Building Bridges

The monthly newsletter of the Prison Action Network

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Saturday, October 07, 2017

October 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 often post late breaking news and announcements here, so you may want to check now and then.

  Scroll down now to go directly to the October 2017 newsletter.  (you know how to enlarge the fonts, right? )


Late Breaking News!

Posted October 17

On October 30, 2017, the New York State Legislature will host a Joint Assembly Committee Public Hearing (the Assembly Health and Corrections Committees) on prison healthcare.  

This is an opportunity for your voice to be heard. It is critical that directly-impacted women and frontline advocates in particular present testimony on the above stated issues (and any other related issues that you feel are important).  Many of you have important perspectives as women and frontline advocates who have been subjected to DOCCS prison healthcare/healthcare system.  We encourage you to submit testimony.
Here is the link to the public hearing notice:  http://assembly.state.ny.us/write/upload/publichearing/20170913.pdf

Generally, the hearing will cover:
     the adequacy of care;
·    the treatment of communicable diseases; 
·    women’s healthcare;
·    the administration of medications; 
·    long-term care;
·    the use of for-profit healthcare contractors;
·    healthcare facility placements for people leaving incarceration; and,
·    potential Medicaid coverage for incarcerated people.

In addition, advocates have identified the following priority concerns:

·    the need to obtain a waiver from the Federal Government to utilize full Medicaid funding to pay for treatment to improve continuity of care upon release; 
·    staffing and quality control concerns; 
·    decentralized oversight of medical services in local correctional facilities; 
·    the complexity of ensuring continuity of care when inmates are moved from one facility to another and following release; 
·    the use of for-profit correctional medical companies; and,
·    the adequacy of health care for women. 

The Public Hearing Reply form is attached to the hearing notice.  Please note that presentation of oral testimony is by invitation only. However, we have confirmed that anyone can submit written testimony

For those who may be unfamiliar with the legislative hearing process and public testimony, here is a user-friendly resource from the University of Kansas, Center for Community Health and Development, Community Tool Box to assist you:  


Posted October 24:  

Do You Really Want Sheriff Howard for Another Four Years?

By Karima Amin

Since 2005, Timothy Howard has been the Sheriff of Erie County. We have lived with his incompetence, his lack of transparency and his descriptions of conditions and incidents at the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden that rarely reflect the truth.  I just took a look at an article that I wrote, just before the last election in 2013, entitled: “Who Will Be Our Next Erie County Sheriff?”  I could have written it yesterday. Not much has changed. I urged you then, as I am urging you now to VOTE!  In 2013, improving conditions at the Holding Center was a real “hot button” issue. This time there’s not much excitement about the Holding Center or about the upcoming election on November 7.

By 2013, PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, INC. and the ERIE COUNTY PRISONERS’ RIGHTS COALITION, had invested a lot of time advocating for prisoners to receive humane and professional treatment. We were among several entities that led the push to bring in the Department of Justice to investigate Erie County’s Jail Management Division after a suspicious spate of suicides. We also urged the Commission on Correction in Albany to be more vigilant in its oversight, as it was discovered that Sheriff Howard was guilty of misreporting and simply not reporting issues at both the Holding Center and the jail in Alden.

Those who find themselves confined to either of these facilities deserve better that they are getting.  In the early days of our advocacy, there were those who said that we wanted “4-star hotel accommodations” for prisoners.  That was a ridiculous assertion, made in an attempt to make us look ridiculous. When we held our rallies, and speak-outs, and teach-ins, forums, and press conferences, there were media people and others who asked if we were being paid to do the work of advocating for the voiceless.

Election Day, November 7th is almost here. Sheriff Howard has one opponent. You need to know who he is. You need to be aware of his platform. He wants to bring change to county law enforcement. You must come to our next meeting to be informed. Your vote is vital in making this community a place where justice prevails and those in power are held accountable. Don’t ever assume that the criminal justice system will never touch you.

PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE TOO will hold its next monthly meeting on Monday, October 30, 2017, 7:00 – 9:00pm, at the Rafi Greene C. A. O. Community Center in Buffalo, 1423 Fillmore @ the corner of Glenwood.


More Information: Karima, karima@prp2.org. 716-834-8438; BaBa, g.babaeng@yahoo.com, 716-491-5319.



Building Bridges October 2017


the monthly newsletter of Prison Action Network


Dear Reader,  
Building Bridges wants to thank all the people who help put this newsletter together;  those who contribute articles, those who suggest topics, our partner in envelope stuffing, and especially our statistician who not only researches the Parole stats but also patiently helps us lay it out.  (It’s not as easy as it appears. - see article 7…) We also want to thank all the men in the Lifers and Longtermers Organization at Otisville who hosted their annual Parole Summit and made me feel like a Celebrity.  It’s inspiring to know how much these humble pages mean to some of you.  To all our readers, we hope you know this is all done for you, to help you find the tools you need to successfully reenter the world you left many years ago.  We’re here waiting for you
Your Editor ….

Table of Contents 

  1. About the March for Justice  
  2. Why the SAFE Parole Act is so important. 
  3. Art and Activism (in Buffalo)  
  4. Three outstanding Judges  
  5. Formerly incarcerated Lawyers  
  6. Youthful Offenders Facility in the Adirondacks  
  7. Learning to use the internet and social media is not easy! 
  8. PAROLE STUFF..   You'll have to ask for the charts to be emailed 2 U:  ParoleReform@gmail.com


1.NetWORKS  The Monthly Column of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network
The Movement for Prison Justice Marches On
As regular Building Bridges readers already know, a group of intrepid souls, led by the Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ),  walked 140 miles from Harlem to Albany to protest human rights abuses in New York State prisons and jails. 
After a vibrant send-off rally in Harlem on August 26th featuring Danny Glover and AFJ founder Soffiyah Elijah, the marchers stopped at more than a dozen cities, towns, and villages along their route before reaching Albany on September 12th. They were welcomed with food and lodging, and presented teach-ins from their own experiences as family members and friends of people behind bars.  Local residents were inspired to join the march for a few blocks or for days and miles. Passing by Fishkill Correctional Facility, the marchers chanted, “One, two, three, four, tell me what we’re marching for? Five, six, seven, eight, no more prison state!” 

In Albany, the marchers presented a successful series of programs culminating in a statewide rally with several hundred people at the Capitol on September 13th, the anniversary of the famous Attica rebellion. The events were well attended, received some media attention, and featured the marchers telling their own stories of the impact of incarceration plus their tales of fun, adventure, and trouble on their long march. Everyone’s favorite moments included inspiring remarks  by the beloved Miss Ivey, an 82-year-old elder who led the march out of Harlem and then participated in the entire route, walking much of the way with her walker. 

The themes of the march included many issues championed by allied organizations, such as releasing older people from prison, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, restricting the use of solitary confinement,  and changing the unfair parole system. In addition, the Alliance of Families for Justice focused on two important dimensions that have not previously received enough attention in the movement for prison justice: the impact of incarceration on the families of people in prison and the widespread existence of human rights abuses in prison.

The movement for prison justice and against mass incarceration benefited from the personal engagement of the marchers with so many New Yorkers, and the visibility of the march to media, bystanders, and policymakers. The march carried a clear message of how prisons and jails, far from being the solution, contribute in major ways to the problems of the communities most impacted by them, especially communities of color.   Each of the many thousands of steps from Harlem to Albany was a step forward for our movement for justice.

As the movement for prison justice marches on our entire prison justice movement extended-family sends love and our wishes for healing and freedom to beloved elder Herman Bell.   

(good news!  As we went to press we learned Mr. Bell has been transferred to general population at a different facility, and is in good spirits after hearing from so many of us.)



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

It is a  teaching tool as well as legislation that will make parole decisions fairer and society safer

The SAFE Parole Act has quietly been gathering legislative support and community recognition. Our May 10 Advocacy Day and Rally seemed to be responsible for several of them.   In the Assembly 26 members have signed in support.  If you’re curious about partisan politics, only ONE Republican and ONE Independent signed are among them.

The Senate has been slow to add their support, but after May 10 the number increased to 14 signers.  All are Democrats.  The Senate is tough!  Hopefully Gustavo Rivera will be able to educate other members of the Senate to follow his example. (He walked aways with the March for Justice!)

That may not be enough to get the bill passed any time soon, but it has other valuable qualities.  In the years we have been working for parole reform, it has served as a textbook for educating the public about the existence of parole and the propensity of the Parole Board to hand out multiple 2 year hits to our loved ones, so needed by their families, for years on end;  acting like judge and jury and re-sentencing instead of evaluating a person’s readiness for reintegration.  

Not only the public but legislators also - take Gustavo Rivera for example - have finally realized that there are major flaws with our Parole System.  Bills have been proposed that satisfy one or more of the changes required by SAFE.  We don’t care how the changes happen!  The Good Giant is waking up, we hope.
But all is not rosy.  There are awful bills still sitting in the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, ready to be passed if we don’t  raise our voices to stop them.  Are you ready to shout?!  We can’t do it otherwise.



3. “LIFE STORIES: RESTORING JUSTICE”….
We have presented this twice before and we’re presenting it again  in conjunction with Buffalo State College’s “Anne Frank Project.”  This two-day Social Justice Festival will feature PRP2’s  Art/Activism effort  this week…

Wednesday, October 4
Buffalo State College
1300 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, NY 14222
Student Union Social Hall
4:45 – 6:30pm

Hear our storytellers: Sandi Green, Danielle Johnson, and Marquita Nailor share their stories of loss and restoration. Sadly, losing a loved one to gun violence has become a part of the “new normal” in some communities. What can we do to begin to heal ourselves, our families and our communities?  This production will give you food for thought and an opportunity to ask questions and to share your ideas.

This is a FaceBook  event. Check out this link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/542672519409253?%3Fti=ia&__mref=mb
Or contact Karima Amin at  karimatells@yahoo.com



4.  Judicial Items

Two Unusual judges

WASHINGTON — Judge Richard A. Posner recently announced his retirement. “I awoke from a slumber of 35 years.” He had suddenly realized, he said, that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it.
“He called his approach to judging pragmatic. “I pay very little attention to legal rules, statutes, constitutional provisions,” Judge Posner said. “A case is just a dispute. The first thing you do is ask yourself — forget about the law — what is a sensible resolution of this dispute?”
The next thing, he said, was to see if a recent Supreme Court precedent or some other legal obstacle stood in the way of ruling in favor of that sensible resolution. “And the answer is that’s actually rarely the case,” he said. “When you have a Supreme Court case or something similar, they’re often extremely easy to get around.”

“There are others who are just, you know, reactionary beasts,” he said. “They’re reactionary beasts because they want to manipulate the statutes and the Constitution in their own way.”The immediate reason for his retirement was less abstract, he said. He had become concerned with the plight of litigants who represented themselves in civil cases, often filing handwritten appeals. Their grievances were real, he said, but the legal system was treating them impatiently, dismissing their cases over technical matters.

Judge Posner said he hoped to work with groups concerned with prisoners’ rights, with a law school clinic and with law firms, to bring attention and aid to people too poor to afford lawyers.
In one of his final opinions, Judge Posner, writing for a three-judge panel, reinstated a lawsuit from a prisoner, Michael Davis, that had been dismissed on technical grounds. “Davis needs help — needs it bad — needs a lawyer desperately,” he wrote.
Judge Posner said that opinion was a rare victory. “The basic thing is that most judges regard these people as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge,” he said.


Because We Remember Lynne Stewart!
Hosted by Justice for Lynne Stewart
Friday October 6th at 6:30PM - 10 PM
Theatre 80, 80 St Mark's Pl Bet 1st & 2nd Ave, New York, NY

Join us as we celebrate Lynne's birthday!**FILM Flavia Fontes: Lynne Stewart Documentary
PANELS
What is a Political Prisoner ?
Anne Lamb New York Jericho, Sekou Odinga North East Political Prisoner Contingent, Mimi Rosenberg Building Bridges: WBAI Radio, Frank Velgara ProLibertad

Getting Our Political Prisoners On the National Agenda
Sara Flounders International Action Center, Bob Lederer queer anti-imperialist, Resistance Bklyn, Daniel McGowan Certain Days Collective, Assemblyman Charles Barron P.O.W.E.R., Ralph Poynter Lynne Stewart Organization

GUEST ARTISTS
Raging Grannies;  Raymond Nat Turner, Jazz Poet 
Janine Otis & Friends
The Poynter/Stewart Grandchildren "A dramatic interpretation"
Adiallo, Professor of Hip Hop;  Lanar "Barry White Interpreter”;   Serafina Brown;  Dale Ortega Duo

Suggested donation at the door $5~$10. No one turned away!  After expenses, all proceeds go to political prisoners.

Refreshments will be served compliments of:  Ellen Kirshbaum, Dolores Cox, Abu's Bakery, Nasser Ahmed

5.  Felony doesn’t prevent admission to CT Bar.
A convicted felon who became an award winning author and graduated from Yale Law School won approval Friday to practice law in Connecticut, after a state panel reviewed his moral character. The Connecticut Bar Examining Committee recommended Reginald Dwayne Betts, 36, for admission to the state bar, a move that cleared him to become an attorney pending a swearing-in ceremony.
"I'm happy that they made that decision," Betts said. "I'm just grateful for the huge amount of support people gave me."
The committee had flagged Betts' file after he passed the bar exam in February, because of his three felony convictions for a carjacking he committed in Virginia two decades ago as a teenager. Like most states, Connecticut does not prohibit felons from becoming attorneys, but a felony conviction creates a presumption that the applicant lacks "good moral character and/or fitness to practice law." Such applicants must prove otherwise by "clear and convincing evidence."

He served eight years in prison. He went on to graduate from the University of Maryland, win a Harvard University fellowship and earn a Yale law degree.Along the way, he has written two books of poetry that received good reviews from media critics. A third book, "A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison," won a 2010 NAACP Image Award. He is now married with two children and lives in New Haven. Betts has also been working on a doctorate in law at Yale, saying he wants to become a law professor one day. He recently finished an internship in the New Haven public defender's office, and has a clerkship next year with Judge Theodore McKee at the federal appeals court in Philadelphia.              Excerpts from the NEW HAVEN HERALD



6. Youthful Offenders
Raising the Age
The Adirondack Correctional Facility in Ray Brook NY will be converted to accommodate a new law that raises the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.  Youth from 16 to 18 will replace its adult male population by October 2018, while keeping the 150 people it employs.



7.  Reentry
Learning to use the internet and social media

Reentry is different for every returning citizen, but one challenge that’s going to effect everyone is using the new technologies.  Building Bridges found an article on the internet by a formerly incarcerated writer and here is some of what he wrote:
I floundered when it came to technology. During the time I was in prison the smartphone became ubiquitous. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all reached critical mass. I hadn’t used Facebook before I was incarcerated but I learned about the platform by reading Facebook for Dummies, which is like learning to swim on dry land.

Dealing with the device was hard enough—I tapped when I should have swiped, swiped when I should have stopped—but not knowing the hierarchy of platforms and chat/messaging abbreviations branded me an outsider more brightly than felony convictions. I was so lost I couldn’t find my app with both hands. FML. That’s the one to use, right?
I would have been far better prepared for society if I had been primed for social media use prior to coming home.

The real potential in justice reform is the ability to reduce recidivism. After all, 95 percent of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in this country will be released one day. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners are released each year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, but they are replaced, either by newly convicted people or themselves, at a quick pace. The costs of our mass incarceration, all told, exceed $1 trillion per year, according to a study released last year by Washington University in St. Louis.
Education, visits, and phone contact all correlate with more successful rehabilitation. What really works in reducing repeat offenses—and preventing crime—is giving inmates contact with non-incarcerated people to help them not succumb to prison subculture. If prisoners could use social media, it would allow them a virtual reentry into society so they could test the waters, instead of being dropped into them like I was.

The traditional objection to allowing inmates to use the internet and social media—that prisoners inside will use it to get information about their victims and hector them from behind bars—are weak. From what I saw, anyone with total disregard for the rights of others had already long forgotten about any victims. Besides, there’s no reason why someone can’t look up a victim’s information upon release. 

The challenge is to make sure prisoners have no desire to do so because they have other, safe, prosocial connections they can rely on. Those usually get cut off during incarceration. Connecting with one’s past and future life at once, and reconciling them into one plan of law-abiding conduct is what keeps people clean, at least that’s what I’ve seen in three years of freedom.

How to bring prisons online is secondary to the point of whether prisoners should connect with other people, in controlled ways. So far, evidence indicates that allowing and teaching controlled social media use—and therefore social skills—behind bars is a better idea than banning it. If this country is ever to allow people more freedom and reduce crime at the same time, it must recognize prisoners as members of the human network. One way to do that is allow inmates to join the non-exclusive club of social media users.

No matter what platform any returning citizen chooses, he won’t start out running. He’ll have to crawl and walk like I did, which is a shame, since helping people behind bars gain their online footing benefits everyone.

Chandra Bozelko (@aprisondiary) is a 2017 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim criminal justice reporting fellow and writes the award-winning blog Prison Diaries.



8.  PAROLE STUFF
Parole Watch - 9/26

Every month or so the Board of Parole has a Business Meeting in Albany, and a random number of citizens attend as silent witnesses (we are not allowed to speak).
There were 8 of us on 9/26, two of whom thought they were there to see a live parole decision interview and were disappointed,  and an advocate who drove all the way from Rochester.
The public part of the meeting lasted less than 15 minutes after which they moved to executive session, citing litigation and…..?? as the reasons. 
The meeting started with a roll call.  It’s very hard to hear or see the commissioners.  I estimate there were 16 commissioners at the table but I could only see Stanford, Agostini, Thompson, Shapiro.
Chairwoman Tina Stanford ( and Counsel Kiley) notified us that the Rules and Regs would be posted on the State Register, and effective on September 27,2027 (they were).
We also learned that all but one commissioner has completed the Vera training.  It will be available (thanks to their new technical equipment) throughout the state on Thursdays for commissioners to review.
Two new staff have been hired, an assistant to the Board and one to Counsel. 
Transportation remuneration forms and how to fill them out was discussed.
Two letters were read, one from Julia Smith thanking theBoard for her farewell party and exclaiming how wonderful retirement is.  
The other was from a recently released citizen who thanked them for their confidence in him after 7 hearings.



For those who wrote comments to the Parole Board regarding their proposed rules and regs, approved by the Board on Sept 28, 2016, here are the Boards’ responses:
On September 27, one day before the deadline, the Parole Board filed their required rules and regulations to amend sections 8002.1, 8002.2 and 8002.3 of Title 9 NYCRR.
Statutory authority: Executive Law, sections 259-c(4), (11) and 259-i 
Subject: Parole Board decision making.
Purpose: To clearly establish what the Board must consider when conducting an interview and rendering a decision.
Text of final rule: Sections 8002.1-8002.3 are repealed and new sections 8002.1-8002.3 are added.

The Board received over 400 submissions, including from incarcerated individuals, families and friends of incarcerated individuals, advocacy and support organizations, bar associations, academics, attorneys, and elected officials. Instead of responding to each letter, they bundled them into common themes which they addressed:

Given the number of comments received, separately addressing the substance of each letter is not practical, particularly given the common themes, observations and suggestions contained in a majority of the comments; accordingly, the substance of the concerns raised are summarized and addressed below.

One of the primary concerns was that proposed Section 8002.2 mis-identified the risk and needs assessment and “minor offender” status as “factors” to be considered in release determinations. The Board agrees these considerations are distinct from the statutory factors enumerated in Executive Law § 259-i(c)(A). Accordingly, the Board decided to clarify this by omitting “factor” from section 8002.2’s heading, moving language relating to consideration of the case plan, which is required by Correction Law § 71-a, to a new subdivision (b) and renumbering the remaining subdivisions accordingly. Executive Law § 259-i(c)(A)’s factors now are contained in subdivision (d), which reiterates these factors must be considered in all release determinations consistent with the statutory parole scheme.

As for comments recommending retention of the Earned Eligibility Certificate standard or alteration of the standard in other cases, the Board cannot alter the standards applied in its decision making. Executive Law § 259-i(c)(A) provides that “[d]iscretionary release on parole shall not be granted merely as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties while confined but after considering if there is a reasonable probability that, if such inmate is released, he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society and will not so deprecate the seriousness of his crime as to undermine respect for law.” Correction Law § 805 provides for release of inmates who have received a certificate of earned eligibility unless the Board determines “there is a reasonable probability that, if such inmate is released, he will not live and remain at liberty without violating the law and that his release is not compatible with the welfare of society.” Although these standards are no longer repeated in the regulation, this in no way modifies the statutory mandate requiring their application. Thus, the Board declines to revise its rules to provide for standards different from what is provided under the laws of New York.

§ 8002.2(a): Risk and Needs Principles
Some comments expressed concern about proposed Section 8002.2(a)’s specific, or exclusive, reference to the COMPAS instrument as well as concerns that the language was too limiting to comply with Executive Law § 259-c(4). The Board has considered these comments and determined that minor changes would address these concerns by making explicit that the Board shall be guided by risk and needs principles; more specifically, “a periodically-validated risk assessment instrument”, thus, replacing the term “COMPAS.” Regarding the concern that the periodically-validated risk assessment instrument may not be applicable to some subsets of the inmate populations, the Board notes that the proposed regulation allows other risk and needs assessments or evaluations to be considered and any instrument used is not dispositive. As for the suggestion that a periodically-validated risk assessment instrument be prepared for juveniles in the custody of the New York State Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS), the Board has no authority over OCFS to implement this.

Many comments suggest creating a presumption in favor of release when scores on a periodically-validated risk assessment instrument are low. The creation of any such presumption is a legislative function and would conflict with the requirements of Executive Law § 259-i. The new regulation is also intended to increase transparency in the Board’s decision making by providing an explanation when the Board departs from any scale in denying an inmate release. Additionally, the Board will state the reasons for denial in detailed, factually individualized and non-conclusory terms after applying the factors of Executive Law § 259-i. No further changes were made in response to these comments.  In response to concerns regarding the meaning of “departs from” scores on a periodically-validated risk assessment instrument, the Board has clarified that it will specify any scale within the assessment from which it departed that impacted its decision.

§ 8002.2(c): “Minor Offenders”
Many comments suggest the proposed regulation fails to incorporate the constitutionally required standard and procedural protections for minor offenders. Some argue youth is not simply a mitigating factor and the applicable standard must be whether the inmate has demonstrated “maturity and rehabilitation.” Others argue consideration of the inmates’ reduced culpability and subsequent maturation should outweigh the factors enumerated in statute. Yet, another suggests diminished culpability of youth is always a mitigating factor.  Suggested procedural safeguards include, for example, representation by counsel at the Board interview. While the Board has clarified that age is not a statutory factor and moved this subdivision to confirm its distinct status as a principle informing the Board’s consideration as a whole, the Board declines to make additional changes in response to these comments. The Board disagrees with the suggestion that State (or Federal) precedent abrogates the requirements of Executive Law § 259-i. The Board must consider the applicable statutory factors in every decision and has the discretion to weigh each factor as it deems appropriate. Consequently, the Board believes that the proposed regulations embody the spirit of applicable New York precedent by providing meaningful consideration of the diminished culpability of youth and the individual’s growth and maturity since the time of the commitment offense, while also following the requirements of the Executive Law. The suggested procedures are not required by law, and, in some cases, fall outside the Board’s authority. Additionally, it should be noted that since New York law establishes parole board release review as non-adversarial interviews, not contested hearings, there is no right to counsel.
Several comments contend proposed Section 8002.2(c)(2) is confusing and could lead to its application in a manner that undermines the paragraph. Several also suggest expanding “hallmark features of youth” or clarifying the list is not exhaustive. The Board agreed and clarified this language to ensure an inmate’s presentation of information regarding their youth at the time of the offense will not be construed to demonstrate a lack of insight or the minimization of the instant offense. This does not preclude the Board from concluding that a minor offender has demonstrated a lack of insight or minimized the offense based on other information or observation. The Board also notes that the hallmark features of youth “includes” some characteristics, indicating the list is not exhaustive.

As for comments that suggest expanding the subdivision to encompass inmates who committed offenses before the age of 25 (or as youths generally) and without regard to sentence length as well as to discount disciplinary records based on youth, nothing in the Executive Law or in current State or Federal case law supports these comments. To the extent comments suggest this rule-making address the incarcerated elderly population, nothing in the law requires advanced age to be a separate factor or consideration. Moreover, because medical parole, in some instances related to advanced age, is governed by Executive Law § 259-r and § 259-s, any regulations within this area must be in harmony with those statutory provisions.

§ 8002.2(d): Factors to be Considered
A recurring theme among comments is that the Board places too much emphasis on the nature of the crime without adequate consideration of other factors. Some suggest specificity as to how the factors are weighed, a requirement to “substantially” consider the factors, or the creation of presumptions in favor of release. A number of comments suggest the Board eliminate separate consideration of some (but not all) statutory factors addressed by a periodically-validated risk assessment instrument – namely, the instant offense, criminal history and disciplinary history. To the extent comments argue that the regulations should alter the requirement that the Board consider all applicable factors set forth in Executive Law § 259- i(c)(A) or require the Board to assign any particular weight to any factor, the Board disagrees as the statutes governing parole consideration remain unchanged. No rule-making could alter the statutory standards for making discretionary release determinations or the requirement that the Board weigh the statutory factors in every determination. Accordingly, no changes were made in response to these comments.

§ 8002.3(b): Denial Decisions
Many comments suggest the regulations require the Board to state in writing what steps an inmate should take to improve their chances of parole in the future. An independent evaluation must be made by the Board each time an inmate appears before the Board based on the existing record and interview. The new regulations reinforce that detailed reasons must be articulated for denial of release. Accordingly, it is anticipated that future denial decisions will help inmates to better understand the decision and what more, if anything, they can do to facilitate a legally appropriate release. To the extent comments suggest that reasons for denial must be premised upon factors that are “inherently correctible,” this would conflict with the requirements of Executive Law § 259-i(c)(A) which delineates the factors which must be considered.

As for comments concerning reliance on official statements (i.e., statements from prosecutors, defense attorneys and the sentencing court) and victim impact statements, such statements, when they exist, are factors that must be considered.
The Board received numerous submissions on topics outside the scope of this rule making, including complaints about individual Board decisions, recommendations regarding particular release candidates, the appointment and training of Commissioners, and letters from inmates who have never appeared before the Board.  As these submissions did not address the proposed rule-making, no changes were made in response. However, where appropriate, these communications were directed to relevant parties for further action.



PAROLE STATS:  send for them at ParoleReform@gmail.com