Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Monday, January 04, 2016

January 2016

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 with the reason for your interest.

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

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

To enlarge the text size, try clicking your cursor anywhere in the text, and then press the command key with the + key



Posted January 25 - Prison Action Network

Bernie Rocks!  

Check out and scroll down to see Bernie's (in comparison to all the rest) record on all the actions recommended by Campaign Zero, a campaign which claims We can live in a world where the police don't kill people, by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.


Posted January 17 - Phoenix Players at Auburn
Visit our website to meet an inspiring group of men who use theater to deeply examine their lives; their regrets, their hopes and their dreams.  
Click here
-- 



Posted December 17 - by Prison Action Network, and staying here until Bernie is elected!  Conversation between Rapper Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders.



Posted January 13 2016 -  from an email notice from Sara Bennett

If you live in the Nyack area, please come to the opening reception of my photography exhibition "Life After Life in Prison," at the Nyack Community Center on Sunday, January 24. The four women who are the subjects will talk about their experiences both inside and outside prison.

Through my photos, I hope viewers will think about why we incarcerate people for decades, sometimes their entire lives, and so I am thrilled that the work is being exhibited for the third time since the Fall.

 The photos portray the women in simple acts of daily life — at work, in modest apartments, at prayer — in unblinking verité. Like the personal narratives of the women they portray, the images neither excuse nor attenuate the pain the women have caused or endured over the years.

 I hope to see you at the Nyack Community Center on Sunday June 24 at 2:00 p.m.

Warmly,

Sara Bennett




Building Bridges, January 2016

Dear Reader,

No matter what happens in 2016, it certainly will not be boring.  We will be watching to see what impact the two new leaders of the NY Senate and Assembly will have on our legislative efforts.  Parole Justice NY will be bringing new energy to efforts to pass the SAFE Parole Act.  We’ll get to see how far Cuomo’s “crumbs” take us. (see Art.#5). 

Most importantly, the outcome of the Presidential election will have a great impact on all the above, and more. 

Americans will be able to decide if we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, will we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all?  Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy?  These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.  -  Bernie Sander’s website

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”  –  Pope Francis

You’re going to hear a lot about this from me in the coming months.  Because without drastic systemic change, our individual efforts to make change are not going to get very far, and vice versa.
Hoping for the best, Your Editor 



Table of Contents

1.  Parole News features November release rates; Otis Cruse’s appointment to the Parole Board.

2. NYS Court of Appeals nominees are waiting for Governor Cuomo to select one of them to replace retired Associate Judge Susan Phillips Read. (Janet DeFiore replaced Judge Lippman - see Art. 2 in the December issue of Building Bridges).

3.  SAFE Parole Act Progress Report:  Parole Justice NY invites prison organizations to become advisors; list of bill’s current sponsors.

4. NetWORKS: SAY HER NAME, Part II: Women, Violence, and Incarceration - the presence of violence against women is, among other things, a marker of dangerous times in the U.S. and the world.

5.  Cuomo throws us some crumbs - do they satisfy your hunger for justice?

6.  Cuomo advises us to be afraid, very afraid, but assures that our law enforcement agencies will protect us against the dangers.

7. Not enough fear in Gates NY is cause of Christmas crime wave, according to the Gates’ police department.

8.  Not enough fear in the hearts of Skelos and Silver, who became the 10th and 11th legislators to be convicted or plea guilty to crime.



1.  Parole News - November Release Rates
NOVEMBER 2015 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001  
unofficial research from parole database

November 2015 Interview Summaries
Interviews
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rate
Initials 
24
5
*19
21%
31%
Reappearances
69
15
54
22%
25%
Total 
93
20
73
22%
26%
* Six (6) special considerations (de novos) denied

November 2015 - Initial Releases
Facility
Age
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Cayuga
52
29
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
48
25
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
47
29
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Fishkill
36
20
18-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville  -  deportation
38
22
17-Life
Mrd 2
1



November 2015 - Reappearance Releases
Facility
Age
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Brd
Albion-female
75
53
23-Life
Mrd 2
2
Cayuga
55
31
25-Life
Mrd 2
*2    
Collins
51
20
26-Life
Mrd 2
4
Coxsackie
55
23
15-Life
Mrd 2
PV REAPP
Fishkill
45
28
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Great Meadow
63
28
25-Life
Mrd 2
6
Otisville
45
26
17-Life
Mrd 2
**4
Otisville
40
26
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
53
22
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Otisville
65
36
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Otisville
54
30
15-Life
Att Mrd1
6
Otisville
40
21
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Woodbourne
61
30
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Woodbourne
45
19
17-Life
Mrd 2
6
Woodbourne
47
24
20-Life
Mrd 2
4
*rescission  **deportation                     PV = Parole Violation hearing

November 2015 - Age at Commitment
Age Range
Total Seen
Released
Denied 
Rate of Release
Year-To-Date Release Rate
16-20
23
3
20
13%
17%
21-25
31
7
24
23%
26%
25+
39
10
29
26%
14%
Total
93
20
73
22%
19%


November 2015 - Over 60 at Time of Hearing
Age Range
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied 
Rate of Release
Year-to-Date Release Rate
60-69
16
3
13
19%
24%
70-79
5
0
5
0%
17%
80+
2
0
2
0%
0%
Total
23
3
20
13%
22%


New member of the NYS Parole Board:
Otis Cruse has been nominated to serve on the State Board of Parole. Mr. Cruse has extensive experience within the field of criminal justice, serving in 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.
It’s not clear whether the Senate has confirmed his appointment.  Anyone nominated by the Governor for the Parole Board has to be approved by the Senate, and normally that is preceded by a hearing before the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee.  According to the Committee's staff, there was no public Committee Hearing for Mr. Cruse. His appointment was approved by the Senate at the end of the last session. 

2.  Seven Nominees Recommended for Court of Appeals Seat
On December 22, 2015 the Commission on Judicial Nominations released the names of seven nominees for the vacancy on the Court of Appeals created by the retirement of Associate Judge Susan Phillips Read on Aug. 24.  
The names were sent to Cuomo, who must choose from the recommended list. The governor must make the appointment no sooner than 15 days and no more than 30 days after receiving the report. The State Senate then, within 30 days after receipt of the Governor's choice, must confirm or reject the appointment. The commission in its release pressed the importance of complying with the deadlines so that the Court of Appeals is brought to its full strength of seven judges as soon as possible.
Michael Garcia, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis; 
Judith Gische, a justice on the Appellate Division, First Department; 
Caitlin Halligan, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; 
Erin Peradotto, a justice on the Appellate Division, Fourth Department; 
Benjamin Rosenberg, general counsel of the New York County District Attorney's office; 
Rowan Wilson, a partner at Cravath Swaine & Moore; and 
Stephen Younger, a partner at Patterson Belknapp Webb & Tyler.



3.  You Can Help Pass the Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act

As you know if you’ve been reading this column regularly, Prison Action Network is part of  Parole Justice New York, a coalition of organizations working to raise awareness about New York’s dysfunctional parole system and the need to pass the SAFE Parole Act.  When we say organizations, we are thinking of prison organizations as well as community organizations.  

If you are a member of an inmate organization that would like to be an advisor to Parole Justice New York, please let us know how to contact you.  We will send summaries of each monthly meeting to all who accept this invitation. Your suggestions/comments will be included in our next discussion, the summary of which will be sent to you each month, so members will always learn how their ideas were incorporated.  Please send your acceptance letter to Prison Action Network at the address below.  Our phone meetings are on the third Monday of each month and we are considering having face-to-face meetings quarterly

Also if you are in communication with any organizations or individuals on the outside and would like their support in passing the SAFE Parole Act, please tell them about these meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month.  Anyone can call in to ask questions, propose projects and get involved.  Please tell them they can get more information at www.parolejustice.org or from Prison Action Network at any of the addresses below.

Lastly, we are looking for non-profits, schools, unions, businesses, or places of worship to endorse the campaign. Please connect us with any leads you might have anywhere in New York State (especially upstate!).  There is also a support letter for organizations to sign at www.parolejustice.org.

Current support for the SAFE Parole Act:  Over 100 organizations and these 31 Legislators:
Senate Bill 1728: PARKER, Comrie,Espaillat,Hassell-Thompson, Kennedy, Montgomery, Perkins, G.Rivera, Sanders, Serrano
Assembly Bill 2930: AUBRY, Arroyo, Barrett, Barron, Brennan, Clark, Crespo, Fahy, Farrell, Gottfried, Hevesi, McDonald, Montesano, Mosley, O’Donnell, Ortiz, Perry, Roberts, Rodriguez, Sepulveda, Skartados, Thiele



4.  NetWORKS: The monthly column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network
SAY HER NAME, Part II: Women, Violence, and Incarceration
“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967
“I am convicted of murdering my ex-husband who abused me for years. I have done 33 years of my 25-to-life sentence. I am 68 years old, and disabled.  I was just denied at my fifth parole board hearing. My hearing was horrendous, focusing almost entirely on the instant offense. [A parole board member] told me that I was not abused. Actually, the hearing relitigated my case.” – K.E., Taconic Correctional Facility, 2015

The pervasive presence of violence against women and gender-based violence is a threat to women’s and all people’s wellbeing, a leading indicator of the ill health of our society, and a marker of dangerous times in the U.S. and the world.
We cannot understand violence against women without understanding the role of violence in our society as a whole. 

Mass incarceration is a system of violence – the deprivation by force not only of freedom, but of much that makes life worth living, imposed by those more powerful on those less powerful. The beatings, humiliations, and various forms of torture that anyone who has spent time behind bars can describe are not incidental but fundamental to this exercise of power. The justification that this system is necessary to enforce social safety and security is transparently false to any of us who have seen its ugly underbelly – arbitrary, unaccountable, senselessly cruel, and completely ineffective at doing what it says it is set up to do. It is part and parcel of an overall social system which needs violence to maintain gross inequalities of wealth, power, and life chances. White supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy are its root. War, destruction of the environment, police brutality, and incarceration are its manifestations. 

Violence is a trickle-down social phenomenon: it starts at the top, with global warfare, racism, and mass incarceration, and ends up at the bottom, with neighborhood violence and the abuse of women, children, and other vulnerable people. Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his 2015 book, Between the World and Me,  describes how, in the Black neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore where he grew up, violence is the product of fear, structural neglect, and deprivation, the “correct and  intended result of government policy.” 

Every stage of the criminal justice process involves violence, from stop and frisk to post-prison discrimination – whether the violence is physical, verbal, economic, or legal.  All this official violence trickles down into over-incarcerated communities, prison guards, communities dependent on prisons for economic livelihood, and society at large.  So our starting point for gender-based violence is the violence of the system – but it is not our ending point.

For women, and for transgender and other people whose sexuality lies outside society’s norms, violence comes in multiple forms. Racism, as an essential form of violence in the U.S., subjects women of color to both the same and different forms of violence as those experienced by men of color. Police brutality may come in the form of shooting or beating, and it may come in the form of sexual assault. Incarceration, disproportionate by race, subjects women to the same humiliations and deprivations as men, and also to such sex-specific ones as shackling during pregnancy, gynecological interventions that reproduce sexual trauma, and sexual abuse by people in positions of power. Economic violence – social policies that cause poverty, lack of health care, poor education, neighborhood deterioration, urban neglect, gentrification, environmental destruction, joblessness, homelessness – hits women especially hard because of their caregiving responsibilities. Transgender people are targets of additional forms of violence and abuse, both in and out of prison.

And derived from the structural violence but experienced very differently, is the personal physical and sexual violence women, trans people, and other sexually non-conforming people experience at the hands of individuals, usually men, who are not in official positions of power. More often than not, these men are family members, partners, community members, acquaintances, or dates, rather than strangers.

The overwhelming majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault; the majority of women in prison for killing someone killed their abuser. One in three women are the victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. One in five women are survivors of rape or attempted rape. Statistics say that fewer than half of incidents of domestic violence and rape are reported to law enforcement – but the reporting is almost certainly even less than that.  Poor women are four times more likely to experience violence than wealthier women. The parade of numbers is endless. In real life it means that virtually all women live with trauma or fear or restricted activity informed by trauma and fear for much of their lives, especially those most disempowered by race, poverty, non-normative sexuality or other disadvantaged statuses. It is a hidden and saddening truth that men, too, are often subjected to sexual violence, especially as children and especially as a precursor to and during incarceration. Violence is the air we breathe. 

In both the anti-incarceration movement and the movement against violence against women, we are confronted with a dilemma. Women and other people who are targets of violence have a right and an urgent need to be safe. Incarceration is brutal and racist. How do we achieve safety for women without calling in the criminal justice system and thus increasing the power and reach of mass incarceration? A person in danger may have no choice but to rely on the criminal justice system. When called, the system may do more harm than good, failing to protect the person who is in danger and prosecuting them for protecting themselves.  In many cases the racist and oppressive nature of the criminal justice system means women and other targeted people find themselves with no recourse at all, ensuring that violence will continue. 

These dilemmas can only be addressed by a movement that combines these concerns and is informed and led by the experiences of women, trans people, prisoners, communities of color, and all who are most impacted by both incarceration and violence.  As we build community in our work for justice, we also build the potential for solutions that take gender-based violence seriously and develop alternatives to incarceration for responding to it. The better we grasp the bigger picture, the more we see demands for a living wage, better health care, jobs, education, environmental justice, and other basic life needs as part of defeating both mass incarceration and gender-based violence. No one group or individual can do all these things but we can work toward coalitions, alliances, collaborations, and cooperative strategies that create, out of our scattered pieces, a larger whole fighting for the wellbeing of humans and the earth.



5.  Cuomo throws us a some crumbs

As 2015 came to an end, Governor Cuomo appeared to be doing the right thing for some of the people immeshed in the criminal justice system.  For several weeks he has been signing bills and issuing Executive Orders that appear to end some of the System’s most egregious practices:  stop the shackling of pregnant women, limit the use of Solitary Confinement, create an easier process for applying for clemency, and offering a pardon to former youthful offenders.  We should be pleased.  And some of us are.  Although his efforts fail to call for true transformation, we tell ourselves that every little crumb is part of the justice meal we are waiting for.

But is that always so?  You be the judge:

Report on some of Governor Cuomo’s most recent projects, bills and executive orders  (source: the Governor’s website)

First Crumb:
CLEMENCY PROJECT UPDATE

With assistance from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, representatives from the Governor’s Office have developed a comprehensive training program and will begin working with these associations to train volunteer attorneys via webinar in early 2016. Although individuals may apply for clemency without the assistance of an attorney, assistance from a pro bono attorney will enhance the quality of an inmate’s application and present his or her best case to the Governor. The New York County Lawyers Association, New York State Bar Association, New York City Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society, and the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will prepare petitions for sentence commutations and the Bronx Defenders will provide post-petition legal services with respect to benefits, housing, and employment, for successful petitioners.

Around the same time, Governor Cuomo granted clemency relief to two individuals who have demonstrated rehabilitation and made positive strides in their lives since their criminal convictions. These individuals were granted clemency relief in the interests of justice and rehabilitation. These clemencies are in addition to the four individuals the Governor granted clemency to several weeks ago:

Mario Espaillat, 46, of New York, is currently serving a 4-year sentence for Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in New York County. Mr. Espaillat was 19 years old at the time of his crime, and this was his first offense. Michael Sheahan, superintendent of the Southport Correctional Facility, recommended Mr. Espaillat’s case for clemency review. Mr. Espaillat has maintained a spotless disciplinary record while incarcerated. He has also completed vocational training in electrical trades and earned certifications in electrical tool repair and light fixture service. Upon his release, he will reside with his mother, wife, and two teenage sons.

J’Adore Mattis, 31, of Brooklyn, was convicted in 2006 of 3rd Degree Robbery in New York County. She was sentenced to 5 years’ probation and received a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities on March 24, 2015.  After her conviction, Ms. Mattis obtained an Associate’s Degree from Borough of Manhattan Community College. She earned a spot on the Dean’s List and maintained a 3.13 GPA. After obtaining her Associate’s Degree, she attended Long Island University in Brooklyn and obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. Ms. Mattis wants to work as a nurse, but her conviction has prevented her from obtaining a license. A pardon would clear her criminal history and allow her to work towards her dream of becoming a certified nurse practitioner. She has no other criminal history.

The Governor engages a careful, holistic review of clemency applications with officials from the Executive Chamber, Department of Corrections and Community Service, the District Attorney’s office associated with each particular case, the Board of Parole, and the Office of Victims Services. Qualified candidates for commutations may include those who do not have a significant criminal history, have served at least half of their minimum sentences, and have demonstrated evidence of good conduct in prison as well as significant rehabilitation. Qualified candidates for pardons may include individuals whose rights or legal status are hindered by their past criminal convictions.

Individuals interested in applying for clemency should visit Governor Cuomo’s clemency website, launched within the last year, www.ny.gov/clemency. The website is a central resource for those seeking to learn more about clemency, eligibility requirements, and the application process, including submitting application materials electronically. Family members and friends of individuals serving prison sentences are encouraged to visit the website and apply for clemency on behalf of their family member or friend. 

Second Crumb:
GOVERNOR CUOMO SIGNS LEGISLATION TO PROHIBIT SHACKLING OF PREGNANT INMATES DURING TRANSPORTATION
Governor Cuomo signed a bill (A.6430-A/S.983-A) that prohibits the use of restraints during the transport of all pregnant women at State and local correctional facilities, and within eight weeks after the delivery or pregnancy outcome, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.  It amends the current law which prohibits the use of restraints on an inmate about to give birth, but does not address the use of restraints prior to or after childbirth or pregnancy outcome. 

The new law will also prohibit the presence of any correctional staff in the delivery room unless requested by medical staff or the woman giving birth, and requires more rigorous training of all correctional staff on this policy, and institutes annual detailed reporting of all instances in which officers deem restraints necessary.

Third Crumb:
December 16: Solitary Confinement Settlement 

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
--------------------------------------------------------------x
LEROY PEOPLES, TONJA FENTON and  DEWAYNE RICHARDSON, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs -against: BRIAN FISCHER, et al.,
Docket Number   11-CV-2694 (SAS)
The State settled a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union by agreeing to some significant changes in the way solitary confinement is administered in NYS.  [The agreement is 78 pages long, these are just some of the most noteworthy changes.]
Limits sentences to 3 months for most disciplinary infractions (except assaults) and to 30 days for almost any nonviolent infraction committed for the first time.  The number of infractions punishable by solitary will be cut in half.
Conditions will improve:  Phone calls, but only one every 30 days.  Two hours of recreation 3x a week, with others on the block.  Greater access to reading materials. Allowed to hang curtains in front of their toilets for privacy.
And maybe best of all, the settlement prohibits using food as a punishment.  The Loaf will be no more! (see more below at bullet #5)
But....
The settlement agreement must still be approved by the judge in the case, Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan.
Some of the changes are expected to take up to 4 years to implement.  
And like all things to do with our prison system, this settlement could conceivably vanish into thin air.  The CO’s union might challenge many of the new policies, as they did after the interim settlement (see below at bullet #6) was adopted in 2014, and which is still in court

Other changes included in the Final Settlement:
  • Step Down Unit – A three-phased unit designed to mitigate the conditions of solitary confinement by increasing congregate activity over time for inmates serving lengthy sanctions, to prepare them to reintegrate into the general confinement setting sooner and more easily.
  • Substance-Abuse Program – A six-month intensive alcohol and substance abuse treatment program for inmates who have received a sanction in excess of 120 days and are at high risk of continued substance abuse.
  • Step Down to Community – A re-entry program that will provide transitional programming for inmates serving a confinement sanction that extends to their release date.
  • Confinement Program Plan – A behavioral incentive program designed for inmates who have a confinement sanction in excess of 6 months that includes programing and rewards good behavior with additional benefits such as congregate recreation.  [Uhh, didn’t it just say 3 months would be the maximum?and that congregate recreation would be available to all? ]
  • Restricted Diet – The Department will no longer impose a restricted diet as a disciplinary sanction. The use of a restricted diet will be limited to deprivation orders to respond to threats to safety and security of staff, inmates or state property. Further, the use of the “the loaf” as the restricted diet meal, will be replaced by a sack lunch.
  • Continuation of the Interim Agreement Policy Initiatives – DOCCS will continue to (a) prohibit the imposition of solitary confinement on juveniles, (b) apply a presumption against solitary confinement for pregnant inmates, and (c) provide an alternative confinement placement for inmates with cognitive impairments.  
  • In addition, special programs will be created to prepare inmates serving sanctions in a SHU or Keeplock cell to transition back to the general prison population and the community. 
[A copy of the 79 page final agreement can be found here. ]

Fourth Crumb:
On December 20, an article in the New York Times by Jesse McKinley and James C. McKinley reported that instead of pardoning specific people at the end of the year, Governor Cuomo was going to pardon thousands of people!
All they had to do to be instantly eligible would be to have been convicted of a nonviolent crime at age 16 or 17 and have led law-abiding lives for at least 10 years since.  Immediately, readers like us had visions of our friends in prison who fit that profile going home for Christmas!  We bemoaned the fact that it would only benefit those with non-violent crimes, but hey! we’re happy when any deserving person is released, and who could complain about this opportunity for qualified people being assured of a pardon.  
But the devil is in the details.  These details are “several other criteria.”  And that’s where we find out that no one is getting out of prison, this is only for people who were convicted of crimes and may not have actually gotten a prison sentence.  They have to have led productive lives in society for at least 10 years, whether or not they ever were in prison.
And what do these people get?  They get a piece of paper.  They won’t get their criminal record expunged, but they will get a piece of paper, a nonbinding revocable conditional piece of paper that says a potential employer may, if they wish, hire the applicant despite his or her criminal history -- which the applicant is still required to disclose. For instance, applicants for a job would still check “Yes” to the box asking if they have been convicted of a crime, but they would have documentation from the governor’s office indicating they had received an official pardon for that offense.  
Then there’s a vetting process, which screens out any one convicted of a sex crime or currently in arrears on their taxes.  Arrears on their taxes?  Those who make the cut will be evaluated to see if they are productive members of their communities (who do you think will be making that decision!?), and if they are, they would get an official pardon, which could be revoked if they ever failed to be productive, we presume.
And now for the kicker:  Local prosecutors expect to consult with the Governor on each pardon.  Gerald Mollen, the Broome County district attorney and president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, said he expected the governor’s office would continue to consult with local prosecutors on each pardon, as it had done in the past. Mr. Mollen noted that the governor “did not seem to be changing the guidelines for pardons” and that local prosecutors should still have the opportunity to argue against a pardon in cases where there are unusual circumstances. “I would expect the governor would want that input,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times article.
Mr. Cuomo’s plan calls for administration staff members to identify potential candidates for pardons, reach out to them and encourage them to apply, including through an online process. Once approved, those people will receive proof of their pardons, which they can produce in the event that their criminal record becomes a factor in gaining employment or other opportunities.
Does it not seem strange that in order to qualify for this Pardon, an applicant has to prove he/she no longer needs it?  Ten years of living a productive life surely includes a steady job, a home, a support network, access to health care, and opportunities for civic engagement.  What more will this pardon provide them?

Post Script:“Not one person will be released from prison -- or even have their criminal record expunged -- under Cuomo's plan to grant “mass clemency on a level rarely seen.”    “What we actually have is mass hype on a level rarely seen.”
-  quoted from an op-ed by Naomi Jaffe in the Albany Times Union.  [Contact Prison Action Network for a copy of the op-ed.]

Fifth Crumb:
Plan to remove minors from adult prisons
On December 22, 2015 Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order  #150,directing the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), in collaboration with the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to implement a plan to transfer all female youths and all medium and minimum security classified male youths sentenced to state prison from adult facilities where they are currently housed, to a juvenile facility. 

New York is one of only two states that automatically processes all 16 and 17 year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, no matter the offense. To meet the goal of the Governor’s Executive Order, the Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County, which is currently a medium security general confinement facility, will be transformed by a collaboration between DOCCS and the Office of General Services to appropriately serve this special population. By August of 2016, the first group of youth will be transferred into the facility.  The facility will also serve as a reception and classification center for all youth entering DOCCS custody.
By the end of November of 2016, additional infrastructure work will be completed to create a Juvenile Separation Unit that will allow for those youth who receive a disciplinary confinement sanction of 30 days or less to also be housed at the Hudson Correctional Facility. The work release and industrial training programs, currently operating on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility will remain operational as the adult inmates are housed outside of the secure perimeter and will not access the area where the youth will be held.  Maximum security classified male youth will remain housed in a separate Juvenile Unit at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility.

In addition, OCFS will assist DOCCS in implementing the specialized youth facility by facilitating specialized trainings, reviewing DOCCS policies and procedures for this youth population, and consulting on difficult cases. Applicable OCFS staff will participate with DOCCS in video conferences, site visits, shared training sessions, and case consultations. It is anticipated that the case consultations will include both agencies’ clinical teams and case managers, and will involve the youth and their families at some point in the process. Services will also be provided by staff from the Office of Mental Health for those youth who present mental health needs.

DOCCS administration, security and program staff will function as a team to accomplish the youth program objectives. The youth program provides multiple staff contacts with each inmate on a daily basis through therapeutic programming, organized physical education, vocational and academic education and individual sessions.

The Executive Order allows the Commissioner of DOCCS to consider a request from a local correctional facility to house a youth inmate who has received a definite sentence of imprisonment in excess of 90 days in such facility.

The Executive Order also makes clear that the movement of youth to this newly developed facility will be an interim step pending the passage of the Raise the Age legislation. The Governor has taken a bold step to ensure that the needs of 16 and 17 youth are being met but will continue to call on the legislature to pass vital legislation that will include a comprehensive initiatives and programs to assist these youth.   {Emphases added.}

6.  Be afraid, be very very afraid.... 
Suspect in Rochester New Year's Eve attack became Muslim in NY prison 
[So is the Muslim religion going to be a Tier 3 violation now?  Ed.]

 A man suspected of supporting the Islamic State and planning a New Year's Eve attack in Rochester became a Muslim while serving in a state prison, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today.
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged Emanuel Lutchman, 25, of Rochester, with attempting to provide material support to terrorists.
The governor said Lutchman had served time for robbery in Attica, which is home to the state-run Wyoming Correctional Facility.
Cuomo said the man "became radicalized" on the Internet.
"You know the Internet has opened a portal for hate coming from the Middle East," Cuomo told Virginia Butler. "...One of the downsides of the Internet is that it has expedited and facilitated that hate coming right across the oceans and then people access it here."
The federal complaint says Lutchman is a self-professed convert to Islam who claimed to receive direction from an overseas ISIS member and planned to carry out an attack at a bar-restaurant in the Rochester area on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. The authorities did not name any targets in the attack.
"The plans were for this evening so they executed the arrest and it is sobering news," Cuomo said, adding that authorities had been tracking the suspect for a while.
"Law enforcement did its job, the U.S Attorney did his job, the FBI did their job and they found this man" the governor said.
The FBI said in a criminal complaint that Lutchman and an accomplice working for the FBI [read sting? Ed.]  bought knives and a machete for the attack, the Associated Press reported.  [emphases added]
Cuomo urged New Yorkers to be cautious and alert law enforcement of any concerns or suspicious activities.
"The challenges of law enforcement have never been greater and it is incumbent upon every citizen to be diligent and responsible, because again, it can be anywhere and anytime," he said.

December 31, 2015


7.  No Fear felt by 3 men in Gates, NY on Christmas!  The Parole System is broken says the city’s police department
In an article about the Gates NY Police department, we learn how important fear is, as a deterrent and as punishment, at least in the minds of Gates’ police.  We ask, where does fear really get us?  How about trying some community support for people on parole, especially around the holidays, like providing jobs and affordable housing and a place to talk with someone who cares about their future and may be able to help find a legitimate solution to what may feel like an impossible situation?

The Gates Police Department says it's frustrated with the New York State parole system after arresting three parolees for incidents on Christmas weekend;  one for a third-degree robbery and grand larceny, the second for breaking into homes on or near Christmas Day, and the third for allegedly cashing in stolen money from car wash vending machines.
Gates police released a statement Wednesday morning reading in part, "The Gates Police Department is BEYOND FRUSTRATED with the State of New York's inability to properly supervise convicted felons who are on parole. The residents of New York deserve better protection from these violent individuals - the Parole system is broken!"  [who was violent?  Ed.]

"You know when I spoke to these three parolees over Christmas, not one of them had any fear over the parole system," Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode said. "Not one of them had any fear of their parole officer and none of them had any fear of the police. So clearly the system's broken. There's no fear out there and it's time that the system gets fixed so we can stop having these repeat offenders."  [emphases added]

In response to the Gates Police Department's statement, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYS DOCCS) defended its actions.

8.  Silver and Skelos become the 10th and 11th members of either the Assembly or Senate to be convicted or plea guilty to a crime since 2010.

In the latest of the convictions, on Friday 12/11/15, a jury convicted former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam of all charges, ending the 30-year political career of Long Island Republican Dean Skelos.  The jury took only 8 hours to reach their decision in Southern District Judge Kimba Wood’s courtroom.  The pair face lengthy prison sentences when they appear again before Wood on March 3.

The verdict came just 11 days after a jury convicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of all counts, in a Manhattan Federal courtroom before Judge Valerie Caproni. Mr. Silver faces up to 130 years in prison on the seven counts.  Judge Valerie Caproni will set a date for his sentencing.

Mr. Silver’s arrest resulted in him stepping down as Assembly Speaker, allowing for Carl Heastie to ascend to the position.  Long Island State Senator John Flanagan succeeded Mr. Skelos as the head of the State Senate. 



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