February 16, 2009

George Pataki denies having a secret policy to deny the release of violent offenders by focusing on the severity of their crimes

In a letter to Judge Cathy Seibel, former Governor of NYS George Pataki has denied having a secret policy to deny the release of violent offenders by focusing on the severity of their crimes at their parole hearings.

"I never directed the Parole Board, nor did I instruct any member of my staff to direct the Parole Board to deny parole to any individual or group of inmates."

Lawyers for the inmates in the Graziano v. Pataki federal civil rights class action case accuse the Pataki administration of unconstitutionally rejecting parole for violent offenders to advance the administration's political and economic agendas.

Full story by Thomas Zambito in the NY Daily News

February 12, 2009

Timothy D. O'Brien has been named interim Executive Director of the New York State Division of Parole

Felix M. Rosa Jr. has been demoted and Timothy D. O'Brien has been named interim Executive Director of the New York State Division of Parole, effective today.

Press release from Governor David A. Paterson: February 12, 2009

Mr. O'Brien, who most recently served as Director of Upstate Parole Operations, has worked in the Division for nearly 20 years. He began his career as a parole officer in 1989 and later served as Assistant to the Director of Parole Operations. Mr. O'Brien, of Lake George, was appointed Director of Upstate Parole Operations in 2007.

Mr. O'Brien will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Division of Parole pending an Inspector General's inquiry involving Felix M. Rosa Jr., who had served as Executive Director since April 2007. Mr. Rosa has returned to his civil service position of Area Supervisor and will be assigned to the Central Office to work on the Division's re-entry program pending the outcome of the inquiry.

Mr. O'Brien will be paid $123,446 annually. Mr. Rosa's salary is $104,080.

February 10, 2009

Prison panel calls for "revoking" parole

"The governor's Sentencing Commission garnered attention for its call to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Less noticed was its call for practically eliminating discretionary releases from state prisons.

When the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform issued its final report last week, most attention centered on its recommendation to reform the so-called Rockefeller drug laws. But the commission also proposed the virtual elimination of parole – a move with practical implications for thousands of prisoners and historical significance for the state..."

Editorial on the final report of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, by Jarrett Murphy

February 09, 2009

Governor David A. Paterson appoints Henry Lemons, Jr. as interim Chair of the New York State Board of Parole

Governor David A. Paterson today announced the appointment of Henry “Hank” Lemons, Jr. to serve as interim Chair of the New York State Board of Parole and interim Chief Executive Officer for the Division of Parole. Mr. Lemons, who has served as a member of the Board of Parole since 2007, will fulfill the role of former Chairman George B. Alexander until a new chair and CEO is confirmed by the New York State Senate.

In 2007, Mr. Lemons was unanimously confirmed by the State Senate for his position as member of the Board of Parole. He served from 2004 to 2007 as Deputy Chief Investigator for the New York State Attorney General. Prior to that post, he was the Assistant Chief Investigator for the Kings County District Attorney. Mr. Lemons is a former Sergeant and Detective with the New York City Police Department. He also served for four years of active duty with the United States Air Force.

Mr. Lemons earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice and planning from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and his master’s in organizational leadership from Mercy College. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Mr. Lemons was raised in the Bedford – Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and Queens, where he still resides.

The Board of Parole’s major responsibilities include determining release dates for inmates serving indeterminate prison terms, establishing conditions of release for inmates who are paroled and revoking parole when it is determined that a releasee has violated those conditions.

The Board of Parole consists of up to 19 members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term. One member is designated by the Governor to serve as chairman and chief executive officer of the division. Those positions were held by Mr. Alexander until his resignation in December.

Executive Director Felix M. Rosa Jr. had been nominated to succeed Mr. Alexander. Mr. Rosa withdrew his name from consideration last week.

As interim Chair of the Board of Parole, Mr. Lemons’ salary will be $120,800.

February 05, 2009

Felix M. Rosa Jr. withdraws his name from consideration for Chair of the NYS Board of Parole

Felix M. Rosa Jr. has withdrawn his name from consideration for Chair of the NYS Board of Parole citing "personal reasons", following an allegation that arose while he was being vetted for the post. It is alleged that he sexually harassed Parole Interpreter Pamela Menera fourteen years ago.

Mr. Rosa issued the following statement:

"I have withdrawn my name as a candidate for appointment to the Board of Parole and the related consideration for appointment as Chairman of the Board of Parole due to personal reasons.

I am honored that the Governor considered me for this position and will continue my commitment to further the mission of this agency and Governor Paterson's initiatives in criminal justice."

(Governor David A. Paterson announced the nomination of Felix M. Rosa Jr. to serve as a Member and Chair of the State Board of Parole on January 16th 2009. George Alexander, the previous Chair of Parole, resigned on December 18th 2008 following allegations that he stole a laptop computer.)

February 04, 2009

The Future of Sentencing in New York State: Recommendations for Reform, by the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, January 30, 2009

The New York State Commission for Sentencing Reform has agreed on five major principles of drug law reform. The commissioners also recommend the establishment of a permanent sentencing commission for New York State to advise the Executive and Legislative branches on proposed legislation; the adoption of a largely determinate sentencing system to promote greater uniformity, fairness and truth-in-sentencing; the expansion of effective and cost-efficient shock incarceration and merit time initiatives to reduce recidivism and reserve costly prison space for the most dangerous offenders; and the enhancement of the rights of crime victims.

Press release from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services ...for immediate release: 12 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Full Report (pdf)

Statement from the Press release:

Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the “Sentencing Commission has performed a valuable service, at a critical time in the state’s history.”

“By focusing squarely on the connection between public safety and sentencing policy, the Commission has provided a roadmap that will guide the state during difficult fiscal times,” President Travis said. “The Commission’s recommendations, if followed, will bring clarity to our patchwork quilt of accumulated sentencing reforms, improve reentry outcomes, and support more rational uses of our prisons and our parole system.”

For commentaries, see also:
Prison panel calls for "revoking" parole, by Jarrett Murphy, City Limits Weekly #674, February 9, 2009.
Make jail time a last resort, by Jonathan E. Gradess, Times Union, February 11, 2009.

February 01, 2009

Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies, NYC Chapter

The Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies, NYC Chapter is "a movement of empowered families and advocates committed to ending unjust criminal justice policies and practices". The group is concentrating its efforts on changing current parole policies.

They would like thoughtful responses on how best to amend/revise NYS Executive Law § 259 (i) so that it minimizes or eliminates the power of the Parole Board to continuously use the nature of the crime as justification for denying parole.

Please send responses as soon as possible to the Prison Action Network.

Prison Action Network,
PO Box 6355,
NY 12206.
phone: 518 253 7533
email: prisonactionnetwork@gmail.com