constituents.”
“Most of us were there in 2008, and we’re not going to repeat those mistakes,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan.  Liz Krueger says the Democratic conference is already very different. There are 14 Democratic senators—almost half the conference—who were elected after 2008, and all but one of the former dissidents has been forced from office by criminal probes.  Several other Democrats say they’ll create a new process for choosing their Majority Leader this year.  As Krueger bluntly promised: “We’re going to go into a majority with a much, much better group of apples and without any of that kind of crap.”
First, the Democrats’ Election Night victories will have to be affirmed. The only one with a reasonable chance of being undone is in the 46th District, which was created during this year’s redistricting process for Assemblyman George Amedore, a Republican.  He finished 139 votes behind Cecilia Tkaczyk. This recount is key. If Tkaczyk holds, Democrats will be in a place of strength when they speak with Felder and the Independent Democrats. If Amedore is able to win, Republicans could cobble together 32 votes by just co-opting Felder, avoiding the need for them to convince the I.D.C. to complete their break with the regular Democrats by formally supporting them.
Cuomo's office, for obvious reasons, is saying that he'll be pleased whatever the outcome. If it's the Democrats, well, they'll help him work toward common progressive goals. And if it's the Republicans, he'll continue to work with them as he has over the course of his first two years in office.  And as he put it: “I think they learned the hard way. The Democrats were in power; the Democrats then lost power because of the dysfunction. They learned that lesson the hard way.”

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to communicate with our members.  
Contact us if you'd like to join.