March 14, 2012

Building Bridges - March 2012 edition

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

This edition contains their report on several important bills voted for at the meeting of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee on March 7 including the Merit Time Bill (detailed in the introduction and in Article 5 of their newsletter). There are serious reservations about the possibility of the SAFE Parole Act becoming law while Michael Nozzolio is the chair of that committee, and the Prison Action Network explain why.

This is the result of the vote on the Merit Time Bill:

Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsors: Hassell-Thompson, Krueger, Oppenheimer, Parker, Serrano
Allows certain inmates who are able to prove that they were subjected to substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse, that the abuse was inflicted by a member of their same family or household or a member of the person's immediate family, and that the abuse was a substantial factor in causing them to commit the crime to be eligible to earn merit time in the amount of one-third off either their minimum sentence (if inmate has an indeterminate sentence) or their flat sentence; allows such inmates to be eligible for presumptive release; expands the criteria that a person in custody of the department of correctional services may meet in order to earn merit time. - NOT REPORTED (defeated)

Sponsor: Montgomery, Co-sponsors: Dilan [Same as: A154-2011 - Aubry]
Relates to controlled substances and indeterminate sentences; relates to the expansion of merit time and repeals provisions relating to the allowance of limited credit time for inmates; to allow all inmates, except those serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, murder in the first degree, incest, an offense defined in article two hundred sixty-three of the penal law, an act of terrorism, aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any such offense, to earn merit time allowance. The merit time allowance would be one-sixth of an indeterminate and one-seventh of a determinate sentence. This section of the bill also expands the criteria that a person in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) may meet in order to earn merit time. HELD

Other items discussed in the March newsletter include the following. See Building Bridges for full details:

1. ALBANY UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: A free workshop to develop legislative advocacy skills will involve interactive role play and practical tips.

2. THE BLACK, PUERTO RICAN, HISPANIC AND ASIAN CAUCUS's Criminal Justice Workshop series was a huge success and proof of the momentum that is building. People are realizing that incarceration is a justice issue, and in particular a racial justice issue.

3. CALL OUTS: A group of advocates is looking for those affected to join efforts to end the abuse of SHU. Cornell Law School is seeking interviews with formerly and currently incarcerated women about their experiences.

4. CAMPAIGN TO END THE NEW JIM CROW has issued a statement of solidarity with the Occupy movements. All of the 99% stand to win when injustice is uprooted.

5. Criminal Justice LEGISLATION was presented for a vote by the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee meeting on March 7. Listed are 22 of the bills including the votes. Prison Action Network was there. It was not a pleasant experience.

6. NY IS STILL IN NEED OF PAROLE REFORM Applying old backward-looking static factors while attempting to follow the new dynamic procedures for parole release decision-making based upon present and future-looking risk and needs principles creates a contradiction that the Parole Board will find very difficult to reconcile.

7. PAROLE NEWS: In January no A1VO was released on their initial board. 23% of those reappearing were granted release. Thwaites saw a de novo Board in March.

8. PRISONER JUSTICE COLUMN Last month's Mass Incarceration article reprinted including sections which were mistakenly omitted last month.

9. The National Action Network's Political Action & Second Chance Committees are hosting a ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS FORUM for those who want to know more about what the Rockefeller Drug Laws are, and about the Criminal Justice Reform Movement.

10. 2012 REMOVING THE BARS: "TAKE ACTION" Conference will include a Parole 101 panel discussion on Saturday March 24 from 2:15 to 3:45pm and a presentation by Angela Davis on Friday night.

11. SECOND LOOK THINK TANK from Sullivan C.F. concludes that New York State’s public safety levels—in other words, the recidivism rate—and the state’s fiscal hemorrhaging can be linked, at least in part, to the parole release decisions made by the Parole Board .

12. STAINS:CHANGING LIVES AFTER INCARCERATION is a documentary about life after incarceration, as seen from the families' perspective.

13. A COMMUNITY DIALOGUE ABOUT WOMEN AND REENTRY, Coming Home: Struggling Towards Success. Moderated by Piper Kerman, with panelists Tish, Selina Fulford, Mary McKay, Sister Mary Nerney. Special Guest Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.

14. WORK FOR SUCCESS, an initiative by Gov. Cuomo, is aimed at reducing unemployment rates for people returning home from prison. CEO will be the model program. Many advocates and legislators support this approach.