Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

November 2016

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Posted December 1, 2016

JustLeadershipUSA 


JLUSA seeks a driven, inspired, and energetic Lead Community Organizer. The Lead Community Organizer will work with JLUSA’s dynamic team to build grassroots political power in communities impacted by mass incarceration, through developing leadership and promoting participation in efforts to reform the criminal justice system, particularly JLUSA’s campaign to close #CLOSErikers.

Click Here to Apply Today



November Building Bridges

Dear Readers,

As you may know from reading last month’s issue, the parole board has issued revised rules and regulations and is accepting public comments until November 12th.  Many skilled “jailhouse lawyers” have sent us copies of the comments they submitted.  It is very inspiring to see how many of our readers have become legal experts, even though without credentials.  We have learned a lot from you, and hope the parole board does also.

That said, here is what we sent, in your name:

Prison Action Network is tentatively encouraged by the newly proposed rules and regulations approved by the Parole Board and submitted to the State Department on September 28, 2016. 

Our members, who have loved ones in prison, or are in prison, or were once in prison, and their survivors, have long been waiting for a parole board that makes informed and intelligent decisions, helping us all feel safer as we go about our daily lives.

If the rules and regulations are applied as suggested, and are not just empty words that will break hearts and cause total loss of faith in the parole system, they may be a step in the right direction.
Yet few of us believe the rules and regulations that have been promulgated go far enough to satisfy society’s needs. Many of us feel the rules, at a minimum, must include a provision that prevents decisions based solely on the nature of the crime.  Our loved ones can never change that event, much to their and our sorrow, and it is not an indicator of future behavior. 
The law is now clear that there must be consideration of COMPAS by the parole board. In your proposed §8002.2a it states that “the Board shall be guided by the inmate’s risk and need scores on the [“COMPAS”] assessment if prepared by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.” We would like to point out that the word “if should be removed from that sentence. There should be no parole release decision without a COMPAS having been prepared.  If one is not prepared the Board cannot be guided by it, and therefore would not be in compliance with the law if, as the regulation infers, they continue on to make their decision without it. 
If a case comes before the parole board without a COMPAS the regulations should require that they send the file back to DOCCS so that a COMPAS can be prepared and the hearing be scheduled within 30 days.
Prison Action Network expects that the rules, if followed, will provide something that parole applicants, their families, advocates, lawyers and judges have been calling for decades:  hearings that are respectful civil discussions between commissioners and applicants, that lead to factual, instructive, and personalized explanations for why and how the Parole Board made the decision they did. We hope the explanations will apply to releases as well as denials...   people need to know what they did right as well as wrong.  We hope for the best.
Respectfully,
Planning for the best,  Your Editor


Table of Contents:
  1. A former prisoner on voting for the first time in his life “Being able to vote--that’s rare for people like me.”
  2. Parole News:  September releases, Correction: John Duffy wasn’t released; his decision was rescinded. An open letter to the Board of Parole, by Anonymous, speaking for many: (“Did you think twenty-five years of service-oriented programming was feigned?”)
  3. Safe and Fair Evaluations Bill - Now is the time to demand Parole Reform in NYS !
  4. Commuter’s dilemma: there is far more involved than what appears on the surface to those who feel all justice-y about Obama’s commutations.
  5. Message from Glenn Martin, “I spoke before D.A.s in Milwaukee, and judges in Maryland. It shows that people closest to the problem are closest to the solution and are being taken seriously by the powers that be.
  6. Albany NY Teenager is granted Youthful Offender status and a sentence reduction after serving 2.5 years of a 9 year sentence for stealing sneakers, thanks to efforts of Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI) and a Judge with some sense of fairness.
  7. The juvenile offender’s dilemma: Letter from a man who committed a terrible crime when he was 14.
  8. NetWORKS asks if you know what jails have to do with prisons?  Jail activists are building an upstate-downstate collaboration that will participate in and strengthen our anti-incarceration movement overall.
  9. Young folks are steppin’ up in Buffalo! reports Karima Amin
  10. Thanks to all who contributed to John MacKenzie’s funeral expenses.   Poem by his granddaughter


1.  A former prisoner on voting for the first time in his life
“Being able to vote — that’s rare for people like me.”
  The Marshall Project in collaboration with Vice  

I’m feeling nervous. It’s the same way you might feel doing anything for the first time, even something real simple. You just don’t know if you’ll do it right.
My polling location is right here in my building, so it won’t be hard for me to cast a vote the way it is for a lot of working people. There will probably be a line of us, and I’ll be standing there feeling really good about myself. It’ll be a feeling to pay attention to, to savor. A feeling of pride.

I got out of prison in 2008, before Barack Obama came in. But I was on parole for many years and couldn’t vote, so I didn’t really start paying attention to all this stuff until 2014.

In New York, people convicted of a felony are prohibited from voting while they are in prison or on parole. Once they have completed their parole or have been pardoned, they have the right to vote. Those convicted of a misdemeanor, as well as those who have been charged with a felony but have not yet been convicted, also have the right to vote.

A friend of mine was working for the Board of Elections, helping out at one of the polls, and he said, “Man, you should check it out.” So I filled out the papers, and soon enough, I was involved.  I put up the signs to let people know where they could find their polling location, and then I stood at the door to point the way from there. I was directing people on how to fulfill one of their rights. I was witnessing democracy, but not yet taking full part in it.

This year, I applied for a voter registration card. Being able to vote — that’s rare for people like me. You have to understand where I came from — I mean, Eighth Avenue and 120th Street in New York City. It was different there when I was a kid. We didn’t have a lot of options. I went to James Monroe High School and graduated in 1972, but started getting into things I shouldn’t have.  I became a very dangerous man. I told people in the jewelry stores to put jewels in briefcases, and they'd listen. I was in and out of prison, always for armed robbery — until 1991 when, in my late 30s, I was sentenced to 18 years to life. They put me away.

I went to Attica, a violent place. You had to be serious about your business and your life, or you didn’t make it out.

I ended up taking a lot of classes, and I focused on a trade — laying carpet — which I liked because it kept me moving, moving, working, working, and because it was something I knew existed on the outside, too.

But I wasn’t even thinking about voting or politics. It’s a different world in there, and politics and the president are on the outside. So why would we care? Why would we be interested in voting? Why would we be interested in something we couldn’t actually do?

When I got out in 2008, I started doing things I never did before, like earning, working, staying busy, staying positive.

The fact that Obama was a real candidate, and my color — even if I wasn’t engaged in the process yet, that made a difference. It told me that everybody does have some kind of a shot, even me. And things started to change. My sister, who is gay, can get married now. The world is getting a little fairer.

This time, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. A woman being President of the United States of America — that’s something to be involved in. I know what it’s like to come a long way, to not be able to do the things I want to do. It’s a struggle out here — the requirements of survival, for working people, are real and sometimes overwhelming. Keeping food, keeping clean — it’s hard work. People don't understand that, and they don’t understand that voting is the most important way of changing it.

All I can say is I hope other former inmates get out and vote. The problem is, you have to believe to be able to vote, and most of us don’t. Some don’t believe in people at all; others don’t believe in the government because that’s what their lives have taught them. But I will vote. I don’t believe in all people, but I believe in the right people, and what they can do.

[Lawrence "Lonnie" Patterson, 63, is a van driver, building maintenance worker, and donations assistant for The Fortune Society, a prisoner reentry program.He is also employed by the New York City Board of Elections.He was released from prison in 2008 and completed his parole by 2013.]



2.  Parole News - September Release Rates, Correction: John Duffy not released; anonymous Open letter to the Board
PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001  
unofficial research from parole database

September 2016 - Interview Summaries

Type
Total 
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rates
Initials 
19
7
12
37%
31%
Reappearances
64
17
47
27%
30%
Total 
83
24
59
29%
30%
1 de novo denied; 2 released


September 2016 - Initial Releases
Facility
Age at hearing
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Cayuga
79
55
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Clinton
47
23
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Green haven
52
29
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
49
28
25-Life
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
50
32
20-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
49
24
27-Life
Mrd 2
1
Woodbourne
55
34
23-Life
Mrd 2
1



September 2016 - Reappearance Releases
Facility
Age at hearing
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board  
Auburn
35
17
17-Life
Kidnap 1
2
Franklin
42
19
21-Life
Mrd 2
3
Gouverneur
35
19
9-Life
Jo Mrd 1
6
Great meadow
57
30
25-Life
Mrd 2
6
Great meadow
47
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Greene
50
31
16-Life
Att Mrd 1
4
Greene
37
18
7-Life
Jo Mrd 1
4
Groveland
69
38
23-Life
Mrd 2
6
Livingston
56
32
15-Life
Att Mrd 1
7
Midstate
58
25
25-Life
Mrd 2
7
Midstate
51
25
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Mohawk
66
21
15-Life
Mrd pre 74
16 ?
Orleans
46
25
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
49
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Riverview
49
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Sing sing
58
20
25-Life
Mrd 2
8
Wende
55
34
15-Life
Mrd 2
5



September 2016 - Over 60 Age Summary
Age Range
Total seen
# Released
# Denied 
September Release Rate
Year to Date Release Rate
60-69
16
2
14
12%
26%
70-79
3
1
2
33%
25%
80+
0
0
0
0%
38%
Total
19
3
16
16%
26%



September 2016 - ALL Parole Releases (including A1VOs)
Type of Release
Total seen
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rate
Initials
377
105
272
28%
24%
All other decisions
368
126
242
34%
31%
Total interviews
745
231
514
31%
27%
Includes Merit Time cases

Correction:  In the September issue we reported John Duffy had been released in July.  Actually he was granted parole in July but not released.  The release decision was rescinded and he was ultimately given a 24 month hit.

This is part of his disturbing story.  
I was granted parole with an open date for Aug. 30th, 2016.  In the written decision the Board stated “We have considered the extensive opposition”.  Also “you are no threat to the community and will remain at liberty”.

Six days later I was informed that my date was suspended and a rescission hearing would be held due to “two victim impact statements that are on a DVD and were not before the Board.”   Needless to say, this stressed myself and my family. After 35 years and nine boards, finally an open date. Then to have it taken away six days later.

When my lawyer asked what was new on the DVD, the answer given was “the format”.   The same statements which were previously recorded on a V.H.S. format had been transferred to a DVD format!  Both contained the same (false, by the way) information.

The rescission hearing took place by video.  My lawyer had transcribed the tapes, and matched them word for word with all statements made by opposition since 2001. [Since the Parole Board was not in the same room as Duffy and his lawyer, they were not able to show their the transcripts to the Commissioners on the Board.]  ....“We’ll have your documents over- nighted and we’ll review them.”  That was my rescission hearing!  In the denial for 24 months, the reason given was “seeing the information in audio and visual on DVD gives the viewing of the information a new experience”.

 Once I was asked by a Board member, “How do you feel about all the denials?”  I stated, “well if I was in your place, at my first few boards I’d hit me - I took a life - but now at this point Commissioner, you’ve hit me for continued opposition, well if you go by that I’ll then have Life Without Parole because the opposition will never change.  What’s the point of parole if the Board ignores the court’s sentence and recommendation and instead allows “opposition” to re-sentence me time after time?

I could go on and on but I’ll instead end with these words for them, “I’ll see ya in Court!” 


An open letter to the NYS Board of Parole, by anonymous, speaking for many

Each time you’ve denied me parole, you commended me for my accomplishments and rehabilitative efforts - and wished me luck as I walked out the door.  How cruel.  In your written decision you claimed that granting parole would so deprecate the seriousness of the offense as to undermine respect for the law.  I do not know how three decades of imprisonment would undermine respect for the law.  You never explained any of that in your decision.

DOCCS has granted me a Limited Credit Time Allowance for positive programming and a good disciplinary record.  My COMPAS score is of the lowest risk category. I even have the support of crime victims whom I have met with over the years.  I have sat at the same tale with them and listened to the intimate details of their emotional pain and the empty void in their lives resulting from losing loved ones to violent crime. They have provided me with invaluable insights that have resulted in a greater depth of remorse which has been the impetus for my service-oriented activities for over two decades. It is my down payment on making amends and atonement for my past misdeeds of so long ago.    

I have done this under the most trying circumstances; in the negative prison environment.  You may be surprised to learn that there are departmental staff that discourage such activities and create many obstacles that undermine rehabilitative programs such as college, dance, yoga, theatre, AVP.

Most important of all, I have transformed myself into a responsible law abiding person with a contrite heart who is committed to make a positive contribution to society.  How could you not have seen that in all of my parole interviews?  Did you not see my tears?  Did you think they were false? Did you think twenty-five years of service-oriented programming was feigned?  Please help me to understand.  I’d like to know why I am being held while others with similar offenses, even worse offenses are released.



3.  The Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act

It became much easier to explain why the SAFE Parole Act is necessary after John Mckenzie drew so much attention to it by his death.  It’s sad that it took a death to expose the cruelty of the Parole Board, but John made it clear that for him death was preferable to another 2 years of hoping something would change the Parole Board’s practices, since there was nothing he could do to change the past. He figured his death might be the loudest statement he could make.

NOW IS THE TIME TO DEMAND PAROLE REFORM IN NEW YORK STATE!
On September 28, the New York Board of Parole published proposed changes to the regulations that govern its practices. We have 45 days to comment on the proposed regulations. Please join us in doing so. Comments must be received by November 12th, so time is of the essence!      Check out our online letter writing campaign and tell your friends, family and colleagues!  Google: www.ParoleJusticeNY.



4.  The Commuter’s Dilemma
Condensed from a post by Doulas Berman on his blog, Sentencing Law and Policy  (berman.43@osu.edu)

Most people have no clue what a commutation is, but they know it sounds like something really good, certainly better than spending the rest of your life in prison. When we learn of these mass commutations, we breathe a sigh of relief. The president is finally putting his pen to paper and making good on the promise of doing something about mass incarceration. Unlike pardons, which represent a full legal forgiveness for a crime, commutations can shorten a prison sentence while leaving other consequences intact. And as Obama has increased his use of commutations in his last year in office, he’s also gotten more creative in adapting the power to fit the circumstances of each case. Unlike the more common “time served” commutations, which release a prisoner more or less immediately, many of his commutations since August have been “term” commutations, which have left prisoners with years left to serve on their sentences.
When they walk out, they’re still saddled with their felonies, and the disabilities that go with them. Underlying all the president’s commutation decisions is the belief that these deserving individuals “should be given the tools to succeed in their second chance.”  “For some, the president believes that the applicant’s successful re-entry will be aided with additional drug treatment, and the president has conditioned those commutations on an applicant’s seeking that treatment.” 
There is a risk to accepting the condition. Take it and cut eight months off the back end of the sentence. Not exactly the hugest upside, but still, eight months is eight months. But if you fail, you will pay an even steeper price for your failure, owing back the time but without benefit of good time for not adhering to the condition of the commutation, plus whatever other charges get piled on top.
And then there is the silent killer, that the guy who comes out of prison, has no job, no money, no place to live, no car, no friends and no clue how to navigate the country that he left in 2002 when he emerges in 2016, has the burden of having to put the drug treatment program ahead of trying to find a way to eat that night. It’s hard enough to get anyone to take a chance on a felon, an ex-con, because America hates criminals, and employers hate liability. But should he get a break, a job, what are the chances that the employer will be cool with his going to drug treatment sessions three times a week? After all, what employer of an ex-con wants to pay him to not be there, doing the job?
This isn’t to say that President Obama’s use of his power of commutation is a bad thing, any more than to say that drug treatment is an inherent curse. It is, however, to say that there is far more involved than what appears on the surface to those who feel all justice-y about these commutations.


5.  A message from Glenn Martin:
Prison Action Network is a member of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), and since you are members of P.A.N., that means this message  from its founder, Glenn Martin, is for you also.

“The month of October was a heavy travel month for me.  I racked up thousands of air miles spreading JLUSA’s message, and I was not just “preaching to the choir.” In Denver, I delivered the keynote address at a National Governors Association summit meeting attended by criminal justice policymakers from twenty states.  I spoke before district attorneys in Milwaukee, and judges in Maryland. These guest appearances show that our message – that the crisis of mass incarceration must be brought to an end, that this is the time to reimagine America’s criminal justice system, and that the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution – is being taken seriously by the powers that be.

On November 17th I will be traveling once again, this time to Washington, D.C.  In a ceremony in the Kennedy Caucus Room, of the Russell Senate Office Building my friend and colleague Andrea James - founder of Families for Justice as Healing - and I will receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.  We will be joining an amazing group of leaders from twenty-nine countries who have been recognized for their “struggles against oppression in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights” since the award was established in 1984.

The official press release for the event says that the award recognizes Andrea’s and my “indispensable work to equip currently and formerly incarcerated women and men to be at the frontlines of reform efforts in the United States to end the racial and socioeconomic inequality perpetuated by the criminal justice system.”  This is a tremendous honor that I share with the JLUSA team and all formerly incarcerated people in America who are working to overcome the stigma of a criminal record.  It shows that the voices of society’s most marginalized men and women are finally being heard.  By amplifying those voices, JLUSA is helping to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s vision of a more just and peaceful world.  Thanks to your support, our organization, and our movement is growing and our voice grows louder every day.


6.  Albany NY Teenager is granted Youthful Offender status and a sentence reduction after serving 2.5 years of a 9 year sentence for stealing sneakers.

Back story: Marquis Dixon was 16 when he took a pair of sneakers from another teen who was selling them, without paying.  Because the victim thought he saw a gun - no gun was ever found - he was charged with robbery in the first degree.

Activists in Albany viewed this as an excessive sentence for a juvenile stealing a pair of sneakers, and vowed to do something about it.  And they won!

On October 28, The Appellate Division, 3rd Department issued a decision in the case of Marquis Dixon, reducing his sentence from the 9 years imposed by Albany County Court Judge Breslin to a sentence of 1-3 years. The Court granted him Youthful Offender status, meaning that he does not have a criminal conviction and that his records are sealed, and he will not have to carry the social and economic consequences of a conviction on his record. This young man, who has already been in Coxsackie Prison for two and a half years, and who was sixteen at the time of the offense, is home! What  happened to Marquis is a grave injustice. 

Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI), who took great interest in this case, applauded the Court’s decision, while being cognizant of the fact that there are many teenagers in Marquis’s position in the State of New York who are being tried and convicted as adults, are being sent to adult prisons and will have to carry their convictions with them for the rest of their lives. 

Albany County District Attorney David Soares adamantly supported the excessive sentencing imposed by Judge Breslin, and argued against Marquis’ early release during the appeal hearing. This community has not forgotten the many young people that the Albany County District Attorney’s Office has left behind.  One of those young people was Benjamin Van Zandt - a young man with a history of mental illness who killed himself at 21 years old while imprisoned at Fishkill Prison. Benjamin was sentenced as an adult to four to twelve years for arson, when he was only seventeen years old.  For Benjamin; for Marquis, we call on the New York State Legislature to raise the age of criminal responsibility, so that these tragedies stop happening.. New York remains one of only two states that charges 16-17 year olds as adults.  

The Court was clearly deeply troubled by the position advanced by District Attorney Soares, that it was okay to send a 16 year old to an adult prison for nine years. The Court repudiated that notion in the strongest terms possible,” says Attorney Mark Mishler, who submitted an amicus brief on behalf of CAAMI in favor of reducing Marquis’s sentence. “By doing so, the Court highlighted the compelling necessity of raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York and also, in essence, issued a mandate that all prosecutors and judges now must take youth into consideration in deciding appropriate sentences. We view the Court’s decision as an affirmation that our legal system can and must do much better when it comes to treating young people fairly. The next step is for NYS to join the rest of the country and raise the age of criminal responsibility. After that, we must re-evaluate the entire outdated and harmful practice of locking young people up in jails or prisons.”




7.  The Juvenile Offender’s Dilemma: 
Letter from a man who committed a terrible crime when he was 14

My situation is that I was charged and sentenced as a  Juvenile Offender.  My sentence is 9-Life (2 counts running consecutively for an overall term of 18-Life.)  I have worked very hard on my issues and continue to better myself in the hope that one day I will be given the opportunity to return to society.  

I’ve been in prison for over 25 years.  I have been to 5 parole hearings.  I am being treated as if I was an adult when I committed the crime. They expect me to explain the actions of a 14 year old.  I understand that the 14 year old and the now 41 year old are one and the same but the  41 year old is a different person.  When I explain my thinking as a youth and why I committed my crime the Board Members are looking at a grown man, but the explanation is not that of an adult.  However, if I explain it as an adult then I would be changing what I was thinking and feeling at the time, and I would therefore be lying to the panel.  I hope I explained that properly.  [We tried to do a better job , but failed; does this help?: The child is no longer here.  Only the adult is. The Parole Board wants to know what the child was thinking, but there’s no child to tell them.  So they punish the adult some more.  Ed.]



8.  NetWORKS, the monthly column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network
What have jails got to do with prisons?
If you are incarcerated in a New York State prison as many Building Bridges readers are, or a family member of someone who is, you may wonder how a movement for justice in local county and city jails could possibly benefit you. Been there, done that, never going back, right? (For those lucky enough not to know the difference, prisons are federal and state run facilities, while jails are locally run by counties and cities.) 
At the successful first conference of Jails Justice New York on November 5th, in Albany, some answers to that question emerged.
Approximately 40 jails justice activists and advocates from around the state of New York gathered, shared information, networked, strategized, and pledged to continue and strengthen their individual, mutually supportive, and collaborative work, and to bring greater attention to jails injustice publicly and within the broader anti-mass incarceration movement.
The activists represented about 17 upstate counties and New York City (whose five counties constitute a single citywide jail system).  Albany, Broome, Columbia, Cortland, Dutchess, Madison, Ulster, Onondaga, Orange, Schenectady, Tioga, Tompkins, Rensselaer, and New York City were present; Erie, Lewis, Nassau, Suffolk and others were not able to attend but are in communication with the Network.
Some of the issues discussed included fighting jail expansion, eliminating bail, addressing substance abuse and mental health issues through community based rather than criminal justice based resources, building public visibility and alliances, and improving the public defense system.
A panel of upstate and downstate representatives of bail funds discussed the advantages and limitations of bail funds. Bail funds are run by advocates and non-profits to pay bail and allow people to be released.  Representatives from New York City (the Bronx and Brooklyn), Madison County, and Tompkins County bail funds said that bail funds can get people out who would otherwise spend time in jail solely because of their economic status; and bail funds’ very high rate of people showing up for their court date helps to prove that bail is unnecessary. The disadvantages of bail funds are that under a new law enacted in 2012, they can only pay bails under $2000 and only for people accused of misdemeanors, not felonies. The upstate bail funds said that these restrictions severely limit their operations because bails are set much higher, while the New York City bail funds said they were still able to help hundreds of people get out because many bails are set below $2000. Representatives from a bail fund in Onondaga County also described their bail fund as able to help many people. Advocates said that the barriers to getting a significant number of people out on bail are more challenging upstate than in New York City, where more powerful and more concentrated advocacy networks have been able to win better conditions than are available upstate. In some counties even existing laws, such as representation at arraignment, are often not implemented. Nevertheless, some upstate counties which do not have bail funds are considering initiating them to help as many people as possible – people who have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent – to avoid jail.
The dangers of some alternatives to bail were explained and discussed. Some proposed anti-bail legislation imposes conditions that are likely to reproduce existing discriminatory outcomes – like requiring risk and needs assessments which claim to assess “dangerousness” -- or to be just another form of incarceration, like electronic monitoring. A working group was formed to continue the discussion.
In addition to the specific conversations about how to reduce jail populations and abuses, the attendees expressed a lot of excitement about just being in a room together.  Attendees saw the potential for an upstate-downstate network to bring more power and visibility to bear on the issues, to support each other’s campaigns, and to develop collaborative work for downsizing jails and ameliorating conditions. It was stated often that New York City activists have greater numbers of people, concentration of activists, and resources, but policies that affect jails as well as prisons are made on a statewide level. Only upstaters can organize upstaters; and upstaters are vital to making the case that incarceration affects all our communities. The effectiveness of an anti-incarceration movement in New York State depends on upstate-downstate collaboration. The Jails Justice Network conference began that process of collaboration for jails issues.
Two important ways this conference and stronger jails justice advocacy affect people in prison.The purpose of the network is fighting for the future: to prevent our children and other family members from entering the prison system through the jail gate; and in the present it is building an upstate-downstate collaboration that will participate in and strengthen our anti-incarceration movement overall.
Jails justice advocates at this conference recognized that jail reform standing alone cannot solve the problem of mass incarceration. As long as arrest rates are driven by bonuses, quotas, and fear of racially defined “violent predators,” and as long as the public dialog in the U.S. is still (racially) stereotyped and demonizes people accused of violent crimes, and as long as there is a big hungry prison system in the state with an appetite for more human sacrifice, jail reform’s potential is limited. But as jail reform advocates strengthen our ties with each other and with the wider anti-incarceration movement, we increase our power to make significant changes in the criminal INjustice system. This conference was a strong beginning for that process.


9.  Young Folks Steppin’ Up
By Karima Amin

I hate labels but I have become more accustomed to a few as I’ve earned some perks because of my age. I am a “Baby Boomer.” Depending on the data you use, we “Boomers” are identified as those individuals between the ages of 51 and 69.  Many of us have retired or are close to retiring and we are rapidly being replaced in the workforce by the “Millennials” (ages 18 to 34) and “Generation X” (ages 35-50). As we “Boomers” are graying, more and more younger people are stepping up to take the reins of government and community leadership. Some say by 2030, the “Millennials” will outnumber the “Boomers” by 22 million.

The next meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. will afford us an opportunity to hear from some young people in the community who are working diligently to help other young people avoid the “left turn” that could lead to unwanted involvement with the criminal justice system. What they have to say and what they are doing is beneficial for all, and not just for their peers.

Mercedes Wright and Eric Rose are siblings who share the desire to see a brighter future for all of us. In the summer of 2014 they acted on this desire by creating “Young Visionaries.” Starting initially as party promoters, they now mentor children left behind after loved ones have been lost to homicide.

Duncan Kirkwood is the Chairperson of the “Black Lives Matter” affiliate in Buffalo. He credits Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux, activist and founder of Young Black Democrats of Western NY, for guiding and supporting him in the local work of a national movement that is designed to celebrate Black lives and to increase community understanding.

Dave Harder is a man seeking to share his vision of a community where cooperative learning is the norm. He is working to create an environment where we are all stakeholders, learning, building, and growing together. His idea of “knowledge fire” is bolstered by the fact that every individual brings value to the world.

Dayatra Hassan is the young woman who serves as coordinator of the Food for Thought Teen Program. This FREE program at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center seeks to build resiliency and self-esteem through a curriculum that is actually shaped by the teens themselves.

Most PRP2! meetings are at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo on the last Monday of the month, from 7pm to 9pm.  For more information, contact Karima Amin: karimatells@yahoo.com, 716-834-8438.




  Thank You.....for helping out
John MacKenzie's death was a great loss.  
The service at the Mount Tremper Monastery was a respectful and moving tribute to this good man.  I am sure that I speak for John's daughters Denise and Danielle in expressing gratitude to all who contributed to the funeral expenses. May his memory encourage us to keep working for parole reform.  Jim Murphy



Grandpa.
Grandpa.
Grandpa.
I miss you.
You were a great man.
You did something wrong
but we all make mistakes.
I guess the correctional facility
didn’t understand that.

This didn’t need to happen
but it did

It is sad
Very sad

But now you are free

Your soul is free
in the air
in our hearts
everywhere
still spreading joy

we may not be able to see you
but you give signs
like rainbows and orbs
to let us know
that you are here
and hear

I will never forget you
I love
you
Grandpa.

by Mia F. McDonagh, age 10,  loving granddaughter of John MacKenzie



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