Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, January 05, 2014

JANUARY 2014


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COME BACK ON WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 5 TO READ THE FEBRUARY 2014 ISSUE 


Let’s show that NEW YORK STATE WANTS PAROLE REFORM
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15th 
1:00 pm in Albany
JOIN HANDS with the Correctional Association of NY, Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP, the New York State Prisoner Justice Network, Prison Action Network, and the Riverside Church Prison Ministry Parole Reform Initiative
at   “Making Parole Reform Real
To Make Our Communities Safe”
a workshop at the
Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Conference/Empire State Plaza, 
Albany
Legislative Office Building Roosevelt Hearing Room C
1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Conference admission is free!

FROM NYC: Reserve your seat on a FREE BUS leaving NYC at 6:00 a.m.
(125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.): Email or call Mujahid Farid, mfarid@correctionalassociation.org, 212-254-5700 x 317

After the panel: free pizza gathering, 3:00 p.m.
Following an Assembly hearing on parole practices last December and a community effort to tell the parole board their new regulations don’t cut it, this is a key moment to increase pressure to tell the board, the legislature and the community: The parole system in New York State will be changed: end unfair denials!
Confirmed speakers: Sheila Rule, facilitator (Riverside Church Prison Ministry and Statewide Parole Reform Coalition); Edward Hammock (former parole board chair); Mujahid Farid (Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP); Vanda Seward (Director of Statewide Reentry Services); Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry (District 35/Corona, Queens and Speaker Pro Tem); Alan Rosenthal (Center for Community Alternatives, Syracuse); Soffiyah Elijah (Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York)
Panelists and attendees will discuss the problem with current parole policies, how to fix them, and how our communities would benefit from parole reform.
Sponsored by Jeffrion L. Aubry
Co-sponsored by Senators Kevin Parker and Bill Perkins,
Members of the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus
JOIN THE CONVERSATION and JOIN THE MOVEMENT TO REFORM PAROLE!
For more information: 518 253 7533 
To show the widespread interest in changing the Parole Board practice of denying parole to those who can demonstrate their readiness for release, we need to fill the room to overflowing.  Please be there!

Building Bridges January 2014

Dear Readers,   Thank you for your Holiday cards and letters!  They made us smile.    ~The Editor

Preview of January's reports:

#1.  Parole News - Release statistics for November;  Judge rejects parole decision and voices support of petitioner’s release;  Lawyer argues that if an inmate has an exemplary institutional record, then by definition, parole was denied solely on the nature of the crime;  Petitioner gets a new hearing because the Board’s explanation for denial was set forth in conclusory terms;  One more former parole commissioner voices criticism of the Parole Board.    

#2
Campaign to overhaul parole:   

Part A. Detailed report on Dec 4 NYS Assembly Hearing on Parole Board. 

Part B: Report on the Parole Board's proposed procedures and how to comment on them  

Part C. Corey Parks has had enough of parole denials.    


#3.  Ithaca Prisoner Justice Group is on the move.  Do you live in Ithaca?  Here’s a chance to get involved.     

#4.  Second Chance Committee presents free Life Skills Program.     


Dear Readers,   

Have you signed the petition asking the Governor to establish a Commission on Parole?   There are 718 signatures so far!  It’s a lot, but not enough to convince Governor Cuomo that his political future depends on supporting parole reform. We need thousands more. There’s no time like now to add your name to the petition:  http://chn.ge/1id9gMU, but then you have to take another step.  You have to tell all your friends about it.  We can do it.  The criminal justice system is not working, and more and more people are becoming aware it’s not.  We need to move outside our comfort zone however....  

We also need more people to sign up for the weekly letter in support of parole reform and also for the weekly phone calls.  Send an email to sign up for either or both.  No computer? Send us a letter or call.  Be sure to check out our new column (this month’s Article #2) which will report on what is happening and what actions you can take every month. This month we need you to comment on the proposed “written procedures” the Parole Board has finally submitted to the Dept of State.  Details are in Article 2B.  We filled a Hearing Room (see Article 2A), now let’s fill a mail room!  

2014 got off to a wonderful start!  On January 1st Lynne Stewart, defense lawyer to unpopular defendants, who became one herself, was released from federal prison and is back home in NYC with her friends and family.  She won her freedom; now let’s pray she wins her battle with cancer.  You can find more details at http://tinyurl.com/ofl8e7r 

Join the struggle with all your strength!  Parole reform is getting a lot of attention and we need to seize the moment.  Every time you see, hear or read about it, respond.  This is not the time to watch from the sidelines.  We need everyone on the field.  Watch these pages for more ways to get involved.   See you around!    
 The Editor    

In Memory of Sister Mary Nerney~
Prison Action Network sends our condolences to the women at Bedford who met with Sr. Nerney on Friday nights.  We will miss the connection we had with you through her efforts.  We welcome any stories of her you would be willing to share with our readers.

From her colleagues at the Correctional Association:

With heavy hearts we write to let you know that Sister Mary Nerney passed away on Wednesday, November 27.

Sister Mary dedicated her entire life to fighting injustice, ending domestic violence, lifting women's voices, and keeping women out of prison.  She pioneered the creation of critical programs for incarcerated women and alternative programs like STEPS that allow women in the criminal justice system to heal, rebuild and stay in their home communities.  Up until her diagnosis, Sister Mary traveled every month to Bedford Hills to meet with a group of women to provide support and to facilitate the women taking an active role in advocating for reform.  Sister Mary not only touched the lives of thousands of women, she changed them.

Sister Mary was one of the first people to focus on bringing to light the experiences of incarcerated survivors and the criminal justice system's devastating response to survivors who protect themselves.  Nearly 30 years ago, Sister Mary helped organize a unique legislative hearing at Bedford Hills where women at the prison testified about their shared histories of abuse.  While some people saw the hearing as a culmination, Sister Mary saw it as the start of a stronger movement to make change.  At the hearing she said, "How can we take the hopes and dreams that have been spoken about today and those that haven't been spoken and make them a reality?...I am certainly willing to do my part in making this a possibility.  I would like to challenge all of us to try and figure out that course because today cannot be an ending, it can only be a beginning."




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


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

Nov. ’13  Summary

Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
YTD Release Rate 
20 Initials
3
17
15%
23%
83 Reappearances
25
58
30%
26%
103 total
28
75
27%
26%

Nov. ‘13 Initial Releases
Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
Gouverneur           (deport)
42
20-L
Mrd 2
Otisville
47
25-L
Mrd 2
Otisville
49
25-L
Mrd 2

Nov. ’13 Reappearance Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Attica
42
16-Life
Mrd 2
6
Attica
46
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Coxsackie
52
20-Life
Mrd 2
7
Eastern
66
15-L ife
Mrd 2
2
Elmira
56
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
50
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill
54
15-Life
Mrd 2
9
Fishkill
71
25-Life
mrd pre 74
8
Fishkill
83
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Fishkill                 (de novo)
45
22-Life
Mrd 2
3
Fishkill                 (de novo)
50
25- Life
Mrd 2
5
Green Haven
61
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Greene
64
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Groveland
54
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Groveland
58
20-Life
Att mrd 1
8
Otisville                 (Juv. Off.)
34
9-Life
Mrd 2
6
Otisville
43
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Otisville
46
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville
46
19-Life
Mrd 2
6
Otisville
48
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
49
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville             (de novo)
44
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Washington
46
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Woodbourne
40
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Woodbourne
50
21-Life
 Mrd 2
3



Age summary
Total
# Released
# Denied
Release Rate 
60-69
15
3
12
20%
70-79
7
1
6
14%
80+
2
1
1
50%
60-80+
24
5
19
21%


Judge Rejects Board's Parole Denial, Grants New Hearing”*
 John Caher, New York Law Journal, Dec. 11, 2013,  reports on another positive ruling by Judge LaBuda
[these are excerpts]

...A new parole hearing [was granted] by a judge who said the Parole Board focused solely on the 1986 crime in rejecting the inmate's bid for release.  Acting Supreme Court Justice Frank LaBuda said that at the plaintiff’s ninth parole hearing in December 2012, the board "failed to articulate any reasoning for its decision to deny parole release."

LaBuda said the board's boilerplate language in denying parole—that release would "deprecate the seriousness of the offense as to undermine respect for the law"—left him with no basis on which to review the determination.

"It is unacceptable, under the law, for Respondents to have simply restated the usual and predictable language contained in so many parole release denial decisions, with no specificity or other explanation to justify parole denial," LaBuda wrote in Rabenbauer v. State, 1855-13.


Despite what LaBuda described as a "close to perfect disciplinary record" in prison, release recommendations from corrections officers and numerous achievements, including earning three college degrees, the board has denied ...release nine times. "Looking at the record as a whole, the Court concludes that not only does the record fail to clarify on what specific grounds the board denied parole, but the record strongly supports parole release for this inmate who has served nearly double the time of his minimum sentence," LaBuda wrote. He added that the applicant  "has repeatedly expressed remorse, shame and guilt for [his crime]and takes full responsibility for his actions. He cannot change what he did."


Board of Parole Needs Correction,  by David Lenefsky*
Quotes taken from the article published in the New York Law Journal, December 18, 2013, which describes the arguments used in an Article 78 Petition** he filed in July 2013 on behalf of his client Philip Rabenbauer, who had already served 27 years, almost double his sentence.”

Executive Law Section 259 sets forth a four fold statutory command: 1) parole can not be granted solely on the basis of good conduct; 2) the board must determine that the inmate will live in the community without violating the law and that release is not incompatible with the welfare of society, and that it will not deprecate the seriousness of the crime as to undermine respect for the law; 3) statutory guidelines are provided which the board must consider, such as the inmate's institutional record including program goals and accomplishments, academic achievements, disciplinary issues, interpersonal relations with staff and inmates, and release plans; and, 4) the reasons for denying parole must "be given in detail and not in conclusory terms."

The board's discretion is not, however, unlimited. There are three things the board can not do. First, the board can not base its parole denial solely on the serious nature of the crime, said otherwise, the board can not override the sentencing judge. Second, while the board does not have to consider each guideline and while it has discretion in deciding the weight given to any particular guideline, the board can not disregard the guidelines. Third, as stated above, the board must give its reasons for parole denial "in detail and not in conclusory terms.


In other words, the board is entitled to say parole is denied because the crime was particularly egregious, plus the inmate has not acknowledged guilt, or expressed remorse, or the inmate has had disciplinary problems, or for some other specific reason. But if there is no other reason, then denial is obviously based solely on the serious nature of the crime.

This is so because if an inmate has an exemplary institutional record, as my client had, then by definition, parole was denied solely because of the serious nature of the crime.

[Note:   Several - but certainly not many - judges have agreed with the author that the proper interpretation of the law is that Parole cannot base denials solely on the nature of the crime.  Editor]

  **In the Matter of Philip Rabenbauer, (LaBuda, J.), Sullivan County Index No 1855-13, Nov. 27, 2013, NYLJ (Dec. 11). David Lenefsky is an attorney in New York.


Gary Perfetto, ap, v. Andrea Evans, etc., res - (Index No. 2969/12)*
New York Law Journal, Dec. 6, 2013
Gary Perfetto, Otisville, N.Y., appellant pro se.    Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, New York, N.Y. (Michael S. Belohlavek and David Lawrence III of counsel), for respondent.
In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 to review a determination of the New York State Board of Parole dated November 10, 2011, which, after a hearing, denied the petitioner's request to be released on parole, the petitioner appeals, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order and judgment (one paper) of the Supreme Court, Orange County (Bartlett, J.), dated May 29, 2012, as denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding.

ORDERED that the order and judgment is reversed insofar as appealed from, on the law, without costs or disbursements, the petition is granted to the extent that the determination is annulled, the petition is otherwise denied, and the matter is remitted to the New York State Board of Parole for a new hearing and a new determination.

Although the written determination of the New York State Board of Parole (hereinafter the Parole Board) mentioned the petitioner's institutional record, it is clear that the Parole Board denied the petitioner's request to be released on parole solely on the basis of the seriousness of the offense (see Matter of Gelsomino v. New York State Bd. of Parole, 82 AD3d 1097, 1098). The Parole Board's explanation for doing so was set forth in conclusory terms, which is contrary to law (see Executive Law §259-i[2][a]; Matter of Mitchell v. New York State Div. of Parole, 58 AD3d 742, 743).

Accordingly, the petitioner is entitled to a new hearing and a new determination. We express no view as to the merits of the petitioner's request to be released on parole.

AUSTIN, J.P., SGROI, COHEN and HINDS-RADIX, JJ., concur.


Parole and Politics Shouldn't Mix* 
by Barbara Hanson Treen
Barbara Hanson Treen is another former Parole Board Commissioner who is speaking out about the problems with the NYS Parole Board.  
Some of the points she makes in her article:
 [When] someone asked me to define my work... my answer was "to stand between the governor and the gun." It is implicit in the appointment that one be expected to be sensitive in decision-making to needs for a budget escape hatch, political appeasement, media hype and interest groups' pressure. In this respect the board plays a valuable fall guy.
At the heart of the agency culture that overwhelmingly denies parole release to inmates, in spite of their meeting the statutory standard, is a board that sits due to political patronage. There is now no such job as a "professional parole commissioner," but rather appointees who come chiefly from the law enforcement community (not to be confused with criminal justice) and a smattering of clerics and the few practitioners who had the political heft to be rewarded by the salary, power and control. We need to call for a new occupation of practitioners trained, skilled and 'hired' to become parole reviewers. It is time to call for a trained field of Board of Parole professionals and hire them.
Eliminating the Parole Board is no remedy; the board serves an essential purpose in the criminal justice system and the community. If computers could do this, we'd be using computers. The human ingredient that enters into the parole discussion among all the parties can never be underestimated.  Without parole, correctional facilities would be a snake pit of bad behavior without incentive or hope for release and the state budget would reach deeper down in every taxpayer's pocket.

The answer is trained behaviorists who can conduct interviews rather than interrogations, people who understand the etiology of criminality and who believe in the promise of transformation. We would all be fortunate to have willing professionals carry out the work of the people.
Just how badly does the state want to reform parole? The heart of the system is the Parole Board but it should be at this point, the final resting place for political patronage and the deception parole has become.
* Complete copies of the preceding articles are available upon request.  Please include the title of the article and the month it appeared. Click here for the transcript of the Rabenbauer 1855-13 decision. 


2.  Campaign to overhaul NY’s parole system
So much is happening that we’ve created this new column to report on all of  it in one place.  It can be your monthly come-to place to find out what’s happening and how you can get involved.

A.   There’s Momentum for Parole Reform!
by The New York State Prisoner Justice Network

Parole reform advocates made a big splash in Albany on December 4th, when Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, the new chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Correction, held a legislative hearing on the parole board.  A busload of folks came from New York City with The Riverside Church Prison Ministry Parole Reform Campaign. They were met by a group from the Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration – both are affiliated with the New York State Prisoner Justice Network. Together they marched into the hearing room holding up signs saying PAROLE REFORM NOW! 



The day started out with testimony from Anthony Annucci, Acting Commissioner of the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), and from Tina Stanford, Chair of the NYS Board of Parole. They testified that the parole board makes its decisions fairly and impartially, weighs all the factors in the applicant’s record, never makes a decision before the hearing, and is completely uninfluenced by political pressure.

After that things got much better. All day long people testified that the Parole Board flaunts the law and the spirit of parole, denying applicants over and over again based on the nature of their crime of conviction, and paying no attention whatsoever to any of the other factors they are by law required to consider. This system, they said, is detrimental not only to the parole applicants, but to their families and communities, crime survivors, and society as a whole. The audience applauded, and Chairman O’Donnell and some members of his committee expressed strong support for reform.

Throughout the day, Chairman O’Donnell expressed views supportive of change. He spoke about the need for parole commissioners with more cultural competency; the need to consider the age of the parole applicant because people age out of crime; and the view that anyone who has obtained a master’s degree should be released. He said that he would  evaluate whether the individual's criminal conduct  was violent, rather than whether they were convicted of a crime that is categorized as violent; and he stated that he has visited many of the state’s prisons and he is working hard to restore college programs to prisons.  

Assembly member Felix Ortiz was concerned about the lack of translators for people whose first language is not English. When Chairwoman Tina Stanford assured the legislators that translators were available and commonly used, Assembly member Luis Sepulveda expressed concerns about the quality of the translators.

To give you the flavor of the testimony that was presented, here are a few quotes:

Reina Igartua, family member of parole applicant Ismail Igartua: “The COMPAS [risk and needs assessment form] is only as good as the screener and only as accurate as the board using it. What is the purpose of having this tool at your disposal if you are not using it for the benefit of fair decision-making? Under the right circumstances parole benefits not only the incarcerated individual, but also society as a whole.” [applause]

Robert Dennison, former Parole Board Chair:  “The bottom line is that if the parole board doesn’t like the crime they are not going to let you out. It doesn’t matter what you do in prison.”  He also suggested the Board be prohibited from using "deprecate the seriousness of the crime" reasoning if the judge assigned less than the maximum sentencing range, and he would  require live Board interviews.

Phillip Genty, law professor:  “The board frequently denies parole to individuals based solely on the seriousness of  their crimes regardless of the rehabilitation they have achieved in the intervening years. Rather than focus on the past, the board must acknowledge a person’s capacity for significant change while incarcerated and give appropriate weight to an individual’s capacity for rehabilitation.” 

Ed Hammock, former Parole Board chair: “The parole appeals process does not work. FOIL documents showed that the only appeals that were granted were those where the board had made a mistake of fact. The board members don’t read them. The counsel’s office in the appeals unit almost always recommends denial, and the parole board simply accepts their recommendation.” 

Thomas Grant, former Parole Board Commissioner: “When the parole board member is considering applying for reappointment to the board, they are very very reluctant to make any controversial decisions that might raise the ire of any constituent group at all, so they play it safe, how? they deny that person, whether that person should be released or not.

Alan Rosenthal, Attorney with the Center for Community Alternatives: “The board has revealed itself as a board that considers itself above the law, contemptuous of both the legislature and the applicants who come before it. Decision making needs to be insulated from tough on crime posturing and concerns about re-appointment.  Leave retribution to the courts. The core need is redefining the parole board, putting the critical focus on evaluation, and providing guidance as to how an applicant can become ready for reintegration. The SAFE Parole Act accomplishes these goals.”  

Orlee Goldfeld, Attorney: “The board routinely ignores the facts presented to it. There are no procedures. Then they manipulate the system to run out the clock on an inmate’s appeals.”

Kathleen Rubenstein, National Lawyers Guild Mass Incarceration Committee: “The determinations that the parole board makes are politically motivated, are opaque, and are lacking  in critical information about the individual’s present ability to live in society. The board time and again focuses backwards on a single factor, the crime of conviction. We are all better than the worst thing we have ever done.”

Diana Ortiz, Exodus Transitional Community: “We ask that the parole commissioners weigh heavily who we are and not just what we did. There are so many others like me who are safe bets to be released, who did something terribly wrong, but they were not sentenced to life in prison. How many times can a person be held so it does not deprecate the seriousness of the crime? We fully realize there are victims. We ask that we be seen as the person we are today.” 

Jeffrey Deskovic, The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation: “If we are going to continue to deny parole based on nature of the crime we might as will drop any pretense that prison has anything to do with rehabilitation and admit that it is about revenge and retribution.

Judith Brink, Prison Action Network: “Everyone who comes before a parole board has also sat before a court of law, and has received a sentence. At the end of their minimum, they sit before another group, the parole board. Due to the details of their crime many of them are seen as not fit to return to their communities. They are not told why or what they can do to get a different decision next time. The parole board acknowledges they have changed but in essence says they have not been punished enough. The SAFE Parole Act addresses this outrage.”

Cheryl Kates-Benman, Attorney: “The law as you write it on a piece of paper means nothing as long as the parole board is not held accountable for their actions in any way, shape, or form.”

Mujahid Farid, Release for Aging People in Prison: “I was denied nine times for the nature of my criminal offense. It was not until the 10th board that I was released. I served an extra 18 years beyond my 15 year minimum, due to the fact that those nine boards did not take a good look at me – they didn’t have the time. I looked around and saw the same thing happening to everyone who was similarly situated as I was.”   

Scott Paltrowitz, Correctional Association: “More than 10,000 people each year are denied parole. Less than 20% are released. If you raised that to 50% the state would save 240 million dollars. [Chair O’Donnell responds: “I would like that.”] The Correctional Association  received a letter in which a person denied parole said, ‘The board wrote that my release would be incompatible with the welfare of society. The board might just as well have written that I am black and poor and folks like us are incompatible with the welfare of society.’  “If the role of the parole board is to decide who is ready to return to the community, then the parole board should represent the people of those communities.”

The day before the hearing, the Parole Board submitted to the NYS Dept of State a proposal for the “written procedures” they were supposed to create more than 32 months previous.  No mention of this was brought forth during the hearing.  But immediately afterward, advocates were informed of it, and within two days we had the “procedures” in hand. The new regulations are no better than the old ones. They allow the board to continue doing what it has done all along. They merely add risk and needs assessment to the factors the parole board may consider, without changing the way the different factors are weighed and considered.
There is a 45-day public comment period for the new regulations, which began on December 18.  Although the board is not required to incorporate the public comments into its final regulations, it is required to respond to them.   Many activists and advocates are submitting comments.  In  2 - B we provide more details and how you and everyone you know can submit your own comments. 

The road to parole reform is still extremely steep: the Governor, with his Presidential ambitions, seems reluctant to appear “soft on crime,” but may be vulnerable to public pressure exposing some of the grave injustices in New York’s criminal justice system.  In the legislature, there is a mix of support, indifference, and hostility to parole reform. Assemblyman O’Donnell’s support, and the support of other progressive legislators, particularly in the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, is a very welcome sign; but the Senate is dominated by Republicans who have never seen a prison they didn’t love, and there are plenty of law and order Democrats in both houses whose campaign chests are lined by unions representing police and correctional officers. 

If we are able to win parole reform, it will only be by a long hard-fought campaign and a vigorous and widespread movement. And parole reform is only a piece of what we need in order to create real justice instead of “criminal INjustice.” To address all the economic and political injustices that help to generate crime, to change the paradigm of public safety from punishment to prevention and healing, and to create communities that are safe and healthy for all their inhabitants, is a job that can only be tackled by long-term, broad-based movement-building.  We’ve begun that job; let’s never turn back until we succeed.  
[Video coverage of the hearing is available at  http://tinyurl.com/oohgf6e   ]


B.  This year a window is opening, and we must seize the opportunity it offers!
Prison Action Network

Commenting on the Parole Boards’ proposed procedures: (For this article we have borrowed liberally from an analysis written by Alan Rosenthal and Patricia Warth of the Center for Community Alternatives and provided to Building Bridges).

What Are the Proposed New Procedures?
The Notice of Proposed Rule Making sets out changes to four different sections of the New York Codes Rules and Regulations, specifically 9 NYCRR Part 8001 and Sections 8002.1(a) and 9b), 8002.2(a) and 8002.3.
9 NYCRR Part 8001- This Part is repealed in its entirety because the 2011 amendments to Executive Law § 259-c(4) and § 259- i(1) which removed the requirement that the Board of parole utilize guidelines for setting minimum periods of imprisonment and making parole decisions.
9 NYCRR § 8002.1 - This section is amended to make the regulation applicable to both genders (adding the word her and she) and making a change to the name of the Commissioner to reflect the merger of old DOCS and the Division of Parole so that the new name in the statute reflects that it is the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

9 NYCRR § 8002.2 - This section is amended to insert a reference to the newly named Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and to change the language so that there is no longer a reference to a minimum term of an indeterminate sentence being fixed by either the court or the Board of Parole, instead replacing it with the questionable language that the minimum period of imprisonment or parole eligibility date “as fixed by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision”. (This change is questionable since only a sentencing court sets the minimum term of incarceration, not DOCCS).

9 NYCRR § 8002.3 - This is the only section where there is a change of substance, if indeed one considers keeping the status quo a “change of substance.” This section was evidently written by the Parole Board to attempt to comply with the requirement of Executive Law § 259-c(4) which mandates that the Parole Board “establish written procedures for its use in making parole decisions” and that “such written procedures shall incorporate risk and needs principles to measure the rehabilitation of persons appearing before the board, the likelihood of success of such person upon release, and assist the members of the state board of parole in determining which inmates may be release to parole supervision.”

This is what the Parole Board did to create the illusion of compliance. They changed this section to read that: “In making any parole release decision the following factors shall be considered:” The new regulation then goes on to list twelve factors. Ten of the twelve factors are the same factors that were found in the old parole statute, Executive Law § 259- i(2)(c)(A). As you will recall, that statute contained eight factors, (i) through (viii). What this change has done is taken these eight factors and by splitting old factor (vii) into three separate factors, thereby creating ten factors for the Parole Board to consider. The language of those ten factors remains exactly the same as it was. The section is then changed to add two new factors, making a total of twelve. The two new factors are:
(11) the most current risk and needs assessment that may have been prepared by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; and
(12) the most current case plan that may have been prepared by the Department of Corrections and Community supervision pursuant to section seventy-one-a of the Correction Law.  [emphasis added]

A fair reading of this is that the Parole Board wrote this regulation so that they do not have to consider the risk and needs assessment (COMPAS) or the “case plan” if one was not prepared in a particular case.

Over the past two years since the enactment of the attempted reform of Executive Law § 259-c(4) the Parole Board has delivered more of the same meaningless denials, even when parole applicants appeared with the lowest possible COMPAS risk level scores, positive accomplishments on their “case plan” and superior institutional records. The same old static factors continue to be the basis for a significantly high rate of parole denials. In fact the denial rate for parole applicants going to an initial Board rose dramatically from 43.5% in 2003 to 73.4 % in 2012.

This is where your input becomes so necessary.  No one can comment on the “same meaningless denials” better than you.  We suggest you - a parole applicant, or you, a family member or friend - focus your comments on the lack of any significant changes in the substance of parole denials you’ve received or observed since the enactment of the attempted reforms.  The deadline is January 31, and we suggest you submit them in time to arrive before then.  Please make 3 copies and send one either by post or by email to each of the following addresses:

Terrence Tracy
NYS Board of Parole
1220 Washington Ave, Building 2
Albany, New York 12226-2050
terrence.tracy@doccs.ny.gov

John Koury, Director
Administrative Regulations Review Commission (ARRC)
State Capital
Albany, New York 12247

NYS Parole Reform Campaign
PO Box 6355
Albany, NY 12206
Parole.Reform@gmail.com


Several comments have already been filed in response to the Parole Board’s proposed written procedures.  Here are some of the points they make: 

The Board’s regulations are lacking any compelling language to implement the concepts and practices of evidence based decision-making.  The law would not need assessments if the legislature was not attempting to modernize parole decision-making to emphasize public safety and readiness to reenter society.  Yet the proposed regulations simply refer to the use of risk assessments as one of 12 factors the board can consider, and in language that makes it possible to ignore them entirely.  

The regulations fail to direct commissioners to inform an applicant, upon denial, of specific steps the applicant can take to improve his or her chances of release in the future, which completely ignores the needs component of the risk and needs instrument.  

For a risk and needs assessment to give structure and guidance to the Board, it must be used in every case as the rule and not the exception, thus the parole board must have rules to justify an override of COMPAS, much as DOCCS has established ways to override it in setting supervision status once released.


C.  A Bully to Human Rights
by Corey Parks

“Enough is enough!”,  I scream when I view the number of parole board denials in The Building Bridges news letter or hear from a friend that he just got another two years because of the nature of the crime. This record of political and dehumanizing practices is a common tune that we are used to hearing.  It has gained so much notoriety that activists, families, and communities are campaigning and praying for a better system that will be transparent and fair for those who are considered for release. 

Last year we made strides with events such as the NYS Prisoner Justice NYC Convergence, Riverside Church Prison Ministry’s unfolding of their Ending Parole Abuses, Reuniting Families Campaign and the formation of RAPP (Releasing Aging People in Prison) and by lobbying in Albany. 

This year we must be consistent in building the momentum to bring about change to the system of incarceration. Let’s consider this analogy:  many men and women are being treated like a deck of cards that are being shuffled every time they appear before the parole board.  Once their hands are shown (Criminal History) the odds of them beating the house (parole release) is slim to none. The only hope one has is completing an additional two year sentence in order to have another chance at the bet on freedom. 
Recently the wife of a friend telephoned me that her husband was denied parole once again.  After twenty plus years of incarceration, completed programming and a clean disciplinary record, she could not understand why.  And honestly neither could I.  This is the continuing injustice that has made New York State Parole System a Bully to Human Rights.  Many incarcerated individuals, families, and communities are devastated by this model we know as the criminal justice system. I can’t even close my eyes without wanting to wake up to do something about this problem.  We must continue our struggle. We must find alternatives in law and social evolution that will eliminate all Human Rights abuses.

  Corey Parks can be reached at MBK Global, 2266 5
th Avenue # 179, New York, NY 10037

3.  Ithaca Prisoner Justice Network Group is heating up!
Here’s what they’ve done in the last month:
 Attended the Dec 4 Assembly hearing on Parole:  heard testimony from former parole board members, families, parolees, other agencies. 
Vigil and Letter writing downtown Ithaca with Amnesty International
Letter writing (over 100) at Episcopal Parishes on Sunday:  The ideas are spreading throughout the community, educating and action. 
Stop the Jail Expansion: Attended County Board Public Safety Committee about the reasons to add beds to the jail.  The board explained their rationale and had agencies there to present their work. They put on a show. 
Stop the Jail Expansion Presentation/Discussion:  Ideas: 
Educate the public about the high bails and the magistrates that assign them.
Put pressure on the magistrates.
Saving money from boarding out is quite significant.
Mental Health is part of the problem – we don’t have enough services for people in trouble.
What about a respite house?   Or the program like the one in Burlington.  Ask NAMI  to meet with us.                     
Does the jail population go up in winter?
 Coming up: Sat Feb 1, 4:00 a potluck with representatives from the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement who will be in Ithaca to network.
Next  PJN meeting  Jan 9th at 7:00  Contact Joey.
Go Ithaca!

4.  Second Chance Committee PRESENTS
Second Chance Cycle 8 Life Skills Program
FREE   EVERY Thursday  6-8PM:  January 9th, 16th and 23rd.
106 West 145th Street, Harlem, NY 10039

January 9
th   Employment & Job Readiness part 1
January 16
th  Employment & Job Readiness Part 2
January 23
rd  Educational/Vocational Resources
NAN: 877-626-4651 or 212-690-3070
chair: Victor Pate
co-chair: Selina Fulford                               
     

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