April 14, 2011

Building Bridges - April 2011 edition

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

Of particular interest to parole reform in this edition:

7. The NYS Parole Campaign has attracted 4 more organizations who support the SAFE Parole Act.: Center for Nuleadership on Urban Solutions, Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, Greenhope Services for Women, Inc., and the Morningside Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Legislative Advocacy efforts will start in earnest in May.

8. NYS Prisoner Justice Network tells us what’s wrong with New York’s prison system...and what we can do about it: New York’s prison system is spending $3 billion on “corrections” – that don’t correct anything – while cutting education, health care, and other social programs to the bone. This system of mass incarceration is inhumane, unnecessary, uneconomical, and ineffective. Read the article to find out what you can do!

9. Parole News - Of the 84 parole hearings in February, 2 applicants were released at their initial hearings and 14 were released at a reappearance. DOCS and Parole have been merged into one Department, while the Parole Board remains independent.

A major change was the merging of DOCS and Parole into one agency headed by one person. In theory it could be a benefit. A seamless process from incarceration through reentry is certainly something to be desired, especially when the goal is successful reintegration. Of course, as with most laws, everything depends on the nature of those implementing them. We have faith that Commissioner Brian Fischer will do his best to promote successful reintegration, but under future administrations who knows? In extreme times, as we can see by Sen. Little’s suit against the new Gerrymandering law (see article 5), when people don’t like a law, they can try to overturn it and often do. In fact that is what we hope to do with Gov. Cuomo’s rewrite of the parole board statute, formerly known as 259-i and now broken up and placed in new locations in NYS laws.

Changes include the removal of section 1 of 259-i more than 20 years after the Board lost the authority to set minimum sentences. Other changes require the Parole Board to use risk and needs assessment principles in the parole release decision, and the use of a Transitional Accountability Plan (TAP) by the newly created Department “to be a comprehensive, dynamic and individualized case management plan based on the programming and treatment needs of the inmate. The purpose of such plan shall be to promote the rehabilitation of the inmate and their successful and productive reentry and reintegration into society upon release.” [To request a copy of the sections of legislation which contain the above changes please email parole.reform@gmail.com with your request.]