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.