May 15, 2012

Building Bridges - May 2012 edition

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

A summary is given below, please see Building Bridges for full details:

1. Carl Berk Remembered. A friend remembers that "He normally submitted a poem to one of the Jewish Newsletters or Lifers' notes. We didn't receive one for February." We share a prose poem, inspired by Hemingway, that Carl sent us shortly before his death.

2. Building a Better Criminal Justice System. The Fortune Society and The Sentencing Project are collaborating on a panel discussion about The Sentencing Project’s recent publication, To Build a Better Criminal Justice System: 25 Experts Envision the Next 25 Years of Reform. In the new publication, 25 leading scholars and practitioners have contributed essays on their strategic vision for the next 25 years of criminal justice reform. Issues addressed in the collection include racial justice strategies, linking public health and criminal justice reform, challenging the war on drugs, and the viability of fiscal pressures as a focus for reform.

3. Clemency, a discussion: "Among its benign if too-often ignored objects, the clemency power can correct injustices that the ordinary criminal justice process seems unable or unwilling to consider."

4. The Merit Time Bill falls victim to questionable tactics, while ill-advised bills continue to be scheduled for voting at the Senate's Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee on May 15. Building Bridges also reports on the fate of bills presented to the Committee on April 18.

"The Merit Time Bill S338/A154, sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery and co-sponsored by Senator Dilan is no longer sitting in the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee. Due to a troubling turn of events, it has been reported to the Rules Committee, headed by Majority Leader Dean Skelos, where it will sit probably forever, or at least until the end of this session." (See Building Bridges for full details.)

Please sign the petition in support of the Merit Time Law.

5. Parole News: March releases (reappearance rates are up), excerpts from two articles by John Caher, and a report from the NYS Parole Reform Campaign. "The Campaign has been working with the organizations who have put the SAFE Parole Act on the agenda for their legislative advocacy days. We're very grateful for the support we’ve received from these and other organizations! We've come a long way since last year at this time when our bill was just a proposal and removing nature of the crime from what the parole board could consider was believed to be too radical and so controversial that no one would touch it. We now have legislative sponsors, and many people are seeing that without this bill violent offenders with "incredible prison records" and the lowest risk scores on COMPAS, will continue to be denied parole."

6. Prisoners Are People Too! "Broken On All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration and New Visions for Criminal Justice in the US." Karima Amin gives details of this important new film about the US prison system.

7. The NYS Prisoner Justice Network reviews the bad news and the good news and invites us to join them in a day of action: NYS Prisoner Justice Network's Prison and Parole Justice Day, in Albany, on May 22nd.

8. In Our Name: Restoring Justice in America, a retreat in beautiful upstate NY, is open to families and friends of incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated persons. This August weekend gathering of academics, activists, and advocates will work together to formulate proposals for reform of the criminal justice and penal systems. We need to share our input.

9. The Yale Law Journal welcomes submissions for their first prison law writing contest.

10. A call for stories from adult children of incarcerated, or formerly incarcerated, parents.

11. Justus Support Group forms in Troy NY.