Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

May 2014

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

During the month we post late breaking news and announcements here, so please check back now and then. 

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Give someone in prison a gift of love: a Commission on Parole!
Click here to sign our petition asking Gov. Cuomo to establish a Commission on Parole




May 12 - posted by Judith Brink

Dancers are formerly incarcerated men from Figures in Flight Released joining Hudson Valley teenagers from Figures in Flight 4.  Bring your friends; it's sure to inspire.

SAVE THE DATE:  June 28  Manhattan












































Building Bridges May 2014

Dear Reader,

May 5, 2014: NEW YORK AGAINST MASS INCARCERATION, DAY OF ACTION, ALBANY. 

To you who are behind the walls, if we could take all the comradeship, exuberance, passion, and determination of this day, put it in a container (not glass, factory sealed, under 35 pounds) and send it to you – they would never let it in: it would be seen as a serious threat to the system! But they can’t keep out our love for you, for each other, for our families and communities, and that was the fuel that fired up this most amazing and wonderful day of action and protest. 

First off, the numbers of people who attended were way beyond anything our movement has done in a statewide protest before: over 600 at the rally, with varying numbers at the press conference, lobbying, march, parole speakout, and reception. The geographic representation was stunning: Buffalo, Binghamton, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Ithaca, Cortland, North Country, Albany, Kingston, Newburgh, Woodstock, Poughkeepsie, Long Island (north shore and south shore), and New York City --  and I probably left someplace out! The breadth of issues was too wide to fit them all in here, but there were strong excellent speakers on parole reform and the SAFE parole act, releasing elders, ending solitary confinement, ending collateral consequences/post-prison discrimination, creating a truth, justice, and reconciliation commission on the racial impacts of mass incarceration, ending the so-called war on drugs, education in prison, and stopping the shackling of pregnant women.

Cornel West, fiery and impassioned orator for justice, and King of Love, tied it all together and much more too: talked about the disgrace to this country of imprisonment, poverty, racism, and war, and how they are all connected, and the shame of it in the richest country the world has ever known.  

Then we were inspired to great heights by a rapper, a poet, and a singer, and we marched off around the Capitol chanting, led by a perky marching band called the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we’re gonna free our people, free them all!” “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? NOW!” echoed off those marble walls.

The march led into a parole justice speakout at the Million Dollar Staircase, a vast ornate carved stairway in the Capitol. One person after another spoke about the plight of their loved ones behind bars being unjustly denied parole, while many held up “Missing Posters” with photos of their loved ones who are missing because the parole board has kept them, sometimes for decades, beyond their potential release date.

Throughout the day, teams of lobbyers organized and trained by the Campaign Against Isolated Confinement went to the offices of dozens of legislators armed with – the facts! about solitary confinement as torture, and the HALT Solitary (Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement) bill currently before the legislature.

[  There were media interviews and press coverage too, thanks to a very capable media team; here are the links:

Tired and inspired, we ended the day with a pizza and networking reception at a nearby church. People rested their tired feet, ate abundant pizza and cookies, and talked with each other about the day and about the many more days we will need to organize in order to thoroughly change this rotten criminal justice system.
NYS Prisoner Justice Network

From the Editor:   Next month we plan on devoting at least ½ of Building Bridges to photographs of the May 5 event.  If you were a participant, please send your  photos and your comments for inclusion.  

It was monumental, and it was produced through the efforts of our many grassroots movements.  For us, all else pales in comparison to the work that lies ahead.  Prison Action Network will be campaigning for a Democratic majority in the Senate.  It's not that we're partisan, but the Legislature is partisan.  The Republicans unite against reforming the criminal justice system, and almost never pass any legislation that would create a safer and more united community.  If they changed their stripes we'd be voting for them.  Til then we will encourage our members to vote for Democrats, who tend to be more compassionate around our issues, particularly for the SAFE Parole Act.  But anyone who supports an end to mass incarceration, regardless of Party affiliation will get our vote!  We hope you're registered to vote.



CONTENTS
1.  Parole News: release rates for A-1violent convictions holding at 27% - angry board members - freedom by suicide?
2.  Bills:  Assembly bills promote public safety, Senate bills focus on rear and punishment and money
3.  Litigation:  three judges appointed to fill vacancies on Court of Appeals, 3rd Division
4.  Prisoners Are People Too, Inc believes in standing up and speaking out

5.  Corey Parks remarks on how, when people who commit  crimes are removed from society, they are remembered for some of the worst things in their life.  This image follows them into their interview with the parole board.
6.  Milk Not Jails reports on their April 16th Action Day

7.  The Statewide Parole Reform Campaign—Ending Parole Abuses-Reuniting Families reports on their Change.org petition, their need for donations, and solicits your help composing Twitter messages
8.  Commission on Youth:  Appointments to the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice include several of our close allies.
9.  SAVE THE DATE:  June 28th  a dance performance crosses the cultural divide to help youth at risk of incarceration.  [see photo and details above]
10.  Second Chance Panel attracted a large and responsive audience.
11.  Job Op - Milk Not Jails, a cooperative business, is looking for a driver

12.  Clemency - Federal clemency opportunities for deserving individuals jailed for drug crimes promise to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality to those who do not pose a threat to public safety
13.  Obama administration is considering limiting the deportations of undocumented immigrants who do not have criminal records.
14.  Solitary Confinement agreement would limit length of SHU sentences and provide better conditions for those in solitary, but it does not go far enough.  HALT, the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act S.6466A / A.8588 limits the use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons and jails to 15 consecutive days for most inmates and bans the punishment outright for certain inmate groups.
15.  Capital region prison writing group meets twice a month, looking for writers, either in prison or the Albany area

16.  Oliver Koppell is running to unseat Sen. Klein whom voters elected to make the Democrats the majority party in the Senate and then he turned around and agreed to vote with the Republicans in exchange for more power



In Memory of Rubin Carter
The celebrated boxer and prisoner-rights activist Rubin "Hurricane" Carter died on April 20 at the age of 76.  This excerpt from his book, Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom inspires us to be ‘Just Enough’:

“I was a prizefighter at one point in my life. I was a soldier at one point in my life. I was a convict at one point in my life. I was a jailhouse lawyer at one point. I was the executive director of AIDWYC at one point in my life—a black angel. Today, I am the CEO of Innocence International. I have been a writer and a doctor of laws. I have been many things and have many things still yet to be. But if I had to choose an epitaph to be carved upon my tombstone, it would simply read, 'He was just enough.' He was just enough to overcome everything that was laid on him on this earth. He was just enough not to give up on himself. He was just enough to believe in himself beyond anything else in this world. He was just enough to have the courage to stand up for his convictions no matter what problems his actions may have caused him. He was just enough to perform a miracle, to wake up, to escape the universal prison of sleep, and to regain his humanity in a living hell. He was just enough. And so, my young friend, are you.  ‘Just enough’."


1.  Parole News
MARCH 2014 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001
unofficial research from parole database

March 2014 Summaries

Total Interviews
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
YTD Released
22 Initials
3
19
14%
27%
61 Reappearances
19
42
30%
27%
83 total
22
61
27%
27%



Age summary
Total
Denied 
Released
Released % 
60-69
10
9
1
10%
70-79
3
3

0%
80+




Total
13
12
1
8%


March 2014 Initial Releases

Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Great Meadow
45
27-Life
Mrd2
1
Great Meadow
40
24 2/3-Life
JO-Mrd
1
Mohawk
54
25-Life
Mrd2
1


March 2014 Reappearance Releases
Facility
Age
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Bare Hill
54
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Clinton
43
16-Life
 Mrd 2
5
Clinton
39
15-Life
Kidnap 1
2
Fishkill
52
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Fishkill
52
15-Life
Mrd 2
10
Fishkill
51
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Greene
38
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
62
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
55
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville
42
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
45
15-Life
Att Mrd 1
4
Otisville
39
18-Life
Mrd 2
3
Otisville  -deportation
47
20-Life
Mrd 2
4
Washington
44
15-Life
Mrd 2
6
Woodbourne
47
15-Life
Mrd 2
8
Woodbourne
55
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Woodbourne
48
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
38
18-Life
Mrd 2
2
Woodbourne
48
15-Life
Mrd 2
2


Angry Board Members blast the Attorney General’s office:
The Parole Board voted (in January 2014) to release Ronald Bower to parole after spending 20 years in prison for a crime he probably did not commit, but they first used his hearing to blast the Attorney General’s office for writing a letter on Bower’s behalf, thus putting them in a very bad position, said Commissioners Ferguson and Elovich.  ...“the fact that an Attorney General…would write a letter saying that they feel that you are not guilty of the crime that you’re in here for and their only recourse [is to ask] the Parole Board to release you, is a very deep concern.” “What they are virtually doing is putting [us] in a terrible position because as a Parole Board, we are charged to assume that the person that is in prison is guilty of what they’re in prison for because we do not have the resources to retry a case.”  [The Editor notes that they don’t have the same objections to resentencing hundreds of community-ready parole applicants, even against some victims’ wishes.]

Freedom by Suicide?  by Anonymous
The NYS prison system seems to be having a very high suicide rate.  It has Cuomo’s attention.  He has sent word to all prison administrators to get a grip on this problem.  All of those in leadership positions went through a suicide prevention lecture and then everyone who went to the movies on the weekend had to watch a suicide prevention video before the movie.  I am wondering how many of these people who have killed themselves or tried to, gave up because the parole board hit them so many times and they felt this was the only way they would ever be free.  I can completely understand someone doing this.  Same with people who have life without parole.  Human beings need hope.



2.  Bills
Assembly Correction Committee (O'Donnell, Chair)  -  Tuesday, April 8

Bill number
Primary Sponsor(s)
A.4109 / S.3350
**Referred to Ways and Means
Aubry/Hassell-Thompson
Establishes a commission on post-secondary correctional education
A.4594-A  no same as
**Referred to Codes
O’Donnell
Authorizes Geriatric Parole for “certain prisoners” over 60
A.4869 / S3367
**Referred to Codes
Aubry/Hassell-Thompson
Requires employers to make a conditional offer of employment before inquiring about any criminal convictions 
A.9127  no same as
**Referred to Ways and Means
Rozic
Provides vocational training to inmates on the installation of solar hot water systems for correctional facilities
A.9166 / S.4343
*Reported

O’Donnell/ Gallivan
Adds a licensed health care professional to the organization of the Citizen's Policy and Complaint Review Council

* “reported” means it moves to the Calendar, where it takes its place in the list of bills awaiting their day on the agenda for the House’s sessions.    After they’ve been on each senator’s desk for 3 days (reached the “order of Third Reading”) the bill is ready for a final vote.

** In some cases a bill is first referred to another committee, like the Finance Committee.
Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee (GALLIVAN, Chair)  -  Wednesday, April 30
Bill number
Primary Sponsor(s)
Description
S.1353 / A.231
Reported*
Parker/Kavanaugh
Provides for notice by commissioner of corrections and community supervision of availability of medical, educational and other services, including alcohol and substance abuse treatment, to prisoners upon their release from state prison.

S.1452
No same as
Reported*
Flanagan
Prohibits anyone convicted of a level 3 sex offense for a 
crime involving a child from being granted by a court, physical or legal custody of or unsupervised visitation with a child.

S.5342 / A.5987
Reported*
Savino/Weprin
Prohibits persons required to maintain registration under the sex offender registration act from entering into children's sections of certain libraries

S.6600 
No same as
Referred to Finance**
Klein
Ensures that staff at the Parole Board and the Director of Probation and Correctional Alternatives have the most updated list of elementary and secondary schools so that such information can be used to guarantee that level II and III registered sex offenders are not placed near such schools when such persons are either released from prison on parole or are placed on probation.

S.6954
No same as
Reported*
Gallivan
Extends the expiration date to September 1, 2017 to continue to authorize local correctional facilities to enter into contracts for the purpose of boarding-in certain inmates from other states' local correctional facilities.


* “reported” means it moves to the Calendar, where it takes its place in the list of bills awaiting their day on the agenda for the House’s sessions.    After they’ve been on each senator’s desk for 3 days (reached the “order of Third Reading”) the bill is ready for a final vote.
** In some cases a bill is first referred to another committee, like the Finance Committee.

3.  Litigation
Remember the Montane* v. Evans decision which came down from the Court of Appeals Third Department (reported on last month)? It basically said the Board of Parole has no obligation to spell out its procedures or provide more than a cursory explanation for its decisions to deny an inmate release.The department was short five judges when that ruling was made, with only 4 of the full nine sitting.  Since then Governor Cuomo has appointed 3 new judges to the third division: 

Christine Clark, former Schenectady City Court judge and Family Court judge after a stint as an assistant district attorney in Schenectady, mainly working with the sex crimes/child abuse unit and eventually becoming chief of the special victims bureau

Eugene Devine, former Albany County public defender, chief counsel for the Albany County Department of Social Services.

Michael Lynch, former Albany County assistant district attorney, county attorney, counsel to two county agencies and clerk to Third Department Justice Leonard Weiss.  

All of the appointees are Democrats, and all graduated from Albany Law School.

*Montane’s lawyer has moved for leave to appeal to the court of appeals.  We’ll see if the court grants it, especially since Mr. Montane reappeared before the board and was granted an open date of 5/26/14.  


4.  Standing Up! Speaking Out!  by Karima Amin
PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. has always upheld the idea that fighting against unjust laws is a moral responsibility as we work to erase unjust laws through actions that will promote justice and equality for all. Next month, on May 5, when we travel to Albany to face-off with our State legislators, we will continue standing up and speaking out for those who have been incarcerated unjustly and for those who have positively transformed their lives behind bars and are now worthy of release. We will continue to give voice to the voiceless who have been abused in dungeons where man’s inhumanity to man has been rampant as prisoners have endured the kind of mental and physical torture that seeks to destroy the soul.

Believing in the humanity of all people, PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. (PRP2) has always spoken out for men, women, and children confined to our State and local correctional facilities. PRP2 was at the forefront of bringing the Department of Justice to Western NY when our Erie County Holding Center was becoming well known, across the State and the Nation for an ugly spate of alleged suicides, which led to millions of your tax dollars being spent to settle related lawsuits.  Strengthening its profile, PRP2’s activism led to the creation of the Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition and to PRP2’s joining the New York State Prisoner Justice Network. Standing up and speaking out is what we have done to keep the community informed about criminal justice and prisoner justice issues. The work has not been easy and frustrations abound but we continue to work, believing that everyone is deserving of professional, fair, and humane treatment.

At the April 28 monthly meeting of PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC., we were honored to have as our guest speaker, Mr. George K. Arthur, a political legend, active on the political scene in Buffalo for fifty years. This is a man who knows a little something about hard work, frustration, and determination. He served on the Erie County Board of Supervisors from 1964-1967, as Ellicott District Councilman from 1970-1978, and then as Councilman-at-Large in 1978, eventually serving as Common Council President from 1984 until his retirement in 1996. Along the way, he ran for mayor in 1985 as the unendorsed Democratic candidate, narrowly losing to incumbent Jimmy Griffin. He is a man who understands the meaning of dogged tenacity. Giving up is not an option even when naysayers laugh in the face of justice.

The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng sponsor all monthly programs. For more information: 716-834-8438; Karima Amin (karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org); BaBa Eng (g.babaeng@yahoo.com).

5.  Time to Eliminate Mass Incarceration
by Corey Parks
When I think about the prison industrial complex, I think about motives, effects, and personal perspectives of both those who control the system as well as those who are in prison. It’s understood that prison has been a business where a majority of African Americans and Hispanics are its stock. There have been many schemes to make sure the prison system runs effectively. One aspect of this scheme is the parole board.  Many people go to the parole board and are denied for the nature of the crime. This process takes place up until an individual reaches their conditional release date. If a person has a life sentence, that process could be never ending. The rehabilitation aspect has been replaced with selfish greed and mistreatment.  However, tax payers are under the impression that the criminal mind and behaviors are being helped with rehabilitative services. The truth is ignored by the media and overshadowed by the inmate’s criminal history. When a person who commits crime is removed from society they are remembered for some of the worst things in their life.  This image follows them into their interview with the parole board.  Fortunately people and organizations are advocating to end this and other practices that result in injustices to those who are incarcerated. On May 5th 2014, I went to Albany to rally against solitary confinement and the improper functions of the parole board.  I saw many of your friends and families in the crowd.  It is time that we eliminate mass incarceration.  It is time we regain our voice.



6.  Milk Not Jails 4/26 Action Day
On April 16, 2014, groups across New York State took action in their communities to raise awareness about the state's broken parole system and demand change now! Local groups in Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Albany, the Hudson Valley, Mount Vernon and the Bronx organized their own unique actions to educate their neighbors, galvanize support, and demand support from local politicians.

In Buffalo, Prisoners are People Too, Inc. marched from the local parole office to Assemblymember Grisanti’s office.  WBFO radio interviewed Karima, Nate and Chuck at the Prisoners are People Too rally at Assemblymember Grisanti’s office.

In the Bronx, Milk Not Jails and Life Progressive Services focused energy on finding more support in the district of Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein, by touring his district, meeting with local groups and showing up at Senator Klein’s private law firm office.  Leading up to and on April 16
th, Milk Not Jails worked with local community leaders to re-mount its installation of hundreds of letters from people routinely denied parole in Rochester, Canton, and Utica.

The NY State Council of Churches joined with Prison Action Network on a statewide “Ringing Bells for Justice” campaign to urge member churches to ring their bells for one minute at noon on April 26 in remembrance of the people imprisoned in NYS.  The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany participated by sounding a gong (they don’t have a bell) and handing out flyers.  Participants agreed to begin plans for developing relationships with inner-city churches to become active in criminal justice issues.  In North Chatham, Utica, Albany and Rochester, congregants organized special services, rang their bells in honor of people on parole, and activated their church to demand SAFE Parole today.

Evan Dawson, host of Connections, a Rochester radio program aired on WXXI, interviewed Ann Robinson,
Pastor of Lake United Methodist Church about the movement to change parole rules in NY state.  She explained how parole boards are denying parole to inmates who are clearly deserving.  On the 16th,  Rev Robinson handed out flyers and conversed with passersby, some of whom became so interested they joined her efforts.

All in all, people across New York State learned -  many for the first time – about New York’s broken parole system and met neighbors who are working to change the system.  We look forward to bringing this energy to Albany on May 5
th!
For those who are interested in setting up a local action utilizing the letter installation, please contact Milk Not Jails at milknotjails@gmail.com or (917) 719-6455.

7.  The Statewide Parole Reform Campaign—Ending Parole Abuses-Reuniting Families
We need everyone to sign our Change.org petition and/or tell at least five people to sign it.  By doing so, you will be telling Governor Cuomo to establish a commission on parole in order to bring public confidence, transparency and accountability to the parole board—a body that has none of these. In short, you’ll be telling the governor to overhaul New York’s broken parole system and send community-ready incarcerated people home.

The petition now has 1,655 signatures, with 8,345 to go in order to reach 10,000 by November.  November will be here before we know it, so we need your signatures and those of your friends and loved ones NOW. An easy way to gain access to the petition is by going to www.parolereformnow.org, scrolling down and clicking on the word HERE in red letters. That will take you to our petition—“Governor Cuomo: Establish a Commission on Parole in New York State.”  Working together we can do this! Every signature matters!

Every dollar matters , too. As we move forward with our election-year and media projects (see the April issue of Building Bridges for details) in service to thousands of men and women who are unjustly denied parole, we need your donations in order to get the job done. No contribution is too small. It all adds up. 
We deeply thank our most recent donors:  Aaron Talley and Rafael Robles
And, of course, we always want your thoughts and ideas. For a new social media project titled “Did You Know…” we invite you to send us facts about New York State’s criminal justice system that you think the public should be made aware of. We’ll use them in an ongoing Twitter project as part of the public education component of the parole reform campaign. For example, if you sent in the fact that New York State gives people leaving prison $40 to restart their lives, we’d Tweet that out to the public like this:  “Did you know that New York State gives people leaving prison only $40 to restart their lives?”  Simple, right?  And effective, too.  
Please send facts for “Did You Know…”, campaign ideas and donations to: Parole Reform Campaign, Think Outside the Cell, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 525,  New York, NY 10011


8.  Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice 
In the early days of April, Governor Cuomo announced his Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice, established in response to the Raise the Age NY awareness campaign, which argued that the state should revise its policy of charging all 16- and 17-year old persons as adults. The commission will convene by the end of 2014.  Building Bridges was pleasantly surprised by his appointments to the Commission:

Jeremy Creelan, (Co-Chair): Currently a Partner at Jenner & Block, Mr. Creelan perviously served as Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and as Special Counsel to Governor Cuomo. His work has focused on election law, meaningful ethics reform and enhancing public protection through DNA reforms.

Soffiyah Elijah, (Co-Chair) Correctional Association of New York, Executive Director. Ms. Elijah has served as Deputy Director and a clinical instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, practiced criminal and family law in New York City for more than 20 years and was a member of the faculty and Director and supervising attorney of the Defender Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law.

Elizabeth Glazer, Director, NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. Ms. Glazer previously served as Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety until June 2013. Ms. Glazer has also served as the Chair of the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and held a number of senior positions at both the federal and local levels, implementing crime control and prevention strategies.

Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel for Latino Justice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), Constitutional and civil rights attorney and former General Counsel and VP for Advocacy at the Community Service Society.

Joel Copperman, CEO of CASES (Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services); also chairs the Board of Directors of the Human Services Council, a coalition of more than 160 New York City organizations that advocates for the needs of the human services sector.

Janet DiFiore, Westchester County District Attorney. In 2003, District Attorney DiFiore was appointed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye to serve as the Supervising Judge for the Criminal Courts in the 9th Judicial District.

Steven Krokoff, Albany Chief of Police: Appointed Chief of Police in 2010 with the approval of Albany’s underserved neighborhoods,   Chief Krokoff has taken a progressive approach to law enforcement, including breaking down historical social barriers and dedication to a community-centered model.

Joseph Mancini, Schenectady County, Director of Probation: Mr. Mancini has worked for Schenectady County in the Probation Department for over 20 years.  He was instrumental in the establishment of the Schenectady County Center for Juvenile Justice and has been its chief administrator since it was created in 2003.

Michael Hardy, National Action Network, Executive Vice President & General Counsel: Mr. Hardy is one of the Founders of the National Action Network and has been involved in Movement politics and the fight for a more perfect union since 1981. He officially assumed the position of General Counsel to the National Action Network in 2008.

Melanie Hartzog, Children's Defense Fund-New York, Executive Director

Emily Tow Jackson, The Tow Foundation, Executive Director: Philanthropist Emily Tow Jackson is the Executive Director of her family's foundation and a leading advocate for reforming Connecticut’s broken juvenile justice system. 

Honorable Barry Kamins, New York State Unified Court System, Chief of Policy and Planning: Responsible for working with judges throughout the state to study and develop policies and strategies to improve the delivery of justice in New York.

Anthony Picente, Oneida County Executive

Allen Riley, Madison County Sheriff: He has 28 years of law enforcement experience.

Elaine Spaull, Center for Youth, Executive Director.: She is responsible for the administration of a youth-centered organization founded more than 30 years ago by a group of teenagers. She also serves as a member of the Rochester City Council.

Cyrus Vance, Manhattan District Attorney: Chair of the Board of Directors of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. Mr. Vance also serves as co-chair of the New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing.

“It’s time to improve New York’s outdated juvenile justice laws and raise the age at which our children can be tried and charged as adults,” Governor Cuomo said through a press release. “New York is one of only two states that charges 16- and 17-year olds as adults. It’s not right and it’s not fair. I am pleased to welcome these exceptional members of the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice, who will work to make the system fairer and safer for our youth and communities.”

9.  Save the Date!  June 28th  
Modern Dance Companies Cross Cultural Divides To Help Youth At Risk of Incarceration  -
 


Center for Ethical Culture, Central Concert Hall  2 West 64th Street, Manhattan

Formerly incarcerated dancers join Hudson Valley youth for a Figures in Flight Dance Program on June 28th.  This inspirational program will feature dance performance, documentary clips and opportunity for questions and answers. 

Admission is free with a donation optional.  Performance starts at 7pm and tickets will be available at the box office of the Concert Hall starting at 6pm.  For further information contact Stephanie Kristal at (845) 750-4438

Figures in Flight Released, a group of adult men whose dance training began through a rehabilitation program in prison will be joined by Figures in Flight 4, a professional youth dance company made up of high school students from the Hudson Valley.    For further information contact Judith at 518 253 7533.
In spite of their obvious differences in race, age, and background, these two groups share something that shines through on stage and in rehearsal: a love of dance, and a commitment to mutual respect between people of all kinds.  They also share a dance teacher and choreographer.  Both companies are being presented under the direction of renowned dance educator and artistic director Susan Slotnick.

The June 28th program will feature original works by Slotnick who employs a wide range of musical genres including pop, classical, jazz and gospel.  Dancers from both companies appear on stage in “Welcome to the World”, a monumental twenty-minute piece that explores the universal human experience through themes of separation, war, suffering, love and reconciliation.

‘Welcome to the World’ is about our ever changing, often confusing world, and the piece ends with the two dance companies supporting one another.  “It's not only my dream for them, but as I approach the end of my 33-year career, it is my vision for the future of the world,” says Slotnick.

The dancers belonging to Figures in Flight Released are adult men who trained in dance technique under Slotnick while serving time in Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, New York.  Their intensive dance training was made possible through the NYS grant-funded Rehabilitation through the Arts program, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the creative arts as a tool for social and cognitive transformation in prisons.  Slotnick began teaching through the program at Woodbourne in 2008 and has traveled there weekly since.

In 2012, as the men completed their prison sentences they formed their own company in New York City.  Figures in Flight Released has performed at Vassar College, John Jay College for Criminal Justice, Fordham University, Columbia University and the National Museum for Dance.  Former prisoner Andre Noel is the company’s director.
The teenage dancers of Figures in Flight 4 have been training with Slotnick since early childhood.   Though still in high school, these young dancers are seasoned performers, with a roster of past appearances that includes the prestigious Downtown Dance Festival in New York City’s Battery Park, the National Museum for Dance in Saratoga Springs, and Mohonk Mountain House. 

The June 28th performance will take place at the Center for Ethical Culture, Central Concert Hall  2 West 64th Street, Manhattan  Admission is free with a donation optional.  Performance starts at 7pm and tickets will be available at the box office of the Concert Hall starting at 6pm.



10.  Second Chance Program Criminal Justice Panel: “State Of Our Prisons”
Hosted on
Saturday April 12th 2014, by the National Action Network NYC Chapter Second Chance Program & The Release Aging Persons From Prison Campaign.  The panel on the state of our prisons was well received and very informative.  There were calls from the audience to ‘take our show on the road’!  Kudos to Victor Pate for his excellent organizing


11.  We’re Hiring a Driver!
Milk Not Jails,  Brooklyn, NY

Milk Not Jails is a non-profit milk marketing and distribution company with a political mission. We are working to end upstate New York’s economic investment in the prison industry by expanding and strengthening sales and marketing opportunities for farmers that take a stand against a dysfunctional prison system.   Milk Not Jails is a cooperative business, meaning that our workers have the opportunity to become owners in the business as well. We are looking for an excellent driver to safely deliver our products to clients on time, represent the Milk Not Jails vision, and invest energy in becoming a leader in our business.

This is a part-time position with the potential to become full-time. Applicants must be available to work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays as well as Saturday mornings. The start date for this position is mid-May 2014.   Hourly wage starts at $15 per hour, with opportunities for a raise and ownership after three months.
Deadline for applications: May 15, 2012
Questions? Contact us at (917) 719-MILK or milknotjails@gmail.com.
Job Responsibilities:  Pick-up orders from farms at drop off points in NYC; Work with staff to pack orders for clients; Deliver orders to clients in Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn;  Deliver payments to farms and collect payments from clients as needed; Communicate issues pertaining to orders and new potential client information to sales staff
Job Qualifications: Excellent driving record; Knowledge of commercial driving rules and regulations; Good sense of direction in 5 boroughs; Ability to problem solve quickly; Excellent communication skills; Ability to enthusiastically represent the Milk Not Jails company mission and field questions from the public; Ability to work independently and as part of a team; Self-starter; Proficiency with GPS units, a plus; CDL license a plus, but not necessary; Preference for those who are formerly incarcerated
Hours and Wages: Hourly wage starts at $15 per hour, with opportunities for a raise and ownership after three months.
Application Process:  Please submit a resume and cover letter describing a time, in a personal or professional setting, when an unexpected problem occurred and you solved it.   Send your resume and cover letter as attachments via email to milknotjails@gmail.com or via mail to Lauren Melodia, 497 Quincy Street, Brooklyn, NY 11221.


12.  Federal Clemency for drug crimes
The Obama administration is expanding the criteria for deciding which prisoners jailed for drug crimes can obtain clemency. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced sentencing disparities between users of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine to address a racial imbalance in prison terms, but the law did not apply retroactively.   Attorney General Eric Holder says the administration will announce new guidelines to help close the gap:  "There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime. This is simply not right. The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety. The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences."
The new criteria could mean early parole for thousands of prisoners. 



13.  Reduction in immigrant deportations
President Obama is starting to take some long awaited actions in favor of human rights.  His administration is reportedly considering limiting the deportations of undocumented immigrants who do not have criminal records. Recent figures show two-thirds of those deported under President Obama had committed minor infractions, such as traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all. Perhaps the president heard the rising criticism of his record two million deportations.

On April 23 Attorney General Eric Holder backed up the President: "There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime. This is simply not right. The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety. The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

Let’s hope this trickles down to NY.



14.  Solitary Confinement
Under an agreement brokered by the NYCLU, the New York State Department of Corrections (DOCCS) consented to reform the way solitary confinement is used in prisons across the state.  Days later the NYS Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to investigate the human rights, fiscal and public safety consequences of solitary confinement practices. Speaker after speaker – including senators and prison officials – testified that because of the agreement New York made with the NYCLU, the state is now leading a national criminal justice reform movement. 
As a result of the the NYCLU’s 2012 lawsuit, Peoples v. Fischer, two nationally recognized corrections experts will develop recommendations to reform DOCCS’ use of isolation cells.
“By entering into this agreement, the Cuomo administration has shown that it has the vision to transform New York into a national leader in the movement toward alternatives to solitary confinement, and has prioritized the safety of prisoners, prison staff and New York’s communities.” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
The state will set first-ever maximum limits on isolation-sentence lengths. Prisoners in isolation will also get an extra hour a day of outdoor recreational time, as well as access to the radio and educational materials. Prisoners in isolation will get an extra hour a day of outdoor recreational time, as well as access to the radio and educational materials.
“This agreement is an important step toward dignity and decency,” said lead plaintiff Leroy Peoples, who served 780 consecutive days in isolation for nonviolent behavior after prison officials determined he filed false legal documents. “I thank the governor for taking this seriously and hearing us out.”        If the process fails, the NYCLU will resume litigation.  
HALT!  We need more.
While the NYCLU/DOCCS agreement is a big step in the right direction we need many more limitations put on the use of solitary confinement.  HALT, the
Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act S.6466A / A.8588 limits the use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons and jails to 15 consecutive days for most inmates and bans the punishment outright for certain inmate groups. The bill is intended to help drive America towards alignment with international standards.  The UN has issued a report saying that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days “should also be subject to an absolute prohibition.” Currently, there are about 4,000 people in solitary confinement in NY’s jails and prisons. The bill has been introduced by Assembly member Jeffrion Aubry and state Senator Bill Perkins. Lobbying for it will be a large part of the May 5th Mass Demonstration in Albany.

15.  Capital Region prison letter writing group
The Capital Region Prison Letter Writing Group meets every other Sunday at 7PM at the Albany Social Justice Center located at 33 Central Avenue.For updates about meetings email us at stephaniemkaylor@gmail.com or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com
/Capital Region Prison Letter Writing Group is committed to outreach through communication and letter-writing between our community and incarcerated folks who receive less attention than their high-profile peers, including LGBTGI-identified prisoners, the elderly, and youth. Through this basic act of fostering strength and support, we seek to enable resistance against a system that affects not only those behind bars, but our community at large. Pens, paper, stamps, guidelines, and encouragement will be provided. 
If you know of anyone on the inside who would appreciate our support, let us know!  Stephanie Kaylor, Capital Region Prison Letter Writing Group, Albany Social Justice C,enter 33 Central Ave., Albany NY 12210.

16.  Voting is Power
On Monday May 5, when New Yorkers Against Prison Injustice were rallying in Albany, Oliver Kopell announced his intention to run for State Senate against Jeff Klein.  In case you don’t know, Sen. Jeff Klein robbed us of the Democratic majority we elected to govern New York State, by joining the Republicans in return for a seat of power.  His action is one of the major reasons the SAFE Parole Act has not gained the support it needs in the Senate.  Klein has joined Republicans throughout the last year and a half to block the meaningful progressive legislation that we the people came out on May 5 to demand.  

In an article published in the New York Time NY Region on May 4, by Jesse McKinley, Koppell is quoted as saying,“I’m running because the state senator who represents my district has betrayed the Democratic Party and foiled important objectives,  and people have come to me and said because of my good reputation, my good name recognition, because of my record, I’m someone who can set this right.”

Prison Action Network is throwing our full support behind his election.  Even if our members do not all live in his district - which consists of parts of the Bronx and Westchester County - we can all work on his campaign by making calls, holding a fundraiser, writing letters to the editor.  If you do live in his district, you can display a sign in your window or on your lawn, walk him around your neighborhood, provide a testimonial about why you are voting for him.  In the process you will have a chance to meet him and get to know him, and tell him your story.  We spoke out to the governor at the Parole Reform Speakout on May 5; well now we can tell our stories to Oliver Koppell as we work to get him elected.  But even if we can’t persuade him to include our issues on his platform, if he gets elected, and some other Democrats as well, we may get back a Democratic majority in the Senate, and thus increase the chances for bills to pass that will increase our well being.  And maybe by helping with his campaign you’ll be inspired to run for office in the future!  Never cross it off the list of possibility.

  Building Bridges is our way to communicate with our members.
If you would like to join, please send us an email.