Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

Translate this page:

Saturday, May 06, 2017

May 2017

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.  Scroll down now to go directly to the MAY 2017 newsletter.



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



Building Bridges May 2017

Dear Readers,  

Since you are concerned about the men and women in prison for whom the May 10 event was created, we hope you will register for the bus and/or the food and join in the rally, the march, the Million Stair Speak Out, and the legislative visits :

MAY 10TH  UNITE FOR PAROLE AND PRISON JUSTICE:
A DAY OF ADVOCACY AND ACTION
ALBANY STATE CAPITOL

Please help us spread the word about May 10! We have three buses coming from NYC and we'd like to fill them all. Send an email to your networks, friends and colleagues. Invite your parents! Invite your neighbors! Tell everyone you know. Please make sure folks formally RSVP either by sending an email to may10dayofactionRSVP@gmail.com or fill out this FORM

Donate Funds to Support Our Efforts!
As you can imagine, expenses for May 10 are high and funds are limited. If you're able to donate any funds (even just a few dollars!), you can do so here via paypal (scroll down and the paypal button is on the left side of the page).  

Questions?
Email may10dayofactionRSVP@gmail.com and we'll get back to you.

Now for the rest of Building Bridges:

Table of Contents
1.  Parole News reports on March Parole Decisions.
2.  Letter in Opposition submitted from Inside and forwarded to AM Weprin.
3.  List of all NYS facilities with how many people were released from each.
4.  Let Laurie Kellogg go!  Update.
5.  Judith Clark - letters in opposition to her denial.
6.  Parole Board is RAPPed!  Link to video of presentation.  Not to be missed!
Legislation reported on, includes Sponsor’s Memo for bill on Parole Appeals Process.
8.  Baba Eng,  guest columnist, writes about how we reform the System
9.  Has the Age been Raised high enough?


1.  Parole News - Release Rates
PAROLE BOARD RELEASES - A1 VIOLENT FELONS DIN #s through 2001  
unofficial research from parole database
March 2017 - A1VO Interview Summaries

Type
Total 
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year to Date Release Rate
Initials 
15
6
9
40%
32%
Reappearances
80
30
50
38%
35%
Total 
95
36
59
38%
34%
2 de novos released, 1 denied.

March 2017 - A1VO Initial Releases by Facility
Facility
Age at Hearing
Age @ Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Fishkill
46
28
18-l
Kid 1
1
Gowanda
49
25
27-l
Mrd 2
1
Green haven.  PIE*
51
22
20-l
Consp 1
1
Orleans
46
23
25-l
Mrd 2
1
Otisville. deported
58
26
33-l
Mrd 2
1
Otisville
47
22
25-l
Mrd 2
1
* PIE=Parole immediately eligible

March 2017 - A1VO Reappearance Releases by Facility
Facility
Age  at hearing
Age at Commitment
Sentence
Offense
# of Board
Auburn
55
27
25-Life
Mrd 2
3
Bare hill
45
20
20-Life
Kid 1
5
Fishkill
76
41
28-Life
Mrd 2
5
Fishkill
65
33
15-Life
Mrd 2
11
Fishkill
50
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
55
33
15-Life
Mrd 2
6
Fishkill
53
31
20-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
53
34
18-Life
Mrd 2
2
Fishkill
40
21
18-Life
Mrd 2
2
Five points
44
25
15-Life
Mrd 2
4
Gouverneur
51
27
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Gowanda
39
22
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Great Meadow
58
30
25-Life
Mrd 2
6
Groveland
35
19
15-Life
Mrd 2
2
Livingston
53
21
25-Life
Mrd 2
5
Livingston
44
21
9-Life
Jo Mrd
12
Orleans
52
19
15-Life
Mrd 2
12
Orleans
56
38
15-Life
Mrd 2
3
Otisville
52
20
31-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville
48
24
25-Life
Mrd 2
2
Otisville  - DeNovo
56
21
22-Life
Mrd 2
8
Riverview
40
16
20-Life
Mrd 2
3
Riverview
43
23
22-Life
Mrd 2
2
Taconic-female
71
42
25-Life
Mrd 2
4
Taconic-female - De Novo
70
36
25-Life
Mrd 2
6
Washington
49
20
18-Life
Mrd 2
7
Wende
44
18
4-Life
Mrd 2
2
Wende
54
32
15-Life
Mrd 2
5
Wende
39
20
18-Life
Kidnap 1
2
Wyoming
56
23
25-Life
Mrd 2
6


March 2017 - A1VOs Over 60 -  Summary of decisions
Age Range
Total Seen
# Released
# Denied 
Release Rate 
Year to Date Release Rate
60-69
15
1
14
7%
20%
70-79
9
3
6
33%
24%
80+
0
0
0
0%
0%
Total
24
4
20
17%
21%



March 2017 - A1VO Age at time of Commitment - Summary  
Age Range
Total 
Released
Denied 
Release Rate  
Year to Date release Rates
16-20
13
8
5
62%
54%
21-25
33
14
19
42%
32%
25+
49
14
35
29%
29%
Total
95
36
59
38%
34%


March 2017 - Summary of ALL Parole Releases (Including the A1VOs) Includes Merit time cases. 
Type of Release
Total 
# Released
# Denied
Rate of Release
Year To Date Releases
Initials
347
105
242
30%
27%
All other decisions
357
154
203
43%
39%
Total
704
259
445
37%
32%


2.  Letter in Opposition of S.2997/A.2350
 by Carmen Russo
It is already a travesty of the law that the Parole Board can deny us/me parole, time after time, 2 years at a time.  If they were given the chance to do it at 5 year intervals none of us would ever be paroled.  They ought to just open a large prison grave yard, because as you know the Lifers who would fall under this bill are already dying in prison at an alarming rate. 
This is why I, my family and friends support Bill S.3095/A.4353 (the SAFE Parole Act)

3.  LIST OF ALL NYS FACILITIES WITH THE NUMBER OF ALL (INCLUDING A1VOS RELEASED AND DENIED IN MARCH 2017

Facility
Released
Denied
Adirondack
6
7
Albion W-R
0
2
Albion-female
7
15
Altona
4
8
Attica
1
18
Auburn
3
5
Bare Hill
5
28
Bedford
4
7
Cape Vincent
10
5
Cayuga
9
4
Clinton
3
15
Collins
4
17
Coxsackie
0
5
Downstate
4
8
Eastern NY
1
2
Edgecombe
1
0
Elmira
4
9
Fishkill
10
19
Five Points
2
10
Franklin
4
20
Gouverneur
8
7
Gowanda
17
17
Gowanda - SOP
0
7
Gt Meadow
0
17
Green Haven
0
8
Greene
1
31
Groveland
7
11
Hale Creek ASAC
2
3
Hudson
0
5
Lakeview
1
8
Lincoln
2
1
Livingston
8
11
Marcy
5
19
Marcy-ASACTC
0
2
Midstate
6
19
Mohawk
10
11
Ogdensburg
5
2
Orleans
2
10
Other Agency
0
1
Otisville
4
9
Riverview
5
13
Rochester
5
1
Shawangunk
0
6
Sing Sing
1
11
Southport
0
4
Sullivan
2
2
Taconic-ASACTC
0
1
Taconic - female
6
4
Ulster
11
16
Upstate
0
6
Wallkill
1
1
Walsh Medical Ctr
0
8
Washington
1
13
Watertown
3
5
Wende
2
21
Woodbourne
55
46
Wyoming
8
15
TOTALS
259
445


4.  Let our people go!
Earlier this month, a state court judge was so fed up with the Parole Board that he ordered a woman to be released, bypassing the Parole Board entirely. Unfortunately, that judge’s decision was put on hold while the Parole Board appeals.
The New York State Board of Parole is appealing a judge's decision that would have freed Laurie Kellogg, who was convicted of murdering her husband in 1992.
The judge had given the state 30 days to appeal his ruling or release Kellogg. The state confirmed that it had filed an appeal with the court on April 13.


5.  Judith Clark
NYS Parole Board invents “symbolic” reason for denial
  In denying Judith Clark’s parole after serving 35 years in prison, the three members [ Ed:Tina Stanford, Kevin Ludlow, Sally Thompson] did not follow the law regarding parole nor their own regulations just updated in March.  
The reason for denial cited in the Times article (4/22/17) stated:

 “We do find that your release at this time is incompatible with the welfare of society as expressed by relevant officials and thousands of its members,…You are still a symbol of a terroristic crime.”
             There is no reference in the law to denial based for “symbolic” reasons, nor for community opposition, which in this case came from a petition drive by NY Senate members and the NY Police Benevolent Association.

 The law states: “if released, at this time, there is a reasonable probability that you would:
1.      not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law and
2.      your release would be incompatible with the welfare of society and.
3.      would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.

 No doubt, the board members are hanging their hats on the 3rd “so deprecate” provision, but there is no legal definition of what that means. The updated regulations make risk assessment the guiding principle. This decision does not. It makes the opposition by those opposing the release of someone involved in the death of a law enforcement officer as the ruling factor.      By  Jim Murphy

On May 3, 2017 the NYT carried an article by Jim Dwyer about Judy Clark’s 7 hour parole hearing.
“I Want to Live It Out,” Ms. Clark says, comparing herself to John MacKenzie,  after her 7 hour closed circuit TV Parole Board Hearing with Tina Stanford, Kevin Ludlow, and Sally Thompson.  In the article she is reported as saying she feels John MacKenzie’s spirit near her and she understands why he did what he did, but she hopes to be strong enough to “live it out”.   She also is aware of the pain her denial caused prison friends who had hung their hopes for justice on her.  She said most of them were so sure that what you do counts;  that bad behavior counts negatively, and good behavior is rewarded,  that they actually did not hear her when she told them she’d been denied!   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/nyregion/judith-clark-parole-interview.html


Some advice to the governor:
Dear Governor Cuomo:
Those you re-appointed from Mr. Pataki seem to have stabbed you  in the back, including your own choice for Chairperson.  Do not be cowed by these PBA fans.  Recall that when the parole board released Kathy Boudin he shook up the board, forcing the chair and director to resign, and instilled fear in the remaining board members.  
Stand firm behind your decision, and grant, as you did with the rehabilitated Anthony Papa, a pardon to this deserving woman, Judith Clark.  The PBA and Republican kneejerk politicos will steamroll over you in the future if you waver. 
Secondly, as Pataki did for the wrong reasons, clean house. The Pataki people you re-appointed clearly do not share your vision of justice, Walter William Smith a prime example. 
Lastly, consider reinstating to the chair George Alexander, a man of integrity and principle.  He sought to change the mindset of parole, and reform the mission of parole to help people prepare for release and then help them stay out and become productive people.  He was successful as were the 356 "violent" offenders paroled under his watch. What the Republicans called a "Jailbreak" in the Legislative Gazette was actually smart practice. NONE of those women and men committed a new crime.  He was set up, investigated for a  year for forgetting to return a computer and some, including shaky Democrats conspired in his removal.  
You will find a lot of support from people if you stand behind your convictions. Otherwise they will continue to drag you through the mud. Bless you and the good governance you embody. ~ Anonymous

6.  Parole Board is RAPPed!

ParoleWatch! had a huge surprise at the Parole Board Business Meeting on April 24, when there was a group presentation (something that’s been happening with some regularity lately) from RAPP (Release Aging People in Prison), a group we know well.  The video is available on: www.YouTube Parole Board Business Meeting Videos.   RAPP folks told their personal parole board stories, from being denied over and over despite no change in their rehabilitation; to explaining the evidence that a young child keeps evolving until they become a full grown adult in their 20’s;  to the problem of swift interviews (mentioned by guest, Vernon Manley, former parole commissioner); to living with secrecy and and shame as the child of an exemplary parent who was denied 11 times, as she watched his life expectancy dwindle along with her hope of seeing him interact with his grandchildren at home.  Two of the female commissioners shed tears and offered tissues to Danielle.  Chairwoman Tina Stanford indicated that this conversation might be the beginning of future commissioner training.   For the whole story click here:  http://www.doccs.ny.gov/parole-board-videos.html

To join Parole Watch, please write ParoleReform@gmail.com.



7.  Legislative Report:  Assembly and Senate Bills reported;  A.1908 Sponsor’s memo re: 
A.1908 concerning Parole Appeals process.
Explanation:   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 Corrections Committee to another committee (from where it may go to the entire Assembly for a floor vote).  “3rd reading” or “Report to CAL” indicates that it’s in line to be presented to the whole body.  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.

Assembly’s Correction Committee - Bills considered after March 27  and prior to April 25.  Keep in mind these are bills that have not been voted on by the whole Assembly.  


Bill Number
Primary Sponsor/s
Purpose
A.1052/ S.5561
Advanced to 3rd reading
Richardson/Alcantara
Grants certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct to those whose extraordinary performance earned them early discharge from community supervision.
A.1729/ S3352
Advanced to 3rd reading
Mosley/ Bailey 
Ensures that persons illegally discriminated against by a public employer due to a prior criminal conviction unrelated to the employment sought is able to seek redress with the Division of Human Rights.
A.1908 / no same as
Referred to Ways and Means
O’Donnell
To change the parole appeal process to provide for timely and comprehensive review of parole denials.
*see below for sponsor’s memo 
A.2471/ S.4891
Referred to Crime Victims...
Sepulveda/ Diaz
Directs the Board of Parole to add to their annual report the demographic data of persons considered for release.
A.5818/ no same as
Referred to Codes
Rozic
Requires structured out-of-cell programming for adolescents in segregated disciplinary confinement
A.6353-A/ no same as

Weprin 
Requires that an inmate who has appeared before the board of parole prior to having completed any program required by the department of corrections and community supervision, and has been denied release, shall be immediately placed into the required program. 
A.7016/S.5693
Referred to Ways and Means
De La Rosa / Montgomery
To require DOCCS to restore free transportation for visitors to its prisons to help families stay connected. In the past the buses ran on weekends from NYC, 7Rochester, Syracuse and Albany to every prison in the state.
A.7241/ no same as
Refer to Codes
Weprin 
Establishes an inmate visitation program, which gives inmates opportunities for personal contact with relatives, friends, clergy, volunteers and other persons to promote better institutional adjustment and better community adjustment upon release. It also restores inmate visiting programs in medium security prisons,  to seven days a week.


The Sponsor’s Memo for A.1908 explains why the legislation is necessary.
 When an inmate is denied release by the Board of Parole he or she may file an administrative appeal of that denial to the Board's Appeals Unit followed by an Article 78 petition to Supreme Court should the decision be upheld by the Appeals Unit. Under the board's own rules, the Appeals Unit has 120 days to answer an administrative appeal. An inmate has a right to counsel for the administrative appeals process but not for an Article 78 petition to the court.
 According to data from the Board of Parole, in 2012 and 2013, the Appeals Unit received more than 4000 perfected appeals and issued decisions in 2699 such appeals, or roughly two thirds. Of the latter, 2628 decisions were affirmed and 71 were reversed. During those same two years, only 4 decisions were made within the allotted four-month time
period while 2695 were decided after the requisite deadline.  Most appeals, 1279, were decided between six and nine months after the initial decision was issued by the board.
 In other words almost every inmate who appealed a parole determination had to wait four months while the Appeals Unit failed to make a decision before he or she was able to file an Article 78 petition in court challenging the denial of parole. Of the inmates who eventually received a decision from the Appeals Unit, nearly all of them were affirmations of the board's determination. This is not a meaningful appeal process andis a waste of time for both the inmate and appointed counsel. Additionally, since the board does not currently provide timely administrative decisions to the court, the court is in no worse position by treating the parole board's determination as a final decision.
 When an inmate is finally able to file a petition challenging the parole denial, there is usually an additional delay of many months before the board produces a transcript of the parole interview to the petitioner
and to the court. The board reports that when they use State hearing reporters, there is an average 4- to 6-month delay before the transcript is received by its own transcription unit. A month or two after the transcript is finalized the attorney general's office answers the inmate's petition and, several months later, the court issues a decision.
 By law a parole "hit," that is, the waiting period before an inmate is eligible to reappear before the board, can be no more than two years.  In most cases, by the time the court is able to make a decision on the petition, the inmate is already scheduled to see the board again. Very few cases make it to the Appellate Division because the majority of them are moot by virtue of having reached the inmate's next scheduled appearance before the board. By delay, the board escapes review of its decisions.
 The parole appeal process is also crippled by the fact that the board does not send the entire record below to the court for review.  Recently, a superintendent of a correctional facility appeared before the board to testify on behalf of an inmate seeking parole, a very rare occurrence. When the board denied parole release, the inmate appealed.  The transcript given to the court did not include the superintendent's testimony. The board only sent a transcript of the interview of the inmate himself. The board routinely fails to forward letters of support and other documents to the court reviewing the record on appeal.
 This bill aims to speed up the process of parole appeals and provide for needed court oversight of the board's decisions. It permits inmates to bypass the parole appeals unit to appeal directly to the court and alows the court to receive the entire record that had been before the board. It transfers the right to counsel from the administrative appeal to the Article 78 petitioning process. It also permits the court broader remedies upon review, including the right to order an inmate to be released from prison. The bill requires the board to make a timely transcript of its hearings and provide an audio recording of the hearing, including any testimony by witnesses other than the inmate being considered for parole.


Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee - Bills considered on April 26.  Keep in mind these are bills that have yet to be voted on by the whole Assembly.

Bill Number
Primary Sponsors
Purpose
S.248/ A.1765
Reported to Finance
Ortt/ Hawley
Prohibits any sex offender from residing within a quarter mile of any school, playground, park or building in which child day care is provided
S.968/A. 860
1st report to Cal
Murphy/Braunstein
To restrict sex offenders from residing within 1500 feet of the residence to their victim.
S.1096/A.6643-A
Reported to Finance
G. Rivera/ Crespo
Establishes a pilot project for the placement of inmates close to home
S.1186 /no same as bill
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 or household
S.1511/ A.1193
1st report to CAL
Avella/ Simanowitz
Requires that notice of a risk level determination hearing
for convicted sex offenders be given to the sex offender and district attorney within five days of the conviction for any sex offender, who is expected to be, upon sentencing, released on probation or discharge upon payment of a fine, conditional discharge or unconditional discharge and the risk level determination hearing must be held within 20 days of this notice and prior to sentencing.
S.2178/ no same as bill
1st report to CAL
Funke
Allows municipalities to enact restrictions on where
registered sex offenders reside
S.2638/S6789
1st report to CAL
Lanza/Miller
Level two sex offenders must appear in person and submit a photograph every year.
S.3037/ A.3915
1st report to CAL
Murphy/Zebrowski
Ensures that a change of address for a sex offenders  with a local law enforcement agency is transmitted to the state division of criminal justice services within five business days.
S.3344/A.3192
Reported to Finance
Bailey/Ortiz
Requires the commissioner of corrections, in consultation with the commissioner on Alcohol and Substance Abuse services, to take steps to ensure that prisoners whose first language is not English are able to access prison substance abuse programs.
S.3854/no same as bill
1st report to CAL
Marchione
Permits correction officers to be color blind

S.5392/ no same as bill
1st report to CAL
Serino
 Defines endangering the welfare of vulnerable elderly persons or an incompetent or physically disabled person by engaging in sexual abuse, as a sex offense.
S.5407/no same as bill
Reported to Finance
Gallivan
An act to amend the executive law, in relation to updating terminology. and correcting citations




8.  Guest Columnist: baba eng
How We Reform the Current Prison and Parole System
    As a Christian Nation, we are obligated to structure institutions that serve our collective interest, based on the principles that come forth from our shared values and beliefs as a society. We know that is the ideal but that reality and history reveal quite a different story.
     Nevertheless, like our Ancestors: Cinque, and Dred Scott, we now understand that when fighting the injustices woven into the fabric of our shared culture, we can be successful and most effective when we challenge the system with the laws, regulations, and/or rules that are supposed to govern us all, irrespective of race, class, or politics.  The laws that “they” say they abide by. 
     I say that if they have created laws to use against us, then it is incumbent on us to learn and use the law to fight back against injustice
     For example, though we know how the laws and courts developed, we see that the ideals that they attempt to found their actions on are actually ideals that come from Afrikan traditions of Freedom, Justice, and Equality; the ancient principles of Afrikan society known as Ma’at. We know that Ma’at means Order, Justice, Harmony, Balance, Reciprocity, Propriety and Truth.  We also know that all peoples, all over the world, who were exposed to those teachings made sure that it became a part of their scriptures and finally the laws that they developed for themselves. 
      So, in arguing our case for justice we have to make it plain to those in authority that we come forth in the name of those same universal principles that all righteous men and women have adhered to and upheld to the best of their ability.
     Here in America, we know that the Supreme Court is supposed to be the one that we look to set the bar, in terms of the laws that govern our institutions. When it comes to prisons and parole, the Supreme Court and the lower courts in the states have held that there are four fundamental elements to be considered and achieved in sentencing and those are: 
1. that the offender be isolated from society, his or her community; 
2. that the sentence serve as a punishment for the crime committed; 
3. that the sentence serve as a deterrent to other people who may be thinking about crime; and 
4. perhaps most important,  rehabilitation.
     That is where the discussion of the issue(s)  needs to merge  so that we can look to what The Supreme Court of the United States said in respect to parole, and by implication imprisonment and rehabilitation.
      For example, in Greenholtz v. Nebraska, 99 S. Ct .2100, that Court said: “It is important that we can not overlook the ultimate purpose of parole, which is a long range objective of rehabilitation.”
     Based on the specific use of the term rehabilitation, we can reasonably conclude  from that holding of the Supreme Court, that our intention as a society, in reform, conforms to the beliefs and values that hold redemption as an absolute opportunity for all human beings.
     Moreover, again, in Greenholtz v. Nebraska, we find that the ideas of positive change and rehabilitation embody the idea of redemption during imprisonment as a primary goal with parole as the mechanism through which the release of such prisoners would be accomplished.
     Again let’s look to the Supreme Court of The United States in the case of Morrisey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 477, where that Court said: “where the legal argument for the practice of releasing prisoners before the end of their sentences as having become an integral part of the penological system, it’s purpose being to help individuals reintegrate into society as constructive individuals as soon as they are able, without having to serve the full length of their sentences.”
         Now, with that background information, when we look to what presently exists it is with an eye to critique and correct what is wrong and to commend and replicate what is right.
     In New York state, for example, neither present policy or facts on the ground suggest that New York’s prison system, nor its parole system is in conformity with the position held by The Supreme Court, where that Court stated that rehabilitation must be a part of the prisoner’s experience, with the implication that parole must be fairly and equally accessed by all prisoners. These are principles that our highest Court has said are relevant and that we say are important to us as a society which holds the humanity of our citizens as our highest value.
     In New York state prisons, although some opportunities for rehabilitation do exist, there is also a culture of disdain and demonization that hold both prisoners and guards hostage to an attitude of, if not outright animosity, then certainly not understanding or believing  in the righteousness of the effort to effect positive change.
     In looking at what works or doesn’t work according to both the law and our intention as a society, we have to examine the structures as they exist. On the one hand we have what we know as the retributive justice system, commonly called the criminal justice system and we see that what is needed is a restorative justice system. When talking about the parole system as it  currently operates you would have to place it under the retributive justice system.      However, when we talk about effective reform we know that one of the first modifications that we must make is the shifting of the parole system from the retributive justice system to the restorative justice model. Our reasoning for that first shift is that the primary people effected by crime and ultimately by whatever system we as a society have in place to deal with it, are the victims and the offenders. They are the primary stakeholders, who have the most interest in a just and balanced outcome in the process. Once that understanding is gained we know that the first consideration must be about the victim. At that point, we ask ourselves what can be put in place to provide protection, relief, compensation, closure and healing for the victim, from their experience with crime. That for us is a given, victims must be first.  Along with that, we know families of victims and the communities from which victims come are also impacted so our consideration is in protecting their interest as well. Then finally, there are the offenders, their families and the communities that they come from, which more often than not are the same as the community from which the victim came.
     In the restorative justice model we have victims and offenders, with families and communities, all of whom have real stakes in positive outcomes. These are the people who should be brought together to provide a reasoned, effective response to crime. In first focusing on the victim we also include a focus on the offender in terms of developing programs that promote and encourage them to change their thinking and behavior in ways that are compatible with the welfare of their communities. There is the need to encourage them to take responsibility for their criminal thinking and behaviors and then make amends to the victims, families and communities.
          There are many good reasons for following that approach. One is that we are dealing with human beings like ourselves, that must always be remembered. Secondly, offenders, unless given the death penalty, or life without parole, will some day be returning to us, the communities that they come from.
     One way that is proven to have worked in the past, but was stopped, is that the community can be involved in the rehabilitation process through education, in self help groups, and in counseling and therapy groups that provide resources for positive change. 
     In New York state that can be accomplished through volunteer services. But that needs to be expanded and given over to community control.  Currently it is controlled by prison personnel who treat outside community support as a threat to their livelihoods, rather than the assistance to rehabilitation that it actually is.
     Once that is developed, then selecting people who have worked with offenders, in those programs, to sit on parole boards that consider offenders for release on parole, becomes a logical next step because these are then people who not only have a legal and moral stake in the process, in representing the actual communities that offenders come from, but who have also worked with the offenders themselves and therefore have a real sense of the potential for good represented by a fair and humane parole process.
We would have to get an agreement from the office of the Governor to set aside a specific number of appointments just for community people to be selected for appointment to the Parole Board. 
     This number must be sufficient to assign at least one community person to sit in on each board hearing being held anywhere in the state. Those appointees would report directly to a community release board that would be established from the re-entry task force in each area of the state, so that all communities are represented.
     I pray that something that I have presented in this outline will contribute to the discussion of developing policies and practices that are fair and just and which truly serve the interest of the People.
Power Belongs To The People.    g.baba eng    


9.  NY raised the age at last after decades of debate.
New York has raised the age at which juveniles are automatically tried as adults, from 16 to 18. It was one of the last states in the country to make the shift — and it was hailed as a triumph.
But...... the law still pushes thousands of juveniles accused of felonies directly into adult court, drawing criticism from some lawmakers who think it did not go far enough.  For instance, all 16- or 17-year-olds who are accused of a violent felony will still be tried in adult criminal court, though in a quasi-separate section called the “youth part.” Even under the new system, these young people will continue to face adult consequences such as lengthy prison sentences and lifetime criminal records.  16- and 17-year-olds who commit nonviolent felonies will begin their cases in adult court, although they will be moved to family court unless a prosecutor can demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances,” which the legislation does not define.
One of the law’s most sweeping changes will be to remove everyone below age 18 from county jails. Of course, for proponents of raising the age, the goal has always been to keep all juveniles, accused of all crimes, out of the adult system, and to that extent New York’s law is a compromise stitched together in Albany after many years of contentious debate and Republican opposition. Most believe the battle to keep 16- and 17-year-olds accused of violent felonies from ever being tried as adults will still be fought for many years to come.

Building Bridges is Prison Action Network’s way to communicate with our members.
Please contact us by one of the methods below if you’d like to join us.