Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

DECEMBER 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 December edition.

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Dear Reader,

We’re thinking about you and hoping that whatever your situation is, amazing HOLIDAY JOY will touch your heart this season.  


May the New Year bring a new understanding of our situation.  Each of us has done good deeds and bad deeds.  As long as we learn from our mistakes and take full responsibility for them, learn what caused them and practice ways to avoid repeating them, the world will be a hospitable place.  We don’t have much time to learn, as our economic and ecological systems are on the verge of collapse.  

We are all called upon to clean up our acts, practice kindness, compassion, conservation and respect for each other and the environment, and maybe at this time next year we‘ll be reporting some success.  But 2013 is not the yeaar to indulge in wasting time.  We must all sacrifice, and by doing so we’ll reduce the amount of sacrifice overall.  

Our prison system is a failed system. It does not make us safer. In this issue we’ll provide some ways to work to change it. Please send us your pledge to get involved. (see #10).
Be well, stay strong, and please, get involved,  ~The Editor 


HEADLINES:

1.  Bring Back the Buses-DOCS free bus service was created to support rehabilitation by strengthening family ties.


2.  Calendar of Events - for family members and anyone else who wants to get involved in changing the criminal justice system.


3.  “Central Park 5” documentary, now showing at commercial theaters, exposes the corruption that poisons our criminal justice system.
 

4.  Corey’s column describes his struggle to succeed in the face of incomplete freedom.


5.  Educational and vocational programs were the topic at a hearing with the NYS Assembly’s Corrections Committee where Glenn Martin shared the testimony of Fortune Society clients.
 

6.  Fortune in My Eyes describes how the Fortune Society was conceived in the theater.


7.  Getting out and staying out. Parole Board obstacles, community obstacles, and how to help overcome them.


8.  A conversation about the impact of political imprisonment and mass imprisonment on our families and our communities presented by the Sedou Odinga Defense Committee.


9.  Job Openings that don’t discriminate against people with criminal records.


10.  Parole reform campaign.  Let’s pass the SAFE Parole Act this year!  It will take all of us working very hard.  Will you help?  Send us your pledge.


11.  Parole News - Oct. releases, updates on recent Judicial and Parole Board hearings and a report on the Amicus Brief filed by 5 past Parole Commissioners, in which they accuse the Parole Board of caving to outside pressure.


12.  Reentry Roundtable’s 7th anniversary - join them for lunch and a talk on the importance of effective reentry services, by Rob Carmona.


13.  Senate Shenanigans.  No... let’s upgrade that to Senate Insanity. Or a trip down the Rabbit hole.  This year’s NYS legislative practices are anyone’s guess.  We pray it may be a brand new day that restores justice, but it doesn’t look promising.


14.  In Our Name will be presenting aVeterans Conference in May, focusing on the needs of homeless, substance abusing, and incarcerated veterans.  Ed Tick, of Soldier’s Heart, will join with other cutting edge professionals to talk about some effective interventions for PTSD.



1.  Bring Back the Buses!

Between 1973 and 2011, the NYS DOCCS ran a free bus service for families visiting state prisons.  The buses departed from NYC, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany, traveling to every facility outside NYC except the Willard Drug Treatment Campus and Lakeview Shock facilities.  In early 2011, the program was eliminated because of budget cutbacks.  During its years of service the program served 25,560 visitors and cost $1,521,000.

There are 2 major barriers to visiting: distance and expense.  About 70% of prisoners are housed over 100 miles from their homes, so their families are faced with very long trips to see them.  Most incarcerated people and their families come from poor communities and cannot afford the expensive trips, which range from $80 for the bus per person, and by train for a parent and one child from $175 to $312.  

Visiting is central to maintaining prison safety, and serves as an incentive for good institutional behavior.  

Visiting is essential to maintaining family ties. Around 70% of women and 60% of men in prison are parents.

Maintaining relationships can lessen the trauma of parental incarceration on children, ease family reunification after release, and bolster children’s well-being and healthy development.

Visiting is especially important for parents with children in foster care who risk termination of their parental rights if they don’t maintain consistent contact with their children.

Stronger family and community ties facilitate successful reentry and reduce recidivism.
Take action if you want to bring the free buses back.   To sign on to a petition 



2.  Become an activist in 2013! 
Check out the monthly Reentry.Net/NY calendar, which provides New Yorkers with information about upcoming conferences, trainings, meetings, and other events focused on changing the criminal justice system and helping prisoners
reenter society as full citizens.  Contact information for each event is provided on the calendar. To add your event to the calendar, visit the site and click "add event."



3.  The Central Park Five - documentary film opens in NYC in December

This explosive new documentary looks at a case once referred to as "the crime of the century" (the real crime being the miscarriage of justice and the public’s thirst for blood).  

Many people have heard about the case, but far too few know that innocent men were imprisoned as a result. The film tells the story of how five black and Latino teenagers were arrested in 1989 for beating and raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. Media coverage at the time portrayed the teens as guilty and used racially coded terms like "wolf pack" to refer to the group of boys accused in the attack. Donald Trump took out full-page ads in four city newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty so they could be executed. 

However, the convictions of the five were vacated in 2002 when the real rapist came forward and confessed to the crime, after the five defendants had already served sentences of from seven to 13 years. New York City is refusing to settle a decade-long civil lawsuit brought by the men. 

[Sarah Burns directed and produced the documentary along with her father, award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, and her husband, David McMahon. It is playing in New York City at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Sarah Burns is also the author of the 2011 book, The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City’s Most Infamous Crimes.]



4.  Corey’s Column:  Freedom


The dictionary defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”  It also includes absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government. Although freedom has been used quite often in my life time, I focus on what it means to the many men and woman who are incarcerated.

 This topic of freedom extends past the constitutional right to speech. For example; once you are convicted of a crime you are automatically silenced by legal barriers to finding a job, housing, education or assistance as you try to create a legitimate life. Most of us believe that once we are released from prison we will be free. However society tells us differently because the burden of proving ourselves is futile in the face of a society that doesn’t even recognize us. 


 Through this process we become invisible men and women before we are released to our expected freedom.  Legally you are placed in a box that has no compassion for your personal development and growth.  For example; if I’m on parole and manage to find a job, parole has the authority to deny me that opportunity. No matter one’s circumstances of not having housing, being on public assistance and feeling lost, personal freedom to excel is controlled. Both the prison environment and society show limited attempts to instill the moral representation of freedom. Rather they promote the opposite. After living in an abnormal environment for so many years, most of us are returned to the same dysfunctional communities we left from. If we are not greeted with the essential elements of freedom such as fairness, equal opportunity, structure, and a community that wants us there, then freedom will always be threatened by recidivism.

Today I want to be free from a government that says they love me and that’s why they sent me to prison. Today I would like to be forgiven for my actions and be given the opportunity to be welcome as a citizen by my own community. Today I would like to be freed from the legal watchers that govern my life with curfews and other restrictions on my progress. Today I would like to close the door to recidivism, grow from my past mistakes and shake the hand of freedom. Today as well as tomorrow, I believe I can accomplish that goal, but it would be a lot easier if I was truly free.
~ Corey Parks has just started a real job* where he will be helping others like himself make successful transitions.
*see # 7, “After 10 months”



5.  Educational and vocational programs within prison are essential to reducing recidivism

The Fortune Society is always working to create a more resourceful criminal justice system. On Thursday, November 29
th Glenn Martin represented The Fortune Society before the NYS Assembly Committee on Corrections in Albany, NY.  He writes: “After convening a focus group of Fortune clients to help inform my testimony, I testified about the dire need for relevant educational and vocational programs within prison, and the positive results we see when these services are provided. When people emerge from incarceration they deserve a fair opportunity at becoming gainfully employed, and to provide for themselves and their families. This, in turn will work against the recidivism that is spawned by lack of access to education and workforce skills.

My comments included client statements from the focus group, made up mostly of individuals who were recently released from prison. We asked them to give their thoughts on the viability of current services available in NYS prisons and how well they prepare people for a hopeful transition back into the community. It was an honor to share their message with lawmakers.”

Glenn Martin is one of the members of Gov. Cuomo’s “Work for Success” Executive Committee, composed of policy makers, representatives from government agencies, and practitioners from across the nation with expertise in employment services for the formerly incarcerated, who will lead this employment initiative for the formerly incarcerated.  "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 in February when he announced the initiative, "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."



6.  Fortune in My Eyes

David Rothenberg's multilayered life thrust him into Broadway's brightest lights, prison riots, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins, and a Central American civil war. In his memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, his journey includes many of the most celebrated names in the theater: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sir John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, Charles Laughton, Alvin Ailey, and numerous others. David produced an Off-Broadway prison drama, Fortune and Men's Eyes , which reshaped his life. John Herbert's chilling play led directly to the creation of the Fortune Society, which has evolved into one of the nation's most formidable advocacy and service organizations in criminal justice. David was Elizabeth Taylor's opening night date at the Richard Burton ‘Hamlet’ a distant cry from his entering Attica prison during that institution's famed inmate uprising.was just one of the experiences revealed in this memoir. As a theater publicist and producer and as a social activist he shares experiences with presidents (JFK and Bill Clinton) and with anonymous men and women, out of prison, who have fought to reclaim their lives.




7.  Getting out and staying out

Obstacles to rehabilitation and release
I’m writing to express that, believe it or not, I’m unhappy with the quality of services and compassion that seems to be the norm in NYS prisons, meted out by both civilian and security staff.  It might seem ridiculous to some, but the fact remains that these are State Employees and they are paid by the taxpayers to perform to the best of their ability and to obtain results. 

Coming here for the first time is like a flashback to the 70’s , when NYC seemed to be the seediest place on earth.

Dominating the scene is the culture of punishment.  I’m not privy to the Penal guidelines for NYS, but I can’t believe that they include what I’ve seen.  Especially assaults on a prisoner because of the crime he committed, although he was already judged.  Better yet, he also has to answer to his God.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know the evil that man is capable of, but you can’t stop crime with violence.  It just doesn’t work, that’s why there’s a high recidivism rate.

The system isn’t set up to help people change.  Some might disagree and claim - and to a point they are right - that there are things a prisoner can do now.  But the eligibility requirements work against you.  Example, I would like to relearn Algebra, since I have a GED from 30 years ago.  But I’m not eligible for classroom study or room study.  Granted, I could get a book from the library and study on my own, which I do, but without the instruction it’s 3x as hard to understand and will almost certainly eliminate my chance of getting into the college programs that do exist.  Maybe my case is different than others, but I see no incentive for these men to want to better themselves other than to get out of prison.  So here we are, no college and no real vocation program other than “hall porter”.  

If a prisoner is charged with a sex crime he is not eligible to work anywhere in a facility where women are present, but if you murder a family of 5 you can have the run of the place.  The politics are probably only worse in Washington.

To sum up, I feel that if a person takes an oath to defend the Constitution as a member of any type of Law Enforcement environment or Government Office, their penalty should be at least double that of the average citizen when they don’t.  There are too many people getting away with less than average charges and penalties.  Everyone is accountable unless they have a badge or friends in high places, which is no way to run a democratic society.

~Anonymous


Most of the “success stories” Prison Action Network reads are about people who once were in prison and now have Masters degrees and Management positions or have started their own successful businesses.  But for every one of those stories, we believe there are hundreds more about people who may only have a GED and/or are struggling to live modest working class lives, but find freedom to be the success they strive for and being reunited with loved ones their reward.  Sometimes all it takes is one lucky break.  Here are 2 stories of that sort:

After 10 months:
Well, I’m still out.  10 months.  No real job yet (i.e., with a paycheck on a regular basis), and too proud (stupid?) to collect welfare.

I don’t even have insurance.

If it weren’t for friends and family...  my nephew has “hired” me to rehab his house - it pays pocket change, meals and his old clothes.  At least the pocket change pays for a decent cigar now and then.  I started the rehab’g with the outside and front porch painting, to try to drum up some more business.

Since I’m on Life parole, it’s like I’ve got one foot still in the joint and the other on a banana peel.

~Kevin F. 

From Street Hustler to Family Man Eager to Cook,  By JENNIFER MASCIA in the NY Times.  Click here to read.



8.  The Impact of Political Imprisonment and Mass Imprisonment on our Families and Communities
a “Real Talk” conversation sponsored by the Sedou Odinga Defense Committee

Speakers include 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?

Join us on 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



9.  Job Opportunities that are open to the formerly incarcerated with appropriate experience:


Please click on the links to find out details and how to apply.

1. Center for Community Alternatives: Case Manager, Youth Advocacy

2. NYC Board of Corrections: Director of Corrections Standard Review

3. NYC Board of Corrections: Corrections Standards Review Specialist II


10.  Parole Reform Campaign

How can you help?
1)  Tell your family, friends, and advocates to visit www.ParoleReform.org and take action.

2)  Send us a pledge of what you are willing to do to get the SAFE Parole Act passed.  Are you willing to call your legislators and the governor frequently? Visit your legislator and the governor frequently?  Write your legislators and the governor frequently (use the above website to do it easily)?  Get others involved?  Lobby?  Donate money to pay a lobbyist? 

Send your written pledge to the NYS Parole Reform Campaign, PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206.  We’ll report how many we receive.  Our circulation is about 900.  It’s probably hopeless if we don’t get at least a thousand pledges.  



11.  Parole News: October releases; Graziano lawyers admit defeat; Alan Hevese wins parole release; Hank Morris does not; Thwaites released; 5 former Parole Board Commissioners protest Costello rescission.

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


Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
20 initials
3
17
15%
84 reappearances
31
53
37%
104 interviews
34
70
33%


OCTOBER Initial Releases      

Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Eastern 
15-Life
Att Murder 1
Initial
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial

OCTOBER Reappearances

Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Cape Vincent
0-life
M pre-1974
13th?
Cayuga
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Collins
20-Life
Murder 2
5th
Collins
20-Life
Murder 2
6th
Eastern
15-Life
Att Murder 1
6th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd  *
Fishkill
19-Life
Murder 2
6th  *
Franklin
15-Life
Murder 2
12th?
Franklin
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Gouverneur
16 ½-Life
Murder 2
5th
Gowanda
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Great Meadow
7-Life
Murder 2
7th
Greene
25-Life
Att Murder 1
2nd
Hudson
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Hudson
19-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Marcy
12 1/3-L
Murder 2
4th
Otisville
18-Life
Murder 2
5th
Otisville
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Otisville
17-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Otisville
25-Life
Murder 2
6th  
Otisville
15-Life
Murder 2
9th
Taconic
15-Life
Murder 2
5th
Wende
22-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Woodbourne
21 ½-Lfe
Murder 2
2nd
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Woodbourne
20-Life
Murder 2
7th
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Wyoming
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd

*For Deportation Only

In addition there is one true medical parole release:
Bedford Hills
25-Life
Murder 2
Medical


Update on Graziano vs Pataki
Lawyers who worked pro bono for years on the case have finally conceded defeat. “We were denied en banc review.  It seems that we lost this case.  We tried and are disappointed in the loss,” reported Peter Sell, who with Robert Isseks made up the legal team.  Prison Action Network honors their generosity and commitment to justice.  “It is the ability to work for something because it is good, not because it stands a chance to succeed.  The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is.” -Vaclav Havel, former political prisoner who went on to become the President of Czechoslovakia.  These lawyers embody Hope.  

Alan Hevesi Granted Release by the Board of Parole Alan Hevesi, an inmate at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York (Oneida County), was granted release by the New York State Board of Parole following his November 14, 2012 appearance.  Commissioners were Ludlow, Smith and Hagler.
A copy of the Board’s decision and release conditions can be found if you Click here to read 
  

Hevesi could be released as soon as December 19, 2012 or earlier following the completion of a routine community preparation investigation. He is scheduled to remain under community supervision through April 14, 2015.
Hank Morris Denied Release by the Board of Parole Hank Morris, an inmate at the Hudson Correctional Facility in Hudson, New York (Columbia County), was denied release a second time by the New York State Board of Parole following his November 14, 2012 appearance. Deciding members were Ferguson and Coppola. A copy of the Board’s decision can be seen if you Click here to read [

Morris was ordered held for an additional nine months and will appear before the Board of Parole in August, 2013.
DOCCS Inmates Convicted of Murdering NYPD Police Officer Edward Byrne in 1988 Denied Parole Two of four inmates convicted of murdering NYPD Police Officer Edward Byrne in 1988 in South Jamaica, Queens were denied parole Wednesday, November 14, 2012 by the New York State Board of Parole members Thompson , Elovich and Sharkey. A copy of the Board’s decision for David McClary can be found here.
Douglas Thwaites was released in October, on his 2nd appearance before the Parole Board, for deportation.  On December 21, 2011, the court granted his Article 78 against the Parole Board.  In his decision, Hon. Lawrence H. Ecker, J.S.C. accused the Board of employing past-focused rhetoric, not future-focused risk assessment analysis, thus failing to sustain a rational determination on the inquiry at hand: whether there is a reasonable probability that, if such inmate is released , he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law.  The court found the Board’s decision denying parole to be arbitrary and capricious, irrational, and improper and annulled the Board’s determination, vacated the denial, and directed the board to, within 30 days*, hold a new hearing with a different panel of the Board.  

* The Board did not comply with the 30 day time limit, and waited until October to give Mr. Thwaites another interview. 

Ex-Parole Commissioners Decry Rescission of 'Cop Killer' Release 

John Caher, New York Law Journal 11-26-2012
ALBANY - Six former New York state parole commissioners have signed on to an unprecedented amicus brief
that accuses the board of caving in to outside pressure to keep behind bars a "cop killer" who long ago paid his debt to society.  Read it here.

12.  Reentry Roundtable Celebrates 7th Anniversary
I am happy to inform you that on Wednesday, December 19th we will celebrate the 7th anniversary of the NY Reentry Roundtable. Please RSVP and join us for lunch and to hear Rob Carmona, founder of STRIVE Int’l speak about the Importance of Viable Reentry Services. 

NY Reentry Roundtable
Wednesday, December 19 from 1:00 – 3:00PM
Hosted by The Community Service Society of New York (CSS)
105 East 22nd Street at the corner of Park Avenue South. 

Take the 6 or W/R trains to 23rd Street
Conference Room 4A

Kindly RSVP to Gabriel Torres-Rivera at grivera@cssny.org
or call 212.614.5306



13.  Senate Insanity


It sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  Just how do five democratically elected senators, who ran on the Democratic line, get to then say - in essence - that they are not going to be Democrats anymore, they are going to join the Republicans?  Where do we voters come into this?  How can they override what we voted for and take control without our consent?  How is this possible?  I feel like I just fell down the rabbit hole.  Surely there is a law against such behavior!  If not, someone should write one.  

To learn what I'm talking about, click on "Read" below.   ~ The Editor
NY Times NY/Region, December 5, 2012, p.26A
"Coalition Is to Control State Senate as Dissident Democrats Join With Republicans” Read


14.  Veteran’s Conference: SAVE THE DATES May 24-26

In Our Name, which presented a weekend retreat entitled Restoring Justice in America last summer, is planning to present a Veterans retreat during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend.  Current plans include an all-day Veterans Retreat on Friday for veterans and their families, and the conference itself will begin Friday night and last til Sunday afternoon.  The focus is on War Veterans in general, not just incarcerated Veterans.  Ed Tick, co-founder of Soldiers Heart, will talk about his unique and comprehensive model to address the emotional, moral, and spiritual wounds of veterans, their families and communities. It offers a genuine healing and homecoming from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by developing a new and honorable warrior identity supported by community.   If you are a Veterans Group please join us at this event.  Perhaps offer to do a presentation.

For further information about this and any other article, please contact Prison Action Network

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