Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

APRIL 2012













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

POSTED MONDAY MAY 14  by Prison Action Network:

Today is the last day to vote for Peter Wagner! ( see 2nd article below )
Today is the last day to cast your vote for Peter Wagner to receive the Maria Leavey Tribute Award for his decade-long work to end prison-based gerrymandering. Campaign for America’s Future presents this award annually to honor an “unsung progressive hero.”
Peter was chosen as a finalist for the award in recognition of his leadership in the movement to abolish prison-based gerrymandering. Our friend and advisory board member Bruce Reilly wrote a great blog post that explains why he voted for Peter and why you should, too.
Thanks for your support, and for sending the message that prison-based gerrymandering must end.!


POSTED MAY 1 BY NYS PRISONER JUSTICE NETWORK

PRISON AND PAROLE JUSTICE DAY: LET MY PEOPLE GO!

TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012

275 STATE STREET, ALBANY -- 10 AM TO 5:30 PM

RALLY FOR FAIR PAROLE POLICIES
MEET WITH SUPPORTIVE LEGISLATORS
SHARE INSPIRATION WITH JUSTICE ACTIVISTS
DEMAND AN END TO MASS INCARCERATION, PRISON ABUSE, AND SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

WAY MORE THAN A LOBBY DAY -- May 22nd is a statewide networking conference, issues briefing, mass protest, and new kind of legislative day rolled into one!

Free transportation from New York City, Buffalo, and other points
For information, transportation, and online registration visit nysprisonerjustice.org
email nysprisonerjustice@gmail.com, or call 518-434-4037






POSTED APRIL 30 BY PRISON ACTION NETWORK

A VOTE FOR PETER WAGNER IS A VOTE FOR ALL OF US!


Peter Wagner, Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, is responsible for national awareness of the inequities of prison-based gerrymandering. Because of his research, prisoners in NYS are no longer counted in the district where they’re incarcerated, but instead are counted in the communities from which they were removed.  We owe him!

He is a finalist for the "Maria Leavey Tribute award honoring an unsung progressive hero". The award is from the Campaign for America's Future and will be announced at the June 18-20 "Take Back the American Dream" Conference in D.C.

This award is an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of the victories against prison-based gerrymandering and to put the upcoming challenges of the Census Bureau -- not to mention mass incarceration itself -- on the national progressive agenda.  

Please vote for him.  It'll be a vote for the changes Prison Action Network fights for!  

The voting link is at:
Voting runs until May 15.

Thank you.




POSTED APRIL 27 FROM COMMUNITY SERVICE SOCIETY


There are still seats available on the bus for Advocacy Day in Albany scheduled for Tuesday, May 15th.  Please RSVP to Gabriel Torres Rivera, see below. 

[Prison Action Network urges your participation.  We have a bill that does what you asked for.  Please come and support it with us.]

Gabriel Torres Rivera, JD
Director, Reentry Initiatives
Community Service Society of New York
212-614-5306




POSTED APRIL 26  FROM PETER WAGNER

I'll be speaking about prison-based gerrymandering and then moderating a roundtable discussion with Students Against Mass Incarceration on Saturday April 28, at the A New Vision of Black Freedom: The Manning Marable Memorial Conference at Columbia University in New York City. [See more below, in 4/24 post] My session starts at 10am in the Earl Hall Auditorium.
This conference is particularly important to me because of the role that Manning Marable played in starting the movement against prison-based gerrymandering. As I wrotewhen he passed away:
Manning Marable helped put what we now call prison-based gerrymandering on the map by inviting me to meetings at his Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University in 2002 and to speak at the main plenary panel at the Africana Studies Against Criminal Injustice Conference in 2003. His early endorsement made our later successes possible.
If you will be in NYC this weekend, I hope to see you at the conference and at my talk!
Peter Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative



POSTED APRIL 24  FROM THE FORTUNE SOCIETY:
Interested in a Career with The Fortune Society? CLICK HERE to view positions and other opportunities that are currently available, including: Development Associate.


POSTED APRIL 24  BY THE CAMPAIGN TO END THE NEW JIM CROW
A NEW VISION OF BLACK FREEDOM: The Manning Marable Memorial Conference


Thursday, April 26 – Sunday, April 29, 2012 (New York, NY)
Schomburg Center, Columbia University, St. John the Divine, The Riverside Church
To register and for full conference schedule: http://www.iraas.org/node/229

Keynote Address
Angela Davis/Mumia Abu-Jamal 
A Luta Continue:  Incarceration and the Inner Life of Resistance
Sat, April 28, 2012 -- 7:30PM 
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
112th & Amsterdam Avenue

also featuring
Exonerated Defendants in the Central Park Jogger Case:
Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, & Raymond Santana
Occupy Prisons: Immigrant Detention and Incarceration
Sun, April 29, 2012 --  5PM 
Riverside Church
120th Street Riverside Drive

Immortal Technique   *   Jasiri X   *   George "SEN One" Morillo  *  Invincible

Broken Glass Everywhere: Global Hip Hop and Social Change 

Thursday, April 26, 2012 -- 6:30PM

Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture

135th Street & Malcolm X Boulevard



Robin Kelley 
Vijay Prashad
Is a New World Possible?
Friday, April 27, 2012 -- 3:15PM
Low Library, Columbia University
116th St. Broadway



Free and Open to the Public  * Registration Required  *  212-854-7080  *  http://www.iraas.org/node/229


Sponsored by the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), Columbia University




BUILDING BRIDGES, APRIL 2012

Dear Reader,

For as long as we’ve been working to reform NYS Parole Board policies we’ve been asked by our members what they can do. And we’ve been telling you to contact your representatives in the NYS Legislature with your concerns about Parole Board policies, since that is the issue most members voted to address. Hopefully you’ve done so and can now ask them to put their names on the line. Tell them we have a bill, The SAFE Parole Act , S.5374 and A.7939,, and ask them to sign it. In order for it to become the law, we ALL need to work hard to get it passed. So far Senators Duane (primary sponsor), Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery, Perkins and G.Rivera have signed. If they represent your district, please tell them how much you appreciate their support. Same goes for Assembly Members Aubry(primary sponsor), Crespo, Farrell, Gottfried, Hevesi, McEneny and Stevenson.

This year several major advocacy organizations have put this bill on their legislative agendas, including the Bronx Defenders, the Community Service Society (CSS), the Correctional Association (CA), and NYS Prisoner Justice Network (NYSPJN). Two of them are spotlighting it at their upcoming Albany Advocacy/Action days and providing free transportation from NYC and other areas. If you have a loved one in prison who will someday be appearing before the Parole Board, and you want that person to be released when he or she is ready, that is not likely to happen unless this bill gets passed! And in order to get it passed you are going to have to make some sacrifices. Such as taking two of your vacation days to 1) attend a training session, and 2) come up to Albany and take action!!

On WEDNESDAY APRIL 18, 1-3PM, at the monthly NY Reentry Roundtable, you are invited to join Judith Brink from Prison Action Network along with Jaya Vasandani and Scott Palprowitz from the Correctional Association in a discussion of this year’s CSS advocacy agenda, including the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, and the Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act.

Location: Community Service Society, 105 E 22nd St, 2nd flr. (between Park Ave. and Lexington Ave.)

Other opportunities for training are: THURSDAY APRIL 19, 5:00-7:00PM and THURSDAY MAY 3, 10:30AM-Noon
both at the CSS address mentioned above.

THURSDAY MAY 10, 5:30-7:00PM (during VAW Comm. Meeting) at Howie the Harp, 12th Floor, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. (between 124th & 125th Streets)

AFTER TRAINING COME ADVOCACY DAYS:

TUESDAY, MAY 15TH CSS ADVOCACY DAY. Call Jacqueline Velez, Women in Prison Project Assistant, at jvelez@correctionalassociation.org or (212) 254-5700 x336. to reserve a seat on FREE bus. Buses will leave at 6:30am sharp from outside the Community Service Society (105 E 22nd St, btw Park Ave. and Lexington Ave.). Breakfast and Lunch will be served. Riders must have attended one of the above trainings.

TUESDAY, MAY 22 NYS PRISONER JUSTICE NETWORK’S ACTION DAY will feature a MEETING with legislators who have expressed support for the SAFE Parole Act, followed by a MARCH AND RALLY to demand parole policy changes. See Article 7 for details.

We hope to see you on April 18, May 15 and/or May 22!


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


ARTICLES:

1. The Senate’s Crime Committee passed all but one of the mostly - but not only - sex-offender related bills at their meeting on March 20. [Remember: first they come for the sex offenders, then they come for the violent offenders, then the non-violent offenders, and next they come for you. (Paraphrasing a well known warning to take a stand now while you still can...) ]

2. People in prison weigh in on Parole Reform: talking about the moral high ground and the optimism that is felt not just despite, but because of, the escalation of prison abuses.

3. Parole releases for February are depressing, but there’s a recent favorable court decision. In response to your requests we reprint Commissioner bios and an update on Thwaites.

4. Parole reform strategies: talking points that stress the importance of removing “the seriousness of the offense” from the Parole Board’s consideration, when discussing effective changes to Parole Board policies. We are now at a point in time when we have concrete evidence of the parole board’s lawlessness, arbitrariness and their refusal to follow the mandates of the legislature.

5. Building Bridges is polling our readers on the delivery of the Transitional Accountability Plan and the COMPAS risk and needs instrument. When are they being administered? Have they made a difference in parole decisions?

6. NYS Prisoner Justice Network announces May 22 Justice Action Day, including a meeting with legislators and a rally to demand fairer parole decisions. It’s important you be there to show how much statewide support there is for Parole Board reform.

7. Merit Time for violent offenders is still on the table. Add your name to a website which already has over 2000 signatures in support of this bill, S338/A154.

8. Photo ID for visitors to be required and maintained in DOCCS data bases.



1. LEGISLATION: ALL BUT ONE OF 18 BILLS WERE PASSED AT THE MAR 20 MEETING OF THE SENATE'S CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION COMMITTEE

Bills considered on March 20, 2012 by the Senate Standing Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, Chair. [An audible recording is available on line at the Committee’s website: Mar.20 Meeting]

Reminder: bills must pass in both houses in order to become laws.

“Report” or “Refer” means the bill is moving forward toward a Senate vote. “Held” means either the sponsor or the committee has requested it not be considered until after some more work on it. “Same as” means the bill has a sponsor in the Assembly as well. Where there is a “same as” bill, the primary Assembly sponsor is listed plus the number of co-sponsors. We don’t have room to list them all by name.

S.260 PROHIBITS SEX OFFENDERS FROM JOBS INVOLVING CHILD CONTACT
Sponsor: Maziarz; Co-sponsors: Alesi, Avella, Boracic, Flanagan, Golden, Grisanti, Johnson, Kennedy, Richie, Saland, Seward [Same as A4151 - Englebright +27 others].
An act to amend the correction law, in relation to prohibiting sex offenders from any position involving substantial contact with children. "Report"

S.360 ESTABLISHES SEX OFFENDER PUBLIC AWARENESS PROGRAM
Sponsor: Roach [No same as]
 An act to amend the correction law, in relation to establishing the sex offender public awareness program. "Referred" to Finance

S.512-A REGISTRATION OF SEX OFFENDERS’ EMPLOYMENT ADDRESSES
Sponsor: Maziarz [Same as A.1201 - Hawley + 25 others]
Requires the employment address of certain sex offenders to be reported to the division of criminal justice services, along with living address changes. "Report"

S.1531 ANNUAL VERIFICATION OF INFORMATION BY SEX OFFENDERS
Sponsor: Skelos [No same as]
Maintenance of info on sex offenders includes annual registration and verification by sex offender. "Referred" to Finance

S.1825 MANDATES SEX OFFENDERS ANNUALLY VERIFY THEIR ADDRESS
Sponsor: Skelos; Cosponsors: Avella, Kenney [Same as A.4870 - Somitas + 9]
Requires sex offenders to annually return an address verification form to the division of criminal justice services. "Report"

S.1828 REQUIRES SEX OFFENDERS TO REGISTER FOR LIFE, OR PETITION FOR MODIFICATION AFTER 30 YEARS
Sponsor: Skelos [No same as] "Report"

S.1829 REQUIRES SEX OFFENDERS TO VERIFY THEIR RESIDENCE AND REGISTRATION ON A BI-ANNUAL BASIS
Sponsor: Skelos [No same as]
The divisions shall mail a verification form to each registered sex offender on a different random date during each six month period of the calendar year. "Refer" to Finance.

S.1856-A RESIDENTIAL RESTRICTIONS FOR CERTAIN SEX OFFENDERS
Sponsor: LaValle; Cosponsors: Grisanti, Maziarz, Young, Zelda [Same as A.2087-B - Thiele]
Restricts the residency of certain sex offenders; provides guidelines for the location of level two and level three sex offenders; allows municipalities to reject the placement of additional level two and level three sex offenders in such municipality if certain factors and requirements are met. "Report"

S.1857 PROHIBITS CERTAIN SEX OFFENDERS FROM SERVICE IN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.
Sponsor: LaValle; Cosponsors: Johnson, Kennedy, Larkin, Martins, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Young, Zeldin [Same as A.2086-A - Thiele] "Report"

S.1931 PROHIBITS WORK RELEASE PROGRAMS FROM OPERATING IN AREAS ZONED EXCLUSIVELY RESIDENTIAL BY A MUNICIPALITY
Sponsor: Alesi [No same as] "Held" at sponsor’s request

S. 2005 EXPANDS AMOUNT OF INFORMATION ON REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS AVAILABLE TO PUBLIC
Sponsor: Skelos [Same as A.4871 - Simotas +9]
Also authorizes any person to register with the division of criminal justice services to receive e-mail notification of all sex offenders residing within their zip code. "Refer" to Finance

S.3204-A PROHIBITS CERTAIN SEX OFFENDERS FROM RESIDING ANYWHERE NEAR A SCHOOL
Sponsors: Nozzolio, Maziarz, Kennedy [Same as A.8979 - Titone +38] "Report"

S.3325 REGISTRATION OF SEX OFFENDERS SHALL INCLUDE A STATEMENT THAT HE OR SHE IS IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAWS RELATING TO RESIDENCY AND EMPLOYMENT
Sponsors: Lavalle, Avella, Bonacic, Larkin, Martins, Maziarz, Saland [Same as A.5353 - Thiele] "Report"

S.3744 PREVENTS CERTAIN SEX OFFENDERS FROM ENTERING PUBLIC LIBRARIES
Sponsor: Lanza [No same as] "Report"

S.4393 PREVENTS A PERSON FROM PROFITING FROM THE PROCEEDS OF HIS OR HER CRIME.
Sponsors: Flanagan, DeFrancisco, Golden, Larkin, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer [Same as A.9497 - Levine] "Report"

S.4560 PROHIBITS LEVEL THREE SEX OFFENDERS FROM LIVING IN COLLEGE HOUSING.
Sponsors: Robach [No same as] "Report"

S.5498 AFTER 10 DAYS IN A LOCAL CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, PAROLE VIOLATIORS SHALL EITHER BE TRANSFERRED TO A STATE FACILITY OR ALL COSTS MUST BE BORNE BY THE STATE
Sponsors: Richie [Same as A.8484 - Ortiz +1] "Refer" to Finance

S.6561 UP TO $20 PER MONTH FOR PROBATION SUPERVISION CHARGED TO PERSON ON PROBATION
Sponsors: DeFrancisco, Johnson, Larkin, Martins, O’Mara, Ranzenhofer, Seward [Same as A.8669 - Zebrowski] Certain individuals currently serving or who shall be sentenced to a period of probation upon conviction of any crime to pay the local probation department with the responsibility of supervising the probationer an administrative fee of up to twenty dollars per month. "Refer" to Finance


ON APRIL 18, THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION WILL MEET TO VOTE ON 10 MORE BILLS. TWO, WHICH AFFECT EVERYONE, ARE LISTED BELOW. THE OTHER 8 INCREASE RESTRICTIONS ON SEX OFFENDERS ONLY. WE WILL PUBLISH THE STATUS OF ALL 10 IN OUR MAY ISSUE.

S. 3537-A REQUIRES AT LEAST A 5-MEMBER BOARD TO RELEASE ANYONE CONVICTED OF HOMICIDE
Sponsor: Nozzolio [No same as]

S.5221 ANY PERSON RELEASED ON PAROLE MUST HAVE AN IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE* INSTALLED ON THEIR MOTOR VEHICLE, AT EXPENSE OF PAROLE. [*prevents a car from starting if the driver has an unacceptable blood alchohol concentration.]
Sponsor: Fuschillo [Same as A 7669 - Weisenberg]


A LIST OF MEMBERS OF THE SENATE CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION COMMITTEE, IN CASE YOU WANT TO WRITE A MEMO OF SUPPORT OR OPPOSITION TO ANY BILL BEING CONSIDERED.

Michael Nozzolio, 119 Fall St, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Ph: (315) 568-9816 Fax: (315) 568-2090, email: nozzolio@senate.gov, nozzolio@senate.state.n.us

John DeFrancisco, 333 East Washington St, 800 State Office Building, Syracuse, NY 13202 Phone: (315) 428-7632
Email:jdefranc@nysenate.gov

Adriano Espaillat, 5030 Broadway, New York, NY 10034, Ph: (212) 544-0173, Fax: (212) 544-0256
Satellite Office (Tuesdays only) 563 Columbus Avenue, N.Y., NY 10024, Ph: 347-994-8351 Email: espailla@nysenate.gov


Patrick Gallivan, 4729 Transit Road Suite 7, Depew, NY 14043 Ph: 716-656-8544; Satellite Offices: 143 North Main Street Room 103, Warsaw, NY 14569 Ph: 585-786-5048, Fax: 585-786-2187; Livingston County Government Center 6 Court Street, Rm 304,Geneseo, NY 14454, Ph: 585-243-6929; email: gallivan@nysenate.gov

Joseph Griffo, 207 Genesee Street Room #408, Utica, NY 13501, Ph: (315) 793-9072, Fax: (315) 793-0298
email: griffo@nysenate.gov

Ruth Hassell-Thompson, 959 E. 233rd Street, Bronx, NY 10466, Ph: (718) 547-8854, Fax: (718) 515-2718; District Office 2
250 South 6th Avenue Doles Center, Mount Vernon, NY 10550, Ph: (914) 665-2400; Email address: hassellt@senate.state.ny.us

Timothy Kennedy, 2239 South Park Ave., Buffalo, NY 14220; Ph: 716-826-2683, Fax: 716-826-2793 kennedy@nysenate.gov

Betty Little, 5 Warren Street Suite 3, Glens Falls, NY 12801, Phone: (518) 743-0968, email:little@nysenate.gov
District Office 2: 137 Margaret St Suite 100, Plattsburgh, NY 12901, Ph: (518) 561-2430

George Maziarz, 175 Walnut St., Suite 6, Lockport, NY 14094, Phone: (716) 434-0680, Fax: (716) 434-3297; Satellite Office: 350 New Campus Dr., SUNY College at Brockport, Brockport, NY 14420 Phone: (585) 637-5800; Email : maziarz@nysenate.gov

Velmanette Montgomery, 30 Third Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217; Ph: (718) 643-6140, Fax: (718) 237-4137;
Email: montgome@senate.state.ny.us

Jose Peralta, 32-37 Junction Boulevard, East Elmhurst, NY 11369; Ph: (718) 205-3881, Fax: (718) 205-4145; 
Email address: jperalta@nysenate.gov



Michael Ranzenhofer, 8203 Main Street Suite 4, Williamsville, NY 14221; Ph: (716) 631-8695, Fax: (716) 634-4321 Email address: ranz@senate.state.ny.us

Patty Richie, Dulles State Office Building, Room 418, Watertown, NY 13601; Ph: 315-782-3418, Fax: 315-782-6357; District Office 2: 46 East Bridge St., 1st Floor, Oswego, NY 13126; Phone: (315) 342-2057. District Office 3: 330 Ford St. (basement of City Hall), Ogdensburg, NY 13669. Phone: (315) 393-3024. Email: ritchie@nysenate.gov



Gustavo Rivera, 2432 Grand Concourse, Suite 506, Bronx, NY 10458; Phone: 718-933-2034, Fax: 718-933-2825. The Office is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Constituent Service hours are on Monday through Thursday from 12 pm to 4 pm. 
Email: grivera@nysenate.gov




2. PAROLE REFORM: PEOPLE IN PRISON WEIGH IN

The Moral High Ground:

Until recently the moral high ground was always thought to be the province of the Parole Board. A Times Union article “State Tells Officers to Surrender Guns” recently enhanced my understanding of how parole boards operate. The article dated February 24, 2012 by Brendan J. Lyons, a Times Union writer, appears at least in part to suggest that parole officers have more influence at parole board hearings than previously thought.

Apparently some parole officers complained to Mr. Lyons about the deployment of the COMPAS risk assessment tool in use by the New York State Department of Corrections & Community Supervision (DOCCS). At least part of the complaint was that because of COMPAS, (facility parole) officers would no longer be able to …”inform parole commissioners when they think an inmate is lying and may not be ready for parole”.

This is a significant revelation. No one had a clue that there were parole officers whose function it was to …”inform” commissioners of anything other than the particulars of the parole case and what if anything the parole candidate has done to change his or her life. “Informing parole commissioners when they think an inmate is lying and may not be ready for parole” is new information. Everyone that I have spoken to thought that making decisions and determining the veracity of the parole candidate was an exclusive function of parole commissioners. Indeed it is spelled out in the Executive Law, and the parole board would not have it any other way. Determining suitability for parole is the exclusive mandate of parole commissioners, period! Even the recent merger of DOCS and the Division of Parole did not diminish that exclusive authority.

For years however, it has been rumored that parole officers were indeed influencing parole decisions, and not always in an ethical manner. One notable case described by a parole candidate alleged that at his parole hearing he turned around to find a senior parole officer making a “decapitation gesture” implying that the commissioners should cut him off. Others have described similar occurrences. Such as gestures, smirks, rolling of the eyes or outright holding up hand-scribbled notes or signs. This sort of behavior if true, paints a rather sad portrait of a somewhat dysfunctional process.

Parole officers, now called Offender Rehabilitation Coordinators, typically meet with parole candidates only once during their incarceration. Correction counselors on the other hand meet with offenders numerous times throughout their entire prison term. Yet they have no input into the decision making process.

Parole Commissioners play a quasi-judicial role and are vested with the authority to release offenders back into society. They tend to see themselves as defenders of public safety, and rightfully so. They are the representatives of the voiceless and often forgotten victims and the people of the State of New York. To conduct a parole hearing in anything other than the highest principled manner is to abandon the moral high ground that has been thought to be the province of parole boards. Every instance in which the parole board predetermines the outcome of an interview, or simply goes through the motions, it is relinquishing the moral high ground to an unethical ploy. Such abandonment undermines the very respect for the law that is the moral/philosophical underpinning of the board. Unless parole boards simply exist to punish, in which case any utilitarian ethic will suffice, they need to assure the public of a fair parole process.

Changes are coming, but if the Times Union article is any indication, the former Parole Officers are neither happy nor willing participants in that change.

-Ismael Igartua [Ish is a NYTS graduate and writer. He was “hit” at the December board and remains at Fishkill.]


Optimism Grows Despite Harsh Conditions
[Compiled from letters Prison Action Network received in the last month.]


There was no mention of the SAFE Parole Act when you listed all the bills. What happened with it? [Editor’s note: Nothing. The SAFE Parole Act mercifully was not presented to the committee. Mercifully because it would have been vetoed if it had. If expanding the opportunity for inmates to get a GED was defeated, can you imagine the fate of a bill to release inmates when they are no longer a threat to society?!]

You also do not promote the website: www.ParoleReform.org. [Editor: that was an oversight. Readers, please visit the website, make a call to the story-line: 877 518 0606, or send another letter, with your own personalized message if you previously sent the one that’s there. And get other people to do it. There’s a page of documents you can download and use to educate your friends, neighbors and co-workers. It also posts parole updates and news bulletins.]

My family went to the website to sign on and found it shut down! So, I have to ask, what happened? [Editor: We had no idea it was shut down. It has always been working when we visit it, although for a time the One Page Description (probably THE most useful tool on that page) had come “unattached”. The website manager fixed that as soon as we notified him. In the future, if anyone has a problem on the website, please have them call us or email us - see footer for how.]

I never understood Prof Genty’s excitement over the Merger of DOCS and Parole. It’s right there in the 2011 Budget Bill S.2812-C, A.4012-C that the Parole Board is still able to hit you for the nature of your crime. It also says we are NOT to be granted parole merely as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties while confined! Which to me makes no sense - the only thing we CAN do to change, since we cannot change the past (even though we would if we could) is develop good behavior and positive attitudes while here. [Editor: the SAFE Parole Act removes nature of the crime! See Article 4 for more on that topic.]

There have been a lot of changes though. Positive ones that make good sense. It seems like they were designed to prepare for future changes. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but it’s the first time in all the years I’ve been in prison that I’ve been feeling positive about this and my chances of going home. Things are changing! Society’s perceptions and insights are changing. We are gaining support. Slowly but certainly. The Governor’s “Work for Success” initiative that you reported in Art. 14, and the Times Union report on 2/24 “State Tells Officers to Surrender Guns”, by Brendan J. Lyons indicate steps forward. I don’t know about other facilities but here the administration has been turning this place negative and the officers are really starting to push buttons. This used to be a very laid back and positive place to be. It’s changing pretty quickly and we are doing our best not to feed into their games. We just had one guy get 30 days keep-lock for an extra roll of toilet paper and a second pair of shower shoes! We all pretty much know why the officers are acting out. Changes. They’re afraid of change. We’re feeling it. It’s why I’m feeling positive. Everything one step at a time, and we are moving forward.

We know why the parole board continuously hits us, but I have to ask, has anyone ever asked why, after being hit, would they release us? If someone has been hit 2-12 times and each time the reason is for nature of the crime, what would be the excuse for finally releasing the person? The nature of the crime is still the same. What has the person done this past two years to make them think, “now its OK and safe for you to go home.”? Prior to our first parole board, most of us who have 15, 20, 25 years in, have done everything that we need to do. Mandatory and voluntary! So, once we’ve been hit with two years, the only things left to do are work on appealing the parole board’s decision, and wait. Now we go to our 4th board with 6 years of appealing and waiting (working and hanging out) and now all of a sudden they want to release us. Why? We didn’t really do anything for those past 6 years that would give them any more reason to release us, and the nature of the crime is still the same. Have them write a detailed reason for the release! They wouldn’t be able to do it. Not with any real justification.

We just had the 2012 Budget passed. Other than the expansion of the DNA bata bank, were any parole changes made? [Editor: Not that we know of.]

It’s going to be a busy year. But a good one! Keep the faith, and don’t lose hope. - a NYS prisoner


FOR THOSE WHO DIDN'T SEE THE 2/24/12 TIMES UNION ARTICLE referenced in the above 2 articles, here are the pertinent points:
Some parole officers were quoted saying the COMPAS program removes the ability of parole officers to make human judgments or “inform commissioners when they think an inmate is lying and may not be ready for parole." “What we've been finding is that inmates are already finding out how to cheat the system," said one. The officer said inmates have obtained copies of COMPAS reports on other inmates who scored low-risk assessments that helped get them released. "They're memorizing their answers," the officer said. "So the COMPAS instrument isn't going to be accurate. Whether we agree with what the inmate is saying or not we don't have a say in it. We had the ability to say this guy didn't present well and didn't seem honest when he was answering questions. The COMPAS is taking that away from us."

Peter K. Cutler, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Community Services, said state officials have "never heard such an allegation" that inmates are memorizing other inmates' answers. "If a (parole officer) has such info they have an obligation to share it with their supervisors," he said. The prison-based parole officers who will lose their peace officer status will be given a new title, "offender rehabilitation coordinator." Meanwhile, employees who worked for the former Department of Correctional Services as counselors and substance abuse counselors, including some who are former inmates, will also be moved into the same title.



3. PAROLE NEWS: FEBRUARY RELEASES; COMMISSIONER'S BIOS, THWAITES’S UPDATE, AND ANOTHER FAVORABLE COURT DECISION

FEBRUARY 2012 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999
unofficial research from parole database. (These figures do not include all YO’s or JO’s because we only look at pre-1999 dates.)

Total Interviews....... # Released....... # Denied.......... Rate of Release
14 Initials......................1....................... 13...................7%
43 reappearances........10....................... 33.................23%
57 Total.......................11...................... 46................ 19%

February Initial Releases
Facility..... Sentence.......... Offense.... # of Board
Clinton 23 ½-Life......... Murder 2......... Initial

February Reappearance Releases
Facility..... Sentence.. Offense.... # of Board
Cayuga.... 15-Life.... Murder 2......... 7th
Clinton.... 25-Life.... Murder 2......... 3rd
Eastern.....18-Life.... Murder 2......... 7th
Fishkill..... 15-Life.... Murder 2......... 7th
Franklin... 20-Life.... Murder 2......... 4th
Otisville... 15-Life.... Murder 2......... 12th
Otisville... 25-Life.... Murder 2......... 6th
Otisville... 20-Life.... Murder pre-74. 10th
Otisville... 9-Life...... Murder 2......... 10th
Taconic.... 15-Life.... Murder 2......... 6th


Douglas Thwaites filed an Article 78 contesting the Parole Board’s denial of his appeal that his parole hearing denial should be overturned: State Supreme Court Judge Echer ruled in his favor on the Art. 78 and stated that at the new hearing Mr. Thwaites needed to be judged by whether there is a reasonable probability that if released, he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and not on his past offense. According to the Board’s website, his reappearance is scheduled for June 2012. We will be waiting to learn the decision.

Another Favorable Court Decision
Emmanuel Patterson received a favorable ruling on his Article 78: Patterson v Cully, Index # 1-2011-4748, Erie County, Michalski, 2012. The court noted the criteria governing release is contained in NYS Exec. Law 259 (i)(2)(c)(a). Due to the timing of the case (2010), the court also refers to NYS Exec. Law 259 (i)(1)(2)(c) which has now been changed and added to the preceding section.

The court stated the Board cannot solely cite the serious nature of the crime as a reason for denial, IGNORING THE CASE PRECEDENT IN King and Johnson. The court indicated the statement: “criminal behavior being extreme and violent with a total disregard for human life” could be said about any homicide and was not enough to constitute an aggravating circumstance beyond the serious nature of the crime, Patterson (id). The court found this decision “irrational and improper” Patterson (id).

The court concluded “the Parole Board’s reliance on the severity of the crime to deny parole not only contravenes the discretionary scheme mandated by statue, but also effectively constitutes an unauthorized resentencing” Patterson (id)>


BELOW ARE BIOS OF THE CURRENT PAROLE BOARD MEMBERS. It is expected that some with expired terms will be replaced very soon by Gov. Cuomo. Following each bio is the commissioner’s term, and the governor who appointed EACH.


Short Biographies (We’ve published most of these before but due to member demand here they are again).

Andrea Evans: as Chairwoman, also served as Chief Executive Officer of the Division until the Division was merged with DOCS. Ms. Evans was most recently Director of the Division of Parole for Region II, an area encompassing Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. In this position, she was responsible for the operation of nine area offices, and the Queensboro Correctional Facility. Prior to this role, Ms. Evans served as Deputy Regional Director for Region I, where she managed the operation of five field offices in Bronx County. [ June 8, 2009 - Feb. 6, 2013 Paterson]

Jared Brown: A practicing attorney since 1976, Brown became a partner in Brown and Guilbert, a New York City Law Firm in 1984. Prior to practicing law, Brown worked as a narcotics parole officer with the New York State Addiction Control Commission and at the New York City Department of Social Services. [Jan 26, 2010 - June 18, 2012 Paterson]

Joseph Crangle: assistant court analyst with the NYS Office of Court Administration, assigned to the Domestic Violence Part of the Buffalo City Court where he monitored defendant’s compliance with court orders; a probation officer with the Genesee County Probation Department, where he oversaw the Pretrial Release Under Supervision program. Mr. Crangle has a bachelor’s degree from Canisius College and his JD from the City University of N.Y. [June 19, 2008- June 16, 2014] Paterson

Lisa Beth Elovich: administrative law judge at the NYS Office of Children and Family Services; lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office and in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. [Dec. 13, 2006 - Dec. 31, 2013 Pataki]

James Ferguson: Administrative Law Judge at NYS Division of Parole, Jan 1999 – May 2005; Assistant District Attorney, Bronx District Attorney's Office, Aug 1992 – Jan 1999. Education: Marist College B.S., Political Science/Psychology; Pace University School of Law, Juris Doctor. [April 12, 2005 - July 6, 2011 Pataki]

Gerry Greenan: comes from a prominent family in West Seneca; was appointed by Governor George Pataki; is an attorney at the prominent law firm of Harris, Beach in the Commercial Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, and Life & Asset Planning Practice Groups. [June 21, 2006 - June 18, 2012 Pataki]

Michael A. Hagler: more than 30 years in law enforcement: senior investigator with the Office of the New York State Attorney General, conducting investigations into environmental and computer crimes, money laundering, gambling and narcotics in the Rochester region; member of the Metro Rochester Firearms Suppression Unit (Project Exile), security detail for then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in upstate NY; investigator sergeant with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office supervising various units within the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, the department’s liaison with all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as community groups. [Oct. 22, 2007 - Aug.31, 2013 Spitzer]

Christina Hernandez served as Commissioner of the New York State Crime Victims Board, as a Commission Member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. In 2009, Ms. Hernandez was selected as one of nineteen parole board commissioners from across the United States to participate in a pilot training, “Integrating Evidenced-Based Principles into Parole Board Practices,” created by the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. Hernandez holds a Bachelor of Arts from Buffalo State College; a Masters in Social Work from the School of Social Welfare and a Certificate of Graduate Study in Women and Public Policy from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, at the University at Albany. Additionally, she has completed all course work towards a PhD at University at Albany-SUNY School of Social Welfare.
[June 14, 2006 - June 6, 2011 Pataki]

Henry Lemons was not replaced when his 2007 appointment to fill an unexpired term came to an end in 2008. He has now been {when did this happen? we missed it!} formally appointed to serve out the remaining 4 years of the new 6 year term. He served from 2004 to 2007 as Deputy Chief Investigator for the New York State Attorney General. Prior to that, he was the Assistant Chief Investigator for the Kings County District Attorney. He is a former Sergeant and Detective with the New York City Police Department. He also served for four years of active duty with the United States Air Force. Mr. Lemons earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice and planning from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and his master’s in organizational leadership from Mercy College. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. Mr. Lemons was raised in the Bedford–Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and Queens, where he still resides. [May 1, 2007 - June 18, 2008 Spitzer]

G. Kevin Ludlow is a Lawyer in Utica, New York [June 21, 2006 - June 18, 2011 Pataki]

Mary Ross: staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society in Queens, executive director of Providence House, a nonprofit corporation that provides transitional and permanent housing for female ex-offenders, homeless women and their children; the campus minister at Queens College; the director of administrative services at the Diocese of Brooklyn;. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from St. Joseph’s College, master’s in education from Brooklyn College and JD from the City University of New York. [June 19, 2008 - Aug 31, 2013 Paterson]

Walter Smith of Clarence: appointed to two terms by Pataki, was a senior investigator for the state's Crime Victims Board.
[Dec 16, 1996 - July 6, 2011 Pataki]

Sally A. Thompson: 20 distinguished years with the NYC Police Department, as a detective in the department, investigating violent crimes and making numerous felony and misdemeanor arrests; five years in the Bronx Narcotics/Major Case Division, conducting complex criminal investigations that included surveillance and undercover operations; active member of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Detective Endowment Association. [June 14, 2007 - May 4, 2013 Pataki]



4. PAROLE REFORM: TIME TO BEGIN EMPHASIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF REMOVING THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE CRIME FROM THE PAROLE BOARD’S CONSIDERATION.

Now is an opportune time to press this issue. The reason that it is an opportune time is because we are now at a point in time when we have concrete evidence of the parole board’s lawlessness, arbitrariness and their refusal to follow the mandates of the legislature. In other words, they have demonstrated their bad faith to give fair consideration to parole applicants.

On March 31, 2011 several significant amendments to the Executive Law were signed into law including an amendment to Executive Law § 259-c(4) which requires the parole board to:

Establish written procedures for its use in making parole decisions as required by law. Such written procedures shall incorporate risk and needs principles to measure the rehabilitation of persons appearing before the board, the likelihood of success of such persons upon release, and assist members of the state board of parole in determining which inmates may be released to parole supervision.

The effective date of this mandate imposed on the parole board was October 1, 2011. As of April 5, 2012 the parole board has failed and refused to establish the written procedures that were required by the state legislature. The result of this bad faith on the part of the parole board is that they have failed to establish lawful procedures by which they will consider the risk and needs instrument that they are using, the COMPAS, and that they have no rules that control how they are to implement risk and needs principles. Not only does this make all decisions since October 1, 2011 unlawful, by failing to establish rules it prevents judicial review since the courts have no way of knowing whether the board decisions are consistent with law procedures. This total disrespect for the legislature and its mandated reform clearly requires stronger action on the part of the legislature. The parole board cannot be trusted to use its own devices to establish written procedures that will be fair and appropriate. If they will not follow the law as directed to them by the legislature, how can they be counted on to make their own rules?

Therefore, it is time for the legislature to act in response to this affront by the parole board and establish tighter control of parole board decision making. In order to do this, more specific statutory requirements must be imposed. Now is the time to impose the statutory requirements of the SAFE Parole Act!

One of the dominant features of the SAFE Parole Act is that it removes “the seriousness of the offense” from the parole board’s consideration. There are several strong reasons why that factor is no longer appropriate for parole board consideration:

*Double counting of the crime and criminal record. This factor is used in the COMPAS risk and need assessment and is currently also being used by the parole board as a separate factor. By double counting, this factor creates an imbalance in the factors to be considered. It serves no legitimate purpose when it comes to the ultimate decision that the parole board is called upon to make, which is whether “there is a reasonable probability” that the parole applicant, if released, “will live and remain at liberty without violating the law.” The seriousness of the crime has no predictive value in determining if the person is likely to reoffend.

*Currently as it is being used, the parole board is abusing the use of this factor. Even in cases where the COMPAS risk assessment score indicates low risk, the parole board is defaulting to the “seriousness of the offense” to support their conclusion that the parole applicant is a high risk. In other words, nothing has changed with the parole board, despite the legislature’s attempt to reform the process.

*The factor, “seriousness of the offense” originally appeared in the Executive Law § 259-i (1) as a factor to be considered by the parole board at a time, years ago, when the parole board actually had the authority to set the minimum sentence when the court had not. In such cases, because the parole board was serving a sentencing function, it was appropriate to consider that factor because the sentencing function properly considers punishment as a sentencing goal. However, since the parole board no longer sets the minimum, and therefore no longer is charged with the responsibility of considering punishment, it should no longer be considered as a factor.

*In 2011, subdivision (1) was repealed. Unfortunately, and without debate of discussion about the rationale, this factor was moved to subdivision (2) for parole board consideration in general. That repositioning of this factor was without sound rationale, and should be removed.



5. BUILDING BRIDGES IS SEEKING INFORMATION ON T.A.P. AND COMPAS IMPLEMENTATION AND ON PAROLE DENIALS USING THEM

Are newly incarcerated people being interviewed for their Transitional Accountability Plan (T.A.P.), which includes the COMPAS risk and needs score?

For those who already were in prison before the use of TAP began, how soon after the policy went into effect did they have their first TAP interview? Were they told how often it would be updated?

Has anyone had their high risk score used as the reason for a Parole denial? Have people with low risk scores been denied? Has anyone’s low risk score been mentioned as the reason for a release?

We ask because of the experience of a good friend who told us about his most recent parole denial. (He’s done more than 2 1/2 times his minimum.) He believes the decision was made before he entered the room. He was in the hearing for 14 minutes. One of the commissioners referred to his low risk score (4) - he sent us the report; he scored low risk on ALL categories - and his TAP. His denial reads, with no preceding justification, .”..if released at this time there is a reasonable probability that you would not live at liberty without violating the law”, and “your release at this time is incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community, and would so deprecate the seriousness of the crime as to show disrespect for the law”. We ask you, if his risk factor is the lowest possible, how can there be a reasonable probability that he would not live at liberty without breaking the law?! It then goes on to describe the crime in detail, and concludes: “Note is made of your accomplishments and good conduct. Consideration has been given to all required statutory factors including your effort at rehabilitation, your risk to the community and your needs for successful reintegration in the community.” And.....???? (We know this is familiar to many of you; we have a carton of similar documents that have been sent to us, with almost identical parole denials. But this is to make sure all our readers know that, no matter what we are told about reforms and improvements, at the end of the day denials have not changed one bit!)



6. THE NYS PRISONER JUSTICE NETWORK ANNOUNCES MAY 22 JUSTICE ACTION DAY

Dear Readers of Building Bridges,

You are invited to the New York State Prisoner Justice Action Day in Albany on May 22, 2012!

*Network with other activists, advocates, and people affected by the criminal justice system
*Hear about all the dynamic work for prisoner justice going on in New York State
*Urge legislators to support basic changes in the criminal justice system
*Rally and march to demand fairer parole decisions

There will be free transportation from New York City and other gathering points around the state. To sign up, contact the NYS Prisoner Justice Network by mail, phone, or email: NYSPJN, 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210. 518-434-4037; nysprisonerjustice@gmail.com

What is the New York State Prisoner Justice Network? A statewide network of organizations, activists, advocates, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and families of incarcerated people working to end mass incarceration and bring justice to New York’s criminal INjustice system. It is groups working on a wide range of prisoner justice issues. NYSPJN publishes a directory of 60 member organizations (soon to be updated), has a listserv of more than 400 activists, and corresponds with about 100 prisoners. NYSPJN is a grassroots, unstaffed organization coordinated by unpaid volunteers. Therefore NYSPJN is not beholden to any source of funds, government agency, or foundation. Its agenda is set by its member individuals and organizations, in conference call meetings that all New Yorkers working for prisoner justice are welcome to attend. NYSPJN has a special mission to prioritize the voices and issues of currently and formerly incarcerated people.

Get in touch, get involved – and if you are already involved, build unity with others who are also involved. Make a difference, make a dent, change the system -- one step at a time. Take a step on May 22nd, 2012.




7. MERIT TIME BILL, S.338 MONTGOMERY/ A.154 AUBRY - THERE’S STILL TIME TO MOVE THIS BILL, IT HAS NOT BEEN VOTED ON YET THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Click here for Merit Time Petition

Please visit this website to add your voices to a call for action and support from the family, friends, advocates and all New Yorkers in favor of expanding Merit Time for some A-1 felons. Merit Time is time off one’s sentence for good behavior. Merit time is currently not available to anyone with any violent crime conviction. This Bill would include all but people with sentences for 1st degree murder, life without parole, terrorism, incest, violent sex offenses.

The Parole Board has reported that of 1,190 convicted murderers released from 1985 to 2003 in New York state, 35, or just under 3 percent, returned to prison for a new felony conviction within three years.

To earn time off, select inmates must exhibit good behavior throughout their sentences and complete all rehabilitative and educational programming.

Merit Time promotes rehabilitation, improves discipline and safety in the prisons, saves millions of tax dollars in housing, clothing, food, medical care, and other court and state costs.

Your voice and support are needed now, contact our Governor*, your Senator, your Assembly Member, your local community leaders, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.. TOGETHER we can make this happen.

For more details and to voice your support, contact Senator Montgomery and Assembly Member Aubry:

Senator Velmanette Montgomery (drafter of the bill), LOB 944, Albany N.Y. 12247, 518-455-3451 
montgomery@nysenate.gov

Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry (drafter of the bill), LOB 526, Albany, NY 12248 aubry@nyassembly.gov.

For your NYS Senator and Assembly person, go to: www.nysenate.gov or www.nysenate.state.ny.us, AND www.nyassembly.gov or www.nyassembly.state.ny.us

*Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Capitol, Albany, N.Y. 12224, 518-474-8390, or use form on website: www.andrewcuomo



8. YOU MAY NOT WANT TO SMILE FOR THIS PICTURE; VISITORS TO PRISON ARE SOON GOING TO HAVE THEIR PHOTOGRAPHS ON FILE AT DOCCS FACILITIES, ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE IN THE ALBANY TIMES UNION

Prison officials plan to start photographing visitors to state inmates in a pilot program this fall at a facility in northern New York and possibly a few others. Those pictures will be filed in the corrections department's central visitor identification system. Regulations to establish the practice in all 60 facilities housing 56,000 prisoners are expected to follow. Separately, the department issued final regulations earlier this week to require adult visitors present a photo identification starting Oct. 1 at all state prisons. Signed identification documents without photographs have been acceptable. {Editor’s note: Where has this been acceptable? We’ve not heard of one NYS prison where photo ID was not required.]

Source: www.timesunion.com/news/article/Photos-of-NY-prison-visitors-in-pilot-program-3451367.php#ixzz1qwGzZ347

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to stay in contact with its members.
 Write us at PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206, call 518 253 7533, or email if you want to join.

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