Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September/October 2013

Welcome to the site of Building Bridges, Prison Action Network's newsletter!  We post it on or near the 25th of every month.  If you would like to receive a copy in your email in-box every month, please send a note.

During the month we post late breaking news and announcements here, so please check back now and then.  Scroll down to immediately read the August/September 2013 letter.

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“Ending Parole Abuses – Reuniting Families”

The Riverside Church Prison Ministry’s statewide campaign to overhaul NYS’s failed parole system 
Campaign Kick-Off Weekend

Friday, November 8, 2013
7 pm – 10:30 pm
(Doors open and book/cd signing @ 6 pm)
Hill Harper – gifted actor, best-selling author of Letters to a Young Brother, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother(pub. date Nov. 2013)

Terrie M. Williams—youth and mental health advocate, best-selling author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting 

IMPACT – Grammy- and Oscar-nominated theater company

Prodigy of Mobb Deep

Gloria Browne-Marshall – professor, playwright, author of Race, Law and American Society

Saturday, November 9, 2013
8:30 am – 5 pm

Informative plenaries and workshops to advance the Campaign!

Both events take place at the Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive @ West 120th Street

Click on these Eventbrite links to reserve your FREE seats now:

Friday: https://trcpmcelebration.eventbrite.com/

Saturday: https://trcpmworkshops.eventbrite.com/

URGENT: Please sign the NEW petition for Lynne Stewart . Your signature will send a letter to Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels and to Attorney General Holder requesting that they expedite Lynne Stewart’s current application for compassionate release. The NEW petition is here .  If you have problems, follow the link on  her website: http://lynnestewart.org/

Posted 10/1:


Herman Wallace is dying of liver cancer after 42 years in solitary confinement. A member of the so-called Angola Three, Wallace and two others were in jail for armed robbery, then accused in 1972 of murdering a prison guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola prison. The men say they were framed because of their political activism as members one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panther Party. Wallace’s supporters say he has just days to live, but his requests for compassionate release had so far gone unanswered.   Read about it.

Posted 9/29

My name is Lyneisha Dukes, a senior at Temple University and I am emailing on behalf of my father Myron Dukes, who is scheduled to begin a federal civil trial in the western district court in Rochester NY beginning September 30. My father and I both thought that you would find interest in this civil trial first because the incident occurred two years prior to the incident in 2011 which four officers were indicted for a very similar gang attack on an inmate. My father filed his motions to proceed with this case on June 2009 which he in detail described the event which took place and if his complaint had not gone overlooked the incident that resulted in the indictment of the four officers and the serious injuries the inmate suffered could have been avoided.

Secondly my father has successfully made it this far and will continue through the civil jury trial representing himself. What I ask for you is not to make judgement of this case , as there are far more details that have not been disclosed but what we do ask for is for support or a presence of some sort of media so that these proceedings do not go unnoticed and that this matter and others like it are not swept under the rug. 

 I do understand that it is last minute however I urge you to attend.

September 30-October 4, 2013
U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York
100 State Street 
Rochester, NY 14614

Posted 9/28

Learning from the Past to Forge Our Future

Holocaust Survivors, Freedom Riders, and Formerly Incarcerated People Share their Experiences & Wisdom

Saturday Oct. 12, 12:30 - 8pm.  (Lunch and Dinner provided)
Fordham Univ. Graduate School of Social Service, Corrigan Conferene Center, 12th floor lounge, 113 West 60th St., NYC 10023

Presentations by a survivor of a Nazi Concentration Camp, a child survivor who escaped the Concentration Camps, and a Freedom Rider.  
A film: “Lifers: Stories from Prison”
A panel: Grandparents Behind Bars, Why We Should Release Elders from Prison

To register: www.surveymonkey.com/s/7QPFRT8

If you have any questions, email btep@fordham.edu. 

Posted 9/26


Geographies of Incarceration: A 21st-Century Teach-In

Thursday, Oct 3rd, 6pm - Teachers College, Cowin Theater
Date: Thursday, October 3rd, 6pm 9pm
Location: Teacher's College, Cowin Theater (on Broadway between 120th and 121st)
FREE with RSVP: http://geographies.eventbrite.com/

Event Info:
This 21st century-style teach-in challenges the epidemic of mass incarceration and intends to catalyze ideas for change, public engagement, and new ways to address this Civil Rights issue of today. The evening will focus on the important role of artists and the arts in the quest for social transformation. Activities include film screenings, theatrical readings, and discussions among leading thinkers, university scholars, and the audience. This engagement will be led by Kendall Thomas (Professor of Law and Director for the Center of Law and Culture), and includes Carl Hart (Associate Professor of Psychology); Pamela Sneed, (Poet, Performance Artist and Activist); Jamal Joseph (Playwright, Director, Poet and Educator); Patricia Williams (Professor of Law); Michelle Fine (Professor of Social Psychology) and Kiese Laymon (Writer and Educator).

RSVP: http://geographies.eventbrite.com 

BUILDING BRIDGES, September 25, 2013

In Memory
Walter Freeman, August 24, 1935 - May 28, 2013, serving a 1-5 year sentence on a parole violation, was in the Regional Medical Unit at Walsh Medical, and presumably was too ill to release, because he maxed out on April 20, 2013.  He was a member of Prison Action Network for several years.  Any one with a memory of him is invited to send it in for publication.  May he rest in peace.

Summaries of articles

1.  Parole News: August releases; News about former parole board member and chair Bob Dennison’s advocacy for certain parole applicants.
2.  NYS Parole Reform Campaign reports on the growing energy around the SAFE Parole Act; unveils new and easy WeeklyAction readers can join.
3Ending Parole Abuse - Reuniting Families;  a Campaign to Overhaul New York’s Parole System  encourages public participation and invites us to their gala Kick-off event on November 8th.
4.  We can do it!  Inspiration from FAMM’s experience. 
5.  End Mass Incarceration Convergence puts Prisoner Justice Network solidly on the map.
6.  Release Aging People from Prison (RAPP)  unveils petition drive on WBAI’s Law and Disorder show.  Links to petition and interview. 
7.  Religion, Abolition, Mass Incarceration seminar on Oct 4-5 includes speakers from RAPP. 
8.  Bookends, an evening of performances inspired by incarcerated parents and grandparents, to be presented in Albany by Prison Legal Services.
9.  Michelle Alexander is expanding her focus to include a radical restructuring of society.
10.  Education from the Inside Out is beginning a new season of working to remove the barriers that keep our youth and people with criminal records uneducated. 
11.  Part 3 in Baba Eng’s address to Building Bridges readers in which he looks at who's responsible and who is going to do something about our failed criminal justice system.

12.  42 years after the Attica rebellion Prisoners Are People Too takes a look at what has changed (or not) over the 4 decades since then. 
13.  Corey Parks: The race for quality has no finish line. There is always room for more improvement. 
14.  Small Business Legal Academy offers free consulting day

15.  Special screening of Herman’s House at CSS.   Petition to grant him compassionate release.

1.  Parole News:  
unofficial research from parole database

Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rate
8 Initials
69 Reappearances
77 total

August Initial Releases

# of Board
Murder 2
1  Deported
Murder 2
Murder 2

August Reappearance

# of Board
Bare Hill
Murder 2
Bare Hill
Murder 2
Bare Hill
Murder 2
Bare Hill
Murder 2
Cape Vincent
Murder 2
Murder 2
Murder 2
Murder 2
Murder 2
Murder 2
M Murder 2 rd2
Kidnap 1
Murder 2
Great Meadow
Murder 2
Green Haven
Murder 2
Murder 2
Murder 2
JO Murder 2
6  JO
Murder 2
Murder 2

Inmates Find Unlikely Advocate in Former Parole Board Chair
New York Law Journal, By John Caher, September 16 2013

In the article, readers learn that former parole board chair Robert Dennison (he retired from the parole board in 2007 after serving on the panel for seven years, including three as chairman,) has become an ally of parole applicants.  In fact, he visits men (and women, we hope), reads their institutional records looking for those he feels are ready for reentry and reintegration, and writes a letter to the Parole Board for those he feels deserve release.  He says he’s using his intuition, not science, to make his determinations, but whatever he calls it, he certainly spends more time with the applicant and his or her documentation than the Parole Board does.  He’s written letters for 25 people over the past few years and more than half of them have been released, according to the article.

Mr. Dennison is also reported as saying that the stock phrases used in parole denials, “your release would deprecate the seriousness of the offense” and  “there is a reasonable probability that you would re-offend’ are used whenever the parole board needs to justify their decision.

Mr. Dennison is also quoted as saying the phrase, "deprecate the seriousness” is "stupid”, since a sentencing judge has decided that release after a minimum period of incarceration would be appropriate, assuming good behavior, and that to say a person poses a risk after acknowledging their solid institutional record and a home and job awaiting, is often "based on nothing."

Many of those in prison, and their family members and advocates, knew this already, but it’s refreshing to hear a former Parole Board member and chairman validate it in public.  Thank you Bob Dennison and John Caher!

2.  The NYS Parole Reform Campaign

Summer is over and soon we will be back in our normal routines.  For the Parole Reform Campaign that means segueing from visiting legislators in their district offices to making visits to them in Albany.  We joined a group in Ithaca to plan and schedule a visit to Senator O'Mara's district office, which was well received by his legislative aide, although not encouraging in terms of getting his support.  He needs to consult with the Republican Conference Counsel before he can say where he stands.  In Albany, we’ve talked with Zach Primeau from Senator Gallivan's office several times.

What we’re beginning to realize is how seductive the legislators can be with their objections.  We fell right into the trap, by spending hours producing supportive documentation to counter their objections, only to have them drop their previous argument and jump to another.  Once again the evidence convinces us that our job is simply to tell them why we want them to support the bill.  The more people they hear from the more power we have.  More than ever we need everyone reading this to get involved.  

If you're interested in doing some legislative advocacy this Fall, either in your district or in Albany, give us a call or send an email.  Several large NYC Advocacy organizations have the SAFE Parole Act on their legislative agenda.  Let’s plan to join them.  Watch these pages for announcements.  Your voice is vital to the campaign.  Telling the story of the abuse you’ve experienced at the hands of the parole board and your demand for the end of it by passing the SAFE Parole Act are what will take us to victory and the release of our mothers, fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who are languishing in prison long after they deserve their freedom, and while we have been suffering from their absence. 

A very simple way to get involved is by joining the Parole Reform Campaign’s Weekly Letter Signing and Sending Action.  There’s only one step anyone with computer access needs to take.  They send an email to ParoleReform@gmail.com and ask to be put on the list for the weekly letter initiative.  That’s all.  We then send a return email with the week’s pre-written letter and instructions on how to deliver it.

If you’d rather make a phone call (could be after hours to leave a message) or want to do both, it’s the same easy process as above.  After receiving your request, we send you a phone script and the phone numbers of three different legislators and instructions.  These are easy ways to help the cause.  Your participation will make a difference!

Remember the early Family Empowerment Days (FEDs 1-4 )?  They were the beginning of the campaign to change the policies of the NYS Parole Board.  Most of the people who attended were there because their incarcerated family members asked them to be.  We need you to do the same for the Nov 8-10 kickoff of the Ending Parole Abuses - Reuniting Families Campaign described in the article below.  We need to fill Riverside Church with families and advocates and have them come back again the next day for the workshops that will help them find their place in the campaign!  

We financed the FED events solely with contributions from our members, many of whom were incarcerated.  At the beginning of this year long campaign we are again asking for your financial help.  Donations to Prison Action Network, with a note directing the money to go to “Reuniting Families” will be used solely to pay the expenses of this ambitious campaign.  No donation is too small.  We raised thousands of dollars for Family Empowerment Days with many donations of less than $10. (Some were for fifty cents!)  It adds up.  See more ways you can help, below.  Remember, the outcome of your next parole interview may depend on the success of this campaign!

3.  Ending Parole Abuses - Reuniting Families;  a Campaign to Overhaul New York’s Parole System  - November 8th kickoff

Hill Harper, gifted film and TV actor, social justice advocate and best-selling author, will participate in the Nov. 8th event launching Ending Parole Abuses – Reuniting Families, the Riverside Church Prison Ministry’s year-long statewide campaign to overhaul New York State’s failed parole system.

Hill is the author of the best-sellers Letters to a Young Brother, Letters to a Young Sister and The Conversation. His latest book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother, will be published in November. 

Also participating will be Terrie M. Williams, one of the nation’s leading youth and mental health advocates. Her critically acclaimed book,  Black Pain:  It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, has inspired thousands of incarcerated men and women to write to her about the unresolved wounds of their childhood, and to start discussion groups in prisons across the country.

The Nov. 8th event, which will run from 7 pm to 10:30 pm, will also feature hip-hop and other musical artists, including a performance by the Grammy-nominated Impact Repertory Theatre. The following day, the Prison Ministry will sponsor a daylong working conference on parole. Both events will be held at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The church’s Sunday worship service will highlight issues surrounding the parole campaign.  

The Prison Ministry views the parole campaign as the most meaningful way to honor its 40th anniversary. The campaign has already sparked interest and support from around the state, including among incarcerated men and women, who have written letters asking how they can get involved. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Educate yourself, other incarcerated people and loved ones about parole and reintegration issues
  • Form a think tank around parole issues, and propose policy changes
  • Send us your ideas
  • Donate, and have your inmate organization donate, to our campaign
  • Urge loved ones to donate money, time and skills to the campaign 
  • Tell loved ones to attend the Nov. 8th and Nov. 9th Ending Parole Abuses-Reuniting Families events at Riverside Church
  • Urge loved ones to contact their state legislators in support of the SAFE Parole Act, A4108/S1128

For more information, email Sheila Rule, or call her at 877-267-2303. You may also write to her at Think Outside the Cell, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525, New York, NY 10011.

4.  We can do it!

While we are displeased that people with violent felony charges were not included in Attorney General Holder's plan for mandatory minimum sentencing reform, it shows that we clearly have reached a tipping point in our struggle for fairer criminal justice policies.  Many of us, certainly Julie Stewart, President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), have labored for decades to get this far, and will continue to struggle until there is equal justice for all.

The good news is that we have the ball. As Ms. Stewart says, “We're on the offense and we're driving down the field. But there's no celebrating until we get this ball into the end zone.”   It is important to acknowledge the advances we have made.  We will reunite our families.  “We can do it.” !!

5.  End mass incarceration: Let’s make it happen
Convergence at Riverside Church in New York City, September 21, 2013

“Tell no lies, claim no easy victories:” Amilcar Cabral, African revolutionary, 1965. In the same essay from which that famous quote is drawn, Cabral goes on to say, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children. . .”

The END MASS INCARCERATION: LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN convergence was inspiring, informative, productive, and an important contribution to strengthening our movement for justice. Compared to the first New York State Prisoner Justice Network Conference four and a half years ago, our movement has advanced dramatically. There are dozens more organizations and hundreds more individuals arrayed against mass incarceration. There is greater unity of purpose and more clarity on our goals. The question of whether the U.S. criminal justice system is too big, too harsh, too destructive, too unfair, and too racist has emerged from the shadows of invisibility to become an important matter for media inquiry and public dialog. 

Claim no easy victories: For the many of us with loved ones in prison, for the formerly incarcerated whose loyalty lies with those left behind, and for the activists whose lives are dedicated to “winning material benefits,” these victories are bittersweet as long as we do not have the power to actually open up those prison bars. We believe we are moving in that direction, but the road is long and steep.

Activists from more than 40 organizations throughout New York State gathered at Riverside Church in New York City  on September 21st to compare strategies and plan collaborative action. We called it a “convergence” – a coming together. It was co-convened by the New York State Prisoner Justice Network and the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow.

We “converged” in many different ways. Our movement is truly statewide: Buffalo, the North Country, Binghamton, Utica, Albany, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Woodstock, and New York City were represented. We crossed many boundaries: old and young; black, brown, and white; upstate and down, different sexual identities, different constituencies, different regions. The range of issues represented was wide, and included local police abuse, jails, immigration detention centers, and New York-based federal prisons as well as our long-time focus on mass incarceration, abusive prison conditions, and racism in the New York State prison system. The far-reaching impact of the criminal justice system on women was raised as a seriously under-recognized issue for our movement.

We were, surprisingly, very much on the same page. Abolitionists and reformers agreed that the system is wrong at its core; that the model of punishment and revenge is immoral, destructive of families and communities, and ineffective at providing safety, and needs to be changed fundamentally. 

Every one of the 40+ organizations reported briefly on its goals and strategies; the overall picture was an encouraging blend of outreach, education, street action, legislation, pressure on officials, litigation, coalition-building, conventional and social media campaigns, fundraising, and many types of cultural and informational public events. Following the reports was a discussion in which participants elaborated on the strategies heard in the reports and suggested ways of improving the work.

The afternoon activities required us to roll up our sleeves and make some decisions:
  • Track One was tasked with choosing one or two issues that promise the best chance of producing a concrete, measurable success in the short run.  The participants identified three priority issues and will meet again, soon, to choose which of them to implement: a campaign or campaigns around parole justice, “ban the box” (prohibit requiring criminal justice history on job and education applications), and/or ending solitary confinement. 
  • Track Two discussed multiple ways to support each other’s issues while advancing their own primary focus; the participants in this workshop committed to lead us in improving communication and coordination.
  • Track Three voted to collaborate on two different multi-issue campaigns: (1) a statewide and/or local demonstrations based on a unified platform to be developed jointly by a sub-committee; and (2) a campaign to demand a truth, justice, and reconciliation commission to bring to light the true extent of the damage wrought by the criminal justice system. Both campaigns will include the demands of all our activist anti-incarceration groups, and will be convened by members of this work group.

The Prisoner Justice Network will send out information about the progress of implementing the actions to the participants in the convergence and to the members of the New York State Prisoner Justice listserv.

We ended the convergence with a circle of love, mutual support, and the resolve to fight to win justice for all people. While claiming no easy victories, we know we are “fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see... lives go forward, to guarantee the future of the children. . .”

6.  Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Petition 2013

New York needlessly confines thousands of senior citizens to cruel and degrading conditions in prison.  Risk of committing a new crime decreases with age, and people over 50 who serve long sentences for serious felonies are the least likely to return to prison after release. Many have records of positive achievement in prison and are praised by prison officials as peacemakers and role models.  Despite these truths, the vast majority of seniors in prison are routinely denied parole and compassionate release by the state.
To: Governor Andrew Cuomo; New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; New York State Parole Board; State and Local Elected Officials: 

BRING OUR ELDERS HOME!  We the undersigned demand that New York State release incarcerated seniors who have already served considerable time and pose no threat to public safety.  Doing so will restore the harmony of our communities, fulfill our commitment to the human rights of ALL people, and save NY millions of dollars a year. Aging people returning from prison pose little risk to public safety and are prepared to contribute positively to the society. Together, we reject retribution and perpetual punishment as the drivers of our justice system.

Hear speakers  from the RAPP Campaign explain it in more detail on WBAI’s Law and Disorder radio program. 

7.  Religion, Abolition, Mass Incarceration

Oct 4-5  Free and open to the public
Guerlac Room, A.D.White House, Cornell University
Ithaca NY   (if you need housing, contact the Parole Reform Campaign at 518 253 7533) 

9-10:30 am - Activating religious potentialities - Panelists: Joshua Dubler, U. Of Rochester; Sarah Haley, UCLA;  Mecke Nagel SUNY Cortland.

11-12:30 pm - Secularized religious ethics and prisoner solidarity - Panelists: Paula Ioanide, Ithaca; Joy James, Williams; Dan Berger, U of Washington.

3-4:30 pm - Methods, poetics, and utopians of abolition - Panelists: Lorna Rhodes, U of Washington; Vincenzo Ruggiero, Middlesex; Catherine Koehler, Cornell.

5- 6:30 pm - Religious workers on decarceration and solidarity movements - Panelists: Sarah Small, Decarcerate PA; Laura Whitehorn and Muhajid Farid, Release Aging People in Prison; Clare Grady, Ithaca Catholic Workers;  Karima Amin and George 'Baba' Eng, Prisoners Are People Too.

9-10:30 am - Theologies and counter-theologies of mass incarceration - Panelists: Vincent Lloyd, Syracuse; Mark Tayler, Princeton Theological Seminary; James Logan, Earlham.

11 - 12:30 am - States of captivity and religious justice in Latin Americn - Panelists: Chris Garces, Cornell; Clara Han, Johns Hopkins;  Kevin O’Neill, U of Toronto.

Sponsored by the Central NY Humanities Corridor with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation  

8.  Bookends: The effects of incarceration on children and the elderly
A production of Prisoners’ Legal Services of NY in collaboration with the Soul Rebel Performance Troupe.
Join us for a cocktail hour and performance of pieces submitted by incarcerated New Yorkers.  Through the words of incarcerated parents and grandparents, we will experience their sorrow and joy, disappointment and hope, fear and strength.  

October 21, 6 - 8:30 pm   Tickets are  $10. Reserve with Samantha Howell at 518 445 6050, or showell@plsny.org
Capital Repertory Theater,  111 N. Pearl St., Albany NY

9.  Michelle Alexander connects the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism.

For the past several years, I have spent virtually all my working hours writing about or speaking about the immorality, cruelty, racism, and insanity of our nation's latest caste system: mass incarceration. ...But as I pause today to reflect on the meaning and significance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I realize that my focus has been too narrow. Five years after the March, Dr. King was speaking out against the Vietnam War, condemning America's militarism and imperialism - famously stating that our nation was the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world." He saw the connections between the wars we wage abroad, and the utter indifference we have for poor people, and people of color at home. He saw the necessity of openly critiquing an economic system that will fund war and will reward greed, hand over fist, but will not pay workers a living wage. Five years after the March on Washington, Dr. King was ignoring all those who told him to just stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights. 

Yet here I am decades later, staying in my lane. I have not been speaking publicly about the relationship between drones abroad and the War on Drugs at home. I have not been talking about the connections between the corrupt capitalism that bails out Wall Street bankers, moves jobs overseas, and forecloses on homes with zeal, all while private prisons yield high returns and expand operations into a new market: caging immigrants. I have not been connecting the dots between the NSA spying on millions of Americans, the labeling of mosques as "terrorist organizations," and the spy programs of the 1960s and 70s - specifically the FBI and COINTELPRO programs that placed civil rights advocates under constant surveillance, infiltrated civil rights organizations, and assassinated racial justice leaders. I have been staying in my lane. 

But no more. In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington, but what he said and did after. In the years that followed, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. Instead he connected the dots and committed himself to building a movement that would shake the foundations of our economic and social order, so that the dream he preached in 1963 might one day be a reality for all. He said that nothing less than "a radical restructuring of society" could possibly ensure justice and dignity for all. He was right.

I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. A new system of racial and social control will be born again, all because we did not do what King demanded we do: connect the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism. I'm getting out of my lane. I hope you're already out of yours.

Click here to visit Michelle Alexander's website

10.  Education from the Inside Out (EIO) 

The EIO Campaign to end criminal history screenings in college admissions is in full swing.  If you think education is crucial for an informed citizenry, especially those citizens in prison, you are invited to join them at their next working group meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 9,  6:00 – 7:30 pm,  475 Riverside Drive, The Interchurch Center, Robing Room.

11.  Why we think the way we do about criminal justice, crime and punishment and the need for change. 
Part III in the series By G. Baba Eng

Who’s responsible?

Last month Baba talked about the socially generated factors that actually promote delinquency and criminality in our communities and how this is done in order to create an atmosphere of vulnerability, so that Black Youth become the cannon fodder to feed what we have come to understand as the Prison Industrial Complex.

     The factors are poverty, poor education and miseducation, unemployment and underemployment, below standard housing, lack of adequate nutrition and poor diets and unclean and unsafe neighborhoods.  Under these conditions, single parent households, which are the product of those conditions, are more vulnerable than any other to the pull of drugs and violence that invite our youth to delinquency and crime. These conditions set our youth up to be entrapped by police departments that already have them targeted.  This is the same way that our foreparents were targeted by sheriff’s departments after just being released from slavery.

     Of course the sensible question is: what makes this new criminalization of our youth comparable to what was done to our fore-parents in terms of financial benefit?  The answer is into whose pockets the $60,000.00 per year spent to incarcerate each prisoner goes.

     That money is allegedly spent for the maintenance of each prisoner, in terms of food, clothing, medical care, education, and housing. However, the reality is that 90% of that money is misappropriated for “security” expenditures, that provide everything from the most modern gyms for prison guards, ergonomic chairs for guards to sit in, the picnics and outing for guard celebrations, to salaries and military equipment equal to that used by our troops in preparation to fight America’s real enemies.  Our misguided youth and adults, who are our families, are not America’s enemies, and we should be offended that the average salary of  a prison guard, after two years, is generally more than is made by our school teachers.    

Now, we come to the most important question here and that is: who has the major stake in the prison system that holds our men, women and children? Who has the major stake in the parole of those individuals who will be released back into the same communities that they came from, when we determine they are ready to be released?

     In answering that question, I have to take some personal responsibility for the failure of our community to protect our youth from the entrapment that leads them to prison. 

      I, and many others of my generation, saw what was happening in our communities where they were flooded with drugs and guns and we knew that we weren’t manufacturing no drugs or guns in Harlem, or Bed-Sty, Buffalo, Watts, or Oakland.  We saw what was happening, but did not realize the backups that the system put in place to insure that the destruction of our social fabric was completed. We thought that we could “play” the system, enrich ourselves, and use that enrichment to build our communities. The reality is that we got ‘PLAYED’. Most of us got strung out, locked up, and put down in prison systems for long periods of time, to reflect on our failures and the social systems put in place that continue to set our people up to get “played” generation, after generation!

     We allowed the next generation to have to grow up without fathers, without any guidance or protection.  We did not provide the role models that they needed to give meaning and relevance to their lives in a world that everybody knows is stacked against them. We let our youth get so out of control that we began to have more fear of them than any outside invader of our communities.  Our own children, with all their pent up rage and frustration, all their fears, anger, and misguidance gets unleashed at each other, on our own people.  We let our youngsters become destructive of themselves and anyone who stands in their way.  Our own sons and daughters turned against everything positive that our communities have stood for throughout all these years of suffering and struggle in America. It’s so bad, that many times when they go to prison, our communities have the right to feel relieved, because most often the victims are also our family members, our own people.

     That is our reality, right now and despite the fact that we represent little more than 13% of the total population in America, we represent over 50 % of the prison population. Something is very wrong with that picture.
To be continued next month

12.  42 Years and Counting
by Karima Amin

Every year, in the month of September, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. plans for its monthly meeting to re-visit the Attica Rebellion of 1971, when a courageous group of incarcerated men took the initiative on September 9 to stand up for the few constitutional rights and human rights that incarcerated people have in the United States. They seized control of the prison, Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, NY, took 42 staff people hostage, put forth their grievances and demands, and in the end, on September, 13, 29 prisoners and 10 officers were killed in a massacre which occurred when Gov. Rockefeller called in the NYS Police Troopers and the NY National Guard to quell the uprising.

42 years and counting….and conditions at Attica haven’t improved much since 1971 and prisoner justice seems to be an area of advocacy that only appeals to the diehard few who believe that “prisoners are people too.” So many of us, unfortunately, are stuck in a place that only allows for us to see the stereotypes that define how we view a group of people known as felons, offenders, and lawbreakers. They are people….2.4 million in America, which have the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. Everybody knows at least one confined person. Every family has at least one person under correctional supervision.  We shun these men, women, and children and demean them and too often believe that we could never end up behind bars. There are people in our prisons and jails today that never thought that life’s circumstances would take them there. The 1200 prisoners who rebelled at Attica in 1971 had tried to make their grievances known through the proper channels by writing to officials who were responsible for medical care, and adequate food and clothing, but they were ignored and there was no redress. They complained about pervasive physical abuse and racially discriminatory treatment from guards.  They hoped that Gov. Rockefeller would be concerned enough to come to Attica for the negotiations. The Governor refused and sent in firepower instead, with drastic results.

In 2011, the University at Buffalo Law School and its Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy convened a conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Attica uprising. This conference brought together prisoner advocates, legislators, policymakers, corrections professionals, activists and people who were on the front lines of the conflict, on both sides. This 2-day event reminded us, “Attica is all of us” and afforded us an opportunity to examine Attica’s legacy. Prof. Teresa A. Miller, an Associate Professor of Law at UB, who was the chief architect of this conference, will be PRP2’s guest speaker this month.  Prof. Miller is a filmmaker, currently working on “Attica: The Bars That Bind Us,” which is scheduled for release this Fall.

Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. will meet on Monday, September 30, 6:30-8:30 at the Pratt Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. 

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

13.  Corey Parks, The race for quality has no finish line
         I often think about my mistakes in life. I made bad choices that I truly regret.  One decision was becoming a convicted felon.  I worked so hard to build a negative image. I was proud of being a part of a gang and committing violence. I didn’t take life seriously and my definition of success had all the wrong meanings. Does that sound familiar?  When I was incarcerated I met many people who shared this same mentality.  We have young teenagers right now in NYS prisons who believe being a criminal is an achievement. 
So how do we redeem ourselves and where do we begin? I believe we need to take an honest look in the mirror and ask ourselves who we want to be in life. This is a question to ask when no one is around. This is a process that requires us to put pride and image to the side. This can be the moment of epiphany, where the race for quality begins. 
We should never stay stuck in our failures and never let others define who we are.  People’s opinions of us should not become our reality. You have to dig deep within yourself to discover your personal gift.  Then use it to motivate others. Become the author of your own life story. Take charge of your life!  Mistakes are mistakes and anyone is redeemable. So find your quality because there is no finish line when it comes to your personal growth.
~ Corey Parks  [c/o SNUG, NYC MISSION SOCIETY, 653 Lenox Ave,  NY, NY 10037]

14.  Small Business Legal Academy
       A Free Consulting Day for New York City's Small Business Community (including non-profits)

October 29, 2013
Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater 
253 W 125th St New York, NY 10027
Are you looking for legal help for your small business?  The Small Business Legal Academy is a one-day event bringing together corporate law firms, financial services consultants, City and State agencies and other service providers to strengthen New York City's vibrant and diverse small-business community. Receive free consulting services, learn about starting and managing your business or nonprofit, and uncover solutions to the legal and financial challenges facing your organization.
The Small Business Legal Academy is sponsored by the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) together with nearly a dozen non-profit public interest law firms. 

Register here.    For more information, download APBCo's press release and flyers in English, Spanish, and French .

15.  Special screening of Herman's House
Community Service Society’s Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) will be hosting a special screening of Herman's House, a feature documentary about Herman Wallace*, a man who has spent more time in solitary than anyone in the history of the American prison system. Herman's House follows the creative collaboration between Herman and artist Jackie Sumell as they work together to build the dream home Herman imagines from within the 6x9 cell where he's lived for 40 years. 

The screening will be followed by a Q and A session with a panel of reentry experts including: Angad Singh Bhalla, Film Director; Scott Paltrowitz, Associate Director of the Prison Visiting Project at the Correctional Association; and Professor Johanna Fernández of Baruch College. The panel will be moderated by CSS's Director of Reentry Initiatives, Gabriel Torres-Rivera.

CSS is partnering with Homes for the Homeless to collect art supplies for children living in New York City’s shelters. Please bring art supplies to the movie premier to help our city’s children create their dream homes and paint their visions for the future. Crayons, markers, paper, paint—get creative and show your support.

Date: Tuesday, October 15th
Check-In: 5:30 pm,  Film Screening: 6:00pm, Q and A: 7:30pm
Engelman Recital Hall at Baruch College
E. 25th St bet. Lexington and 3rd Aves
Please register online or by calling 212.614.5365.

 *It should be noted that Herman Wallace is suffering from liver cancer and has been given about 2 months to live, which will be spent in prison unless the governor gives him compassionate release. (Sign a petition for his compassionate release.)  Editor

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to communicate with our members.