Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Monday, January 14, 2013

JANUARY 2013






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

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Dear Reader,

I’m not going to pretend we’re not discouraged by the lack of responses to last month’s request for Pledges to Help Pass the SAFE Parole Act.  One small group of people cannot do this by ourselves.  Two people responded, and pledged to do a lot.  But we need dozens of people doing a lot, hundreds of people doing as much as they can, and
thousands being educated about the injustices we are up against.  It’s your call.  You’re the ones who asked for a change in parole board practices and policies.  Let us know what you’re willing to do. The pledge is now available to readers at www.ParoleReform.org.  Write PAN, PO Box 6355, Albany NY 12206 to request a hard copy.
Be well, stay strong, and please, get involved,  ~The Editor 


HEADLINES:

  1. Violence against women in prison
  2. End the Stigma/Expand Opportunities Campaign kicks off with screening of The Long Shadow of Incarceration’s Shadow”.
  3. Misconception, an article by an incarcerated columnist, says prisoners are not the violent animals the press would have us believe.
  4. New Jim Crow Forum presentation in Brooklyn.  Sen. Eric Adams, Chris Johnson, Glenn Martin, Jason Meyers and parishioners at St. Mary's Episcopal Church Harlem will be speaking.
  5. Parole Reform Campaign hopes you will sign their pledge and give your suggestions.
  6. Parole News - November and December releases include Peter Graziano; look for 2012 summary in February issue; comments from a parole applicant; claim that State parole violation rules have been eased.
  7. Prisoner Education as Commissioner Brian Fischer sees it.
  8. Reentry.net/NY calendar lists events and meetings in your area on issues you may care about.
  9. Supportive Housing is in trouble.
  10. Tribute Dinner to family members of political prisoners and prisoners of war.
  11. Yale Law Journal announces winners - four New Yorkers are among them.
            [for copies of any source article, please e-mail us with your request stating month and number of the article]



1.  Violence against women in prison

Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) in 2013.  
The Violence Against Women Committee of the Correctional Association has decided to postpone their planning session until February so that they will know more about the direction of the legislature, particularly the Senate.  They will have an Advocacy Day in May, probably with a press conference as well.  

Women Prisoners Endure Rampant Sexual Violence; Current Laws Not Sufficient
A report on the  Prison Rape Elimination Act in Truthout, an online news service, Friday, 21 December 
By Eleanor J Bader

Features quotes by Laura Whitehorn, describing her experiences while incarcerated. Released in 1999, she now lives in New York City. Click here to read the article.



2.  End the Stigma/Expand Opportunities Campaign

Think Outside the Cell, founded by Joseph Robinson and Sheila Rule and featuring the stories of Ron Day and Mercedes Smith, has co-produced a video entitled "The Long Shadow of Incarceration's Stigma", which sold out at its first showing in NYC at the Bronx Documentary Center.  If you would like to bring the film to your prison, university or conference in 2013, please contact producer Kimberly Soenen at 312 946 0938, or kimberlyjsoenen@gmail.com. 

On Wednesday January 30, 5:00-6:30 PM (EST),
a screening of The Long Shadow of Incarceration's Stigma will be shown at Queens Central Library, Lower Level Auditorium, 89-11 Merrick Boulevard.

 Queens Life Light Street Productions and Queens Central Library will host the event which is free and open to the public. Families, groups and students are welcome. Space is limited.   RSVP required by January 28. Please include QUEENS in the subject line, your name, number of people attending and your affiliation. 
 
The event will begin at 5pm sharp with a screening of the short film. A panel discussion will follow with award-winning photojournalists/filmmakers Ed Kashi, Jessica Dimmock, Ron Haviv and Ashley Gilbertson, as well as Think Outside the Cell Foundation Executive Director Sheila Rule. Mercedes Smith, a subject in the film, will also be on the panel. The discussion will be moderated by producer Kimberly Soenen.
Join the Campaign: The stigma of incarceration is a major stumbling block to changing the system.  The Think Outside the Cell Foundation is working to end the stigma and—through personal development, storytelling and other creative approaches—help the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their families to create their own opportunities.

We are launching the End the Stigma/Expand Opportunities Campaign because it is long past time to challenge the wholesale marginalization of those who live in the long shadow of incarceration and criminal conviction. When we decrease the stigma we increase the likelihood that people with prison in their past can become self-supporting, productive and contributing members of our society; we enable opportunities for millions of men and women to embrace their full potential and we create a more just society in which we are not the sum total of a single mistake.

HINTS FOR GETTING INVOLVED!
The Think Outside the Cell website contains a guide to ways you can help, listed by one’s situation in life.  If you are formerly incarcerated, a legislator/politician, an employer, a property owner or landlord, an academic, a federal, state or local government administrator, a criminal justice advocate,  in media or advertising, a social service administrator, a student, a human rights advocate, a policy analyst, a researcher or a member of a faith community, there are specific things you can do from your position to end the stigma and expand the opportunities of people when they come home from prison. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW, a helpful guide for people in all walks of life is available  here.



3.  Misconception

Matthew Hattley is the only newspaper columnist I know who is incarcerated in NYS.  He writes for the Shawangunk Journal and sends me his articles.  One of his recent articles, titled Misconception, supports the arguments of our anonymous writer in Article 6, and is an example of how to be part of End the Stigma/Expand Opportunities Campaign described in Article 2.  All 3 articles belie Commissioner Fischer’s claims in Article 7.

It starts out:  “Most citizens are under the impression that the majority of today’s prisoners are evil, dangerous and violent.  Incapable of rehabilitation, we deserve to be locked in cages like animals for the remainder of our natural lives.  Fortunately this particular portrayal only actually applies to a [small percent] of the current prisoner population.  Not everyone is incarcerated for  ...heinous crimes.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.



4.  New Jim Crow Forum at Brooklyn’s First Unitarian Church
Saturday January 19 , 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Presented by Weaving the Fabric of Diversity of the First Unitarian Congregation of Brooklyn, and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Harlem
Location: the Chapel of First Unitarian Church
Pierrepont St. at Monroe Place (enter chapel to the right of the front stairs)
Brooklyn, NY 
A discussion of the realities of mass incarceration of young men of color in our society today and the social consequences for the country as a whole, based on issues that are raised in Michelle Alexander's best-selling book The New Jim Crow.
Panelists:
 Eric Adams, New York State Senator; Chris Johnson, Head of Horizon Youth; Glenn E. Martin, VP of Development and Public Affairs - The Fortune Society; Jason Myers, Adjunct Professor of Writing at William Patterson University and Fairleigh Dickinson University; and testimony from parishioners at St. Mary's Episcopal Church Harlem.
For more information visit www.fuub.org.



5.  Parole Reform Campaign

Please sign the pledge at ParoleReform.org.  Call us if you have questions.  When we reach 1000 signatures we’ll get back to you with more suggestions.  We also welcome your ideas for passing the SAFE Parole Act, including attention getting graphics and creative ideas for using them.  Don’t be shy about sharing cutting edge ideas.  We believe “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”  We need to get the message out.  Thanks!



6.  Parole News:
Nov and Dec releases including Peter Graziano’s;  a parole applicant’s comments; NYS parole violations rules eased; Parole Revocation Barred for Defendant Unfit to Stand Trial

NOVEMBER and DECEMBER 2012 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 1999 
unofficial research from parole database


Nov. Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
19 initials
0
19
0%
81 reappearances
21
60
26%
100 interviews
21
79
21%



NOVEMBER Initial Releases    none


November Reappearances

Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Auburn
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Auburn
20-Life
Murder 2
8th
Collins
15-Life
Murder 2
7th
Downstate
21-Life
Murder 2
2nd     *
Elmira
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
5th
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
6th
Fishkill
21-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Midstate
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Otisville
25-Life
Murder 2
7th
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Otisville
17-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Otisville
9-Life
Murder 2
6th
Sing Sing
6-Life
Murder 2
4th
Sing Sing
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Woodbourne
15-Life
Murder 2
9th
Woodbourne
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Wyoming
15-Life
Murder 2
8th

*possibly someone who was interviewed and denied LCTA 


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


Total December Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
12 initials
4
8
33%
54 reappearances
15
39
28%
66 interviews
19
47
29%


DECEMBER Initial Releases      

Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
20-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
17-Life
M2, K1
Initial


DECEMBER Reappearances

Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
15-Life
Murder 2
6th
Bare Hill
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Clinton
15-Life
Murder 2
10th
Collins
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Collins
15-Life
Murder 2
7th
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Fishkill
18-Life
Murder 2
2nd   *
Fishkill
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Green Haven
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Green Haven
 2 ½-Lfe
Att Murder pre-74
7th
Sing Sing
15-Life
Murder 2
6th
Sullivan
18 ½-Lfe
Murder 2
5th
Sullivan
31-Life
Murder pre-74
6th
Walsh Med Ctr
18-Life
Murder 2
10th
Woodbourne
25-Life
Murder pre-74
12th

*Special Consideration hearing

One of the above December releases was Peter Graziano, a well known name throughout the NYS prison system as the lead plaintiff in Graziano et.al.   Although they lost, many of the ‘et.al’ have been released, and now in Jan. Mr. Graziano will also be going home.  It was his 7th hearing.  He thanks everyone who supported the lawsuit over the years.
Next month we plan to bring you a summary of 2012 Release decisions.  In March we will publish the January statistics.

Punished for a Crime but Not Rewarded for Doing the Right Thing.
The majority of parole denials are templates.  The only information that changes is our names, charges, and DIN numbers; everything else is basically the same, especially this statement: “...the conclusion of this panel [is] that if you were released at this time... You would not live and remain at liberty without violating the law and that your release would be incompatible with the public safety and welfare of the community.”  That would be laughable if it did not have such serious consequences.  In my case, I received letters of support from my family, friends, and NY State Senators (Montgomery and Perkins) and Assembly Member Aubry, not to mention the many Justice organizations that support my release. To what community could the Parole Board be referring?  

And why does NYS continue to provide funding to DOCCS to provide programs  - for all prisoners - if the Parole Board keeps making assessments that after successfully completing them we are still a public risk?   If I were a taxpayer, I would demand an independent investigation of DOCCS and the Parole Board because something is NOT right here.  In the past I was a small time street hustler so I know a scam when I see one. And this is one of the biggest scams I’ve seen in my 43 year on the earth! 
From a letter by a parole applicant


Parole Revocation Barred for Defendant Unfit to Stand Trial,
The above titled article by John Caher published in the New York Law Journal on 01-02-2013 reports that the Appellate Division, First Department, has held in Matter of Lopez v. Evans, 2012 NY Slip Op 09188 that a parolee found mentally incompetent to stand trial on new charges is also unfit to proceed with a parole revocation hearing. Based on the same conduct that led to the charges, Lopez's parole was revoked by an administrative panel that found "mental illness is not an excuse for a parole violation."  The appeal was argued in December 2011  @|John Caher can be contacted at jcaher@alm.com.



7.  Prisoner Education

In November DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer made a statement to the Assembly Corrections Committee hearing on educational and vocations programs in prison.  We were amazed to read what he said.  The reports we get from our incarcerated members portray a much different story.  Some of those reports are found elsewhere in this newsletter (Articles 3 and 6).  Here are some of Fischer’s points that surprised us:

Correction law states: “the commissioner shall establish program and classification procedures designed to assure the complete study of the background and condition of each inmate in the care or custody of the Department and the assignment of such inmate to a program that is most likely to be useful in assisting him [sic] to refrain from future violation of the law.”  We are in full compliance. (emphases added)

To read his complete testimony please click here.



8.  Reentry.net/NY calendar:
  
To find out what’s happening in your community, visit http://www.reentry.net/ny/calendar/week.2013-01-14.  You may list your events there as well.



9.  Supportive Housing denied to people after more than 90 days in prison

Unfortunately newly enforced policies may stand in the way of living in supportive housing when you or your loved one is released from prison. The Fortune Society tells us that access for individuals with criminal records to supportive housing where tenants have affordable apartments and easy access to whatever help they need to stay housed and healthy, is being denied as a result of HUD’s enforcement of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in 2009 and the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act.  HUD policy does not allow individuals who have been in an institution for over 90 days, including prison or jail, to receive HUD supported homelessness assistance upon release.  This policy, as you can imagine, frustrates reentry efforts for many people who are in dire need of a stable place to lay their heads while they reconnect to communities.  The Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy is currently working to engage other service providers and prison officials to join them in advocating for housing policies that include the formerly incarcerated.



10.  The 17th Annual Dinner Tribute to the Families of our Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War


Transforming Solidarity: Working Together to End Political Imprisonment & Mass Imprisonment!
Saturday, January 19, 2013 • 3pm to 7pm
Presented by The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee & the 1199 SEIU Activists


Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center, 1199 Union HQ,  310 W. 43rd Street , bet. 8th & 9th Aves., New York , NY 10036

Keynote Speakers:  Johanna Fernandez, Director of Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal;
Malik Rhasaan, Founder & Organizer, Occupy the Hood;  Cultural Presentations by Hip-Hop Artist Jasiri X

Donation: $40/advance reservations • $45/at the door • Valet Parking $10
For reservations/more info contact: The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee 
PO Box 380-122, Brooklyn, New York 11238  718-512-5008 • email: mxcc519@verizon.net 
All proceeds to benefit Political Prisoners/Prisoners of War represented at the Dinner



11.  Yale Law Journal Prisoners’ Writing Contest announces winners

Building Bridges extends congratulations to the NYS winners, and encourages those who didn’t win to read the winning entries, learn from them, and try again the next time there is a writing contest.  Writers always get better with time (unless they don’t want to).

First Place: Elizabeth Reid, from Kent, WA - The Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Importance of Litigation in Its Enforcement: Holding Guards Who Rape Accountable

Second Place: Ernie Drain, from St. Clairsville, OH - The Meaning of Imprisonment

Third Place: Aaron Lowers, from Vacaville, CA - Solano Justice

Honorable Mention:  William Blake, from Elmira, NY - A Sentence Worse than Death
          Andre Patterson, from Joliet, IL - Untitled

Finalists from NYS:  
Justin Hightower, Upstate
Steve Rodriguez, Woodbourne
Tarshawn Thompson, Attica





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