June 15, 2010

Building Bridges - June 2010 edition

The June edition of Building Bridges has just been issued by the Prison Action Network.

Items in this edition include:
1. Activities for advocates: Statewide, Albany, Bronx, Buffalo, Manhattan
2. CCR has filed federal lawsuit
3. Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies - on 259-i
4. ICARE Community Educator
5. Legislation
6. Parole news
7. Prison media

Update on the work of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies to amend Executive Law §259 (i):

"Exciting news! Senator Tom Duane has agreed to sponsor our bill!! We are still working with Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, who has agreed to sponsor it in the Assembly, to alleviate some of his concerns. What happens next is the bill gets sent to the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission to be put in bill form. No law may be enacted in New York State unless it has been adopted by the Legislature in bill form. Once it is introduced in the Senate, it will go to the Introduction and Revision Office, where it will be examined and corrected, given a number, sent to the appropriate standing committee, entered into the Senate computer, deemed to have had its first and second readings and printed."

Building Bridges also carries a report of the recent parole release of Shu'aib Raheem following his rescission hearing on June 3, 2010.

June 08, 2010

Shu'aib A. Raheem wins parole release from prison

Amid the ongoing controversy over the parole release of violent criminals and the injustice and inconsistencies inherent in New York State's Parole Statute, Shu'aib A. Raheem has won his release from prison. His particular case has caused much dispute but finally, at his rescission hearing on Thursday June 3rd, the Parole Board voted 2 to 1 to free him. According to officials, Parole Board members Thomas Grant and Debra Loomis voted for his release, while Henry Lemons voted against it. Raheem will be freed no later than July 8th.

Senate Republicans, led by Senator Martin Golden, reacted to the news of Raheem's parole release by immediately joining with police organizations to call for stronger parole laws.

The Paterson administration gave a swift response: "Sen. Golden's comments are outrageous and he owes Governor Paterson and his administration an apology," said Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook. "The two Parole Board members who voted in favor of releasing Shu'aib Raheem are Pataki appointees. Both of their terms expire this month and they will both be replaced by Gov. Paterson."

Further details may be found in the following articles:
On June 3, Shu'aib Raheem was granted parole release for the second time in three years (Building Bridges, June 13 2010)
Golden says Paterson Admin has blood on its hands over parolee (NY Daily News, June 8 2010)
Senate Republicans join with police organizations to call for stronger parole laws (New York State Senate, June 8 2010)
'What the hell WERE they thinking?' Parole idiots suck up to '73 cop killer Shuaib Raheem (NY Daily News, June 5 2010)
Cop-killer on the roam (New York Post, June 5 2010)
Parole for Police Officer's Killer (NY Times, June 4 2010)
Shu'aib Raheem, who killed NYPD cop in 1973 botched robbery, to be released from prison (NY Daily News, June 4 2010)

June 06, 2010

Convicted of Murder as Teenager and Paroled at 41

Convicted of Murder as Teenager and Paroled at 41, by Trymaine Lee (New York Times, June 4 2010)

A story in the New York Times follows Diana Ortiz through all her parole hearings. Ortiz was sentenced to 17 years to Life for her role in the killing of an off-duty police officer in 1983. Robert Dennison was Chairman of the Parole Board that finally freed her, after she had spent more than half her life in prison.

Brief extracts from the article follow, where Robert Dennison refers to the subjectivity and the pressure of parole hearings, particularly in the case of so-called A1 violent offenders:

... Parole Board members, who must have a college degree and five years of experience in criminal justice, sociology, law, social work or medicine, can serve an unlimited number of six-year terms, earning $101,600 a year. By law, they must interview inmates in person and are required to consider their criminal histories, prison achievements and sense of remorse. Ultimately, though, parole decisions are subjective. "It's a real hard issue: how much time should you do for taking a life?" Mr. Dennison said. "Many times, the parole commissioners feel differently than the judge and probably say to themselves or say to one another, 'I don't really care what the judge gave the person, I don't feel comfortable letting this person out. And I am going to hold him for two more years.' And that can go on and on and on forever."

... Governor Pataki, a Republican, at one point tried to change state law so that A-1 offenders could not be paroled, and in 2006, a group of A-1 offenders filed a class-action suit claiming his administration had an unwritten policy that violated their rights by denying parole based solely on the severity of the crime. "I never got any direct pressure from Pataki not to let certain people out," Mr. Dennison said, "but he did make it clear in the newspapers that he didn't want violent felons released."

... Mr. Dennison said he witnessed spirited debate and angry outbursts among the commissioners, and developed a keen understanding of the subtle — or not — messages sent from the offices of elected officials about certain kinds of cases. "The way it works is that you are free to make whatever decision you feel is the right decision," he explained. "However, if you were sponsored by a particular state senator and you made a decision he didn't like, it is conceivable that the next time you are up to be reappointed, he may not push your name to the governor."

... "It is an easy job if you don't have courage and you don't have compassion," he said. "Because then you really don't care. And then it is easy to make whatever decision you want without feeling guilty, without feeling, 'Gee, maybe I made the wrong decision.' "

... Mr. Dennison said he loved the job, taking pride in having an impact on people's lives — freeing those he deemed deserving, leaving caged those he determined were dangerous.

... Having left the board in 2007, Mr. Dennison, now 63, spoke plainly about Ms. Ortiz's case in a recent interview. "He was an off-duty police officer," he said of the victim, "and, basically, people didn't want to let her out because of that."