Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

November/December 2013



Welcome to the site of Building Bridges, Prison Action Network's newsletter!  There will be no issue in December, but we will publish again on January 6, 2014.  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. 

Check back on January 6 for the next edition of Building Bridges

To enlarge the text size, try clicking your cursor anywhere in the text, and then press the command key with the + key.


LYNNE  STEWART IS FREE 
Watch footage of Stewart's arrival in New York City and hear more from her attorney Bob Boyle here:http://www.democracynow.org/2014/1/2/exclusive_dying_lawyer_lynne_stewarts_jubilant


12/31/12 3:24 pm

My Dears:

Well, the impossible takes a little longer !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We learned this morning that the US Attorney's office has made the motion for my compassionate release and that the Order was on Judge Koeltl's desk.  Since on the last go-round he stated in Court that he would treat it "favorably", we are now just waiting expectantly.

The wonderful thing is that Ralph is here in Ft Worth for a visit and will bring me back to NYC with him.  We don't know when but the rules state that the warden has 2 days to let me go after he receives the order so it could be as early as Friday or a few days more. Whatever it is, I can't stop crying tears of Joy !!  I can't stop thinking of all the marvelous people worldwide who made this happen ..you know because each of you played an integral role. My daughter  Z is already lining up Sloan Kettering and we will have to see if there is a probation qualification attached to the Order and how it will affect me.  After that Ralph will start making arrangements to rent Yankee Stadium for the Welcome Home... Smile

So If this reaches you before midnight tonight raise a glass of bubbly to the joy of all of us that the old girl is OUT !!  

Love Struggle,

Lynne



Posted 11/28 - The Riverside Church Prison Ministry

December 4 Assembly Correction Committee Hearing


We hope you’ll attend the State Assembly Correction Committee’s hearing to review procedures and statutory requirements of the New York State Board of Parole. The hearing will begin at 10 am on Dec. 4 in the Roosevelt Hearing Room C in the Legislative Office Building.  We want to fill the room in order to show the extent of concern about this issue.

This hearing will focus on the implementation and effectiveness of the processes utilized by the Board of Parole in determining who should be released from prison and who should remain incarcerated.
It will cover important issues of concern to those whose loved ones are languishing in prison long after they were ready to come home, and other citizens who are alarmed by a parole system that unfairly denies parole every year to thousands of men and women who have clearly demonstrated that they are prepared to return home as contributing citizens.  Among the people consistently denied parole are those who were convicted of violent crimes even though the state’s own statistics show that they are the least likely to commit a new crime when they are paroled.

Such denials fuel an oppressive nationwide system of mass incarceration—one of the most pressing political and racial issues of our time—with a crippling impact that is felt far beyond prison walls. With each unwarranted denial, the parole board further erodes the familial, economic, social and political life of the communities most affected by crime and imprisonment. As thousands of freedom-worthy men and women remain behind bars, their families struggle and sometimes fall apart; too many of their sons and daughters become ensnared in the criminal justice system; the communities they call home are bereft of husbands, wives, parents, tax-paying citizens, potential leaders. Poor neighborhoods become poorer in so many ways.   
We'd love to see you at the Assembly’s hearing, listening along with us to the testimony that's given. 



Posted Nov 27  -  NYinsideOUT

Helloooo fellow advocates!

First and foremost: Our most heartfelt thanks for taking the time to
show your support for this cause. The state of Parole in New York is
simply too abysmal to ignore. The problem? Many of US know it, but
we're just a drop in the bucket when it comes to New York's
electorate.

So please, if you get a chance, Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, HyperBlast
(which, if it doesn't exist yet most certainly will soon enough) and
Email this petition to Governor Cuomo to everyone you can get your
digital hands on. The direct link to the petition is:
http://chn.ge/1id9gMU

But if you've got a sec, consider this instead: Send them ALL our
social links. That's where the big picture will start to take shape;
that's how people will see just how serious we are about this cause:

For instance...

We've set up a first-of-it's-kind Citizen-Journalism Newsroom.
Our goal: to report on the state of parole in New York -- using 21st
Century reach and no-holds-barred creativity. In this Newsroom,
everyone has a place at the table as we dig into real,
honest-to-goodness stories -- stories fueled by you. And we're not
just talking Op-Ed pieces. We'll be producing and packaging TV
segments (think MSNBC), viral videos and more. Each time we'll begin
in the "Writers' Room," where story ideas will be pitched, built upon,
broken down, and ultimately evolve into our next assignment -- all
decided by "the room." And whatever we come up with, we focus our
entire pool of resources on it until it's done.

Then we send it out into the real world where it will create
conversations, inspire new ideas and live a life of its own.

Meanwhile, back at the Newsroom, we're back in pitch mode. And the fun
begins again.

Maybe it's a sticker campaign. Maybe it's a reality web-series. Maybe
it's a guest panel on Rachel Maddow.

Whatever it becomes, it will start as yours, grow as ours, and leave
the nest for everyone else out there to see.

Original content. Honest reporting. Creative beyond belief.

And everyone's invited.

https://twitter.com/NYinsideOUT
nyinsideout@gmail.com

Okay. Now.

Wednesday, December 4th (just 8 days away -- GULP!), we have a bus
gassed up and aimed at Albany for a State Assembly Public Hearing on
the Parole Board. Get the PDF here: http://bit.ly/18mvg3V and just
call or email (or tweet, even!) to reserve your seat. It's going to be
fun, it's going to be informative, and most of all: it's totally free!
The full-blown Tweet is here:
https://twitter.com/NYinsideOUT/status/405461323070189570

We're also getting our tumblr page up and running:
http://nyinsideout.tumblr.com

and our Google+ Page is now ready to get involved in your Circles -- a
great way to connect with people who have stories to contribute to our
Newsroom. Who knows -- yours might be the idea that sparks a viral
video or a new iPhone/Android app!
https://plus.google.com/103336203733656793956

And that's the update. Thank you for your support, and we can't tell
you how much we look forward to working with you in the coming year.

Sincerely,
The Team

Our Humble Request for Your Clicks:
Sign the Petition:
http://chn.ge/1id9gMU
Follow NYinsideOUT:
https://twitter.com/NYinsideOUT
Get On The Bus to Albany:
https://twitter.com/NYinsideOUT/status/405461323070189570
Get involved with the Newsroom:
nyinsideout@gmail.com
Circle Us on Google+ and Share Your Stories:
https://plus.google.com/103336203733656793956





Building Bridges
the monthly newsletter of Prison Action Network
November/December 2013


Dear Readers, 

It was great to see so many of you at the Kick-off events for the “Ending Parole Abuses- Reuniting Families” campaign in early November!  And it certainly was a kick-off!  So many good ideas were presented that we’ve been racing to begin implementing them.  Miraculously (if you ask me), shortly before the kick-off event, the Assembly’s Correction Committee announced a Hearing on Parole to be held in Albany on December 4th.  A sizable number of us will be testifying, so we used the closing plenary to hear from participants about what they hoped would be presented at the Hearing and their ideas for how everyone who wanted to, could have a voice.  It was decided that just being there, filling the room, would be a huge statement!  Maybe holding signs asking for Parole Reform Now!  

The Riverside Church Ministry offered bus transportation from NYC.  [If you would like to “get on the bus”, it departs Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave. at 6 am on Wed Dec 4.  To reserve a seat, call RESERVATIONS: LEWIS WEBB/212-598-0967 or NYINSIDEOUT@GMAIL.COM]  

If you are driving and would like to share a ride, or want directions, please call Judith at 518 253 7533.  

To donate to a fund to pay for the bus, please write a check to Riverside Church Prison Ministry, and send to:  Think Outside the Cell, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525,  New York, NY 10011

So we’ve been very busy following up the event.  And this leads to my annual apology to all of you who’ve written Prison Action Network and not received an answer.  It pains us very much to read your mail and have to put it aside while we work on some other urgent matter, and watch the pile get larger and larger until at some point it becomes impossible.  If you wrote us about some pressing issue, and it’s been months since then, and there’s still a use for our response, please try again.  Hopefully someone will offer to help us answer the mail.  

There will be no December issue, but we’ll aim for January 6 as the next publication date, and probably stick with that day of the month for awhile. We'll continue to publish important news and announcements here during the month. In the meantime we hope you will have something to be thankful for on November 28th, and for those celebrating religious holidays in December and January,  the staff at Prison Action Network hopes they will be meaningful times for you and your loved ones.
The Editor  
Table of Contents
1.  Parole News - Release statistics for October; 11 out of the 17 released parole applicants got released on their 2nd hearing and 2 on their first.  Is this preview of what will be normal once the SAFE Parole Act passes?

2Target bans the box.

3.  The Kick-off weekend for the Ending Parole Abuse - Reuniting Families Campaign 
NY Prisoner Justice Network
Prison Action Network
Corey Parks
Riverside Prison Ministry
Rev. Phelps, Riverside’s Sr. Minister

4.  Remembering Herman Wallace, who finally was exonerated and released 3 days before he died.
5.  Letter of apology to Afro-descendants from Albany NY Quakers 
6.  A barbershop dialogue between a formerly incarcerated man and a CO who knew him then, about the impact of the drug war on both of them.
 
7.  Petition for Unsealing the Meyer Report on the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility, which may answer questions about who gave orders, what those orders were, how the cover-ups were promulgated. 
8.  Sign the Change.org petition to Gov. Cuomo asking him to establish a commission on parole.



1.  Parole News:  
OCTOBER 2013 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONY OFFENSES - DIN #s through 2001  
unofficial research from parole database


Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
YTD Release Rate
18 Initials
2
16
11%
26%
76 Reappearances
15
61
20%
26%
94 total
17
77
18%
26%


Oct. ’13 Initial Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Otisville
49
25-life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
52
25-life
Mrd 2
1


Oct. ’13 Reappearance Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
38
18-life
Mrd 2
2
Bare Hill
48
20-life
Mrd 2
2
Cape Vincent                (JO)
34
9-life
Mrd 2
5
Clinton
41
20-life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill             (deportation)         
43
25-life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
46
25-life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
85
16-life
Mrd 2
2
Franklin
65
18-life
Mrd 2
2
Green Haven
47
20-life
Mrd 2
2
Green Haven    (deportation)
57
25-life
Mrd 2
2
Greene
48
25-life
Mrd 2
2
Groveland
54
15-life
Att Mrd 1
9
Marcy
50
15-life
Mrd 2
9
Mohawk
49
15-life
Mrd 2
2
Wende                      (died)                 
83
25-life
Mrd 2
11




2.  National Retailer Bans the Box

Everyone returning from prison is prepared to face a major obstacle to living a crime free life, the box that most employers have on their job application, which you’re asked to check if you’ve ever been convicted of a felony (some even include arrested...).  Checking it off means an end to hope for that job.  However, due to a growing public awareness of the unfairness of denying a job to someone who might be highly suited to it and whose crime had no relationship to it, there has been a shift to removing the box by some reasonable employers.  Target is one of the latest corporations to end the practice.  They have decided to remove questions about criminal history from its job applications throughout the nation, according to the New York Times article by Brent Staples,
“Target Bans the Box”,  published Oct. 29, 2013.



3.  Reports on “Ending Parole Abuses and Reuniting Families” Kick-off Weekend 

More Talk AND More Action!  New York State Prisoner Justice Network participates in the Riverside Church Prison Ministry’s November 8-10 Parole Reform Kickoff Weekend. 

“What does doing 25-life mean to me? As I mull over this question, I am reminded of Elmina, the Portuguese slave fortress, located on the West coast of Ghana, from which enchained afrikans were led through its infamous ‘door-of-no-return’ to the holds of waiting slave ships that would take them to the New World. I too feel as though I've walked through a door-of-no-return.”
 – H.B., Great Meadow C.F.

Among the letters New York State Prisoner Justice Network receives from people incarcerated in New York’s prisons, there’s a stream of heartbreaking stories about that door of no return. Because of those letters – your letters, incarcerated readers  – New York State Prisoner Justice Network has put parole justice in the forefront of our issues.

Parole injustice is an example of everything that is wrong with the criminal INjustice system. Contrary to what the parole system says about itself, its actual functioning – repeatedly denying parole to people who are clearly no danger and would be an asset to their communities – shows that it is based on punishment and revenge, even at the expense of community safety. And so NYSPJN has made a commitment to participate in the Riverside Prison Ministry’s yearlong parole reform initiative. 

Several important follow-up actions which NYSPJN supports were launched directly from the weekend. Friday night was the launch pad for a petition (see last page of this issue) urging Governor Cuomo to establish a commission on parole to comprehensively evaluate parole release policies and practices, and determine their public safety implications. The petition describes how the current system deprives parole applicants of a meaningful and fair opportunity to gain parole, return to their families, and reintegrate into society. A central goal of the yearlong campaign is to gather a large number of signatures on the petition and present them to the Governor. Together with other strategies, the petition is part of a plan to create enough public visibility to successfully pressure the Governor, the legislature, and other public officials to act.

Saturday was a full day of presentations, plenaries, and workshops. The morning opened with a panel of public figures, moderated by a formerly incarcerated parole justice activist, Kathy Boudin. Two legislators (Senator Parker and Assemblyman Aubry), two former parole board chairs (Robert Dennison and Ed Hammock), a parolee who won a strongly worded appeal decision (Hank Morris), and an advocate-attorney (Alan Rosenthal) not only described in horrifying detail what is wrong with the current system, but offered concrete suggestions for how to build a movement to change it. The gist of what they all said about how to change it was that if (but only if) we can create enough public pressure on the legislature, the Governor, and the parole board, we can win major reforms. “Follow the Governor around everywhere he goes with signs saying Parole Reform Now,” was the advice from one panel member. 


The heart of the weekend was a series of action-oriented workshops. New York State Prisoner Justice Network co-facilitated a workshop on coalition-building – our area of expertise. The people who attended the workshop came up with a creative menu of ideas for people and organizations we might approach to support the parole reform campaign, starting with “the choir” (groups already involved) and moving to “beyond the choir” – a wide range of new potential partners. Other workshops examined media strategies, data collection, board hearing preparation, litigation, and the SAFE Parole Act.

At the final plenary, we planned a first action: a strong presence at a legislative hearing on parole in Albany on December 4th. Advocates are preparing to testify, and Riverside Prison Ministry is bringing a busload of activists to make our movement visible. NYSPJN’s new local Albany affiliate, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, will bring people and plenty of those signs we were advised to follow officials around with: PAROLE REFORM NOW. 

We’ll let you know how it goes.


Report on the “All About the SAFE Parole Act” workshop presented by Prison Action Network

Along with a robust discussion of the bill’s provisions, the group told of their experiences with parole hearings and produced some valuable suggestions about how to get the bill passed.  This is a summary:
1.  Slogan / branding: we need to have a slogan and a brand that is catchy, easily accessible and consistent.  “Parole Reform Now” was suggested in the opening plenary and again in the final plenary, and because it includes all aspects of the parole system, it very likely will be a slogan you hear a lot for the rest of the campaign.  
    1. Going a step further than a slogan, we need to have a few key talking points that summarize the problem and what the Safe Parole Act does. For example, one might summarize the key changes made by the SAFE parole act as: i) changing the substantive criteria the Board can use in its decision-making; ii) enhancing the procedural protections for the Board process; and iii) providing guidance for applicants on what they can do to be released
2.  Mass Mobilization of People:  we need to build up a movement to pressure legislators to act. It was suggested to reach out to young people, the buses with families going upstate to visit their loved ones, the broader community, Unions.  And to use Facebook, twitter, instagram, and community radio (hot 97 and WBLS), along with art and music (ex: have an old school R & B concert) to reach more people.
3.  Targeting of Legislators: need to demystify the political process and pressure/convince individual legislators to sign on, perhaps have each member of the campaign assigned to one member of the legislature and be the point person to find allies in the district of that legislator and build a campaign in that district to pressure that legislator.
4.  Get 200 people to the Dec. 4 hearing in Albany; use stickers and signs
5.  Introduce other legislation as well – Sen. Parker recommended submitting legislation for the Parole Board’s written procedures that incorporate risk and needs principles (ie: the written procedures the Board was supposed to write after the 2011 amendments but hasn’t yet).

6.  At the next election, get rid of the four independent democrats.

These suggestions will be considered as the Campaign’s steering committee maps out the year’s strategies. 


Open letter to the incarcerated, by Corey Parks
I recently had the honor to go to Riverside Church and advocate with many others against the injustices of New York State Parole system. There were many speakers and workshops that presented great ideas.  One of them focused on the Safe Parole Act. The SAFE Parole Act is a bill geared to change the current practices of the parole board. It is evident that those who have rehabilitated themselves and have done all that are required, should be released to their loved ones in society. However, that is not the case for many men and woman who are denied freedom because of the nature of their crimes and the Board’s opinion that there’s a reasonable probability that they won’t remain at liberty once release.  This is the typical response from a parole panel that ignores the change and growth of an individual who sits before them.  At the Riverside Church event I listened as many family members and friends gave heart-felt testimonies concerning someone who is in the criminal justice system. More often than not, they want them back in society.  So how can we move forward to reshape the practices that promote mass incarceration?  Well, one way is to remain patient and not accrue any disciplinary infractions because catching infractions would only give the parole board further justification to deny release and would negate the work of advocates and families who fight for your release. Another way is to promote the petition to Governor Cuomo posted on www.change.org.  You can have your families and friends go on line and sign it. The more supporters, the better. Thirdly, if you want to share your personal story around your experiences with the parole board, contact Prison Action Network or myself and we will find ways to share your testimonies. I wish you all well and please remember that you are needed in society.
My new contact info:  Corey Parks, MBK Global, 2266 5th Avenue # 179, New York, NY 10037


The Riverside Church Prison Ministry urges you to raise your voice for parole reform:


If you’re reading this, there’s no doubt a good chance that you or your loved one has been—or will be—impacted by the parole board’s stunningly unjust policies and practices. To change this situation, we need you to get up out of your chair, roll up your sleeves and raise your voice for parole reform with the Ending Parole Abuses – Reuniting Families Campaign. Looking for a place to start? Join us at the State Assembly hearing on parole on Dec. 4 in Albany. It will begin at 10 am in Roosevelt Hearing Room C of the Legislative Office Building.    

One of our campaign’s main goals is a joint Senate-Assembly public hearing on parole. We view the upcoming Assembly hearing as an important step toward getting there. Attending will make us smarter, more aware of what we have and what we need in order to reach all our goals, so that the parole board no longer denies release to incarcerated men and women who have earned their freedom. Some of the speakers presenting testimony on Dec. 4 are staunch allies of the campaign and will help to turn a spotlight on parole’s failings. The spotlight will be brighter if people on the right side of justice—this means you—attend and demonstrate to legislators and parole commissioners that there is a growing movement for change.

We will build on the outcomes of the Assembly hearing as we plan our own, working with state legislators, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and other stakeholders to turn up the spotlight blindingly bright on the parole board’s unconscionable procedures. Our hearing will address and offer solutions to, among other issues, the parole board’s consideration of “the nature of the crime” in its decisions; parole board members’ flagrant flouting of the law in certain instances; Governor Cuomo’s process of appointing parole board commissioners; the need for transparency, accountability and public confidence in the parole board. In preparation for our hearing, we are calling on other stakeholders—notably academics, researchers and criminal justice organizations that work on such issues—to provide solid research that offers solutions and combats the half-truths and lies promoted by opponents of fair parole.

Other major campaign goals include having Governor Cuomo establish a Commission on Parole.  Such a commission, which would have oversight responsibilities, is necessary to ensure a lasting effect on parole policies—and to avoid the antiquated, inequitable parole board practices that have plagued this state and its citizens for the last 20 years. If you haven’t already done so, sign our Change.org petition calling for a commission.

The campaign is also flexing its muscles for passage of the Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act, which calls for parole applicants to be fairly considered.  

For the Dec. 4 hearing, a bus will depart from the Riverside Church at 6 am that day. To reserve a seat contact Lewis Webb at 212-598-0967 or NYINSIDEOUT@GMAIL.COM.

See you at the hearing!


“Make the Inside Out”; the Sermon by Rev. Stephen Phelps at Riverside Church on November 10th concluded the kick-off weekend:
Texts on Sunday, November 10, 2013:  Isaiah 58: 1-9; Luke 12: 54-59

Excerpt: for the full text please click on this address: http://shphelps.com/se/2013/Make.The.Inside.Out.pdf


Forty years ago, in the wake of the rebellion at Attica Prison, Rev. Robert Polk of the Riverside clergy founded the Riverside Prison Ministry. Throughout this past weekend, the Prison Ministry has been celebrating this anniversary by anchoring a year-long campaign to bring light and change to life-destroying parole practices in this state and in this society.
Forty-one years ago, in response to that rebellion at Attica, a Rochester man named Steere began a ministry at Attica prison. It still goes on. Volunteers and men inside join each week in a conversation about one thing only, what it is like to be in your own skin, with your own burdens, and how you learn from it.  ...I learned and experienced [a lot] during ten years with that program.

Forty years of ministry is a good thing. But let’s let that number, “forty years,” seep into our skin alongside the ancient scriptures we have just heard, for our societies haven’t much to show for long exposure to the word of God; and in these United States, the last forty years have looked more like years of wilderness wandering with no Moses and no true law at all.  Since those terrible days at Attica, the criminal American justice system has multiplied its prison population sixfold, from 350,000 to more than two million. Those being watched by parole and probation exceed five million men and women. They are blocked from public housing or help with the price of food. “The box” blocks them from working.  [Some] states block the formerly incarcerated from voting, forever, as if to say You will never have a place among us. It seems ...society aims to destroy them.
~~~~~~
The writings of Isaiah and the teaching of Jesus have been with us for thousands of years, yet what sign is there that this Jesus-loving nation hears the word of the Lord? Undo the thongs of the yoke? Loose the bonds of injustice? Break every yoke? Let the oppressed go free? The punishing habits in America smash at these precious commandments like a man in drunken despair destroying his household. What an astonishing caricature of justice American voters have installed in the halls of power! If a family came to a counselor vexed by reckless behaviors resembling those of our society, and if the father blamed all his problems on his children, what therapist would not dread to take the case, with such an ignorant, dangerous man at the head of the household?

Of course we are in a crazy family! Of course the very seat of violence and crime is warmed by the powerful, and of course it shows up hot as crime and war only outside the paneled halls of power, like steam from a pressure cooker. Of course the force of racism is driving this family to the brink of madness, and of course the courts deny it. Just so easy would it be for courts to admit that the system is racist and broken as for an abusive householder, with his hand raised for another blow, suddenly to stop and feel how gone wrong he is, and collapse in weeping weakness—and be free at last, free at last, thanking God almighty.  Just so easy as that is transformation: not easy.

What is holding American society in bondage to bondage and violence? Why are we in a prison of prisons? Even in the church, why do we struggle to learn the first lesson about not using the courts to settle differences, but rather our hearts? “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” Jesus asks. What answer to these questions can be worth holding?
~~~~~~
Now, I believe that laws can be agents of good, as of evil. Therefore, like you, I want to see bad laws changed. I am very moved by the concrete steps proposed by the Riverside Prison Ministry and our coalition allies to bring political pressure to bear to make a difference in the lives of prisoners who deserve to be paroled. Yet, taking not one word from these hopes and commitments, I also affirm that it is spiritual movement that causes political movement, and not the other way around. In other words, it matters for the political transformation of America that you and I undergo personal transformations. Religion in America is only irrelevant insofar as the religious keep changing the subject. The subject is not blaming them, the bad guys, who ever we think them to be. The subject is not even God. God is fine, whether we pay attention or not. The subject is not, frankly, praising Jesus. Jesus would be appalled at the amount of song sung at him by people who have neither desire nor time nor tools to be made like him in his love, like him in his suffering. The subject of Jesus’ crucifixion-resurrection is our transformation, in our self, in our city, in our nation, in our world. Start where you are.

Jesus warns his hearers, Settle your case with your accuser, lest there follow a chain of reactions that cast you in prison, from which you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny. America is already in that chain reaction, already down to spending the last penny trying to abuse them called criminals, so as not to have to see and to say, I am a criminal. ... First, remember: Only the forgiven can forgive. Then, have confidence that the paths we mark out for spiritual transformation matter for a whole world. Not finally as benefits to you personally does the path matter. Your own life is important, but not important enough for it to be your life’s purpose! No, the spiritual path is the path for others, for a whole people. It is the beginning of God’s politics and of God’s reign.

I leave you with this from Victor Frankl’s account, in Man’s Search for Meaning, of what some prisoners in the Nazi death camps did for other prisoners to bring them through their despair. What he says here can inform all that we are called to. He writes that it was necessary“ . . . to teach the despairing that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us; to stop asking about the meaning of life and instead think of ourselves as being questioned by life [and finding that] our answer must come in right action and right conduct.” (p. 122)

...You are called to reveal the light within you for all without. You are called to learn and to witness to the great reversal, which the apostle calls “power made perfect in weakness.” You are called to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free—yes, the oppressed within you first. You are called to make the inside out.
Rev. Stephen H. Phelps © 2013 Stephen H. Phelps,  The Riverside Church in the City of New York



4.  Remembering Herman Wallace (1941-2013)
by Karima Amin

Recently Herman Wallace died, after spending more than 40 years behind bars in solitary confinement.  He and his co-defendants, Robert King and Albert Woodfox (“The Angola Three”), had spent most of their time in prison at Louisiana State Penitentiary, aka “Angola,” aka “The Farm.” Back in 2005, when Prisoners Are People Too had its first meeting, we screened “The Farm: Angola USA,” a film about Louisiana State Penitentiary, a prison farm located on a 18,000 acre property which was previously a plantation. What happens there today is little different from what happened there when enslaved Africans worked the land. Disrespect, humiliation, mental and physical abuse, and murder is the order of the day.

Herman Wallace and his co-defendants were convicted of the 1972 stabbing murder of a prison guard, 23-year-old Brent Miller. Interestingly enough, there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime, DNA evidence was lost, and the testimony of the main eyewitness (a jailhouse snitch) was discredited.  Miller’s wife has repeatedly and openly stated that she does not believe that these men were responsible for the death of her husband. After 29 years, Robert King’s conviction was overturned on appeal and he was released. King has worked tirelessly to build international recognition and support for the plight of “The Angola Three.” 

Albert Woodfox is still in solitary confinement.

Herman Wallace died on October 4, 2013.

The US government denies the existence of political prisoners.  These are men and women who remain incarcerated for their political views and actions.  Wallace and Woodfox were members of the prison’s chapter of the Black Panther Party. As activists, they worked to improve conditions at Angola. They organized petitions and hunger strikes to protest segregation within the prison, and to end systemic rape and violence. 

For decades, Herman Wallace endured the torture of solitary confinement and the lack of proper medical care, even after a diagnosis of liver cancer. His many attempts to present his case to the courts, proclaiming his innocence, were dismissed and ignored. On October 1, 2013, a federal court overturned his murder conviction, saying that his confinement had been unfair and unconstitutional. On October 2, dying of liver cancer, Mr. Wallace was finally taken from the prison by family and friends. On October 4, he joined the Ancestors.

At the next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, we will screen the award –winning documentary “Herman’s House” which details a project that Herman Wallace participated in with filmmaker Angad Bhalla and artist, Jackie Sumell. The question was asked: “After forty years of living in a 6 foot by 9 foot prison cell for 23 hours a day, for more than forty years, what kind of house do you dream about?” The film details the symbolic meaning of Herman’s dream house. Join us on Monday. November 25, 7:00-9:00pm (note time change), at the Pratt-Willert Community 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 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org 
or BaBa Eng, g.babaeng@yahoo.com.



5.  Letter of apology to Afro-descendants

We, members and attenders of Albany Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, apologize to Afro-descendants* everywhere for Quaker participation in the terrible act of enslaving your ancestors, and for the negative effects this continues to have on succeeding generations.

Slavery is an abomination: A crime against humanity. We apologize that New York Quakers, as an organization, acquiesced to allow the holding of Africans and African Americans in bondage until 1798. We particularly regret that Quakers participated in or profited from slavery, capitalized on the products of the unpaid labor and suffering of enslaved people, and were enriched by an economy based on chattel slavery. We further regret and apologize for Quakers who participated in or profited from the trafficking in Africans and African Americans.

In addition, we abhor the decades of terror, persecution, and legalized racial segregation that followed the legal abolition of slavery. We are appalled that the 13th Amendment of our Constitution allows for legal enslavement of people "as a punishment for crime", and has been used to continue the enslavement of African Americans.

Over the centuries individual Quakers and Quaker groups have worked with others toward abolishing slavery and racism, and to support African Americans in the assertion of their human and civil rights. We honor the work of these Quakers, and acknowledge their legacy to contemporary Quakers. We are inspired to follow their example.

The Quaker community has been slow to own our participation in slavery, segregation, and any benefits we obtain from these abominations. We acknowledge that many people who enjoy a high standard of living today, are still, to some degree, benefiting from unpaid and underpaid labor of enslaved Africans, African Americans, and their descendants. Hereafter, we pledge ourselves to better understand our own history, to educate ourselves, to discern how we as Quakers are called to advance racial justice for all, and to explore reparations.

* "Afro-descendants" is a term now officially in use by the United Nations to identify the more than 250 million descendants of enslaved Africans dwelling in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Slavery Diaspora.



6.  A barbershop dialogue
John Brown Lives! and the Center for Law & Justice invite you to participate in THE CORRECTION--a dialogue about the ‘war on drugs’ and its 40-year impacts, to inform where we go from here.  JOIN US in Albany on December 10!

Two NewYorkers---one convicted under the Rockefeller Drug Laws over 30 years ago, the other his recreation leader working for the NYS Department of Corrections at a minimum-security facility in the Adirondacks--reunite to talk with one another about the impacts of the drug war on their lives, their families, and their communities.
DECEMBER 10,  Bricks Barbershop, 67 Central Avenue, Albany
7:00 Fellowship and Refreshments
7:30 BrotherYusuf Abdul-Wasi and Joe Hackett in conversation
RSVP by Dec 8, as limited seating may require a change in venue. 518-330-6320  wasi@nycap.rr.com 518-744-7112  mswan@capital.net
John Brown Lives! a freedom education and human rights project
PO Box 357 Westport NY 12993  info@johnbrownlives.org 518-744-7112

7.  Submissions invited on whether to unseal the Meyer Report on the 1971 Attica Uprising
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants you to make your feelings known on whether the state Supreme Court should unseal the Meyer Report on the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility, an action the AG has been pushing for. In a media release, he notes that the court will accept written submissions through Jan. 17.   The application is pending before Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer, who has said he’ll schedule a date for a hearing on the application after the submission deadline has passed. From the AG’s release:
Written submissions should be mailed to:  Patrick H. NeMoyer, Supreme Court Justice Buffalo, City Court Building, 50 Delaware Avenue, Part 34,  Buffalo, NY 14202
Copies of submissions must also be mailed to Michael J. Russo, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Attorney General’s Buffalo Office, to the following address:  Office of the New York State Attorney General Buffalo Regional Office, 350 Main Street,Suite 300A,  Buffalo, NY 14202.

Requests for a copy of Attorney General Schneiderman’s application may be made by sending an email to AAG Russo at Michael.Russo@ag.ny.gov or by sending a letter to his attention at the Buffalo Regional Office. He can also be contacted at 716-853-8479 regarding any questions about this process.
In 2011, Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, a Queens Democrat who was then the leader of the Assembly’s Correction Committee, asked Mr. Schneiderman’s office to take steps to seek the release of the Meyer report.  Mr. Aubry on Friday praised Mr. Schneiderman for taking action. He suggested the unreleased contents of the report would be of interest not only to survivors and their families, but also to historians and students of criminal justice policy.
“There have always been the lingering questions about certain aspects of who gave orders, what those orders were, how the cover-ups were promulgated,” Mr. Aubry said, adding, “We have tried to get attorneys general in the past years to do this, and so Eric has been the first to step up and take this issue on.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he and his staff members were “in the process of evaluating what mode, timing and mechanics of release will best balance a number of imperatives,” like enabling public access while also respecting the grand jury process.


8.  Please sign the Campaign’s Change.org petition and ask everyone you know to sign:

You may click here Change.org or on the link below to sign our petition asking NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo to establish a Commission on Parole. Every year thousands of incarcerated men and women who have earned their freedom are repeatedly, vengefully and unjustly denied parole by the New York State Parole Board. By signing our petition you will be helping us to end parole abuses and reunite families.


Thank you for making a difference!  

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to communicate with our members.  Please contact us if you’d like to join.