January 31, 2009

Graziano v. Pataki update: January 31st 2009

Update on Graziano v. Pataki, from the Prison Action Network:

"UPDATE ON GRAZIANO VS PATAKI: Graziano lawyers had to file a motion to compel Gov. Pataki's deposition. The Attorney General had until Jan 12 to file opposition papers. They asked for an extension and the judge has not yet issued her decision whether to grant it."

January 21, 2009

New York State Parole Board Reform Request - petition

Found on PetitionOnline.com:

New York State Parole Board Reform Request

"To: New York State Parole Commission, elected senate and judiciary members.

This petition is a representation from the community against NY state's parole board policies regarding class A felonies, and we are demanding reforms be made to improve chances for parole for inmates classified as violent offenders in NY State. We also demand that laws be applied fairly to pre-Pataki convicted class A felons."

January 16, 2009

Governor David A. Paterson nominates Felix M. Rosa, Jr. to serve as a Member and Chair of the New York State Board of Parole

Governor David A. Paterson today announced the nomination of Felix M. Rosa, Jr. to serve as a Member and Chair of the State Board of Parole. As Chair of the Board of Parole, Mr. Rosa will also serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the State Division of Parole. Mr. Rosa has served the Division of Parole for more than 20 years.

Mr. Rosa was appointed Executive Director of the New York State Division of Parole in April 2007. In this role, Mr. Rosa was responsible for the day-to-day management of the agency, led the development and integration of re-entry programs for the Division and played a primary role in increasing efficiency within the Division of Parole and a number of State agencies with which it interacts.

From 2003 until 2007, Mr. Rosa served as Director of Executive Clemency and Secretary to the Board of Parole where he oversaw requests for executive clemency, certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct. He also managed the day-to-day operations of the Board of Parole and Victim Impact Unit.

From 1999 through 2003, Mr. Rosa served as Executive Assistant to the Executive Director, establishing a number of programs that continue to be an integral part of the agency including Harlem Re-Entry Court, DNA collection, technology-based access to criminal records information and the Division’s photo identification system.

Mr. Rosa served from 1993 until 1999 as a Senior Parole Officer in various units throughout the Division including the Juvenile Offender Unit, Staff Development Unit, Office of Professional Responsibility and Central Office Operations. Prior to that role, Mr. Rosa served as a Parole Revocation Specialist and was a Parole Officer from 1987 until 1990.

Mr. Rosa was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and immigrated to the United States at the age of two. His family settled in Washington Heights, New York and he became a naturalized citizen at the age of 10. He returned to the Dominican Republic to attend high school at Colegio Dominicano De la Salle.

Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Rosa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1982 and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University in 1987.

Mr. Rosa has four sons and lives in the Albany area with his wife, Jodi. He is the Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 75 in Delmar and has served on the board of Hispanic Outreach Services in Albany.

The Board of Parole’s primary duties include making determinations on whether to release inmates eligible for parole, setting parole conditions for individuals released by the Board or conditionally released by statute, and revoking parole for those who violate the conditions of their release. Additionally, at the Governor’s request, the Board may interview applicants for clemency and provide recommendations to the Governor.

The Division of Parole operates 30 field offices in addition to on-site offices in each of the 69 New York State correctional facilities and the Willard Drug Treatment Campus. The Division employs approximately 2,200 people including 1,200 peace officers who manage the parole supervision of 45,000 formerly incarcerated individuals within New York State. Each year, approximately 26,000 individuals are released to parole supervision.

As Chair of the Board of Parole, Mr. Rosa’s salary will be $120,800. This appointment requires Senate confirmation.

January 14, 2009

The Monster Among Them, by Billy Doane

Thought-provoking article which raises questions about the parole system in NYS:

The Monster Among Them – by Billy Doane

On October 15, 2008, New York Parole Board commissioner Chris Ortloff was arrested in an Albany motel for soliciting sex from minors on the Internet. Ortloff, a Board member for two years, was apprehended in consequence of a four-month sting operation by the New York State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (Albany Times Union, 10/15/08). According to the official complaint, Ortloff believed he was arranging a sexual liaison with two children aged eleven and twelve. Instead, he was arrested in his motel room, naked, and in possession of sex toys and lubricants. Since his arrest, he has admitted to having sex with nine and twelve year olds and having an indecent fondness for toddlers (New York Daily News, 10/15/08). When Ortloff was not preying on children, he was functioning as a no-nonsense Parole Board member known for his tough on crime approach to parole consideration. The blatant hypocrisy, absence of moral conscience, and violation of the public trust exhibited by Ortloff's criminal conduct exposed a Jekyll and Hyde persona that turns an accusing finger back on the parole system as it currently exists in New York State.

As anyone who has been before a parole board knows, these hearings are conspicuously devoid of any substantive method by which an inmate can be judged by total strangers in a fifteen-minute appearance. Even the federal courts have noted the "nebulousness" of New York State's "extremely vague statutory standards", and that the "statute's language does not provide a workable decision-making scheme and the broad grant of discretion has not been structured for exercise in a fair, rational and non-discriminatory fashion" (U.S. ex. rel. Johnson v. Chairman, 500 F2d, 925). The absence of objective criteria is substituted with the "unfettered discretion" of Parole Board members. One would think the Board's discretionary authority would be tethered to concrete data concerning proficiency, conduct, performance of prison duties, completion of DOCS mandated programs and other positive accomplishments directed toward rehabilitation. However, parole consideration under NYS Executive Law § 259 (i) specifically states that parole is not a reward for these factors. There is no other objective criterion that provides an empirical measure of individual self-improvement in a given period of incarceration. Since the parole statute excludes reliance on prison accomplishments, lacks objective criteria, and a statutory mandated decision-making scheme, how does the Parole Board determine who does and does not present a continued public risk? Given the vagueness of the statute, the provision of wide discretionary powers infers a dependence on an intuitive element in the decision-making process.

This intuitive theory is substantiated by the statutory requirement of physical appearance before a panel of Parole Board members. What are they looking for? What does rehabilitation look or sound like when detached from the unrewardable data of prison conduct and achievement? American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson are held to a higher standard of objective measure than New York State parole commissioners. For two years, the New York Division of Parole has had a monster in its midst, an admitted predatory child-molester who exerted a great deal of energy in pursuing his degeneracy while protecting his upstanding public image. How many parole commissioners were duped by this sociopath? All of them apparently; yet these same commissioners, who could not detect Chris Ortloff’s diabolical character even while working closely with him, are expected to determine in a fifteen-minute hearing whether if placed on parole, an individual will remain at liberty without violating the law. This is not an indictment of parole commissioners who failed to recognize the demon lurking beneath the public face of Chris Ortloff. After all, they are only human, and human beings are simply not capable of penetrating the hidden self in others. That’s the point. Even well-meaning Parole Board appointees are subjected to a flawed statute that reduces parole from a rational system of practical evaluation to a penological exercise in clairvoyance. Not only is the system of subjective prognostication unfair to the individuals who have spent years – decades even – in the sincere commitment to rehabilitation, but clearly, a hit-or-miss, spin-the-wheel guessing game is a violation of public trust. At the very least, the state could replace the political pretence that parole is a rational process with the public virtue of government transparency; discontinue the political patronage of Parole Board appointments. This will save the state more than 1.5 million dollars in annual six-figure salaries. At considerable savings, contract Ms. Cleo and the Psychic Hotline, which will transfer the nebulousness of parole from the uncertain speculation of rank amateurs, and place it in the mystical minds of professional soothsayers. In the meantime, Ortloff’s arrest should give pause to Commissioner Alexander and all of the remaining Parole Board members. Evaluating individual character, integrity, and potential, requires more than the superficial observation and cursory examination indicative of current parole practice that merely satisfies a minimum statutory requirement. Parole consideration must be tied to individualized criteria that provide parole commissioners with evidence of positive change, personal growth, and civic consciousness. Undoubtedly, when Ortloff goes before a Parole Board panel many years from now, he will not want to be judged by the same subjective vagaries he used while pretending to be the self-righteous arbiter of the public good.

Questions remain concerning the potential legal ramifications that stem from the arrest of Chris Ortloff. Ortloff, 61, has not been convicted of a crime, but various media outlets have reported his voluntary admissions of indecent and illegal conduct. His voluntary resignation from his six-figure Parole Board appointment also suggests an admission of culpability. One would also expect that after a four-month sting operation, the investigative agency would have accumulated a trove of incriminating evidence. Admissions are not confessions and evidence is not fact. Criminal culpability aside, Ortloff’s voluntary admissions clearly violate the New York State Code of Ethics (Public Officers Law § 74). More importantly, the mental imbalance evident from Ortloff’s tough on crime public persona and the moral degeneracy of his private life clearly invalidates any defense argument that he was capable of making rational or moral judgments concerning the rehabilitation of others. Ortloff once stated, “Our government must do more to keep dangerous, sexually violent predators away from children and women” (Albany Times Union, 10/15/08). I agree – appointing them to the Parole Board, however, is not the solution.

How much of Ortloff’s tough on crime rhetoric and actual parole denials were calculated, deceptive tactics affected to assuage his own personal guilt? Was being tough on others a form of psychological transference wherein his own self-loathing was redirected to others? Freud would have had a field day with this guy. It would be advisable for those who had Ortloff conducting or participating in their parole hearing to include arguments attacking his competence by juxtaposing his admissions against the State Code of Ethics. It would be interesting to know if Commissioner Alexander was aware of the ongoing investigation, and continued to permit Ortloff to participate in parole hearings.

– Postscript –

On December 24, 2008, Ortloff pled guilty to using the Internet to prey on children for sex. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 23, 2009 in Albany and is currently free on $100,000.00 bail. Under a plea agreement, Ortloff will receive 10 years rather than face the possibility of a life sentence had he been found guilty at trial. Under federal guidelines, Ortloff will serve a determinate sentence with a specified release date. Consequently, this former “tough on crime” parole commissioner with a reputation for summarily denying parole applications, will never have to face a parole hearing himself. When released, he’ll also be half a million dollars richer, thanks to his taxpayers-funded $53,000.00 a year for life pension guaranteed under New York State’s Constitution (New York Post, 12/27/08).

New York’s Board of Parole suffered further embarrassment when Parole Chairman George B. Alexander was forced to resign because at a criminal investigation, Alexander was found to be in possession of a $1,700.00 laptop that was missing from the Erie County Probation Office where Alexander worked prior to his appointment to the Parole Board. Alexander previously denied any knowledge of the missing laptop, but a GPS security device led investigation to his home. Alexander is expected to plead guilty to official misconduct, a misdemeanor (Albany Times Union, 12/19/08).

January 07, 2009

Bill A01188, proposed by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Title of proposed Bill: An Act to amend the executive law, in relation to the time in which reconsideration for parole shall be determined.

Summary and justification for Bill: Increases from twenty-four to sixty months, the time for which reconsideration for parole shall be determined.

"Currently when parole is denied, the board has the discretion to set the date for reconsideration for parole for any date within two years of the denial of parole. In many cases, especially those involving heinous acts of violence against another, parole will be denied numerous times. However, each time an inmate is considered for parole, the victim and his/her family is required to relive the horror of the crime for the sake of impressing upon the Parole Board the inappropriateness of early release. In these cases, when the board is confident that their opinion regarding parole release will not be changed by anything that can transpire within the next five years, the board should have the discretion to set the date for reconsideration of its denial of parole for any date within those five years. This would still allow for an earlier reconsideration if warranted, yet also give the victim and his/her family a greater period of time of peace before the next parole consideration."

Full text of proposed Bill may be found here.

January 01, 2009

Graziano v. Pataki update: January 1st 2009

Update on Graziano v. Pataki, from the Prison Action Network:

"UPDATE ON GRAZIANO VS PATAKI: This is the case in which a group of incarcerated men are suing the Governor for having an illegal policy of not granting parole to A1 Violent Offenders. The lawyers had to file a motion to compel Gov. Pataki’s deposition. The Court will issue a decision on it and then schedule a conference. The Attorney General’s opposition papers are due on January 12 and Graziano’s reply, if any, on January 19."