Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

APRIL/MAY 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 April/May edition.

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Posted May 11:  Prison Action Network

Albany Times Union prints third letter to the editor in support of parole reform and the SAFE Parole Act S1128/A4108!   Read here.



Posted May 9:  JAC

Keep up the pressure against solitary confinement and brutality in NYC Jails


Rally with JAC (Jails Action Coalition) and demand an end to the torture
Monday, May 13
Rally outside at 8:15am
Board of Correction Meeting Inside at 9:00 am
1 Centre St., 9th flr, Rm 924
NY NY 10007


Send questions to: nycjailsactioncoalition@gmail.com



Posted May 9:  Prison Action Network
SAFE Parole Act is getting press!

A letter supporting parole reform and the SAFE Parole Act appeared in the Times Union yesterday. And today another!
  


Posted May 5: Prison Action Network

We have just sent messages to President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels, Congressional leaders, and members of the media asking for the COMPASSIONATE RELEASE OF LYNNE STEWART NOW!!

Please take the time to do the same by clicking on this link.  
Thanks!



Dear Reader,

  For the next six months, and maybe forever, we will be publishing on the 25th of the month.  It appears that we will be able to publish parole releases from the previous month this way.  (Learned when we accidentally deleted February’s data.)  We’ll have February and April’s statistics for you in our next edition. 
Be well, stay strong, and please, don’t give up hope,  ~The Editor
SUMMARIES:

1. Especially if you're a veteran who's done time in prison, or are the family member of an incarcerated veteran, you will welcome this opportunity to do some important healing - not only of your own pain, but of the system that then landed you in prison - in a luxurious setting, with all expenses except your transportation paid.  All veterans and their families are invited!

2. Legislation considered in both houses of our legislature reveals the progress of our movement to make change in the legal system that controls our lives.  Merit time bill is defeated.  Sigh....

3. Second Look Think Tank at Sullivan met with retiring DOCCS Commissioner Fischer and Vanda Seward,  Dir. of Statewide Reentry Services, for a discussion of issues that affect all stakeholders in the reintegration process.

4. Parole News:   March releases;  Volunteer wanted to help with statistics;  Morris’s judicial victory validates that the Parole Board deliberately holds some people in prison despite their readiness for reentry;  advice on meeting appeal deadlines;  Legal Aid Society wins Art 78 claiming Div of Parole used illegal tactics to avoid FOIL disclosures.

5.  Preceding Michelle Alexander's presentation at Hamilton College, the NYS Prisoner Justice Network held a meet-up for its statewide membership to describe their roles in this growing movement for justice; your group, including organizations from inside prisons, is invited to be listed in their revised 2013/2014 Prisoner Justice Network Directory.

6. The NYS Parole Reform Campaign has revitalized their attempts to convince NYS legislators to do what so many New Yorkers understand is the morally correct thing to do, pass the SAFE Parole Act.  It is time the Parole Board has legislation that allows them to fully commit their attention to evaluating the risks an applicant poses to his or her community.

7.  Buffalo's Prisoners Are People Too,  Inc. will meet on April 29 to discuss the stigma that exists throughout our communities and taints the decisions designed to provide  "justice for all".

8.  RAPP and DTR join in taking on the critical issue of people aging and dying in prison.

9.  Cory Parks points out the importance of self-reflection to our health and our vocational success.

10. Job opportunities in Albany NY 

11.  Mothers of Bedford screening in Hudson NY follows women who are learning to provide their children with positive nurturing even from behind bars. 

12.  Keeping Jerry Balone's memory alive begins by sharing our stories of his impact on our lives.  It will appear monthly in these pages as long as the stories keep coming.

13.  Our actions are the seeds of our children's futures.  A 12 year old child asks her advocate mother why there are so many black people in prison.  Many who are decades older have yet to pose that important question.

14. Needle Wizards can't have crochet hooks in the colors reserved for prison staff only.  Imagine confusing a crochet hook with a correctional officer!


1.  In Our Name: Restoring Justice for Veterans; a Memorial Day weekend retreat, symposium & barbecue

MAY 23 - MAY 26.   All conference expenses paid for veterans and their families.  

   "When Johnny Comes Marching Home...and Gets Arrested - From Honor to Dishonor and Back"

Where: Christ the King Spiritual Life Center
                        575 Burton Road,  Greenwich, New York 12834
What: Retreat and Symposium focusing on Veterans in the American   Justice System 
When: Thursday, May 23 - Retreat for Veterans
Friday, May 24th thru Sunday, May 26th - Symposium and Barbecue
Veterans, concerned professionals, advocates and members of the academic and general community will discuss the state of veterans in our criminal justice system; and will call for actions for reform.  Enjoy an idyllic 600 acre facility with lodging, dining and conference accommodations on site.  If you are a veteran or have a family member who is a veteran, or you’re a veterans’ advocate, you qualify for a scholarship for the registration (conference, meals and accommodations).  
The day long healing retreat Thursday evening through Friday afternoon - is available to Veterans and their families or advocates.  It is followed by the symposium which starts Friday with a 4 pm registration, to which all are invited.
Workshops (with audience participation) begin after dinner on Friday night and continue through Sunday afternoon:

Friday at 7pm:
Defending Our Veteran’s Freedom: Dr. Edward Tick & Kate Dahlstedt, Soldier’s Heart ; Judge Thomas Keefe, Albany Drug Court;  Prof. John Ostwald, MA, Psychology, US Navy retired.

Saturday:
Restoring the Errant Veteran: Susan M. Verbeke, Guidance Specialist for Veterans Program, NYS DOCCS.    

Restoring the Errant Woman Veteran: Amy Larmon, Program Director, Womens Veterans Program, Samaritan Village. 

Teaching Peace: John Amidon, President, Veterans for Peace.  

Gentle Strength–Healing the Wounded Warrior: Bob Nevins, Co-Founder of Saratoga WarHorse [hands-on in the horse barn.]

Veterans Speakout, Dr. Edward Tick, Moderator
Healing a Broken System: Veterans Battling Addiction and Incarceration: Gabriel Sayegh, Drug Policy Alliance
Play, Memorial Day:  Brian Delate, Writer/Director and Vietnam Veteran 

Sunday  
Interfaith healing service:  Rev. Nigel Mumford, Welcome Home Initiative;
Dr. Edward Tick, Soldier’s Heart;  Rev. Joseph Caron, Ret. Chaplain Mt. McGregor CF
Defending the Accused Veteran: Jonathan E. Gradess, Executive Director of New York State Defenders Association

From Honor to Dishonor and Back: One Veteran’s Journey:  Paul Henderson, Esq. Retired Lt Col, US Army

Keynote Speaker-An Alternative to Jail for Veterans:  Hon. Robert T. Russell, Jr., Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, Buffalo, NY

Presentation of the Colors: VFW Post
Memorial Day BBQ, Poetry Readings and Music:  Lem Genovese, Yankee Medic Records Paul Henderson, Musician; Derrick Anderson, Poet; Kate Dahlstedt, Poet;  Dr. Edward Tick, Poet; Cara Bensen, Poet & Teacher

***Please be aware that space is limited and will be filled quickly, so you are urged to register before April 30. You may download the registration form and mail it to the address indicated: If you don’t have internet access, call 518-581-7933 to have a form sent to you.  



2.  Legislation:  These bills were considered since the last issue.

Some bills have been referred to other committees, and some have “Advanced to the Calendar - for first, second or third report”.  The Daily Calendar is the agenda for the legislative sessions and contains those measures which have come through the committee process.  Bills take their place in order as they are reported from committee, and at this point are referred by their Calendar Number. This process allows additional time for your reaction against or for a bill.  Each bill has to be on the legislators' desks for three days before it can be voted on, unless the Governor authorizes and the house accepts a Message of Necessity for a certain bill.  When bills reach the Order of Third Reading, they become ready for a final vote.  In which case those that are listed as such below may have been voted on by the time you are reading this.

On Tuesday March 19 the Assembly’s Corrections Committee met and passed all the bills that were presented:

A00231/S01353       Kavanagh/Parker Relates to medical, educational and other services, including alcohol and substance abuse treatment available for inmates of state correctional facilities upon their release there from.   Advanced to third calendar reading.

A04106/S01327 Aubry/Montgomery Provides inmates with the opportunity to obtain a general equivalency diploma.  Referred to ways and means.

A04583/no same as    O'Donnell Holds inmates that suffer from mental illness for emergency purposes.  Delivered to Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee.

A04586/no same as         O'Donnell        Defines sexually violent offender as applied to out-of-state offenders.     Delivered to Senate’s Codes Committee.

A04887/S03357 Hassell-Thompson Relates to the definition of "direct relationship" for the purposes of article 23-A of the correction law regarding the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses.    Advanced to third calendar reading.

On Monday April 22 the Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee considered the following bills:
PLEASE NOTE:   Bills S.313, S.1377 and S.1415 have been placed on the agenda pursuant to Senate Rule VII, §3(e) - Motion for Committee Consideration:  "No motion for committee consideration shall be in order after the first Monday in May.  The sponsor of any bill may file, through the Journal Clerk, a motion for committee consideration forty-five days after the bill has been referred  to  such committee. Once a motion for committee consideration is filed, the chair of the committee shall place the bill on a committee agenda and schedule a vote on the bill within forty-five days. In the case of a bill that is referred  to a standing committee having secondary reference, the bill shall be considered within the next two committee meetings."

S.313/no same as  
Diaz
Establishes a home visitation program for elderly and invalid victims of violent crime.     Reported and committed to Aging 
S.1073/A3817 
Maziarz/Miller
Defines residency as any place of abode, domicile or inhabitance where a convicted sex offender spends or intends to spend more than two days a week.               1st Report Cal.396

S.1191/no same as

Flanagan

Does not allow any defendant to profit from his or her crime.
 Reported and Committed to Finance 

S.1377/no same as 

Montgomery

Allows all inmates, except those serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, murder in the first degree, incest, an offense defined in article two hundred sixty-three of the penal law,an act of terrorism, aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any such offense, to earn merit time allowance.        Defeated 
S.1390 /no same as
Skelos
Makes failure to register or verify under the sex offender registration act or violation of the prohibition of sex offenders working on motor vehicles engaged in retail sales of frozen desserts a Class D felony.  1st Report Cal.397

S.1415/no same as 

Montgomery

Expands prison work release program eligibility and participation
Reported and committed to Codes.

S.1764 /A1220

LaValle/Thiele

Requires notification by school districts of sex offender residence; and apportions funds to school districts for certain expenses related to sex offender notification.         1st Report Cal. 398
S.2745 /A.5649 
Golden/Englebright
Provides crime victims with emergency awards to replace certain medical equipment.  Reported and Committed to Finance  

S.4342/no same as


Gallivan

Makes ineligible for merit, presumptive release, and limited credit time, offenders convicted of certain homicide, hate, terrorism and major drug trafficking crimes.  Ordered to third reading Cal.392
S.4445A/no same as

Golden
Increases penalties for certain violent felony offenses committed upon a police officer.       Ordered to third reading Cal.394


3.  DOCCS Commissioner Fischer Meets with Incarcerated Men’s Think Tank

In a historic visit, DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer met on April 5 with men of the Second Look Think Tank at Sullivan Correctional Facility to discuss ways to promote successful reintegration while enhancing public safety. Second Look—an approved policy group that researches, analyzes and proposes policy on parole issues—organized the meeting as a reintegration conference focusing primarily on four issues: Transitional Accountability Plan (TAP), offender classification and movement, restoring work release for violent felony offenders, and parole board practices and community supervision.

Commissioner Fischer was accompanied by Vanda R. Seward, Director of Statewide Reentry Services.  Members of Second Look who participated were Nzinger Alimase, Stanley Bellamy, Bruce Bryant, Joseph Robinson, Jose Saldana and Jose Soltero.

Joe Robinson, a founding member of Second Look, set the meeting’s tone by stressing that incarcerated people are stakeholders in the reintegration process. Because they actually “live”  DOCCS policies and practices on a daily basis, he said, they are in a unique position to evaluate their effectiveness.  “There needs to be accountability for all stakeholders,” Robinson said, adding that DOCCS needs to develop a means to measure progress toward its goal of successful reintegration. 

On the issue of TAP, Ms. Seward said that DOCCS would develop a “Case Plan,” the functional equivalent of the legislatively mandated TAP.

Second Look called for transparency in the classification and movement process, which determines the security classification of incarcerated people and where they are housed.  Commissioner Fischer appeared receptive to a suggestion by Jose Soltero that DOCCS officially recognize some of the values-based programs created by incarcerated people as worthy of being highlighted in parole board release considerations. “Some of the most effective programs are the ones you guys create and run,” Commissioner Fischer said. “I just don’t want to impose a particular program on a statewide basis. They should be developed on the facility level, though. People are more likely to be receptive.”

To the men’s call to restore work release to violent felony offenders, Commissioner Fischer said that the general public and elected officials “see the crime, they see violent felony offenders, not the person who’s evolved, who has worked on himself [sic}.”  Stanley Bellamy suggested that Governor Cuomo should not only restore work release for qualified violent felony offenders, but should also incorporate it in his “Work for Success” employment initiative.

About A.R.T. (Aggression Replacement Training), Commissioner Fischer said, “We can’t just do away with it. We’d need to replace it with something that works.” Robinson suggested a restorative justice model, based on reconciliation between incarcerated people and victims of crime. Both the Commissioner and Ms. Seward replied that it’s a sensitive issue, and that they can’t be certain that either incarcerated people or victims would be ready to participate.

Bellamy and Nzinger Alimase said DOCCS should recommend and offer one-on-one and group therapy to all incarcerated people, throughout their sentences, as a way to address the “perpetual” traumatic stress they experience and to de-stigmatize therapy so that they more willingly seek professional help. Jose Saldana recommended “A Challenge to Change,” a program he co-founded, as a cognitive-behavioral therapy model that should be adopted by DOCCS and used in every prison.

The Commissioner acknowledged that vocational programs were lacking.  “We’re almost a generation behind.” He said that due to finite resources, computer literacy programs—including simulated Internet—are available in medium-security prisons, where people have shorter sentences.  Because many who are eligible for medium-security transfers are instead housed in maximum-security prisons until their release, he said he recognized that such 21st-century programs ought to be brought to some maximum-security facilities.



4.  Parole News

MARCH 2013 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database

We lost some of the data for the February Releases after starting on the March statistics.  There was no time to recreate the February data, so we are giving you the March statistics this month instead, and in May/June you will see the February releases.  We are very sorry for any disappointment and confusion this may cause.


Total Interviews    
# Released
   # Denied
Rate of Release
23 Initials
6
      17
26%
95 reappearances
33 
      62
35%
118 total
39
      79           
33%


MARCH Initial Releases      

Facility
Sentence
Offense
Cayuga
20-Life
Murder 2
Eastern
18-Life
Murder 2
Franklin
20-Life
Murder 2
Otisville  *
25-Life
Murder 2
Otisville
25-Life
Murder 2
Wyoming
25-Life
Murder 2


MARCH Reappearances

Facility
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Adirondack
20-Life
Murder 2
7th
Bare Hill
15-Life
Murder 2
5th
Coxsackie
25-Life
Murder 2
medical
Elmira
27 2/3-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
5th
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
9th
Fishkill
20-Life
Murder 2
4th
Fishkill
26-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
15-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Franklin
5-Life
Murder 2
9th
Gouverneur
20-Life
Kidnap 1
6th
Green Haven
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Marcy
20-Life
Murder 2
5th
Marcy
16 ½-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Midstate
20-Life
Murder 2
10th
Mohawk
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Mohawk  ***
15-Life
Murder 2
9th
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
6th
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
9th
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
7th
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Otisville
15-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Otisville
15-Life
Murder 2
5th
Otisville
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Otisville
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Shawangunk  **
17-Life
Att Murd 1    
4th
Wende
20-Life
Murder 2
7th
Woodbourne
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Woodbourne
19-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Woodbourne
30-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Woodbourne
22-Life
Murder 2
2nd

*Released for Deportation Only, **Special Consideration hearing, ***will have a rescission hearing


** Howard Marnell was granted parole in March after serving 30 years in prison on his sentence of 15 years to life.  “We need the public to be outraged about this,” said one of the victim’s family members.  It is understandable that the family still suffers from its aftermath.  Indeed it would be hard to find anyone who would argue his crime was not horrendous, probably including Mr. Marnell, himself.  But outrage and revenge will do nothing to bring back the victim, and does nothing but cause more suffering and pain, including on the part of the offender’s family.  Yet that is what may happen.  His release was temporarily suspended after his family rallied against the parole board’s decision, and a rescission hearing, scheduled for May 6, will determine whether the Parole Board will reverse its decision or not.

Family members claim,  “The parole board granted a man’s release without looking at his full history, without looking at victim impact statements.”  But they don’t know the man’s full history either.  They know only one fact about their offender; the horrible thing he did to their family.  They are not allowed access to information that might well reassure them of the offender’s transformation over the years; nor the results of a scientific assessment of his risk of re-offending, nor a review of his institutional behaviors nor his plans for life on the outside.  Are they even aware that the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will be monitoring him for as many years as they feel necessary?  Parole release is not an open door through which a “brutal murderer” returns to his community only to kill again.  In fact very few people who commit murder ever repeat their crimes because most murders are a one-time act, not a character trait.   

In the past few years the public has become more aware of the need to judge people by who they are today and not by the worst thing they ever did.  We are learning to believe in second chances because we all have had them.  The Parole Board is to be commended when they show courage to do the right thing and release people who show minimal risk of reoffending!  That is what the Parole Board gets paid for!  To evaluate a person’s present state of mind and their risk of committing another crime.

URGENT CALL:  BUILDING BRIDGES is losing our statistician.  If you like numbers, are computer literate, and have 4-5 hours available each month, we will happily train you to compile the statistics our readers value so highly.  Please send an email if interested.

Supreme Court Justice Mott rules that the Parole Board’s stated rationale for denying parole release to Hank Morris, the "probability" of re-offense, has no basis in fact.
Supreme Court Justice Richard Mott of Columbia County has accused the state parole board of manipulating the process to unjustly keep Hank Morris behind bars for as long as possible.  Morris has served 25 months of a 1 1/3-to-4 year sentence and paid $19 million in restitution.  Although Morris has no prior record, has served beyond the guideline range for his offense, has an unblemished prison disciplinary history, ties to the community and a job waiting, the parole board has repeatedly denied him release. As they have in the denials of many of our readers, the board claimed that Morris' release would be "incompatible with the public safety and welfare" and that there is a reasonable "probability" that Morris would re-offend.
In his April 12 decision Justice Mott said there was no basis for that conclusion and directed the parole board to grant Morris a new hearing by April 22.  Subsequent to writing his decision, the judge said he has received evidence from the state that shows the board ignored its own internal evaluation of Morris, and knew when it denied him parole that its reasons were baseless and took steps to evade judicial review.  Referring to an internal inmate status report prepared by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, a portion of which indicates that Morris is no threat to society,  Mott said that the stated rationale for denying him release, the "probability" of re-offense, has no basis. Mott also argues that by repeatedly denying Morris parole and leaving him to seek administrative review for redress, the board has attempted to avoid judicial scrutiny on mootness grounds.
The only relief a judge can provide to an inmate wrongly denied parole is a new hearing. If an inmate has had or is about to have the next regularly scheduled hearing before objections to a prior decision are litigated, courts routinely find the complaint moot and the process begins anew. In the Morris case, the state argued the claim was moot because the inmate had received a subsequent parole interview.
But Mott refused to let the state off the hook on mootness grounds and instead ruled on the merits. In his follow-up opinion, Mott said the new evidence demonstrates how the parole board's "machinations repeatedly have subverted review of the merits of [Morris'] claims, thereby shielding [the inmate status report] from release" and review by a court.
"...this court is now persuaded ... that the Board indeed failed to weigh the required statutory factors in making its decision, thereby laying bare its intentions arbitrarily and unjustifiably to imprison [Morris] for as long as possible and then immunize its actions from judicial scrutiny by relying on the mootness doctrine," Mott wrote. Under the judge's initial order, Morris is entitled to a new parole interview by April 22 before a different panel than the one that denied him release last August.
Prison Action Network notes that the SAFE Parole Act would provide the protections that only someone with Hank Morris’s access to superb legal representation can win in court.   
[John Caher, whose column in the NYLJ formed the basis for this article, can be reached at  jcaher@alm.com or by writing John Caher, Senior Reporter,  New York Law Journal,  29 Elk Street,  Albany, NY 12207]
Meeting administrative appeal deadlines:
People are still complaining about not receiving their parole hearing transcripts in time to make their administrative appeal deadlines. Since I realized that transcripts from all past parole boards are kept at the facility parole office, and that they get a copy of the record before we do, I have found a simple way around the problem.  Submit a FOIL request pursuant to Public Officers Law §89 et seq, for a copy of the transcript.  Best to wait a month after your board to file it.  Send it to the Facility Parole Office with a disbursement form.  They have 5 business days to answer and 20 days to either give it to you or tell you why you cannot receive it.
Hoping this will speed up the process for you,  a Jailhouse Lawyer

Legal Aid Society wins Article 78 against NYS Div. Of Parole (now part of DOCCS)
The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ordered DOCCS division of Community Supervision (previously the NYS Division of Parole) to pay a requestor’s attorney’s fees and costs and accused the state of using illegal tactics to avoid disclosures allowed by the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

In April 2010, the Legal Aid Society of New York City made a FOIL request to the NYS Division of Parole for documents regarding the division’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Division acknowledged the request and informed petitioner that a response would be forthcoming in approximately 20 days. However, the timely response promised was not received.

The Court decision came down after a long battle, beginning in July 2010, by the Legal Aid Society during which they filed an administrative appeal in December 2010 requesting that either responsive documents be produced or that a certification be issued affirming that the Division did not have such records or that they could not be found after a diligent search, as required by Public Officers Law§ 89.  Almost 3 months later the Division said they had no record of the appeal.  Finally in July 2011 they filed an Article 78 seeking an order requiring the state to respond and asking for counsel fees and costs as well.  The counsel to the Board of Parole, who was previously counsel to the Division before its merger with the Department of Correctional Services, said the requested documents could not be found and the Supreme Court dismissed the petition as moot.

The Legal Aid Society appealed on the grounds that this was the first time the state had claimed it did not possess the documents which goes against the FOIL requirement  that “an agency must either disclose the record sought, deny the request and claim a specific exemption to disclosure, or certify that it does not possess the requested document and that it could not be located after a diligent search”.

After continued pursuit of the documents the petitioner finally received all the information that it requested and the court ordered the state to pay for their counsel fees and costs.


5.  A Growing Movement for Justice  
by the New York State Prisoner Justice Network

On April 17th, the NYS Prisoner Justice Network hosted a meet-up of upstate New York prisoner justice organizations immediately preceding an inspiring and eloquent speech by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, at Hamilton College, near Utica.  
About fifty activists, representing justice organizations in  Buffalo, Rochester, Ithaca, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, and Hamilton College gathered to share pizza, information, and inspiration.  The hosts from the NYS Prisoner Justice Network spoke about the impressive growth of our movement, our mission to unify and strengthen the forces for change and justice, and the importance of our upstate communities, in solidarity with New York City, to creating a statewide voice to end mass incarceration and prison abuse. 

Among the diverse and valuable work described by the attending organizations: the Albany Center for Law and Justice (host organization for the Upstate Campaign to End the New Jim Crow) circulated a petition to Governor Cuomo to form a truth and reconciliation commission to assess the impact of mass incarceration and recommend steps to end it; the Campaign for Parole Reform called for support for the SAFE Parole Act, Syracuse Jail Ministry described their unique telephone service which assists incarcerated people in contacting their families; Rochester groups described work focusing on re-entry and racism; and much more! All agreed that our upstate communities are deeply impacted by mass incarceration and racism, and recommitted ourselves to building a powerful statewide movement to end it.

The next major project of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network is producing an updated, expanded version of our Directory of prisoner justice organizations throughout the state. The directory is a resource for justice advocates, families, and people who are incarcerated. It will be available on line, and will also be mailed in hard copy to participating organizations and to the over 200 incarcerated people on the NYS Prisoner Justice mailing list. 

The earlier version of the Directory, produced in 2011, listed 60 organizations. Our movement has mushroomed since then! This time, we want to also include organizations from inside prisons, particularly organizations dealing with policy and justice issues.

If you are a member of an organization that you think should be listed in this Directory (including groups inside prison), please contact NYS Prisoner Justice Network, on line at nysprisonerjustice@gmail.com or by mail at 33 Central Avenue, Albany NY 12210. We will reply with all the information you need.

If you are looking forward to receiving a copy of the new Directory, please be patient. We are an all-volunteer organization and there are many dozens of groups to contact (and re-contact), compile, edit, produce, and print. We hope to go to print by late summer or early fall.

There’s a lot happening in our movement for justice and in the public dialogue about incarceration. There has been a major shift in visibility and public debate over the past five years. Now, we need to build on what we’ve started and take more and stronger action to translate this positive energy into deep, systemic changes for incarcerated people and their families and communities!


6.  NYS Parole Reform Campaign is moving forward
The NYS Parole Reform Campaign has an important announcement:  The website www.Parole Reform.org has been closed out.  Difficulties reported by the public in utilizing it, and by us in administering it, resulted in more harm to our campaign than benefit.  We are ever grateful to Thousand Kites for providing and managing it over the years, but as the site grew technically our team was not able to keep up with the changes.

Members of the Prison Action Network and the Social Responsibility Council of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany,  two of 59 organizations that endorse the S.A.F.E. Parole Act, have joined forces to become a noticeable presence at the Legislature this session. 

We made our first visit on April 10th to deliver all the signed petitions and letters we've collected since the bill was first drafted, to the two primary sponsors, Senator Parker and Assemblymember Aubry.  They will have them to use as evidence of the support that exists across the state for reforming the Parole Board.  While there, we visited 4 other legislators who hadn't signed the bill, and we didn't know why.  We talked to an aide of Senator Gustavo Rivera's - a member of the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee -;  to Patricia Fahy - a newly elected member of the Assembly representing Albany where many of us live - ;  Senator Perkins who has always been a leader in advocating for reforms that will bring more justice to the lives of his constituents; and Assemblyman O'Donnell's Counsel.  Senator Perkin's staff said it was an oversight, and immediately signed on.  The others did not commit to sign on, but neither did they say they wouldn't, so we will follow up with them at our next visit to the Legislature, scheduled for this week.

Currently the the SAFE Parole Act, S.1128/A4108 has the following sponsors:  Senators Parker, Kennedy and Perkins;  Assemblymembers Aubry, Hevesi, Stevenson, Clark, Brennan, Crespo, Farrell, Gottfried and Scarborough. 

Simultaneously we have begun a weekly letter-writing campaign, where we draft a letter to the "legislator of the week" - often a person we plan to visit shortly thereafter - and offer it to other concerned citizens to sign and mail.  We have so far sent them to O'Donnell, Fahy, and Rivera.  Thus every week a different legislator gets from 4 - 30 letters.

We are also preparing telephone scripts for people who will agree to make up to 5 calls a week asking specific legislators to sponsor the bill.  Next on our list of strategies is to send an email to all 59 organizations who have endorsed the SAFE Parole Act with a script - or they can create their own - to use in making phone calls to the legislators who represent the district in which their offices are located.

There is a consensus among us that the work of parole reform is a deeply moral undertaking.  The very idea that an incarcerated person is given a “split sentence” (e.g., 25 years to life) is inspired by the fact that human beings can change.  Some people will choose to make a change in their life.  Others will not.  The role of the parole board is to be an evaluative body.  It is the responsibility of the members to objectively review the actions of the parole applicant during time-served and to obtain subjective information by interviewing the applicant.  The purpose of this assessment is to evaluate if there is possibility of safe and productive re-entry into society and the low possibility of recidivism.



7.  Criminal Injustice: Perception or Reality?
by Karima Amin

Last month’s meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., took an in depth look at the stigma that is generated by a criminal conviction. This month we will consider the stigma that may have some bearing in a trial court.

Judges play many roles. They interpret the law, assess the evidence presented, and control how hearings and trials unfold in their courtrooms. Most important of all, judges are impartial decision-makers in the pursuit of justice. We have what is known as an adversarial system of justice - legal cases are contests between opposing sides, which ensures that evidence and legal arguments will be fully and forcefully presented. The judge, however, remains above the conflict, providing an independent and impartial assessment of the facts and how the law applies to those facts. The judge imposes appropriate fines or sentences.

Lawyers are expected to represent their clients with undivided loyalty; keep their clients' confidences; represent their clients competently; represent their clients within the bounds of the law; and put their clients' interests ahead of their own.

While lawyers and judges have certain responsibilities, and while we have certain expectations of them, what happens in reality? Is there truly “justice for all?”  Is it possible for a decision to be tainted by stigma?  What protected rights do we have in a court of law? There are those in our community who view our criminal justice system as a system of criminal injustice. Why?

Our guest speaker, the Honorable Judge E. Jeannette Ogden, a judge in Buffalo City Court, will discuss the above and answer your questions. We are honored to have her join us in enhancing our understanding of the court’s power and our rights. Well known for being open, honest, compassionate and fair, Judge Ogden is well respected in this community.  We appreciate her willingness to volunteer her time and energy in the interest of community education.

The next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. will take place on Monday, April 29, from 6:30-8:30pm
Pratt-Willlert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. 
The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng are the sponsors of PRP2, Inc. programs.
For further information, contact Karima Amin: 716-834-8438 or karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org.



8.  Join advocacy to end the crisis of imprisoned elders in New York
RAPP  (Release of Aging People in Prison)    The Drop The Rock Coalition (which struggled successfully to disband the Rockefeller Drug Laws) and RAPP (Release of Aging People in Prison), have joined to take on the crucial issue of people aging and dying in prison without justification.  We urge you to come out to Drop the Rock’s next coalition meeting to learn more about this issue; RAPP’s plans to usher in change; and how you can become involved in the campaign.

Drop the Rock/RAPP meets the 1st Wednesday of each month.  All meetings held at: Correctional Association of New York, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell at 125th Street, Suite 200  Directions: Take the A/B/C/D or 2/3 to 125th Street  For more info or to join our email list, contact: Mujahid Farid at (212) 254-5700 ext. 317,  mfarid@correctionalassociation.org


9.  Corey Parks on Self-Reflection  

-reflection is taking an honest look at our lives; where we are and who we need to become. It’s more than just looking in the mirror, shaking our heads and finding confidence. Often times we are so confined and occupied with our busy schedules that we don’t take a healthy moment for ourselves. We are usually in over-drive when it pertains to our work, education, and family obligation. This is where burnout occurs; when we begin to see our world as a working chaos, unmanageable and over burdened. Having an altruistic mind state is very noble. However, who takes care of us when we begin to neglect taking care of ourselves? 
Many professionals find their selves in this dilemma including myself. I noticed quickly, while trying to “catch up” up after years in prison, that there was not enough time in a day for thinking about my dreams. Reality has a different perspective; things simply take time. During our reflective time there are many things we can do that are very healthy. Some may include but are not limited to: (1) Debriefing - whether professional or personal, it is always important to talk about our feelings and concerns. (2) Time management - learning how to balance work between our profession and personal life. (3) Hobby - many people use sports or some other hobby to release negative energy or tension. This can be valuable mentally and physically. (4) Entertainment - even a relaxing movie or eatery can help break things up. (5) Reflective time - It helps to take five - ten minutes a day to reflect on..  you.  Some people use religion, meditation, pleasant memories to figure out their level of peace.  Self-reflection is needed in our lives to create balance and prosperity.  It is a positive outlet for all human beings. ~ Corey Parks  [c/o  SNUG, NYC MISSION SOCIETY, 653 Lenox Ave,  NY, NY 10037]


10.  The City of Albany currently has the following Job Postings:

Equipment Operator I- Dept. of General Services- Street Cleaning
Equipment Operator I- Dept. of General Services- Parks
Equipment Operator II- (promotional)
Laborer I- Dept. of General Services
Laborer I- Dept. of Water
Supervisor- Dept. of General Services
Public Service Officer

There are deadlines for submitting applications, so please do not delay.
For general questions, please contact Elizabeth Romand, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity & Fair Housing, Albany City Hall, Room 301,  Albany, New York 12207    518.434.5296,  518.434-5269 (fax)     
They do not discriminate against people with criminal histories, with these exceptions: a Parks job would probably not hire someone with a history of a sex offense because of the relationship of the crime to being around children, and jobs involving driving would not be offered to people with driving infractions in their criminal histories.  The public service officer is also an exception.  All applicants will be asked to answer Question # 10 about criminal histories, and asked to describe any.  You are advised to keep it short - 3 sentences: 1. What happened?  2. What was the conviction for? 3. What have you done since ( drug programs, anger management, other jobs, successes, etc)  They’re not looking for a biography!


11.  Hudson NY screening of Mothers of Bedford,  Saturday, May 4, 5:30 PM

Is it possible to become a better mother while serving time in a maximum security prison?
Q & A following the screening with director Jenifer McShane and special guests
Time and Space Limited, 434 Columbia St., Hudson NY 12534

Sponsored by the Reentry Task Force of Columbia County.    For ticket info call 518 822 8448



12.  Keeping Jerry Balone’s memory alive

Some readers at Otisville asked about the quote used by Jerry to open his book, Rising from the Ashes.  Jerry credited the quote to Krista Ziedler.  Building Bridges has tried to identify who she is/was, but a Google search did not locate her.  If anyone knows, we’d love to hear from you.  

One of the Otisville writers shared this memory of Jerry:  “I spent one year with Jerry at the NYTS’s Master of Professional Studies program at Sing Sing, class of 1999.  When he started the program he [self-identified as an] atheist. While sitting at our round table, he told the class, “When I started this program, I was an atheist.  However, I am not certain now.  What I am certain of though is that you guys are playing games.  There is only one Christian that I recognize amongst us, and that is Louis.  He knows his bible, history, and theology, and he can explain and defend it [so] it makes sense.  I am more inclined to believe when I hear him speak.”  As the years went by, I read about his SHU time, hunger strike, and eventual release from prison in 2007.  Most A-1VO’s had the general feeling when Jerry was released that if Jerry made the Board, we were all going home.  I did not subscribe to that way of thinking though.
It all came together a few years ago when I listened to him on The Fancy Broccoli Show.  I was amazed at how many times Jerry mentioned God and Jesus during that interview.  I sat on my bed with tears coming down my cheeks because I remembered his struggle in believing and what a beautiful transformation I was hearing for myself.  He was so anxious to give all of himself during that interview.  I am so sorry that Jerry has passed away because he had so much to offer at-risk youth.  All he really wanted out of life was to be fully reintegrated back into his community.  He wanted to show that a good work could come out of prison.  I am truly grateful to have known Jerry.                               Louis R.

[Next month we’ll publish another story of Jerry’s impact on his fellow inmates.]



13.  Planting seeds of expanded awareness

I planted a seed this morning.  I was in the car with my daughter at 6:30 am when I was driving her to running club.  She asked me about my day yesterday [6 legislative visits in the morning on behalf of the SAFE Parole Act, a trip to Clinton NY for a networking event sponsored by the NYS Prisoner Justice Network, following by a brilliant speech by Michelle Alexander at Hamilton College].  I gave her the Reader's Digest Condensed version of the day and she replied, "Mom, why are there so many black people in prison?" It is only a 12 minute ride and she is only twelve, so I only scratched the surface with her... Prison Action Network Member



14.  Needle Wizards don’t knit; they crochet!

The group, who were mentioned in the March issue, wrote to correct misinformation in our article and to tell us a little about themselves. They are a small, self-sufficient group of incarcerated individuals who have been pooling their resources, both financial and human, for a greater good.  However, in the face of the current economic recession they made a decision to accept donations from outside in order to continue performing a civic duty.  Please send your donations to them c/o Tim Terbush, Woodbourne C.F., PO Box 1000, Woodbourne, NY 12788-1000
The Needle Wizards are not knitters.  While it may seem like a small distinction, they want us to know that knitting and crocheting are different arts all together, and they are crocheters.  If you want to send them crochet hooks, they must be plastic or wooden and not metal or aluminum and the following colors of yarn (and hooks) are prohibited:  blue, orange, gray, and black (or any color that can be construed as such).

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to communicate with our members.  
Send an email for information on how you or your incarcerated loved one can join.

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