August 14, 2012

Building Bridges - August 2012 edition

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

A brief summary is given below. Please see Building Bridges for full details:

* Black August and the Attica Rebellion.
* Bring back the Free Buses.
* Campaign Finance Reform is Governor Cuomo's Summer focus.
* Corey's Column on the Merle Cooper program.
* DNA databank expansion bill is now in effect. This DNA Databank Expansion Bill, passed by the Legislature in March, makes New York the first state in the nation to require the collection of DNA samples from anyone convicted of any felony or Penal Law misdemeanor.
* Electoral Politics; how your vote in the Sept 13 primary can make a difference.
* Family Empowerment Day 5.
* In Our Name: Restoring Justice in America - last call for registration!
* Legislation.
* Human Rights Watch Medical Parole research project solicits your input.
* "Munched" is donating the proceeds of a performance to WORTH.
* Parole News: June releases, summaries of three recent John Caher articles including the Graziano v. Pataki decision, getting your parole hearing transcripts faster, current commissioners.
* NYS Parole Reform Campaign plea from Rev. Stephen Lim.
* Prison Legal News is back in NYS prisons.
* Prison Media.
* NYS Prisoner Justice Network shares excerpts from their mailbox.
* The Prisoner Rights/Civil Rights Practice Group.
* Request for position papers: as an organization advocating for criminal justice reform, Prison Action Network is soliciting position papers on the issues which most deeply concern their members in prison and their family members.
* Sullivan's 2nd Look Think Tank met with Vanda Seward to discuss retooling parole.

August 05, 2012

Graziano v. Pataki decision: August 3 2012

A decision in the Graziano v. Pataki class action case:

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that violent felons who claim they were systematically denied parole due to an unofficial mandate of former Governor George Pataki have no avenue of relief under the U.S. Constitution.

From the court's decision (Graziano v. Pataki, No. 11-116):

"Plaintiffs - Appellants Peter Graziano, James Buckley, Mark Malone, Robert A. Harris, William Walker, Aaron Talley, Maurice Murrell, Steven Ho, and Brian Jacques (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed this class action against Defendants - Appellees George Pataki, the Governor of the State of New York; Robert Dennison, the Chairman of the New York State Division of Parole; and the New York State Division of Parole (collectively, "Defendants") on behalf of themselves and all other New York State prisoners convicted of violent felony offenses. Plaintiffs allege that they have been denied parole as a result of an "unwritten policy" to deny parole to violent felony offenders, and that this unofficial policy violates three provisions of the federal constitution: (1) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) the Ex Post Facto Clause. Because we conclude that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for violation of their rights under any of these provisions, we affirm the December 10, 2010 judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure."

Robert Isseks, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would petition for the decision to be reviewed by the full panel of circuit judges.

See the following, especially the dissenting opinion given by Stefan R. Underhill, District Judge:
Graziano v. Pataki, No. 11-116 (2d Cir. August 3 2012)
Circuit Rejects Inmates' Bid for Relief Over Alleged Parole Policy, by John Caher. (New York Law Journal, August 6 2012)
New York violent felony inmates lose parole case appeal (Reuters, New York, August 6 2012)
Graziano v. Pataki, Opinion Summary (August 3 2012)
Graziano v. Pataki, 11-116 (FindLaw, August 3 2012)
Split Second Circuit panel rejects varied constitutional attacks on NY parole practices (Sentencing Law and Policy, August 3 2012)

August 02, 2012

Parole Granted to Murderer Who Had Prosecutors' Support

Noah Lazore has finally been granted parole:

"A convicted killer whose release after 36 years in prison was supported by both the prosecutor who put him away and the incumbent district attorney has been granted parole. In a split decision, a three-commissioner panel of the Board of Parole noted Noah Lazore's "strong rehabilitative record," his "clean disciplinary record since 2007" and the fact that a new, legislatively mandated risk analysis concluded that he is "at low risk of felony violence, arrest and absconding." ... ..."

For complete reports, see:
Parole Granted to Murderer Who Had Prosecutors' Support, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, August 2 2012)
Prisoner's Bid for Parole Wins Support From Unlikely Allies, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, July 26 2012)

August 01, 2012

Group Mounts Campaign to Block Parole

Extract from report:

An organization that charges up to $250 to mount an organized campaign to prevent parole release of convicted killers has attracted the interest of defense attorneys resulting in a complaint to state and federal authorities.

Cheryl Kates, an attorney in the Rochester area who has one client who was recently denied parole after Parents of Murdered Children campaigned against his release, and five others who are targeted by the organization, is seeking an investigation.

"Community opposition is being purchased," Kates claimed in a July 10 letter to the inspector general of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and copied to the U.S. Department of Justice. "The parole board is being tricked. This is a violation of due process. Any petitions received from this organization should be removed from the inmate's file."

Peter Cutler, spokesman for the department, acknowledged the agency has received Kates' letter and will consider her complaint.

For complete report:
Group Mounts Campaign to Block Parole, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, July 30 2012)