April 01, 2010

Building Bridges - April 2010 edition

The April edition of Building Bridges is now available from the Prison Action Network. (N.B. There will be no May issue of Building Bridges, as the editor is taking a month's sabbatical.)

Items covered in this issue include:

1. Activities for advocates, statewide
2. Coalition ready to move forward
3. Downscaling prisons
4. Drug war analysis is subject of book by Michelle Alexander
5. ICARE column - census issues
6. The Judicial Process Commission
7. Lifers and Longtermers Clearinghouse
8. Milk not Jails
9. NYS Prisoner Justice Conference
10. Parole news
11. Prison media
12. Prisoners of the Census
13. Telephone Justice - new rates

Of particular relevance to parole reform in this issue - Judith Brink's report on the NYS Prisoner Justice Conference:

"The NYS Prisoner Justice Conference was a success! We had a full house, and everyone was energized and willing to work hard to correct the wrongs that we all agreed exist.

I came away from the event with a stronger resolve than ever to answer the mandate of the Family Empowerment Day participants who joined to form the Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies. They voted to work to move the Parole Board away from being able to deny parole based solely on the nature of the crime or criminal history. Out of the Coalition was born a Policy Committee charged with the task of changing the law that sets Parole Board policies. That has been done in the form of a proposal for amending Executive Law § 259-i. Now we need to begin the next stage, moving our proposal into reality as a law of New York State.

The proposed changes would ensure that no one ever again gets denied parole because of the nature of their crime or their criminal history. Instead, parole release would be solely determined by the parole applicant's success at eliminating the conditions, behaviors, and thinking that led to his or her arrest in the first place. Once a parole applicant can produce evidence of rehabilitation and readiness for a return to society without posing a threat, they should be released. And then it becomes the community's responsibility, with the assistance of the division of parole, to help them with their reintegration.

The first step in making our proposal a law is to find a sponsor in both houses of our legislature. The legislators in turn need to convince other legislators to support it. We have to find a sponsor, and we have to convince our own representatives to get on board..."