August 13, 2010

Building Bridges - August 2010 edition

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

Topics covered this month include:

1. Activities for advocates; statewide
2. Campaign for Parole Reform
3. Castle Gardens
4. Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition
5. Job Op: Director of Reentry Institute
6. Legislation Updates
7. Parole News
8. Prison Media
9. Prisoners of the Census
10. Restorative Justice

Of particular interest to parole reform in this edition:

* The Campaign for Parole Reform calls for action from those who wish to remove the nature of the crime from the list of reasons the Parole Board can use for denying parole.

"Since it's too late for our proposal (see past Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies columns) to become a bill now that the legislative session is over, we will use the time before the next session, which begins in January 2011, to let our representatives know that there are a lot of us who support being "smart on crime" and reforming our parole policies. Instead of asking them to support our specific proposal we suggest sharing our stories about how current practices and policies are affecting us personally."

* Restorative Justice - Fr. Ronald Lemmert, the catholic chaplain at Sing Sing for the past fifteen years, writes eloquently of his experience with another way of dealing with people who have committed crimes. From Fr. Lemmert's testimony at Shu'aib Raheem's rescission hearing:

"... I think we owe it to our own crime victims' families to show them a better way of dealing with their pain and anger, so they too can find peace and be free. If keeping Shu'aib locked up for the past 37 years has not helped yet, I seriously doubt if more time will ever make any difference. But I do not believe people in such pain are capable of objectively evaluating how much time is required or is appropriate to repay them for their suffering. That's why we have a Parole Board! Instead of focusing on the pain, which never goes away until the person is ready to let go of it, the Parole Board should be looking for signs of transformation in the person who committed the crime. If the person has a good institutional record, has taken advantage of educational opportunities to learn a better way of life and make positive contributions within the facility, those are good indications that a major transformation has occurred - and that the person is a good candidate for release."

See Building Bridges for the full story.

August 10, 2010

Ortloff sentenced to 12.5 years in prison

Disgraced former Republican Assemblyman and "tough on crime" New York Parole Commissioner George "Chris" Ortloff received his sentence in Albany today for attempting to arrange the rape of two preteen girls at a Colonie motel through their "mother", an undercover State police investigator.

His sentencing, postponed five times while negotiations took place, has been followed intently by lawmakers and inmates alike, concerned that he may receive too lenient a judgement. Their concerns were justified, as despite describing Ortloff's actions as amongst the most heinous and disturbing crimes possible, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. McAvoy sentenced him to 12 years and six months in prison, far less than the sentence of between 15 years and eight months and 19 years and seven months recommended by Federal prosecutors.

Ortloff, once one of the most powerful Republican lawmakers in the North Country, was also fined $50,000 – which McAvoy said he had the resources to pay – and was ordered to have no unsupervised contact with minors, to participate in a sex offender program, and to register as a sex offender.

He will have to be supervised for the rest of his life upon his release.

In a twenty minute prepared statement, Ortloff claimed to be completely cured of his addiction to child pornography and his desire to have sex with very young girls. Assistant U.S. District Attorney Thomas Spina, who prosecuted the case, stated unequivocally that Ortloff does pose a danger to the community.

Ortloff will receive a taxpayers-funded $53,136.00 yearly pension for the rest of his life, even while in prison, guaranteed under the state Constitution.

Effectively, his $50,000 fine is being funded by New York taxpayers.

See also:
Many say Ortloff got off too easily (Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 11 2010)
Former Plattsburgh Assemblyman Chris Ortloff receives 12 year sentence after child sex plea (North Country Public Radio News audio file, August 11 2010)
12 years for act without defense (Albany Times Union, August 10 2010)
Ortloff sentenced to 12.5 years in prison (Press Republican, August 10 2010)
Ortloff gets 12-1/2 years in prison (Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 10 2010)
Community reacts to Ortloff sentencing (Press Republican, August 10 2010)
Ex-NY lawmaker gets 12 1/2 years in sex case (Associated Press, August 10 2010)
Some thoughts on the sentencing of former Plattsburgh Assemblyman Chris Ortloff (North Country Public Radio blog, August 10 2010)