Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 2012





During the month we post late breaking news and announcements on this site, so please check back now and then.  To go directly to Building Bridges' September issue, please scroll down. 



POSTED October 8 - Prison Action Network

EMERGENCY!
Jazz Hayden’s Freedom is On the Line!
Urgent Action to Keep Jazz Free:
We must stand together and stop the criminal "justice" system, NYPD and DA from putting Jazz behind bars for 14 yeas for his courageous activism against Stop & Frisk, police brutality and the New Jim Crow! Film the Police! No Justice, No Peace!

**THIS THURSDAY** October 11, 8:30am, 100 Centre St 
RALLY & PACK THE COURT! Bring a poster and bring friends.

Jazz is a 71-year old grandfather and community activist, unflinchingly devoted to defending the people of Harlem and New York from the racist police humiliation and brutality communities of color experience on a daily basis. The NYPD and the courts are using bogus weapons charges to try to silence his cop watch activities and send a chilling message to the rest of us.  We need to send a strong message to the DA and everyone who enters the courthouse: 

Sign Jazz’s petition and learn more about his case at www.freejazzhayden.wordpress.com



Demand mass incarceration and gun violence be part of the Presidential debate at Hofstra University in NY on October 16th.




VOTE!  VOTE!  PLEASE VOTE!

Posted 9/25/12 - Movie about Attica needs your support




Building Bridges September 17th

Dear Reader,

I hope you voted in the primaries!  If you are eligible to vote, that is.  We have to fix that.  Every citizen should not only have the right to vote, but the responsibility to do so.  Prisoners are citizens, as is everyone who was born here or has applied for and been given citizenship status.  

Next opportunity is the Nov.6 general election.  Our future is in our hands.  See Article 12 for a report on the results of the primaries and identify which NYS Legislative races are critical to the success of our calls for reform.  It isn’t just the Presidential race that’s important.  For people in prison and those who care about them, the State Legislative races will have a profound impact on their future.  Please check that you are correctly registered.
        
Be well, read our headlines, and please get involved, ~The Editor     

CORRECTIONS:  Publication of Matthew Hattley’s article “Street Life: The Hustler’s Illusion” was by the  Shawangunk Journal, whose address was correctly reported, even though credit was given to another Journal.  If you go to www.gunkjournal.com and choose Archive > August 23 2012 >the Opinion article,  you will find his latest: Inside The Box: A Prisoner Tells His Tale - The War On Drugs


HEADLINES:

1.  The 1971 Attica Rebellion revealed an unforgivable truth; that this country allows human beings in confinement to be dehumanized, traumatized and demoralized, unmercifully. 
 
2.  Civic engagement means you take ownership of your community.  You work to make it the place you want to live.  One of the ways to do this is by voting.  The Reentry Roundtable makes civic engagement the focus of their Sept 19th meeting.  

3.  Corey Parks tells readers how the Merle Cooper Program taught him that confrontation could be a positive tool for transformation.

4.  Family Empowerment Day 5 in Buffalo features keynote speakers Ebony Magazine’s  “Couple of the Year”, Rufus and Jenny Triplett of Powder Springs GA.  The choice of workshops is listed in the flyer at the end.

5.  Herman’s House, a movie: 'What kind of house does a man who has been imprisoned in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?  Co-Presented by the Correctional Association and opening at the Harlem International Film Festival on Wed. Sept 19.

6.  History of Graziano v. Pataki.  It took 5 years before the plaintiffs found a lawyer to take the case pro bono.  Is Mr. Graziano despairing after the latest set-back?  No.  The fight continues!
  
7.  ICARE speaks about our Social Contract.  If progressives are going to dispel the myth that mass incarceration is a response to crime, we have to break through the prevailing definition of criminality.  And we are going to have to fight back using moral terms.

8.  In Our Name, Restoring Justice in America, was the first in what promise to be a series of excellent conferences.  The issues facing War Veterans in prison will be the focus of the Spring 2012 event.

9.  My Name is My Own II, an evening of words by formerly incarcerated women, Tue. Sept 18 7-9pm.
  
10.  Old Behind Bars,  Speaker Jamie Fellner, Human Rights Watch, on October 10th, 11am-1pm.  FREE.  Fordham University.
  
11.  Parole News:  July release rates, the percentages are looking good, but the denials are the same old “nature of the crime” and the inconsistency is even getting to some prison superintendents, one of whom is reported to have complained about the denials of parole applicants he thought were highly qualified for release;  Mark David Chapman’s denial.

12.  NYS Parole Reform Campaign depends on voters to elect a strong Democratic majority in order to pass the SAFE Parole Act.  First step is to make sure your voter registration is up to date.  Report on the Sept 13 primaries looks positive.

13Pregnant in prison?  Tell us about it.  The law says you can’t be shackled when in labor, during delivery, recovering after birth.

14.  Prison Public Memory Project:  website and blog + community-based activities and events to build public memory, connect communities with prisons to their histories and help people in places where prisons have closed to use the past to imagine new futures  
  
15.  NYS Prisoner Justice Network reports on Sept 14‘s Program to End Mass Incarceration/Close Attica.

16.  Reminder: Prison Action Network’s deadline for position papers is October 1.
  
17.  Thinking Outside the Cell is launching a 10 minute multi-media study of the stigma of incarceration in the USA.


Correction: The Auburn college graduates received an Associate’s degree, not a Bachelor’s degree as reported in August.


1.   Attica! Attica! Attica!
by Karima Amin

Forty-one years have passed since the 1971 Attica Rebellion put a spotlight on the dehumanization that defined America’s prison system. The world witnessed an unforgivable truth about this country that some formerly considered the human rights champion of the world. The truth said otherwise. This is a country that allows human beings in confinement to be dehumanized, traumatized, and demoralized, unmercifully.  In 1971, those who lived that truth, behind the walls of Attica, stood up and revolted. Thanks to Governor Rockefeller, part of the end result was a massacre that took 39 lives.

At the last meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., our special guest speaker was Mr. Arthur O. Eve, Sr., former Deputy Speaker of the New York State Assembly. In 1971, he was the only one of our State lawmakers willing to go into Attica to negotiate with the prisoners. Today, Mr. Eve is 79 years old and not in the best of health. We were honored to have him in our midst, at a meeting that was, so far, the best attended this year. Formerly incarcerated men came out to see him, hear him, and shake his hand. Others came to thank him for the EOP and HEOP programs that he created, which allowed them to further their education. Still others came to see a true hero.   As Mr. Eve talked about the horrors of Attica, he urged all of us to remain diligent in our pursuit of justice. He said, “Sometimes it’s hard for me to talk about Attica, but I have to. It’s important for us to remember and to never stop working for justice. Some things haven’t changed since 1971.”

Additional speakers at that meeting were Mr. Thomas Robinson, Sr. who was at Attica in 1971 and who was one of the first to get a college education after the rebellion; Mr. Nate Buckley, who has been a justice advocate and supporter for political prisoners since his teen years; and Mrs. Sheila Hayes, justice advocate and wife of political prisoner Robert Seth Hayes.

At the next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., on Monday, September 24, at 6:30pm-8:30 pm, at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo, we will be screening a film about the uprising at Attica.  We have done this before, showing a number of documentaries, some better than others.  We have rarely shown movies made for TV or Hollywood, but this month’s film, a docudrama made for TV, is exceptionally well done. “Against the Wall,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Clarence Williams III is bound to promote discussion.

The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng, support PRP2 programs. For more information, call 716-834-8438 or e-mail Karima Amin at karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.



2.   Civic Engagement

The Reentry Roundtable will focus on voting and people with conviction histories, as well as barriers to voting faced by Latinos and African Americans. Our guest speaker will be Esmeralda Simmons, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice and also invited to speak is Tamika D. Mallory, National Executive Director of the National Action Network.

Voter registration forms will be available for those of you who wish to register to vote. Please RSVP and plan to attend this event as we move forward in this election year and beyond. Lunch will be served.

Wednesday September 19, 1:00 – 3:00PM
Location:The Community Service Society of New York (CSS),  105 East 22nd Street at the corner of Park Avenue South Conference Room 4A,  Take the 6 or N/R trains to 23rd Street
Kindly RSVP to Gabriel Torres-Rivera at grivera@cssny.org or call 212.614.5306


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

I spent 24 months in the Merle Cooper program. Throughout that time I learned that confrontation could be a form of constructive discipline. This constructive discipline could only work by accepting feedback from other participants and putting that advice into practical form. For example: let’s say there is an individual being confronted for having a drug addiction. Some feedback could include advising that individual to partake in self-help (N.A) Narcotics Anonymous meetings. These types of meetings were also facilitated at Merle Cooper.
Initially many people entering the program did not embrace confrontation. Some participants would rebel by disobeying the program rules. However, once we were willing to take direction, we were able to incorporate some core values of the program such as responsibility, integrity, and leadership. The Merle Cooper program stresses that in order to implement these values one must be honest about his/her crime and take full accountability for committing it.
Another aspect of the program was the skill classes. Some addressed anger management, the work ethic, parenting, and the abuse cycle. These skill classes were led by inmate facilitators. To become a facilitator, a participant had to have some related experience or be trained through Inmate Program Assistant (IPA) training. This training was conducted by civilian staff who taught inmates how to facilitate encounter groups. I facilitated parenting for over a year. The overall goal of the curriculum was to teach skills that would allow participants to build healthy relationships. I remember many groups where personal testimonies (like when a man talked about not being able to communicate and hug his children for a number of years because of his incarceration) would bring tears to the class.
Merle Cooper gave me new ways to think and challenge myself as an individual. The skill classes gave direction, small groups gave me ways to reflect, and community meetings allowed me to obtain insight into what led to my criminal behavior, and empathy for my victim.  Even at times of not following a rule or enduring some personal issues, there was always a staff member or participant who would talk to me about my problems. Today I have employment, go to college, and offer mentorship to people in need. I am thankful for all my experiences because it made me the person I am today.
~ Corey Parks


4.   Join us for Family Empowerment Day 5 in Buffalo and if you want, help us pay for it.
Friday October 5th Press Conference and Book Signing, 5:00
Saturday October 6
th FED 5 Conference, 8:30 – 2:30

Family Empowerment Day, which had its debut in 2005, with the encouraging advocacy of the Otisville Lifers and the Prison Action Network, has moved to the Buffalo-Niagara Region for the second time in its history.  (There were 3 FED 3s in 2007, and one was in Buffalo.)  This day-long conference welcomes everyone with FREE continental breakfast, lunch, childcare, 8 workshops and Ebony Magazine’s  “Couple of the Year”, Rufus and Jenny Triplett of Powder Springs GA. 

The Tripletts will deliver the keynote, setting the tone for the day-long conference.  Rufus and Jenny experienced incarceration in their family’s life, raised three sons, and created Dawah International, LLC , a multimedia company which produces PRISONWORLD  Magazine, PRISONWORLD Radio and more.

Currently being organized by Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., PRP2-Niagara  County Chapter, and Prison Action Network.  Contact: Karima Amin, 716 834 8438 or  karima@prisonsarepeopletoo.org for more information. For those who have access, you can pre-register at Facebook (Go to Family Empowerment Day) or http://www.prp2.org (Go to Current Initiatives and follow the directions). 

In order to provide this FREE conference, we must rely on the generosity of our compassionate friends and neighbors.  Your sponsorship is vital in providing this opportunity.  If you would like to make a donation please make checks payable to: Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. and mail to: P.O. Box 273, Buffalo, NY  14212.  



5.   NYC premiere of Herman’s House, a documentary about 30 years in prison and a man’s dream of a home on the outside. 
Opening night at the Harlem International Film Festival,  Wednesday, September 19,  9:00pm
The Correctional Association co-presents the NYC premiere of Herman's House, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 'What kind of house does a man who has been imprisoned in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?’  The injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art are explored in this feature documentary that follows the unlikely friendship between a New York artist and one of America’s longest serving solitary prisoners as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project.
Soffiyah Elijah will facilitate the Q & A with director Angad Bhalla and discussion on solitary confinement with the Correctional Association’s Jack Beck after the screening.Tickets are $15.00. For more details and tickets, visit the Harlem International Film Festival’s website.


6.   History of Graziano v. Pataki

In January 2006, a Class Action complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of NY, alleging that the Pataki administration’s policy/practice of denying parole to prisoners serving indeterminate sentences (1) for convictions of Class A-1 offenses with (2) sentences of less than 25-Life, the statutory maximum term of imprisonment, and currently serving such sentences; (3)have served the minimum terms of their indeterminate sentences and are therefore eligible for parole release; and (4) have had their most recent applications for parole release denied by the Parole Board solely because of the “seriousness of the offense”, the “nature of the present offense”, or words to that effect, without due regard to any factor other than the violent nature of their present offenses, violates the Class members’ rights to due process of law and equal protection of laws under the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, and whether such policy/practice violates their rights to be free from an ex post facto enhancement of the punishments under the US Constitution, Article 1, §1.

In March of 2006, a First Amendment complaint was filed to include A1 felons who received the maximum indeterminate sentence of 25 years to Life who meet the same defining factors of the main Class.

In April of 2006, the State filed an answer requesting the court to dismiss the action for a failure to state a course of action.  The Class filed an opposition.

On July 17, 2006, the Honorable Judge Charles Brieant denied the State’s motion to dismiss the complaint as to all claims. (2006 lib 2023082)

In May of 2007, the State filed a second motion to dismiss the amended complaint, submitting the Classes’ claims are moot because Pataki left office in 2006 and the new governor Eliot Spitzer, along with a new Parole Chairman, George Alexander, wouldn’t follow Pataki’s alleged policy.  The Class filed an opposition in May of 2007.  In December of 2007, Judge Brieant denied the State’s moot argument, stating: “the change of office does not necessarily mean the policy or practice of the Parole Board would not be repeated.  Judge Brieant also granted Class certification, instructing the State to settle the case.  In early November of 2007, after months of settlement discussions, the State agreed to terms of a settlement.  On Nov. 15, 2007, then Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno and his cronies likened a settlement in the inmate parole suit to a “get out of jail free card” and persuaded Spitzer to continue fighting the suit.  Senate hearings were conducted asking Spitzer why he had let out 56 violent felons.  In March of 2008, we had the Spitzer sex scandal.  

On July 22, 2008, the NY Law Journal announced that Judge Brieant, who had served on the bench for 37 years and who was appointed by President Nixon in 1971, died of cancer at 85.  The Class lost a seasoned Jurist.

In 2008, Cathy Seibel was appointed to replace Judge Brieant and in Dec. Of 2008 Class Counsel moved to have former Gov. Pataki deposed [made to testify to or give evidence on oath, typically in a written statement].  In her first ever ruling on the case, in April of 2009, Judge Seibel denied plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel Pataki’s deposition.

In September of 2010, knowing Judge Siebel had given them their first favorable ruling in Graziano, the State moved for a third bite at the [dismissal] apple, asking Seibel to dismiss the action.  Despite the fact that Judge Brieant, who was a seasoned judge with 37 years on the bench had twice denied the State’s request to dismiss the action, Judge Siebel granted the State’s dismissal request and directed the clerk to close the case.

An appeal was filed in the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and oral argument was allowed in March of 2012.  On August 3, 2012 a majority of the Court affirmed Judge Seibel’s dismissal, with Judge Stefan R. Underhill - sitting by designation from Connecticut - filing an informal reasoned dissenting opinion.  An en banc (asking the complete court) application is presently being filed to the 2nd Circuit.



7.   ICARE (Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment) Opinion Piece

Breaking the Social Contract Myth
By Rima Vesely-Flad

In the twenty-first century, many of us in the progressive criminal justice camp think about people in prison as offenders who have broken the social contract.  We problematize drug policy and seek resources for formerly incarcerated people; in other words, we recognize that there are problems with society.  But we still talk about “second chances” and “restoring rights.”  The dominant mode of discussing people in prison is still in the framework of the social contract: criminals are people who have broken it.

Over the last two decades, a few activists and scholars have clarified mass incarceration for progressives: Angela Y. Davis has dissected the prison-industrial complex; Michelle Alexander has defined the “New Jim Crow; Loic Wacquant has analyzed the symbiosis between the prison and the ghetto.  Mass incarceration is not a response to a broken social contract, but a complex system that serves a social function totally unrelated to crime—that of maintaining historically-rooted power dynamics between races and classes in U.S. society.

Yet a thorough study of the terms upon which the “War on Drugs” and “War on Crime” are waged—that is, investigation into the dominant framework of crime reporting in the nightly news and official accounts given in the passage of crime bills—shows that mass incarceration is still interpreted as a response to offenders who break the social contract.  Furthermore, conservative advocates for harsh crime policies frame their work in moral language.  They talk about “moral habits” and “moral poverty.”  And very often, progressives acquiesce to this dominant framework and discuss their activism in the language of rights, chances, and opportunities for personal change.

The campaign against Stop-and-Frisk policies seems to have broken through this framework.  But upstate conservatives sank legislation that would have decriminalized marijuana by framing the possession of pot in moral terms.  It was not enough to outline the terror experienced by black and brown youth at the hands of New York City police officers; progressives needed a countering moral framework. Indeed, they needed to talk about why Stop-and-Frisk is immoral using the language of morality.  George Lakoff’s book Moral Politics gives an overview of how this might take place—but he lacks analysis of race and class in the penal system as well as U.S. society more broadly.

Lakoff’s book is useful in that he illuminates that the progressive battle must be fought on moral terms.  If progressives are going to dispel the myth that mass incarceration is a response to crime, we have to break through the prevailing definition of criminality.  And we are going to have to fight back using moral terms.



8.   In Our Name, Restoring Justice in America 

The weekend retreat in Greenwich NY August 24-26 was all that we hoped for.  Except I was hoping more of you would be there.  It was a luxurious place, away from the urban centers, with excellent accommodations and superlative food!  The program was very informative, and we made a lot of new contacts.  The next In Our Name retreat will be scheduled sometime in early Spring, and will focus on incarcerated Veterans, so send PAN your ideas and suggestions, and we’ll pass them on.  Perhaps Veterans Organizations in NY State prisons could participate in planning and promoting the event.



9.   My Name is My Own II: An evening of words by formerly incarcerated women.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 7:00pm-9:00pm
Featuring writers from the Correctional Association, Voices Unbroken, Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH) and more. The Correctional Association’s Judy Yu and Andrea Williams will curate the evening’s readings, which will take place at Casa Frela Gallery, 47 West 119th Street in Harlem. This event is free and open to the public and part of the 2
nd Annual Words*Rock*&Sword: A Festival Exploration of Women’s Lives.



10.   Old Behind Bars; The Aging Prison Population in the U.S.
Life in prison can challenge anyone, but it can be particularly hard for people whose bodies and minds are being whittled away by age. Prisons in the United States contain an ever growing number of aging men and women who cannot readily climb stairs, haul themselves to the top bunk, or walk long distances to meals or the pill line; whose old bones suffer from thin mattresses and winter’s cold; who need wheelchairs, walkers, canes, portable oxygen, and hearing aids; who cannot get dressed, go to the bathroom, or bathe without help; and who are incontinent, forgetful, suffering chronic illnesses, extremely ill, and dying
AGING IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM  -  TOWN HALL SPEAKER SERIES
Old Behind Bars, Jamie Fellner,
Senior Advisor, Human Rights Watch,
Author of Human Rights Watch's report,  "Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States"and currently researching medical parole & compassionate release in the U.S.
The presentation is followed by a town hall style participatory audience question and commentary segment

Wednesday, October 10, 11 am to 1 pm
    FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
MacNally Ampitheater,  Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus
113 West 60
th Street, New York, New York 10023

For more information- btep@fordham.edu or  https://sites.google.com/site/betheevidenceproject
REGISTER AT: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FU-GSSS-BTEP-old-behind-bars 

11.   Parole News:  July releases; Mark Chapman's parole hearing

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


Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
23 Initials
4
19
17%
88 Reappearances
32
56
36%
111 Total
36
75
33%




Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Cayuga
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
20-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
27-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Midstate
16-Life
Att Murder 1
Initial   *





July Reappearance Releases


Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Auburn
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Bedford Hills
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Cayuga
20-Life
Murder 2
9th
Collins
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd   ***
Eastern
25-Life
Kidnap 1
5th
Eastern
20-Life
Att Murder 1
7th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Fishkill
18-Life
Murder 2
6th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
6th
Fishkill
7 ½-Life
Murder 2
7th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder pre-74
8th
Fishkill
25-Life
Att Murder 1
8th
Franklin
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Great Meadow
25-Life
Murder 2
7th    *
Green Haven
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Green Haven
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Green Haven
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Green Haven
15-Life
Murder 2
10th
Mohawk
15-Life
Murder 2
8th
Otisville
18-Life
Murder 2
4th
Sing Sing
15-Life
Att Murder 1
5th
Sullivan
26 ½-Lfe
Murder 2
2nd   *
Sullivan
15-Life
Murder 2
6th
Sullivan
15-Life
Murder 2
8th
Taconic
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd    **
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd   
Woodbourne
25-LIfe
Murder 2
3rd   *
Woodbourne
18-Lfe
Murder 2
3rd
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Woodbourne
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
6th
Wyoming
20-Life
Murder 2
8th
*For deportation only
**was counted in a previous year as a release decision, was rescinded and is now counted again as a release.
***appears to have been denied on LCTA and this is the next board after LCTA denial.

Not all prisons, as you can see, saw parole releases.  One of those reported that even the prison’s superintendent was dismayed that community ready prisoners were denied.

Mark David Chapman denied parole for the seventh time
Mark David Chapman was interviewed by videoconference at the maximum security Wende Correctional Facility by the New York State Board of Parole on Wednesday, August 22nd. Chapman, 57, was denied parole. This was Chapman’s seventh appearance before the Parole Board. His next scheduled appearance will be in August 2014. He came into DOCCS custody on August 25, 1981 serving a sentence of 20 years to life for murder. He was first eligible for parole on December 4, 2000.

8/12/2012 PAROLE BOARD DECISION: Denied - Hold For 24 Months, Next Appearance Date: 08/2014.  Deciding Board Member: Sally A. Thompson;  other members: Joseph P. Crangle; Marc Coppola.  Their decision:
“Your instant offense of murder in the 2nd degree, wherein you shot and killed an innocent victim, an international music star. Your actions clearly demonstrated a callous disregard for the sanctity of human life. Your record does not show any prior convictions. The panel notes your prison record of good conduct, program achievements, educational accomplishments, positive presentation remorse, risk and needs assessment, letters of support, significant opposition to your release and all other statutory factors were considered. However, parole shall not be granted for good conduct and program completions alone. Therefore, despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime.”
Editor’s Comment:  I loved John Lennon.  I still miss him and think about all the songs he would have written since then.  But after my initial anger at Mark Chapman died down, I realized my anger would not bring John back, just as it won’t bring back anyone else I care for (no matter their cause of death).  John Lennon may have been special to more people than my loved ones are, but it doesn’t make his life worth more.  Or his killer any worse than anyone else who takes a life.  If Mark Chapman has been able to feel remorse, and if he’s been able to become a better person; one who will never do such a thing again, then I see no reason to keep him in prison.  In any case, I don’t believe the Parole Board should have the right to set a different sentence than the judge. We give judges limitations, yet the Board ignores them.  They could end up giving Mr. Chapman, or anyone else whose victim was a celebrity, life in prison.  Do the citizens of this state really want to give them that power?  



12.   NYS Parole Reform Campaign:  Vote!

The best thing that can happen for the SAFE Parole Act is if the right Democrats become the majority in the Senate, and use their influence to pass some reasonable laws, especially the SAFE Parole Act, that are beneficial to the 99%.  If you are not registered to vote, or not sure your registration is up to date, there still is time.  To find out:  https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx

November 6, 2012 is the General Election
Deadline for registration:  In person: October 12,  by mail: postmarked by October 12.

MAIL REGISTRATION:  Applications must be postmarked no later than October 12th and received by a board of elections no later than October 17th to be eligible to vote in the General Election.
IN PERSON REGISTRATION:  You may register at your local board of elections or any state agency participating in the National Voter Registration Act*, on any business day throughout the year but, to be eligible to vote in the November General Election, your application must be received no later than October 12th.
  • CHANGE OF ADDRESS:
    Notices of change of address from registered voters must be received by October 17th by a county board of elections.

    *Residents also have the opportunity to register to vote at a wide variety of other New York State agencies. This component of the National Voter Registration Act is called the "Agency-Based Voter Registration Program", and it provides registration opportunities when applying for services or assistance at state agencies.  In addition to the Department of Motor Vehicles, you may apply to register to vote at any of the following New York State agency offices.

    Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
    City Universities of New York(CUNY)
    Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
    Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities
      Department of Health - WIC Program
      Department of Labor,
      Department of Social Services,
      Department of State,
      Division of Veterans’ Affairs,
      Military Recruiting Offices,
      Office for the Aging,
      Office of Mental Health,
      Office For People With Developmental Disabilities,
      State Universities of New York(SUNY),
      Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities,
      Workers’ Compensation Board
Mail-In Voter Registration Applications can be obtained from any of the above New York State Agencies listed.  You may also obtain a voter registration application by calling your county board of elections, 1-800-FOR-VOTE or, by filling out the on-line voter application request form.
Report on the Sept 13 Primary Elections 
The primaries are over, and it looks pretty good.  All but one of those we reported on last month won.  If you voted for them, it’s a good time to call them and tell them so, and to start talking to them about the SAFE Parole Act and other criminal in/justice issues that affect you. They may need your vote in the general election when many will be running against Republicans on November 6.  

So here’s an update on the primaries.  Everyone we endorsed  - except in the race for Sen Duane’s old seat which we mis-reported on last month, won!   Barbara Clark, Assembly District 33; Senator Gustavo Rivera (with 70% of the vote), Senate district 33; Pat Fahey for Sen Breslin’s old seat, Assembly district 109.

Correction: Senator Duane’s district is 27 (not 29 as we reported); there were several candidates vying for that seat, none of them was Jose Serrano as we also reported; among them was Brad Hoylman, who won by a good margin.  Liz Krueger won in Senate District 28.

Martin Malave Dilan won Senator Montgomery’s former seat in district 18 before redistricting moved her to district 25, where she was unopposed in the primaries.

Sen. George D. Maziarz, district 62, won by a landslide against his opponent Jimmy Destino.  

Another member of the Assembly, Hakeem Jeffries, (Assembly District 57), is poised to head to Congress, leaving his Brooklyn seat open.  Jeffries backed Walter Mosely, a local Democratic Party district leader, who won.


13.   Are you pregnant or have you been pregnant, while in prison?
The Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of NY wants to hear from YOU to make sure that the law is being followed.  New York State law says that you CANNOT be shackled while you are:
(1) in labor
(2) delivering your baby
(3) recovering after giving birth
The law also says that you can ONLY be shackled on the way to the hospital to give birth and on the way back to prison if:
(a) you are NOT in labor (for example, if you’re going to have a scheduled C-section) AND  (b) there are “extraordinary circumstances” where shackles are “necessary to protect the woman from hurting herself or medical or correctional staff.”Even if these two things are true, the law says that you can ONLY be shackled by ONE wrist.
We have been monitoring the law’s implementation, and need your help. Please contact us if you gave birth while you were incarcerated in New York and are willing to share your experience.  tkstolar@correctionalassociation; jvasandani@correctionalassociation.org,  212 254 5700 x306 or x334, or  Women in Prison Project, Correctional Association of NY,  2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.,  NY NY 10027.  We have legal mail status so prison staff are not allowed to read mail we send one another.


14.   The Prison Public Memory Project

After more than a year of developing this new venture, with a wonderful, growing team of contributors and others, including some of you, we have launched our website!

At our pilot site in Hudson, NY we’ve conducted interviews and oral histories and research in local and state archives. We’ve built a website and blog that will become a virtual hub for sharing stories, conversation and learning about the past, present and future roles of prisons in communities and in society.  

Now we are developing community-based activities and events to build public memory, connect communities with prisons to their histories and help people in places where prisons have closed to use the past to imagine new futures.

We are still very much in start-up mode with lots of questions still to be answered and funds to be raised to allow us to move to the next stages. We invite your creative suggestions and generous contributions. Explore the websitet www.prisonpublicmemory.org and let us know what you think. 

Thanks!  Tracy Huling, Founder/President 
Alison Cornyn, Founder/Director



15.   New York State Prisoner Justice Network Column: SEPTEMBER 14TH AT RIVERSIDE CHURCH NYC: 
END MASS INCARCERATION/CLOSE ATTICA

Dear Justice-Loving People,

The program to End Mass Incarceration/Close Attica at Riverside Church on Sept. 14 was historic, massive, brilliant, and inspiring! How can I convey a sense of its epic proportions? First and foremost, the people: almost 2000 people were there, filling the immense awe-inspiring arched Nave to the balconies. Although many of us came from upstate and from distant states, the crowd was mainly New York City and represented a broad array of NYC-based anti-mass incarceration and prison justice forces. Judging by when the wildest cheering was heard, it seems we are a radical bunch! People cheered loudest at the strongest statements from the stage: abolish prisons, challenge capitalism, overthrow white supremacy, support justice for women, lgbt folks, Muslims, youth, and everyone targeted by the criminal INjustice system. There were also loud ovations for unity and connecting the dots to mold our separate issues into a powerful movement. 

Each of the speakers and panelists is a brilliant thinker and powerful, clear, poetic orator: Angela Davis, founding mother of the anti-incarceration movement; Michelle Alexander, generator of the movement’s current anti-racist renewal, author of The New Jim Crow; Jazz Hayden, formerly incarcerated, documenter of police Stop and Frisk abuse in New York City and currently a target of it himself; Cornel West, fiery and spiritual, a moral compass for a nation gone awry; Marc Lamont Hill, the youngest panelist, as deep a thinker as he is a dramatic spokesperson for a new generation of activists – these were the panelists. In addition to the panel there were speakers: Soffiyah Elijah, Exec. Dir. of the Correctional Association, combining hard facts about prison abuse at Attica and elsewhere with passionate commitment to the people who are living under its heel every day; Pam Africa, international spokeswoman against oppression and pillar of the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal;  Mumia, by recorded message and live call-in, off Death Row but still incarcerated with a life sentence; and Juan Mèndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, quietly serious, deeply dedicated to human rights, and himself a survivor of imprisonment and torture. This impressive array was moderated by asha bandele and Suzanne Ross, long-time justice activists whose political insights were essential to conveying the meaning of the event. 

From two hours of profound ideas about the problems and the solutions for building a movement against mass incarceration, some highlights:

Pam talks about the world’s most famous political prisoner: Jesus, framed and tortured by the powerful, and loved by the people. Soffiyah describes vividly the lives of the men incarcerated in Attica: prisoners of color, white guards, and atmosphere of total repression. Mumia speaks in heartbreaking personal detail of his decades in solitary confinement -- this year when he could touch his loved ones for the first time, he says, he was almost overwhelmed by the intensity of his emotions.  Angela says the culture and technology of incarceration overflow the prison system and pervade the “free” world. Michelle says mass incarceration is payback for the gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Marc observes that people are seeing the contradiction between first class jails and second class schools, and are connecting the issues of education, housing and jobs to incarceration. Jazz notices a growing awareness everywhere; a program like this couldn’t have happened 10 years ago. Cornel adds a spiritual dimension: we are seeing precious humans living in subhuman conditions because of a system based on white supremacy and greed. Angela says the specific oppression of women and lgbt folks in prison casts light on the underpinnings of the whole system. Marc and Cornel refer to homophobia as a barrier to building unity. All say we don’t have to agree on everything but we have to coalesce, to connect the dots among the different issues and also connect the different parts of our movement into a powerful whole. 

For members of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network, a light-bulb moment was Michelle describing her ideal of the kind of structure she envisions for our movement: an organization driven by vision and not by funding, an overarching network that connects the different issues and mobilizes people based on what fires them up. We looked at each other and said: “Hey, that’s us!” We left with renewed energy, inspiration, and commitment.

For those who have internet access, parts of the program are viewable at http://cprmetro.blogspot.com/




16.   Reminder: Prison Action Network’s deadline for position papers is October 1

Because our incarcerated members drive our agenda, we are soliciting papers from Prison Lifer’s Groups (or similarly conscious groups) on problems that most seriously distress them.  Please include the following information:  1. a statement of the problem,  2. a clear statement of the proposed solution (legislation, research or oversight, etc.)  and 3. a short summary of why your solution is a good one.  Prison Action Network will present them to the NYS Coalition for Social and Criminal Justice Advocacy and Reform for submission to the Legislative Task Force on Criminal Justice.



17.   Thinking Outside the Cell founders have exciting news:

Joe Robinson and Sheila Rule have entered into an exciting partnership with VII, an award-winning global photo-journalism agency.  
If you have internet access, please visit our website, www.thinkoutsidethecell.org, to view a trailer of VII’s first work on the stigma of incarceration in the USA.  On Sept. 18, the complete 10-minute multimedia study—made in New York City—will launch on our website.  

Please help us spread the word.              
Thanks.   Sheila and Joe, Thinking Outside the Cell





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