Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Saturday, March 05, 2016

March 2016

Welcome to the site of Building Bridges, Prison Action Network's newsletter 

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

To read the March 2016 issue now, scroll down past the recent announcements.




MARCH 2016
Dear Reader,
Wouldn’t you like to live in a country like this?  
It values work and workers and understands that nothing is produced or accomplished in society without the labor of rank and file workers, and honors them just as much as managers.  
Human beings are judged by the strength of their character, not by their professional status or the size of their pay-check.  Weekend getaway planning conferences that include everybody-at-the-office, not just upper and middle management, but secretaries, cafeteria workers and custodians.  Everyone is entitled to express opinions. 
Work places with a kitchen and eating area with mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee breaks that are social events with freshly brewed coffee served in cups with saucers and bakery goods
Union membership is not compulsory, but it is encouraged because the unions are where the employees and employers - without government interference - negotiate salary, vacation, sick leave and maternity/paternity leave. 
Women cannot lose their jobs because of pregnancy and all pregnant women are entitled to paid-leave one month prior to giving birth and up to one year afterward. Professional childcare exists so that women can participate in the economy. All children are guaranteed a place in a nursery until elementary school, subsidized through taxation.  If you lose your job, unemployment insurance protects you, giving you enough to stay inside the economic system; enough to keep you from losing your home to the bank; enough to buy groceries and prescription medicines; enough to live with dignity while you search for a new job. Losing your job is inconvenient but not a disaster.
There is education for just about everything. Workers are entitled to upgrade their skills through courses, and management sends staff to various courses on company time.  Everybody works 37 hours a week and gets 5-6 weeks of paid vacation in a calendar year. If you change employers, you are entitled to carry your vacation time with you.
Health care is pre-paid through taxation. Doctors are paid by the State and everyone is entitled to pick their own physician, and/or change doctors, if they choose. The first line of care is with a general practitioner who makes referrals to specialists, if necessary.  All diagnostic tests, treatments and surgery are free of extra charge and the costs of medicines are subsidized to make them affordable.
Governing is not by professional politicians but ordinary people: librarians, teachers, dentists, building contractors, accountants, journalists, etc. that represent several different political parties.
Prohibition of election television ads so that political candidates run on a level playing field and do not have to raise huge sums of cash. The campaign period is short, not years but a matter of weeks, and not for entertainment.
All citizens over the age of 18 automatically receive a ballot through the postal service at their home address. 
Sounds like a dream, right?  But it’s not.  It exists in other countries and it could exist in ours if we weren’t so afraid. Of course it’s not perfect.  But it’s a lot closer than the place I live in! 
It requires that we trust one another. That leaves us with a conundrum; which comes first?  Trust in the system, or a system that earns our trust?
The values expressed above are one form of Democratic Socialism.  These are the values Bernie Sanders is fighting for, and will continue to fight for, as he has his whole life.  Only now he’ll have us, if we elect him, to work for it with him.   I beg you to trust there are enough people in this country who have the same dream and will make it real by using their vote as their first action to work for it.  It’s only by voting for what you really want that you will ever get it.  Voting so someone else doesn’t succeed is to put your trust in fear.  Not voting at all puts the blame on yourself for what happens.

Trusting in you, Your Editor 

Table of Contents
  1.   Parole News: A1VO January 2016 releases, A1VO totals by facility for 2015, Totals of All 2015 releases
  2.   Updated information about the NYS Parole Board, appointments, bios, and critics on both sides
  3.   The Senate and Assembly “crime committees
  4.   Legislative Report: the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction’s Committee met on 2/9 and passed 8 bills 
  5.   Updates on the progress of the SAFE Parole Act, S.1728/ A.2930 
  6.   Litigation: reports on class action on behalf of women assaulted by CO’s, and John MacKenzie comments on the use of “community opposition” to justify parole denials or rescissions 
  7. Respected Judge says the US Criminal Justice system is draconian and pressures the innocent to plead guilty
  8.   What happens to the Mentally Ill when they are released from jail or prison
  9.   Phoenix Players Theatre Group inspires a production opening at the Auburn Public Theater in Auburn 
  10.   NetWorks touches our hearts with ancient and not-so-ancient poems


1.  Parole News - Release Rates
PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001  
unofficial research from parole database
January 2016 - Interview Summaries
Interviews
Total Seen*
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rate
Initials 
18
4
14
22%
22%
Reappearances
87
*29
*58
33%
33%
Total 
105
33
72
31%
31%
*Special Consideration hearings - 7 released, 9 denied -

January 2016 - Initial Releases
Facility
Age @ hearing
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Charge
# of Board
Franklin
73
55
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Mohawk
47
23
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
46
22
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
47
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
1


January 2016 - Reappearance Releases
Facility
Age @ hearing
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Charge
# of Board
Adirondack
41
19
23-Life
Mrd 2
3
Bedford Hills (female )
58
34
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Cape Vincent
52
32
22-Life
Mrd 2
2
Cayuga
40
21
19-Life
Mrd 2
7
Fishkill
44
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
6
Fishkill
49
25
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
42
18
25-Life
Mrd 2
7
Fishkill
46
36
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Gouverneur
41
21
22-Life
Mrd 2
3
Great Meadow
48
29
20-Life
Mrd 2
9
Green Haven
72
38
25-Life
Mrd 2
8
Green Haven
46
23
24-Life
Mrd 2
6
Green Haven
54
30
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Green Haven
32
18
15-Life
Mrd 2
9
Greene
42
21
22-Life
Mrd 2
3
Marcy
33
19
20-Life
Mrd 2
6
Mohawk
58
18
15-Life
Mrd 2
14
Otisville
47
23
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville
51
27
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Otisville
47
23
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Otisville
42
25
18-Life
Mrd 2
6
Otisville
43
28
15-Life
Mrd 2
6
Otisville
44
22
21-Life
Mrd 2
2
Taconic  (female)
57
38
20-Life
Mrd 2
4
Ulster
51
34
18-Life
Mrd 2
3
Woodbourne
63
22
25-Life
Mrd pre 74
8
Woodbourne
66
29
15-Life
Mrd 2
12
Woodbourne
51
25
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Wyoming
37
21
17-Life
Mrd 2
7


Totals for 2015  -  A1VO  Parole Decisions by Facility
Facility
Total Seen
# Denied
% Denied
# Released
 Release Rate
ADIRONDACK
3
3
100%
0
0%
ALBION
8
5
62%
3
38%
ALTONA
1
1
100%
0
0%
ATTICA
23
18
78%
5
22%
AUBURN
24
22
92%
2
8%
BARE HILL
21
17
81%
4
19%
BEDFORD HILLS
5
4
80%
1
20%
CAPE VINCENT
12
9
75%
3
25%
CAYUGA
22
14
64%
8
36%
CLINTON
48
43
90%
5
10%
COLLINS
27
20
74%
7
26%
COXSACKIE
19
14
74%
5
26%
DOWNSTATE
1
0
0%
1
100%
EASTERN
14
13
93%
1
7%
ELMIRA
27
23
85%
4
15%
FISHKILL
123
64
52%
59
48%
FIVE POINTS
7
7
100%
0
0%
FRANKLIN
31
23
74%
8
26%
GOUVERNEUR
11
8
73%
3
27%
GOWANDA
15
14
93%
1
7%
GREAT MEADOW
34
29
85%
5
15%
GREEN HAVEN
50
41
82%
9
18%
GREENE
20
13
65%
7
35%
GROVELAND
20
16
80%
4
20%
HUDSON
10
6
60%
4
40%
LIVINGSTON
22
16
73%
6
27%
MARCY
17
12
71%
5
29%
MIDSTATE
19
17
89%
2
11%
MOHAWK
17
17
100%
0
0%
ORLEANS
22
21
95%
1
5%
OTHER AGENCY
4
4
100%
0
0%
OTISVILLE
124
75
60%
49
40%
RIVERVIEW
8
7
88%
1
12%
SHAWANGUNK
27
26
96%
1
4%
SING SING
36
28
78%
8
22%
SOUTHPORT
10
9
90%
1
10%
SULLIVAN
18
15
83%
3
17%
TACONIC
14
9
64%
5
36%
ULSTER
3
3
100%
0
0%
UPSTATE
13
13
100%
0
0%
WALLKILL
2
2
100%
0
0%
WALSH MED CNTR
7
6
86%
1
14%
WASHINGTON
10
10
100%
0
0%
WENDE
31
25
81%
6
19%
WOODBOURNE
99
58
59%
41
41%
WYOMING
25
22
88%
3
12%
Total 
1104
822
74%
282
26%


Summary of ALL  2015 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES  (including A1VOs)

Type of Interview
Total 
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Initials 
4938
1031
3907
21%
Reappearances 
2516
583
1933
23%
PV Reappearances (parole violations)
96
32
64
33%
ECPD (early Conditional parole for deportation)
33
26
7
79%
Merit time
1366
515
851
38%
Pie (parole immediately Eligible)
268
66
202
25%
recissions
32
14
18
44%
medical
18
13
5
72%
Sp Consid (de Novos)
161
42
119
26%
Total 
9428
2322
7106
25%


2.  Updated information about the NYS Parole Board, their terms and short biographies:

Name
Originally Appointed By
Date of Original Confirmation
Term Expires
Tina Stanford (Chairwoman)
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 19, 2013
2/6/19
Walter William Smith
Hon. George Pataki
Dec. 17, 1996
7/6/17
James B. Ferguson
Hon. George Pataki
April 12, 2005
7/6/17
Christina Hernandez
Hon. George Pataki
June 14, 2006
6/2/17
G. Kevin Ludlow
Hon. George Pataki
June 21, 2006
6/20/17
Lisa Beth Elovich
Hon. George Pataki
June 13, 2006
12/31/19
Sally Thompson
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
June 14, 2007
5/4/19
Joseph P. Crangle
Hon. David A. Paterson
June 19, 2008
6/18/20
Ellen Evans Alexander
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 20, 2012
6/18/20
Marc Coppola
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 20, 2012
6/18/21
Edward Sharkey
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 20, 2012
6/18/18
Gail Hallerdin
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 19, 2013
6/18/18
Julie Smith
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 19, 2013
2/7/17
Otis Cruse
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
June 16, 2015
7/6/17

These bios were gathered from the internet and from testimony at the Senate Confirmation Hearing on June 19, 2013:
Tina Marie Stanford, native of Buffalo, NY.  Erie County Asst. DA; Chair, New York State Crime Victims Board. 
Gail Hallerdin Assistant Attorney General in the Buffalo Regional Office, NYS Office of Children and Family Services Hearing Officer for the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance.  Native of Queens
Julie Smith Probation Director, NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, Genesee County Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, caseworker for Genesee County Department of Social Services. Batavia
Walter William Smith Jr., senior investigator for the New York State Crime Victims Board.   (18 years on the Board)
Sally Velasquez-Thompson  20 years with the New York City Police Department as Detective and narcotics investigator.  She is a member of NYS Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association.
Lisa Beth Elovich  Administrative Law Judge for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and as a Deputy Attorney General for the New York State Attorney General’s Office
Joseph Crangle: assistant court analyst with the NYS Office of Court Administration, assigned to the Domestic Violence Part of the Buffalo City Court ;  a probation officer with the Genesee County Probation Department, 
James Ferguson: Attended Police Academy, son of a retired NYC detective, Administrative Law Judge at NYS Division of Parole; Assistant District Attorney, Bronx District Attorney's Office. 
Christina Hernandez Commissioner of the New York State Crime Victims Board, Commission Member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. 
G. Kevin Ludlow is a Lawyer in Utica, New York
Ellen Evans Alexander, Rhode Island AG's office, R.I. DOCS Assistant Director for Administration for 12 years and Chief Legal Counsel for six years. Chief assistant county attorney in Binghamton, NY.
Edward M. Sharkey, former Cattaraugus County DA, from Olean, Air Force, 14 years in private law practice, 3 terms in DA's office.
Marc A. Coppola, former NYS Senator (for about 7 months), member of City Council of Buffalo NY, Div. of Parole and as a liaison with the Parole Board, working on the Board's application for Accreditation. Buffalo Deputy Sheriff (under Sen. Gallivan who was the Erie County Sheriff at that time).
Otis Cruse held various roles at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and most recently as a parole officer at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in the Special Offenders Unit monitoring registered sex offenders and mental health cases. He holds a Master's Degree in Special Education and a B.A. in English from the City College of New York, and is a graduate of the PEF/Governor's Office of Employee Relations 2014-15 Leadership Program.

Vengeance exists on more than one side
Check this out.  Most of us have plenty negative things to say about the NYS Parole Board Commissioners, but sometimes it‘s helpful to take a look at what they face from another set of critics. They can easily get caught between a rock and a hard place.  Letters to the editor and to Governor Cuomo might be called for after you read the following story, especially if you get funding from the State or are on one of his Commissions because he is probably going to get a lot of mail about this and it is best he hears your thoughts as well as the PBA’s and Assemblyman Lalor’s.
It’s about the Parole release of Terry Losicco.  The victim’s grandson has called for the heads of the Parole Commissioners who made that decision.  A short summary appears below.  You can read the complete story by clicking on the link below.
Briefly, After a life of childhood abuse, Losicco finally was adopted by a wealthy and stable family only to be be influenced by another of their adopted children into using drugs and participating in a burglary where he killed a local woman.  As a result he spent 36 years in prison until his 8th parole hearing which granted him release, scheduled for March 3.  (A look at the DOCCS website indicates that he’s now being held at least until July.) A copy of the parole hearing transcript is available at the lohud.com website.  Unfortunately his release has been controversial.  The victim’s wealthy grandson is furious and calling for the heads of the commissioners.  Assemblyman Kieran Lalor is also outraged and announced that he will draft legislation to reduce the frequency of parole hearings for violent felons and to increase oversight and transparency of the state Board of Parole. (We like the idea of transparency and oversight! ~Editor) Punishing all applicants with longer sentences for the sake of punishing one man who is considered to be at very low risk of future crimes but whose freedom inflames those who are still prisoners of their thirst for revenge, is shameful.  Energy should be given to helping the relative locked in his anger, not by enabling him.

3.  The “Crime Committees”
Several readers have asked for the following information so here it is for everybody, note there are some new members!

NYS Assembly Correction Committee
Room 513 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
  • Michael Blake
  • William Colton
  • Maritza Davila
  • Janet Duprey
  • Gary Finch
  • Joseph Giglio
  • Walter Mosley
  • Félix Ortiz
  • Nily Rozic
  • Luis Sepúlveda
  • Latrice Walker
  • Keith L.T. Wright
  • Daniel O'Donnell (committee chair)

NYS Senate Crime Victims, Crime, and Correction Committee
Legislative Office Building, Room 947
Albany, NY 12247
  • Frederick J. Akshar II
  • Patrick M. Gallivan, (committee chair)
  • Joseph A. Griffo
  • Ruth Hassell-Thompson
  • Betty Little
  • Velmanette Montgomery
  • Michael F. Nozzolio
  • Jose Peralta
  • Bill Perkins
  • Patty Ritchie
  • Gustavo Rivera
  • Diane J. Savino
  • Michael Venditto

4.  Legislative Report:  
On February 9, 2016 eight bills were passed in the NYS Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, chaired by Senator Gallivan.
Explanation: In bill numbers, S stands for Senate, A stands for Assembly. If a bill has a sponsor in both chambers we identify it with a slash mark between their two numbers (A.1234 / S.5678) and the primary sponsors like this: (Kavanagh/Parker). For Assembly bills, the first name is the Assembly Member and for Senate bills the Senate sponsor is listed first. We don't list the co-sponsors. You may write us for that information (SASE required) or look it up on-line.
If a bill is “reported” or “referred”, it means it passed out of the Committee to another committee (from where it may go to the entire House for a floor vote). Before any of these bills become law they have to be passed in both houses, where changes can be made from the floor before a final vote. If passed, the Governor has to sign them before they can become the law.
To simplify:   3rd Calendar and 3rd reading mean that the bill is in line to be presented to the full house, the Senate in this case, for a vote.


Bill # and Action
Sponsor/s
Purpose
S.22 / A.201
10 ayes, 2 nays, 1 excused
3rd Calendar
LaValle/Thiele
Requires school districts, upon notification from law enforcement agencies, to notify residents of sex offenders living in the district
S.449/no same as
12 ayes, 0 nays, 1 excused
Referred to Finance
Marcellino
Requires notification to victims upon the conditional release of an inmate convicted of a crime against a member of the same family.
S.712/ A6403
12 ayes, 0 nays, 1 excused
3rd Reading
Avella/Simanowitz
Relates to the timing of risk level determination hearings for certain convicted sex offenders
S.833/ A.978
1/6/16 died in Assembly
11 ayes, 0 nays, 1 aye with reservation (a/r), 1 excused
Referred to Finance
Robach/Miller
Prohibits level-3 sex offenders from living in college housing

S.1583/ no same as 
10 ayes, 2 nays, 1 excused
3rd Reading
Nozzolio
Permits correction officers to be color blind

S.1943/ A.2339-A
1/6/16 died in Assembly
9 ayes, 1 nay, 1 excused, 2 a/r
3rd reading
Goldin/Englebright
Prohibits registered sex offenders from working with children.
S.3818/ A.2424
1/6/16 died in Assembly
12 ayes, 0 nays, 1 excused
Hassell-Thompson
O’Donnell
Requires notice be provided to any officer or employee of the department of correctional services whose personal information is the subject of a subpoena duces tecum 
S.4904/no same as
1/6/16 died in Assembly
No votes  ???
Gallivan
Permits a county board of supervisors to procure the services of a health care provider to treat inmates of a county jail.  Such agreement would need the approval of the Attorney General.

5.  The SAfe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act, S.1728 / A.2930
Changes in signatures on the SAFE Parole Act:
Assembly member Barbara Clark, a signatory on the SAFE Parole Act Bill A.2930, passed away on February 22, 2016.  She was a powerful and beloved representative of her district in Queens.  
Interestingly, Jo Anne Simon, representing District 52 in Brooklyn, recently signed on to the SAFE Parole Act.  Thus we are holding steady with 21 sponsors in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate.
Prison Action Network reports on how we are working with Parole Justice-New York to pass the SAFE Parole Act  
At our last meeting, by phone, representatives from NYS Prisoner Justice Network, Prison Action Network, Milk Not Jails, and Parole Preparation Project reported on our efforts in the last month:
PAN
Published a booklet by Mandu* Ra, describing why many long-term prisoners who have committed serious crimes have deep regret for the harm they caused and therefore deserve to be released because of their intense desire to make restitution to their families and community from whom they took so much.  The pamphlet is being distributed to and by Mandu’s wide circle of friends, supporters, and protégés on the outside, as well as other members of our campaign. 
Planning for our presence at a major music festival this coming summer is continuing. We have been been promised 15 minutes on stage as well as a booth for displaying materials and a food booth where we will be hiring formerly incarcerated people to work.  If you live upstate and qualify, please contact us now to get put on a list, and we’ll contact you when we start hiring.  Look for updates in future Building Bridges.
       Continuing to work with Rochester hosts and attendees of our past tour stop in Rochester, for a followup meeting on May 15th.   Sometime around that time we are hoping to have a Tour Stop in Ithaca as well.  
Milk Not Jails: 
Working on Parole Justice NY correspondence, replying to requests, and outreach, sending out information and responding to letters. The first priority is mailing out the minutes of our meetings to the Prison Organizations who are responding to PJ-NY’s call for advisors, in time to have their input for the next meeting, which is planned for Monday, March 21st at 7:00 (our regular 3rd Monday schedule).  We are receiving correspondence about many other concerns; more then we have time to respond to individually.  We’ll create a form letter and provide NYS Prisoner Justice Network Directories to help these correspondents find a group that can provide the services they are looking for.
A new staff member has been attending and speaking at multiple events, giving presentations, handing out SAFE Parole Act information, gathering petition signatures, distributing the Nature of the Crime DVD and developing relationships with people interested in learning more about us. As a member of the Board of Directors of the JC Flowers Foundation he is working to organize an event in May at which Bryan Stevenson will be the speaker. The event will be geared toward youth and Parole Justice -NY is invited to participate. We will publish the details as they are announced.  
Three of our members are participating in the very successful Beyond the Bars conference March 4-6, in collaboration with Release Aging People in Prison, Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, Raise the Age, and others, on organizing against Mass Incarceration, on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.  They will distribute SAFE Parole Act petitions and other parole justice materials.

Parole Preparation Project (PPP)
Referring incarcerated people to Prisoner Justice - NY as advisors.  Some of PPP’s applicants are involved with prisoner organizations, and we may want to be in touch with some individuals in prisons where we do not have contacts even if we do not know whether they are in organizations.  National Lawyers Guild national conference will take place in August at NYU Law.  It’s too late to submit proposals for panels and workshops, but PJ-NY can share some time/space with PPP and other close partners who will be there.
Parole Preparation Project had good news in January, 4 project applicants who had each been in prison for more than 25 years were released; one had been in prison since 1981. Now working with 64 parole applicants, 35 who have already been to the board and 30 who are getting ready to go. PPP is strategizing on fund raising for long term viability.  
(To contact the Parole Preparation Project, write c/o Law Office of Rankin and Taylor, 11 Park Place, Suite 914, NY, NY 10007.  There is a long waiting list, but the sooner you apply the sooner you’ll make it to the top.)

6.  Litigation:
The Legal Aid Society and Debevoise File Federal Class Action on Behalf of Women Prisoners Sexually Abused by Correction Officers
The Legal Aid Society along with the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP filed Jones v. Annucci, a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of women prisoners alleging they have been sexually abused in the custody of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). Plaintiffs seek an injunction requiring DOCCS to take necessary steps to prevent women in its custody from being sexually abused by male correction officers. [more details available from PAN by request]
John MacKenzie, in a commentary shared with Building Bridges, points out several reasons why Administrative Fiat is Abuse of Power.  He is referring to the increased use of “community opposition” to justify parole denials or rescissions.  He references some arguments presented by Justice Cooke in a discussion of Hamm v. Regan, that “if such a consideration in and of itself can properly enter parole board deliberation, let alone control the exercise of their discretion, few prisoners would ever be paroled as it can reasonably be assumed that communities rarely welcome offenders [sic] into their midst.  Parole is not to be granted solely on the basis of community approval; rather, the board must consider whether there is a reasonable probability that, if released, the prisoner will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society.  A negative community reaction is not synonymous with the welfare of society.”
Another reference by Mr. MacKenzie is to a NY Law Journal report on Nov 26, 2012, in which Parole Commissioner James Ferguson comments that he had never before seen an inmate with so much support, 708 letters in fact.  However the board had also received 4,074 letters in opposition.  One can reasonably assume most of those had been from the PBA and were more about their penal philosophy than about the community’s safety.  It might well be Ferguson’s loyalty to his law enforcement brothers and sisters in blue that allowed him to interpret the intent of Exec.law, §259-i (2)(c)(B) to be that ‘other person’ meant ‘the general community’ and the ‘PBA’.  MacKenzie concludes that although some parole commissioners are loath to adhere to legislative intent, they are still required to apply the law, even in the face of public opinion or community opposition.   [copies of the MacKenzie commentary are available from PAN]

7.  A 'Draconian' System Where the Innocent Plead Guilty
The U.S. criminal justice system is broken and needs to be fixed is a message you rarely hear from a well-respected senior federal judge. But that’s exactly what Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York detailed during a keynote address at the 11th Annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Friday.
“We created this monster and it’s taken on a life of its own,” said Rakoff, speaking critically of judges who everyday impose “terrible sentences” and send people to prison for extremely long periods of time without questioning the system. He called the plea bargaining process a “system of totally secret justice” where prosecutors hold all the cards and are able to get a vast majority of defendants to plead guilty to charges when faced with extremely long sentences — imposed through sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimums. This system is "inevitably going to lead to some serious mistakes,” Rakoff said. The Crime Report  http://www.thecrimereport.org: your complete criminal justice resource


8.  What Happens to the Mentally Ill When They Are Released from Jail or Prison?
by Karima Amin

Sadly, some of us have a bad habit of ostracizing and marginalizing people who don’t fit our opinions of who is beautiful, good, acceptable, and worthy of our respect, humanity, and value. The way that we view mentally ill individuals is a case in point. Our community is filled with people who suffer from mental illness and not all of them are able to access the proper medical attention or intervention that would help then to deal with their condition. Among those who are so marginalized and ostracized are prisoners and formerly incarcerated people who live with incarceration or the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.  Mental illness further complicates their situation.
Today more mentally ill persons are in jails and prisons than hospitals. It has been this way in America for a long time. In the 1950’s, the process of deinstitutionalization began. This involved the emptying and closing of state mental hospitals that were overcrowded and old. With the advent of new medications, the symptoms of about half of the patients were improved. Unfortunately, the sickest patients were unable to make informed decisions about their own need for medication. By the 1970’s, it was obvious that mental illness was becoming viewed as criminality, which resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of mentally ill individuals in jails and prisons. This nation’s jails and prisons have replaced hospitals as the primary facility for mentally ill individuals. What happens when they are released?
We considered this question at the 2/29 meeting of PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC., with the screening of a PBS film, “The Released.” Produced in 2009, this film follows the stories of several mentally ill men who struggle with getting their lives on track following release from prison. Additionally, we heard from Ms. Artelia “Tia” Lewis who is a Peer Advocate with the Mental Health Peer Connection of the Western New York Independent Living Project in Buffalo, NY.
Many men and women suffering from some form of mental illness do not display overt signs or symptoms.  These people could very well be your neighbor, the person in line with you at the supermarket, or at the bus stop. These people could be with you in school, at the library or the beauty salon or barber shop, or in your religious institutions.  These are our people in our community...in our families.  For more information contact Karima Amin, karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org or BaBa Eng, g.babaeng@yahoo.com.

9.  Human Again, directed by Bruce Levitt
A production based on the work of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group - a program developed at Auburn Correctional Facility by and for incarcerated persons and communities in a maximum-security prison.
April 14th ,15th, and 16th at 7:30pm. Auburn Public Theater  Tickets $20  315 253 6669  Auburnpublictheater.org


10.  NetWORKS, the monthly column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network
The sorrow of imprisonment, for those of us inside the walls, and for those of us who grieve for loved ones there, links us to prisoners throughout the ages, millions of fellow humans – heroes, rebels, martyrs, beggars, and crooks – who have lived this same hard fate. Many writers have chronicled this experience; here are a few fragments of  their writing. May their words lift us above the day-to-day struggle for survival to see ourselves as part of the history of resistance to cruelty. 
Sonnet on Chillon (excerpt)
Lord Byron (England), writing in 1816 about Francois Bonnivard, a rebellious monk who defied the Duke of Savoy (in what is now Switzerland) and was imprisoned in the dungeon of Chillon Castle in 1530.
Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar—for 'twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard!—May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God. 

Watching the Moon
From Prison Diaries, Ho Chi Minh, 1942
In prison there’s no alcohol nor flower.
With what to celebrate this lovely night?
I go to the window and watch the moon.
The moon peers through the window at the poet.

Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison (excerpt)
Nazim Hikmet, Turkish revolutionary, 1949
If instead of being hanged by the neck
you're thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
You'll put your foot down and live.
Forget your age,
watch out for lice
and for spring nights,
and always remember
to eat every last piece of bread--
also, don't forget to laugh heartily.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more --
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster!

Forbidden Birds
Eduardo Galeano, Uruguay, 1976
The Uruguayan political prisoners may not talk without permission, or whistle, smile, sing, walk fast, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars, or birds.
One Sunday, Didasko Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed for having ideological ideas, is visited by his daughter, Milay, age five. She brings him a drawing of birds. The guards destroy it at the entrance to the jail.
On the following Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees. Trees are not forbidden, and the drawing gets through. Didasko praises her work and asks about the colored circles scattered in the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches: “Are they oranges? What fruit is it?”
The child puts a finger to his mouth. “Shhhhh.”
And she whispers in his ear: “Silly. Don’t you see they’re eyes? They’re the eyes of the birds that I’ve smuggled in for you.”

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