Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

MAY/JUNE 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 May/June 2013 edition.

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Posted June 20 from Prison Action Network
Seven people appointed to the NYS Parole Board:


Tina Stanford is the new Chairwoman.  Lisa Elovich, Walter Smith, and Sally Thompson were reappointed and Gail Hallerdin, Milton Johnson, III, and Julie Smith were newly appointed.  Details will appear in the June 25 edition of Building Bridges.

You can watch the hearing at http://www.nysenate.gov/event/2013/jun/19/crime-victims-crime-and-correction-meeting




Posted June 17 from Bronx Reentry
Third Annual Reentry Community Forum

40 free metro cards will be given for the first people who arrive.
40 tarjetas gratis de metro se darán para las primeras personas que lleguen
The Bronx Reentry Working Group would like to invite you to our Third Annual Reentry Community Forum on Thursday, June 20th from 11 AM - 2 PM at Hostos Community College. Please join us in making the third event a huge success.
The event will be held in the Savoy Multipurpose Room at 120 E. 149th St. and Walton Avenue in the Bronx. Take the 2, 5, or 4 train to 149th St/Grand Concourse.
Local service providers will present on resources for people with a history of court involvement, on topics such as how to become an advocate, supportive housing, changes to the GED, and employment programs. Additionally, we will have a wonderful panel discussion with individuals who can speak firsthand about their transition following incarceration. Enjoy lunch with local service providers who are available to answer your questions, and network with other community members headed for success.

For more information about the conference, please contact Ramon Semorile, BRWG Co-chair at (347) 684-1883 or email Shae Cali at sc2501@columbia.edu 
__._,_.___




Posted June 16 by Prison Action Network
Merle Cooper Closing from the Inside


I have never received so many, and such articulate, letters as I have in the last few days from prisoners protesting the closure of the Merle Cooper Program at Clinton Correctional Facility, a program that, to a man, they claim is the best program they've experienced in all their years of prison.  Despite my years dealing with NYS's prison system, this shocks me.  It's probably the most successful program in NYS, and they're closing it!  Why?!  I'm sure we'll be told it's to save money, but I doubt it does that.    ~Judith



A participant in the Merle Cooper program wrote:


"Becoming a victim of a violent crime is terrifying.  Your entire world changes in moments, and events throw you unwillingly into uncharted places that are unscripted, unimaginable and painful. Victims initially receive sympathy; over time, however, we tend to forget the impact of crime.  For victims, there is no closure for crime.  It is never over  - they are never healed.

I understand this today because for the past 28 months I have been a part of the Merle Cooper Program.  A community that challenged me to look at how and when I chose to stop caring for others.  It is a community that challenged me to find a balance between surviving in a hostile environment (prison) and knowing there was a tremendous need for me to change.  But how?

I spent many years imagining how, within the range of opportunities available to me, I could redefine who I was.

And then Merle Cooper happened.

A place where my fate became instead a journey that is shared, shaped and remade by people (staff and peers) who have the courage and spirit to believe that, against all odds, they can create a space where there is very little hope and re-ignite in prisoners, who have chosen to live a life where they were justifiably cast off by society, a burning desire to rise above the poor choices of their  past.

I came to prison as an immature, reckless, and violent twenty-two year old individual.  I did not care about myself, nor did I have any care and concern for others.  I made excuses as to why I committed crimes; blaming others, blaming the environment I grew up in, choosing to utilize the ridiculous “us against them” excuse as a reason to hurt people.  I refused to take accountability for my actions and ultimately , my behaviors escalated until I killed another human being, Carlos Guevara.  Taking the life of another person is something I could never forgive myself for, but because of Merle Cooper I do intend to live a life that is not only responsible, but one that uses my experiences to help others. 

I have been incarcerated for my horrendous crime for twenty-three years.  I have put forth the effort to show that I can do right by receiving two college degrees, holding numerous facilitating jobs, but none of those things inspired me to take a brutally honest look at the impact of my crimes, to strip away all the excuses and to become a better person.  The one program that did just that is Merle Cooper.  And they’re closing it down!

For me, Merle Cooper helped me understand that there is no reason why life once set on its course cannot change.  Merle Cooper represents a series of actions and experiences that has freed me and countless other individuals from our own prison of low expectations.  Every community meeting, small group, each skill class, and every confrontation has made me recognize my flaws and also see my potential.  Merle Cooper has provided me with the mettle to look in my children’s eyes and speak to them about the importance of doing the right thing even when no one is looking, without sounding like a hypocrite.  Merle Cooper is a place where broken men can work on becoming whole, where staff (the psychologist, the CO’s and Offender Rehabilitation Coordinators) literally reinforce the decency of the human spirit.

Merle Cooper is the distance between the rhetoric and the reality, between what we as criminals say about ourselves and what we, in practice, actually do.  If it were up to me, Merle Cooper would be the litmus test for what rehabilitation is all about.  Merle Cooper is the benchmark of my responsibility toward being a positive good  for our community, it is a symbol that illustrates a commitment to honor my lifelong debt to my VICTIMS!  So I humbly ask for your HELP.

If we as a society really believe in such things as rehabilitation and redemption, and if these ideal are more than just words, then again, I ask you to get involved with helping us stop the irrational decision to close the Merle Cooper Program.

 Recently we were informed by staff that the powers that be in Albany made an uninformed decision to close down Merle Cooper immediately.  They did not visit to see the work that is unfolding in this program; there was to logical explanation given; simply it's closing. However, if we dare to see our society as a body politic, where all parts are working together for the common good, then our ideas of an enlightened form of rehabilitation demands that we enforce a ind of justice that restores rather than destroys.  Closing Merle Cooper is the kind of justice that destroys.  To close Merle Cooper would be a slap in the faces of our victims.

We cannot strengthen one segment of the population and ignore the other.  We must consider the victims’ and the prisoner when we make decisions to close programs that are actually changing the lives of men who once didn’t care about anything.

I don’t know what you can do to help us with our cause, but I do ask that you become curious and reach out to Mrs. Sweeney at 518 492 2511 x1210, or the governor, about the closing of Merle Cooper.  



Readers can start by signing a petition.





Posted June 13 by Prison Action Network

Merle Cooper Program Update



The men currently enrolled in the Merle Cooper Program at Clinton Correctional Facility had a big meeting this morning where they were told that the Merle Cooper program is ending by September 1, 2013.  



The psychologists there will be transferred to a maximum prison where there are mental needs inmates.   It appears that DOCCS, which is required to provide psychological help to inmates who need it, are closing this program rather than hire two new psychologists to meet the needs. 

Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow to further discuss this development.






Posted June 10 by Prison Action Network

Petition to save Merle Cooper Program

Click on this link to sign a petition to protest the elimination of the Merle Cooper Program.  There is also space to tell the story of why it's important to you.

A source at Clinton C.F. stated that the closing of the Merle Cooper program is not happening right away but is slated to close at some future date.  The caller was told that the program would continue as always for now and that families and the public could call these two people in Albany, to ask that the program not be closed down:


Director of Guidance & Counseling, Catherine Jacobson
1220 Washington Ave. Bld. #2 State Campus
Albany, NY 12226

Assistant Commissioner-Anthony Annucci  518 457 1748,  518-457-8134
The above address


Deputy Harper, at Clinton,  is in charge of the program.
Mrs. Sweeny is the psychologist who works with the inmates.  A prisoner currently enrolled in the Merle Cooper Program speaks well of her and how well she handles the groups.  According to an announcement the participants were given on Thursday, Mrs. Sweeney would be kept on staff to work with the mentally ill inmates, while the rest of the participants would be dispersed out into other facilities across the state.










Posted May 5: Prison Action Network
COMPASSIONATE RELEASE OF LYNNE STEWART NOW!!

Please take time to send 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 click on this link.  
Thanks!







Building Bridges, May/June 2013



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Dear Reader,   Note that we now publish on the 25th of the month.  Be well, stay strong, and please, do what you can.  No effort is too small
~The Editor

SUMMARIES OF THIS MONTH’S ARTICLES:

1.  Anthony Annucci has been appointed as the DOCCS Acting Commissioner.  He has an extensive history with the agency.   No more Facility Parole Officers; they are now Offender Rehabilitation Coordinators (ORCs).  Hopefully this title change will allow them to focus more directly on preparing a person for successful reentry and rehabilitation.  Have our readers noticed any changes in that direction?  
   
2.  Job Fair: It's not easy for anyone to find a job these days, and especially so if you've got a criminal history.  The National Action Network in the Bronx is offering a day of workshops to help you find work and "Power Your Way to Reentry"!  June  6.    
 
3.  Legislation:  The Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee website now lists the votes cast.

4.  Supporters of the NYS Parole Reform Campaign are continuing their efforts to pass the SAFE Parole Act.  SPA, CSS, and MNJ are all actively petitioning the Legislature.  The Campaign’s website has changed; campaign updates can now be found here, at the NYS Parole Reform Campaign column.

5.  The Birthday Party, a tale from the NYS Prisoner Justice Network.

6. Parole News:  February and April parole releases; New statistician found;  Opinions expressed by readers on Parole issues. 

7.  Realities of Reentry: though challenging, reentry offers an opportunity for a second chance. PRP2 guest speaker, Mr. Jerome Wright, “came home” to Buffalo in 2009. He has learned that dealing with the realities of reentry requires patience and a desire to learn new things, no matter how long or short the period of incarceration has been.

8.  Corey Parks had a dream while he was in prison and now he’s living it.

9.  Keeping Jerry Balone’s memory alive:  Two friends sent us their remembrances: “Jerry is a true example of what someone can become if they are given the chance.”;   “the I-Can-Do-It Champ of resolve and redemption, his wings strengthened for flight beyond the naysayer’s sting.” 

10.  The $2 million windows at ten NYS prisons. 

11.  School not Court, a report and recommendations from the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force.



1.  DOCCS News
Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Anthony J. Annucci became the Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision effective May 1, 2013.  He has served as the Executive Deputy Commissioner since October 2007.
Among his many duties as Executive Deputy Commissioner, he is the agency contact for the Legislature, Department liaison with the Permanent Sentencing Commission, and Acting Extradition Secretary to the Governor. Mr. Annucci also negotiated and implemented new programming for the treatment of mentally ill inmates in prison.
He joined the Department in 1984 as Deputy Counsel, and was promoted to Deputy Commissioner and Counsel in 1989. In his nearly 29 years at DOCCS, Mr. Annucci has drafted legislation that has been signed into law by five different Governors. He wrote and carried out new laws pertaining to Limited Credit Time Allowance and Merit Time and the original Shock Incarceration law, which saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. He has long been a leader in sentencing reform and correctional program legislation, helping to draft and implement legislation ranging from the Willard Drug Treatment Program to Jenna’s Law as well as contributing to the Rockefeller Drug Law Amendments.
Mr. Annucci is a member of the Legal Issues Committee of the American Correctional Association and a regular lecturer on topics including prison operations and sentencing laws. He has twice been recognized by the New York State Bar Association for Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Correction and for Excellence in Public Service. He earned his B.S in Psychology at Fordham University, M.A. in Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Juris Doctor at Brooklyn Law School. He grew up in Brooklyn, is married and is an accomplished pianist.
Facility Parole Officer?  Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator?
There has been so much confusion about the Merger and the different titles and responsibilities of the new order that we asked DOCCS for the official way to address the people formerly called Facility Parole Officers.  The response was what we expected: “The title Facility Parole Officer changed to Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator when the agencies partnered to form the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.”



2.  Job Fair: The National Action Network Bronx Chapter, Future Star Productions & Community Board 3 present:
“Power Your Way Re-Entry Day”     Thursday June 6th:   9:30am-2:30 pm       Workshops:  11:00 am - Know Your Rights;  12:00 pm - Entrepreneurship;      1:00 pm - Interviewing Skills
Featuring Bronx Community Solutions for Employment and Empowerment
The Classic Center,  286 E. 156th Street  Bronx, NY 10451  (Between Morris Ave & Park Ave)

Voter Registration, Health and Housing Information will be available.

Be prepared to meet potential employers.  Come to a supportive environment where you can learn what you need to re-enter the work force.  Refreshments will be served



3.  Legislation:  These bills were considered in May.
Keep in mind; bills need a “same as” bill in the other house before they can pass into law.

On Tuesday, May 21 the Assembly’s Correction Committee passed four bills.  No votes are reported; perhaps they were unanimous?

A.3721//S.1394
Reported to Ways and Means
Robinson/Montgomery

Creates a temporary state commission to study and investigate sexual misconduct in state correctional facilities


A.4591/S.3138  
Reported to Codes

O’Donnell/Krueger

Relates to using risk assessment instruments for sex offenders 


A.4869/S.3367
Reported to Codes

Aubry/Hassell-Thompson
Requires employers to make a conditional offer of employment before inquiring about any criminal convictions of a prospective employee 

A.7117/no same as
Reported to Codes
O’Donnell
An attorney representing an inmate in any appeal of a disciplinary proceeding or in any lawsuit related to such a proceeding shall be provided with a copy of the entire hearing record but shall not re-disclose information deemed confidential by the department to any person not otherwise authorized to obtain such records.



On  Monday May 20 the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction passed the following bills.  Definitions of some of the language are given in the February, March and April editions.  This month the votes were posted.

S.2006/A1889
2nd report  Cal.
LaValle/Thiele
Insures that sex offenders are held responsible for knowing what  the state and local residency and employment laws are in the community, verifying they are in compliance with them.   VOTES: YES - Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Hoylman, Peralta.   
NO - Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery, Rivera.



S.2459/no same as
Referred to Finance
Lanza
Prevents certain sex offenders who are released on parole or sentenced to probation from entering public, association or free libraries  YES: Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Peralta
YES W/Reservations: Hoylman, RiveraNO: Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery.


S.3582/no same as
Referred to Finance

Robach
Establishes a sex offender public awareness program.  

S.3762/A.4750A
2nd report Cal.
Golden
Prohibits registered sex offenders from working with children.  YES: Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Hoylman, Peralta.
YES W/Reservation: LittleNO: Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery, Rivera.

S.4133/no same as
Reported to Finance
Golden
Requires unanimous agreement by the parole board to release an inmate on parole.  YES: Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Maziarz, Nozzolio, RitchieYES W/R  Gallivan, Little, HoylmanNO: Hassell-Thompson, Montgomery, Peralta, Rivera.

S.4165/A.6166
Reported to Finance
Lanza/Cusick
Requires the Division of Criminal Justice Services' (DCJS) website to provide sex offender registry information that is searchable by the zip code of a registrant's employment.  YES: Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Hassell-Thompson, Hoylman, Peralta 
YES W/R: RiveraNO: Montgomery

S.4345/A.6899
Reported to Finance

Gallivan/Hennessey
Awards family members of homicide victims money for crime scene clean-up.  YES: Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Little, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Hassell-Thompson, Hoylman, Peralta, Rivera.   NO: Montgomery

S.4821/no same as
Reported to Finance
Gallivan
Makes it the responsibility of the DA to provide the risk-level recommendation where a defendant is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of ninety days or less.  YES: Gallivan, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Little, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Hassell-Thompson, Hoylman, Rivera .

S.1209/no same as
Reported to Finance
Carlucci
Requires that websites providing inmate information be searchable by the inmate's name, former name or alias.  YES: Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Griffo, Maziarz, Nozzolio, Ritchie, Montgomery, Hoylman, RiveraYES W/R: Gallivan, Little, PeraltaNO: Hassell-Thompson




4.  The NYS Parole Reform Campaign
Our campaign updates are now found in this monthly column.  We have redirected the web address www.parolereform.org to point here as well.  Given our campaign and organizing goals of the next year we decided it was best to leave the Nation Inside platform.  We will always be grateful to Nick Szuberla and the NationInside platform for their generous contribution to our work.
  
SPA has been busy this Spring!  This Albany branch of the Campaign (nicknamed SPA for Safe Parole Albany) started a weekly letter writing campaign and a legislative advocacy group and our efforts paid off; we now have three Senate sponsors:  Parker, Kennedy and Perkins and ten Assembly sponsors: Aubry, Brennan, Clark, Crespo, Fahy, Farrell, Gottfried, Hevesi, Scarborough and Stevenson. 

As reported in our last issue, Hank Morris received a very positive ruling on his Article 78 appealing the denial of his administrative parole appeal.  John Caher from the NY Law Journal covered the court decisions and Chris Churchill in The Advocate column at the Times Union blog wrote an article titled “Parole board that thinks it’s judge and jury” to which a reader responded that the Parole Board did the right thing in denying Morris’s release to parole because his crime was so serious.  That mobilized the Campaign!  Three letters to the Times Union editor were published.

Yes, dear readers, three times in one week the SAFE Parole Act was mentioned in a mainstream media outlet!  Together they made the following points:  there’s a common misunderstanding of the role of the state Board of Parole. It’s not a re-sentencing body.  Henry "Hank" Morris, like many other parole applicants, has served his sentence.  People who have good institutional records like his are likely to serve as role models on the outside, an example for others who may be veering close to crossing an ethical or moral line. Keeping people incarcerated longer than necessary has tremendous expense to our society and does nothing to make us safer. There is currently legislation that has been introduced that will clarify the role of the parole board: A4108/S1128. 

The SPA team joined another supporter of the NYS Parole Campaign, CSS, the Community Service Society, at their annual Legislative Advocacy Day on May 21, to advocate for the SAFE Parole Act as well as three other bills: the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, A4314/S.3337;  the Fair Application Act, S3386; and TAP Restoration, S.1367/A.3401.  We heard from another advocacy team that Sen. Gianaris agreed to sign the SAFE Parole Act.

The Albany group will continue visiting legislators until June 20, when the Legislative Session ends.  However, we will continue our letter writing campaign throughout the summer and fall.  If you have access to a computer, please join us.  We compose a weekly letter in support of the SAFE Parole Act and address it to a selected legislator.  This letter is distributed to anyone who asks to be put on the list.  We will send directions, and our number to call if you have problems understanding them.  It’s really quite easy to do.  Our hope is that all legislators throughout the state will become familiar with the bill, and by seeing how popular it is with the public, have the courage to support it. 

If you want advice planning visits to your legislators‘ home offices, we are available to help.  We’ll even travel to your area and go with you, if you’d like.

Here’s one of the reasons we need the SAFE Parole Act so badly:  The 87-year-old man who was quoted in the February article posted by NYSPJN, just got his fifth 2-year hit from the Board.  His lawyer says,  I have no good or reasonable explanation for their refusal to grant him parole.  It would be hard to even make one up.


Milk Not Jails is a supporter of the NYS Parole Reform Campaign and for the last couple of years the SAFE Parole Act has been part of their legislative agenda. This month is a critical time to put pressure on our politicians to pass this bill, and they’ve created a plan which requires your participation. 

As you know, the SAFE Parole Act (S.1128) would provide clarification and guidance to inmates who have been denied parole in order to take proper steps to be granted parole in the future.  Many of you who are locked up have had many challenging experiences with the Parole Board and this bill could really change the way the parole system works and increase yours’ and other people’s likelihood of release.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry and has a lot of support in the Assembly.  It didn’t make its way out of the Crime Committee in the State Senate last year, and it might be squashed there again this year unless we do something about it.  The State Senate is controlled by upstate Republicans and they operate in an extremely partisan manner – meaning they rarely bring a bill to the Senate floor for debate unless its been sponsored by a Republican. But recently, Senator Patrick Gallivan, a former member of the Parole Board, took leadership of the Senate Crime and Corrections Committee, and we’re hoping he can take this on.  The legislative session ends in June, so we need to make sure he fights for this change this year.  He really needs to hear from people in prison, formerly incarcerated people and their families, about why the current parole system is broken and how this bill will make a tremendous and positive impact. Its important for him to hear about how you’re working to prepare yourself to reenter society and make a positive contribution to your community.  Tell him how many times you’ve been denied parole and how you don’t even really know why.  Tell him about any family and lawyers who have worked tirelessly to help you prepare for your hearing only to get little or no constructive feedback.  And how you cannot do anything about the nature of your crime.  Paint a picture for Senator Gallivan of your experience.  Let him know how urgent this policy change is. Ask him to take leadership on this issue and get more of his fellow Senators to sponsor the bill as well. 

Then ask your community on the inside and your family and friends on the outside to do the same.  If you know any people in prison or their families in the Buffalo area, please ask them to participate in this action as well. Senator Gallivan is from the Buffalo area, so he will be more receptive to the stories of the people who have the power to vote him in or out of office.

Below is the contact info for Senator Gallivan.  It cannot hurt to send it as well to the politicians who represent the community you call home and the ones who represent the district where your prison is located. These politicians don’t really know about your experience and how devastating the current parole system is. 

Lastly, Milk Not Jails would love to do an action in Albany with the letters you’ve sent to your elected officials.  If you feel like sending us a copy of the letter, we’ll save it and use it to set up an exhibit at the Capitol Building to educate elected officials about the heart-breaking experiences you’ve had with the current parole system.  With your help spreading the word to people on the inside and outside, we can change this inhumane system!

Lauren Melodia, Milk Not Jails, 497 Quincy Street,  Brooklyn, NY 11221

Senator Patrick Gallivan,  947 LOB,  Albany, NY 12247
Phone: 518-455-3471,  gallivan@nysenate.gov



5.  The Birthday Party
by The New York State Prisoner Justice Network

This weekend in Albany a young activist had a backyard birthday party. Along with good food, music, and camaraderie, people of different ages and colors chatted with each other, and amidst the chatter you could hear tidbits of information about the many justice projects local people are engaged in -- a little slice of our multi-layered movements for justice. Your New York State Prisoner Justice columnist eavesdropped for you, and here’s a report on some overheard conversations.

Someone had gone to an event in Utica last week dedicated to supporting people returning from prison. The event was led by a dynamic young person who had himself just returned from prison. The same someone had also been to a roundtable where mental health advocates and anti-incarceration advocates put their heads together to fight for better solutions for people with mental illness accused of crimes, who currently can be locked up indefinitely in forensic hospitals. 

Women were talking about presenting a forum to figure out approaches to ending violence against women that do not depend on growing the bloated prison system. They agreed that the prison system makes violence against women worse, not better, because it tears communities apart, throws abusers into a violent setting, and doesn’t support women survivors. But without strong communities, how can women hold abusive men accountable, in the face of extreme levels of violence against women? One of the women at the party knew about some experiments in community accountability from India, where women get together and retaliate against men who abuse women. Can something like that work here?

Everyone was talking about Ladyfest, a community based music and arts festival for women-identified, trans, gender queer and gender nonconforming artists, led by women of color, presented in Albany two weeks ago.  What awesome liberation-focused performances! When we are trying to create social change in the face of terrible odds, we desperately need art, music, and poetry to help us survive. 

Someone reported on a group supporting undocumented immigrants, the most invisible victims of the incarceration system. Right here in New York State there are federal detention centers – and local jails -- where people are imprisoned for “being illegal” – as if not having the right pieces of paper makes you a criminal! Much of this criminalization and immigration detention is targeted toward immigrants from Mexico and other parts of Latin America – another example of the ways that the criminal injustice system is based on racism. The party-goers talked about ways to bring the issues of undocumented immigrants into the anti-mass-incarceration movement.

Two local farmers had just come from a community dinner in support of food justice. They are part of a group who are bringing together people in a low-income Albany neighborhood to discuss how their community can have better access to healthy food. The connection to anti-prison work: strong communities are the path to alternative ways of creating safe and healthy communities that do not need or want prisons.

A conversation on the other side of the patio illustrated the damage that incarceration, economic oppression, and social neglect do to our communities: some heartbreaking stories from a young man who works with kids who are in trouble with the law and who have mental health issues -- the raw material destined to fill all those prison cells. Their stories often involve parents who themselves have serious problems, stemming from communities abused and neglected by a society where profit matters and people (especially poor people of color) get thrown away. Another party-goer has been working for years on legislation and programs to keep these kids out of prison and give them a chance to heal. 

Some of the New York State Prisoner Justice members at the party had just held a phone meeting to plan a statewide convergence for next fall, where people and groups representing all these issues, and many more, can come together to work on strategies to end mass incarceration and create human-friendly alternatives for safer and healthier communities instead of prison.

We are like little ants digging away at the base of Mount Everest. All the forces on the other side are as huge as a mountain: the wealthy and powerful corporations, politicians, owning classes, law enforcement officials, ordinary people who are mistaken about which side their bread is buttered on, and other pillars of inequality and injustice that still control our country and our world. It’s going to take a LONG TIME to bring down that mountain!! But at the birthday party, we got a glimpse of how many of us little ants there are, and of some of the tunnels we are digging. Happy Birthday!



6.  Parole News:  February and April Releases (March releases were published in April/May) ; Opinions on related matters.

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

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


Total February Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
15 Initials
5
10
33%
78 reappearances
22
56
28%
93 total
27
66
29%


FEBRUARY Initial Releases     
Facility
 Born
Sentence
Offense
# of Board


Clinton
1981
15-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
1961
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
1962
23-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Fishkill
1958
32 ½-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Groveland
1966
22-Life
Murder 2
Initial


FEBRUARY Reappearances

Facility
Born
Sentence
Offense
# of Board


Altona
1963
17 ½
Murder 2
6th
Auburn
1969
15-Life
Murder 2
4th
Bedford Hills
1948
25-Life
M2 & C1
6th
Clinton
1955
15-Life
Murder 2
11th
Clinton
1975
18-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Coxsackie
1960
20-Life
Murder 2
7th
Coxsackie
1939
25-Life
Murder 2
Medical
Elmira
1959
30-Life
Murder 2
2nd       *
Fishkill
1969
15-Life
Murder 2
7th
Fishkill
1964
20-Life
M2 & K1
6th
Fishkill
1932
15-Life
Murder 2
11th
Fishkill
1960
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd,  Rescission 
Fishkill
1955
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
1964
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
1971
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Fishkill
1980
8-Life
Murder 2
6th
Greene
1959
18-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Orleans
1960
15-Life
Murder 2
10th
Otisville
1978
9-Life
Murder 2
6th
Sing Sing
1952
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Woodbourne
1967
20-Life
Murder 2
2nd
Woodbourne
1965
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd

*For Deportation Only



Total April Interviews

# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
19 Initials
4
15
21%
84 reappearances
13
71
15%
103 total
17
86
17%


APRIL Initial Release      

Facility
Born
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Woodbourne
1960
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial     *
Woodbourne
1958
20-Life
Murder 2
Initial     *
Woodbourne
1970
20-Life
Murder 2
Initial
Woodbourne
1966
25-Life
Murder 2
Initial


APRIL Reappearances

Facility
Born
 Sentence 
Offense
# of Board
Adirondack
1962
25-Life
Murder 2
4th
Attica
1965
5-Life
JO Murder 2
15th
Clinton
1973
5-Life
JO Murder 2
12th
Fishkill
1967
18-Life
Murder 2
5th
Fishkill
1955
20-Life
Murder 2
6th
Gowanda
1967
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd      *
Hudson
1979
7-Life
JO Murder 2
7th
Upstate
1963
2 ½-Life
JO Murder 2
13th   *
Woodbourne
1944
20-Life
Murder 2
8th      *
Woodbourne
1954
25-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Wyoming
1967
20-Life
Murder 2
3rd
Wyoming
1955
25-Life
Murder 2
5th
Wyoming
1952
25-Life
Murder 2
2nd

*For Deportation Only

Opinions
Why some prisons experience more A1VO releases than others  
Thanks to those who responded to our request for theories about why some prisons experience more A1VO releases than others.  Someone doing time at Green Haven wrote, and other respondents agreed with him, that those prisons which are farther away from NYC are where people with poor disciplinary histories are sent. “You then need to establish a good behavior record in order to get a ‘preference transfer’ to a prison closer to home”, he reports.  Sullivan is thought of as an “honor” hub; Gt. Meadow/Greene, Auburn, Attica, etc. are known as “disciplinary prisons”. 
A person at Otisville claims there is a large concentration of people who are on the list to be deported located at Woodbourne, Eastern, Otisville, and Fishkill, and that a greater percentage of them are released than are US citizens.  He claims this fact is obscured when Parole gives people who are going to be deported an Open Date designation instead of CPDO (Conditional Parole for Deportation Only).  Which he says accounts for the low count in Building Bridge’s reports based on the Parole Website.  (Ed.: We were told that “granted” indicates deportation, and report it thus.  Is that not true?)

The importance of the recent Thwaites decision
In the recent Douglas Thwaites decision, the Appellate Div, 2d Dept ruled that the Attorney General’s argument on behalf of the Parole Board is “moot” [meaning that the AG’s argument is a “non-issue unworthy of discussion] since the Board subsequently released Mr. Thwaites.  Reader Noel Belgrave believes that therefore,  in effect, Judge Ecker’s decision stands. 
  
[Judge Ecker’s decision in part: “The court finds the Board’s decision denying parole in this case to be arbitrary and capricious, irrational, and improper based upon the Parole Board’s failure to articulate any rational, nonconclusory basis, other than its reliance on the seriousness of the crime, why the Board could not believe “there is a reasonable probability that if petitioner is released, he would live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society and will not so deprecate the seriousness of his crime as to undermine respect for law.” Executive Law §259-i[2][c]. It is undisputed on this record the Board’s decision was not made in accordance with the 2011 Amendments to the Executive Law which requires a new parole hearing utilizing risk assessment principles and procedures.”]

All parole hearings since Oct. 2011 have been illegal
According to the Morris Article 78 decision, “..because no written procedures have been promulgated concerning how parole decisions should be made, the Legislative mandate has been ignored.  By reason thereof Petitioner’s Aug 21, 2012 parole hearing was unlawful.”   This full court decision demonstrates that after October 1, 2011, all parole hearings lacked the procedures mandated by the Legislature when it enacted Exec. Law  § 259-c(4), and therefore have been unlawful.      ~ Jailhouse Lawyer, V.M.



7.  Realities of Reentry,  by Karima Amin 

As Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. moves closer to its eighth anniversary, we are moved to take a look at a topic that we have considered several times before. It’s a topic that touches all of us, although those who are formerly incarcerated are most affected because they live with the realities of reentry day and night. Some find reentry to be difficult at best while others think of it as a nightmare, worse than being in prison.  I think that most, however, despite the restrictions imposed by parole, really understand that reentry, though challenging, offers an opportunity for a second chance.

Our guest speaker, Mr. Jerome Wright, ‘came home’ in 2009. His transition wasn’t easy but he was fortunate to have a supportive family that helped to make his transition as smooth and productive as possible. As a result, he is an asset to his family and to this community.  Despite his intelligence and positive transformation, family reunification was replete with issues that had to be resolved. He learned that dealing with the realities of reentry requires patience and a desire to learn new things, no matter how long or short the period of incarceration has been.

As a successful reentry candidate, Mr. Wright is now in a position to talk about navigating parole successfully.  He is well equipped to discuss the challenges that have an impact on an individual’s promising return to the “free world.” Mr. Wright has served as the Reentry Program Director for Back to Basics Outreach Ministries. He is the author of a column entitled, “The Realities of Reentry,” which appeared in several issues of the C.P.R. (Coalition for Parole Restoration) newsletter. He is currently the Site Supervisor for the Center for Employment Opportunities.  He is a valued member of our community who has mentored and counseled others to “do the right thing.”

  Don’t miss Mr. Jerome Wright’s presentation at the next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc., on Monday, May 20, 2013 at the Pratt Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo, at 6:30-8:30pm. 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.  

PLEASE NOTE: We usually meet on the last Monday of the month but May 29 is a National Holiday.

NOTE:  The next Prisoners Are People Too meeting will be on Monday June 24, our actual 8th anniversary!  BaBa Eng, who is finally home from prison, will be present!



8.  Building a dream

Since being released from incarceration in 2012, I have been writing columns for Building Bridges' newsletter. These writings have been intended to inform, motivate, and inspire those currently incarcerated as well as the families who await their return. This month’s column is about my dreams.  I remember sitting in a prison cell where I thought about becoming a writer and advocating for troubled youth.  I began my journey by writing poetry and facilitating group discussions. I noticed that no matter how hard I worked to accomplish my goals, there was always someone who doubted  my ability.  I remember one year going to the parole board where I shared my dreams with the commissioners.  The expressions on their faces were non-supportive and demeaning.  Instead of being released, I was given an additional two years of incarceration.  This pushed me to work harder towards my objectives.  Today I advocate against gun violence and help young people reach their goals.  I am also publishing my first book, Crime & Punishment, this coming June.  

Crime & Punishment is reality fiction writing that partners stories of criminality and incarceration with educational text that supports the story line.  Motivational speaker Les Brown once said "... Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars...''  Until my next column, remember your dreams are only what you make of them.

~ Corey Parks  [c/o  SNUG, NYC MISSION SOCIETY, 653 Lenox Ave,  NY, NY 10037]




9.  Keeping Jerry Balone’s memory alive

Jerry Balone became a persistent force in our movement to change parole policy. His undying efforts to convince the Division of Parole that people can and do change was relentless.  He was a good friend to me and many others.  I learned more of what he did when I attended his funeral service.  There were so many people who attended and expressed the many meaningful ways he contributed to their lives.  He was a very special person who should never be forgotten.  His book "Rising from the Ashes" accurately portrayed the challenges he faced in getting out of prison.  Jerry is a true example of what someone can become if they are given the chance. ~Cheryl L. Kates Esq., Attorney at Law

(In Memory of Jerry Balone. R.I.P.)
The Phoenix

Another day lived on doses of free air clean and God-sent like the spirit that spins his wheel forward ever forward from the Ashes of a lifetime past.

Another day lived in celebration of all he believed, the I-Can-Do-It Champ of resolve and redemption, his wings strengthened for flight beyond the naysayer’s sting.

Night has fallen, a soothing salve for mind and muscle bringing sleep that carries him to the Legend’s Lair, as we watch too soon The Phoenix rise. (J.R. /Mar.’13)



10.  The two million dollar windows

The anonymous letter addressed to the Editor at Prison Action Network arrived on Monday and it was obvious the writer was passionate about his or her topic.  But honestly, I wasn’t able to read the letter well enough to transcribe it for publication.  But I’ll attempt to share the gist of it.  I think he or she might have been referring to Cuomo’s introduction, on April 9, of the Public Trust Act, which would give district attorneys more power to combat public corruption.  The anonymous writer mentioned a panel to audit ADA’s, turning down a plea and going to trial, something about lack of funding for prosecutions of corrupt officials, being accountable, lack of DNA testing, and false evidence.  We hope the writer will send us another letter to clarify.  I think all readers will recognize the injustices referenced in those ideas.  

And there was also reference to 10-year old windows replaced at a cost of over $2 million!  I was curious, so I googled “NY Correctional Facility replaces 10 year old windows”,  and was taken to this website: http://kochcorporation.com/windows-curtainwall-glazing-specialists/detention-and-correctional-facilities/ (is that KOCH, as in Koch Brothers, the millionaires who finance so many things I don’t like?!).  On the site are pictures of 10 NYS prisons with their spanking new Hopes Steel Guard Series Steel Detention Windows:  Orleans, Wende, Oneida, Mohawk, Clinton, Greene, Wallkill, Fishkill, Bedford, Sing-Sing.  I hope the price included all those windows.  They do look sturdy.

The writer ended by saying, “This is where our tax dollars are lost, over nothing,” and :  “the point is the Attorney General’s search for funding his crusade against political corruption, and how the DA’s misplaced attention is focused on petty “got you” numbers games with the exonerated when it’s not in the best interest of the people or their stated mandate or goals the public would endorse were they aware of these things.”  It was signed, “Name withheld for obvious reasons.”  



11.  Report and recommendations on… keeping kids in school and out of court .
Join former Chief Judge, Judith S. Kaye, and New York City School-Justice Task Force members for the release of the New York City School-Justice Task Force recommendations:

Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Lecture Hall L.63

524 West 59th Street,  New York, NY 10019    RSVP: sjptf@afcnyc.org  For more information, contact Gerri Warren Merrick: 212-694-4933.

These recommendations provide a roadmap of next steps in a city-wide effort to take advantage of emerging approaches to school discipline that are effective and fair as a means to improve outcomes for all of our children – to keep our students in school and out of court.


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