December 24, 2011

Parole Board Ordered to Apply Retroactively Rehabilitation Factor

Extracts from article:

A judge has ordered the state parole board to retroactively apply a new provision requiring it to consider the rehabilitation of an inmate and not base a denial of release on an offense that may have occurred decades in the past.

The decision, if upheld, could entitle scores of inmates to new parole interviews.

Orange County Supreme Court Justice Lawrence H. Ecker, in what he says is a case of first impression, reviewed a recent revision of Executive Law §259(c), and held that a man who came up for parole before a change in the law is nonetheless entitled to benefit from that law.

The revision requires the parole board to look beyond the instant offense and consider whether the applicant for parole has been rehabilitated.

In Matter of Thwaites v. New York State Board of Parole, 2011 NY Slip Op 21453, Justice Ecker said the board, in denying the inmate's release, relied on "past-focused rhetoric, not future-focused risk assessment analysis." He directed the parole board to afford Douglas Thwaites a new interview ...

... Justice Ecker said there is no question the board did not apply in Mr. Thwaites' case standards that had yet to take effect. Regardless, he said the "remedial" objective of the legislation requires reconsideration of the inmate's parole bid.

For complete article, see:
Parole Board Ordered to Apply Retroactively Rehabilitation Factor, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, 27 December 2011)

In a new decision on January 26 2012, Judge Lawrence H. Ecker handed down an almost identical ruling in the case of Newlly Velazquez as he did for Douglas Thwaites, one month previously. See:
Judge Orders Parole Board to Reconsider Release Bid, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, 6 February 2012)

An update on the Thwaites case, 20 September 2012: the New York State Attorney General's Office is appealing Justice Lawrence H. Ecker's ruling to the Second Department in Matter of Thwaites v. New York State Board of Parole, arguing that the ruling "stands to wreak havoc on the parole system" and that the "Legislature cannot plausibly have intended to apply the changes to parole practices to past parole board decisions". See:
A.G. Urges Court to Upset Parole Interview Decision, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, 20 September 2012)

Update on the Graziano case, December 2011

Extract from article:

The Appellate Division, Third Department, has refused to reinstate an action on behalf of violent felons who contend the parole board has systematically violated state law in routinely denying release to Class A-1 convicts. The same issue was unsuccessfully litigated in federal court.

Graziano v. Evans, 512150, is the state court version of Graziano v. Pataki, 7:06-cv-00480, a Southern District case dismissed a year ago by Judge Cathy Seibel.

Judge Seibel rejected the plaintiffs' constitutional claims and the state courts have rejected their statutory claims.

The Third Department affirmed Albany Acting Supreme Court Justice Roger D. McDonough in dismissing the state court action ...

For full details, see the end part of this article:
Parole Board Ordered to Apply Retroactively Rehabilitation Factor, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, 27 Dec 2011)
See also:
A brief summary of the history of the Graziano case (Building Bridges, January 15 2012, at the end of section 5: Parole News)

December 23, 2011

Transitional Accountability Plans (TAP) and Risk and Needs Assessment (COMPAS)

Extract from Building Bridges, December 2011:

Transitional Accountability Plans (TAP) and Risk and Needs Assessment (COMPAS)

From the testimony of Andrea Evans, Chairwoman of the Board of Parole, before the Assembly Committee on Correction, Nov 10, 2011, we gained some further insight into how TAP and Risk and Needs Assessments will be used in parole decisions. The following information is from her written testimony to the Committee.

The Board has been working closely with the DOCCS in developing the TAP instrument. It will be the instrument that measures the rehabilitation of persons appearing before the Board, as well as their likelihood of success in the community when released. Each member of the Board has received training in the use of both the TAP instrument and a risk and needs instrument known as the COMPAS instrument. Currently the use of these instruments is being piloted in 3 correctional facilities for the purpose of establishing appropriate conditions of supervision. When the pilot phase is concluded, the Board will use them to assess the appropriateness of an inmate’s release to community supervision. Because the TAP instrument reflects an inmate’s overall effort toward his or her rehabilitation while incarcerated and draws upon information closely associated with their risk of re-offending, and their needs in order to become successful, the Board’s written procedures will call for the use and careful consideration of these documents.

As an interim measure, I have instructed the Board to use the TAP instrument where and when it has been prepared for a parole eligible inmate. I have emphasized that when the Board considers an inmate for parole, they must ascertain what steps he or he has taken toward their rehabilitation and the likelihood of their success once released to community supervision.

The one function that has been transferred from the Board to DOCCS is the granting of certificates of relief and certificates of good conduct. Last year the Board granted 1,695 such certificates. DOCCS has granted 1,581 since April 2011.

See also:
Andrea W. Evans' memorandum to the Members of the Board of Parole, dated October 5 2011, regarding the recent amendment to Executive Law §259-c(4).

In the memorandum she gives details of the COMPAS Risk and Needs Assessment tool and the TAP instrument, and lists the statutory criteria to be considered by the Board. She states: "Please know that the standard for assessing the appropriateness for release, as well as the statutory criteria you must consider has not changed through the aforementioned legislation."

She ends the memorandum by giving the following instruction to the Board: "

Therefore, in your consideration of the statutory criteria set forth in Executive Law §259-i(2)(c)(A)(i) through (viii), you must ascertain what steps an inmate has taken toward their rehabilitation and the likelihood of their success once released to parole supervision. In this regard, any steps taken by an inmate toward effecting their rehabilitation, in addition to all aspects of their proposed release plan, are to be discussed with the inmate during the course of their interview and considered in your deliberations."

December 17, 2011

Recent Study Confirms that Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Works to Reduce Recidivism

Recent Study Confirms that Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Works to Reduce Recidivism by Lama Hassoun, Researcher at the Harlem Community Justice Center, December 12 2011

Over the last 10 years, many research studies have looked at how effective Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) programs are and their impact on those who participate.

In 2007, a comprehensive research study attempted to provide a fuller picture of the effectiveness of CBT programs with offenders and the difference between the different kinds of brand name CBT programs.

The study confirmed the findings of previous studies, showing that offenders who received CBT were 1.53 times less likely to recidivate when compared to offenders who did not receive CBT. Statistically, this is considered to be a significant difference.

The researchers also looked at the differences between the different “brand” name CBT programs. They found NO difference between them and concluded that the general CBT approach is responsible for the overall positive effect on recidivism. They found that including distinct anger control problems and interpersonal problem solving components really enhanced the effects of CBT.

High quality implementation of CBT was found to have a strong impact on the chance of recidivism of the offenders. High quality implementation was defined as low rates of people dropping out of the CBT program, close monitoring of quality and fidelity of the treatment implementation, and adequate CBT training for the providers.

It is also VERY encouraging that the effects of CBT were greater for offenders with higher risk of recidivism than those with lower risk, which contradicts any assumptions that high risk offenders might be less willing to undergo treatment.

Interestingly, offenders treated in prison showed recidivism decreases comparable to those offenders treated in the community (probation, parole, or transitional aftercare). Researchers also found that CBT was as effective for juveniles as it was for adults.

All in all, this study is very promising for providers in their attempts to assist offenders in reintegrating in their communities. CBT has been proven to be effective, time and time again.

December 16, 2011

Setting the record straight, Part 3: Release, Reentry, Reintegration: how the SAFE Parole Act is necessary for all three

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT, a series of articles presented by the Coalition For Fair Criminal Justice Policies to explain and support the SAFE Parole Act.

Part 3: Release, Reentry, Reintegration: how the SAFE Parole Act is necessary for all three, by Larry White

The Importance of the Safe and Fair Evaluations (S.A.F.E.) Parole Act in Making Decisions about Release, Reentry, and Reintegration

Penal Law 1.05 states that in addition to punishment (retribution), deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation there is a fifth goal: "the promotion of their [incarcerated people's] successful and productive reentry and reintegration into society." [emphasis added]

The purpose of this article is to define reintegration, and to show how necessary the SAFE Parole Act is in achieving it.

Reentry and reintegration are commonly thought of as meaning the same thing, but they are, in actuality, very different:

Reentry is the process of returning to one's community and finding a way to get basic needs met - such as housing, food, employment - without resorting to criminal activities. Preparation for reentry starts in prison, with programs that prepare the person for life on the outside. In recent years outside agencies have gotten funding to meet reentry needs and continue to help a person remain at liberty without reverting to a life of crime. Parole needs to to create linkages for their clients with community agencies that can meet their subsistence needs, such as food, clothing, employment, medical care, and public assistance. Most community organizations offer case management to get a person back on their feet. Most don't go any further.

Reintegration is established when the formerly incarcerated person has developed social ties that help him or her continue to live at liberty without breaking the law. This person needs to be connected with a new environment which encourages and rewards legitimate behaviors and attitudes. The shorter the period of incarceration, the easier this task will be.

Part of this new involvement is with groups such as neighborhood associations, faith groups, men's groups, women's groups; groups where he or she is accepted as a contributing member to the positive goals of the group. Reintegration is the last stage in our criminal justice system, and therefore it must be the goal of all the stages that precede it, from arrest forward. It’s the capacity to live at liberty without disobeying the law. The community must get involved in nurturing legitimate lifestyles in the lives of the men and women returning from prison.

In NYS's criminal justice system the judicial system sets the punishment, which may include a period of incarceration. Prisons are responsible for providing deterrence and the tools for rehabilitation. The Parole Board's job is to assess a person's readiness to leave the incarceration stage behind and begin the process of reintegration.

This is where the SAFE Parole Act becomes necessary. Even with the recent revisions to the law, which mandate the use of a Transitional Accountability Plan and a Risk and Needs Assessment, the criminal justice system has not moved significantly closer to the fifth goal of reintegration. As long as the Parole Board can continue to base release decisions on the crime, which a person can never change, people who are truly ready to begin the process of reintegration will continue to be denied. The Safe and Fair Evaluations (S.A.F.E.) Parole Act doesn't leave it up to the Parole Board to voluntarily create procedures that would lead to fairer parole hearings, it includes them right in the bill.

Unlike the recently implemented changes, the SAFE Parole Act is based on an understanding that what a person does, what his or her attitudes and behaviors have become over the course of many years, are the most important indicators of readiness for reintegration, and thus for release from prison.

Most importantly, if the parole applicant’s attitude and/or behavior does not meet their standards, the Parole Board must spell out what he or she must do in order to be considered ready for release to parole supervision. Once those requirements have been met, the person must be released.

No one can ever know for sure that another person will commit a crime. But there are good indicators in the SAFE PAROLE ACT, and the Parole Board can do no better than to base their decision on them.

TAP and R&NA will continue to be used by Parole's Community Supervision once the person is back in society, and will extend until the person has reached the final goal of reintegration.

From: the Prison Action Network, in Building Bridges, December 2011

December 15, 2011

Building Bridges - December 2011 edition

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

Articles in this issue include the following:

1. Attica - The Correctional Association (CA) of New York visited Attica C. F. on April 12 and 13, 2011 and reports that Attica has changed significantly since 1971, although some severe problems do persist. So severe that Director Soffiyah Elijah concludes that it is broken beyond repair, and Governor Cuomo should shutter its doors forever.

2. Dorothy Day Apartment building on Riverside Dr. in West Harlem once was home to drug dealers but is now not only beautiful, but it also pulses with pride and hope and happiness.

3. The Guardian Newspaper is interested in hearing from U.S. inmates, their families, prison guards or anyone whose life has been impacted by incarceration.
 If you would like to contribute to the series, please write to: Sadhbh Walshe, The Guardian, PO Box 1466, New York, NY 10150.

4. Hour Children, a Queens nonprofit group, is creating affordable housing in Long Island City for formerly incarcerated women trying to rebuild their lives.

5. Job Op: Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region is seeking a program director for their SNUG program.

6. Legislation updates: 65%, Merit Time Bill, SAFE Parole Act, Domestic Violence Survivor Justice Act.

7. NYS Parole Reform Campaign will present a workshop at the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus Weekend in February. We continue to work on clarifying the changes to the current parole statute. Part 3 of Setting the Record Straight deals with Parole's 3 Rs.

8. Column #2 of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network discusses their involvement with Occupy Wall Street and asks for your involvement in that work.

9. Parole News: TAP and COMPAS per Chairwoman Evans; October parole release decisions.

10. Prisoner of the Census: An Albany judge has upheld a state law that counts inmates, for legislative reapportionment purposes, in their home community rather than the district in which they are incarcerated.

11. Prison Legal Services is looking for lawyers to do pro-bono work and offers incentives.

12. Radio messages from home to those inside. CALLS FROM HOME is a gripping radio broadcast that brings the voices of prisoner families, former prisoners, poets, musicians, and everyday citizens to the airwaves. The broadcast consists of holiday greetings from family members to their loved ones behind bars and the over 2.4 million people incarcerated in the United States.

13. Taking Care of Business means communities building an inclusive environment for people returning home from prison, by Karima Amin, CEO of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc.

The Prison Action Network gives a summary of the 2011 changes to Parole Board policies:

In 2011, the governor revised parole board policies when he merged DOCS and the Division of Parole. He left the Board as an independent body. In doing so he revised the parole statute to direct the Parole Board to:

1. consider the person's readiness for reentry and reintegration.
2. establish procedures for including risk and needs principles in their decision making process.

The other eight factors that the parole board must consider are the same as always, except they are now all in one place. They still include "the seriousness of the offense".

In 2011 the Safe And Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act was introduced to the legislature as Senate Bill 5374 and Assembly Bill 7939. It is not yet a law. To become a law it will have to pass in both houses of the legislature and be signed by the governor.