November 25, 2012

Ex-Parole Commissioners Decry Rescission of 'Cop Killer' Release

An unprecedented amicus brief has been signed by six former members of the New York State Parole Board, and is accompanied by a petition accusing the New York State Board of Parole of bowing to pressure from the media and the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) by rescinding parole for Pablo Costello, who had already been approved for release.

The brief is signed by Robert Dennison, Vernon Manley, Thomas Grant, Barbara Treen, Theodore Kirkland and Edward Hammock. These six former parole commissioners, including two previous chairmen and three parole board members appointed by Governor George Pataki, urge the Appellate Division, Third Department, to hold the Board of Parole to a higher standard and prevent it from revoking an inmate's release simply because victims object after parole has been approved.

At the same time, in a separate case, advocates for Samuel Hamilton are preparing to challenge his repeated denial of parole by the Board, despite his strong support from both the prosecutor who sent him to prison and the state corrections commissioner.

Key points from the amicus brief:
* The Board is aware of how crime affects victims, and it assumes that victims continue to grieve.
* The Board needs clear standards if it is to avoid sitting in judgment of victims' grief.
* The Board cannot treat victims or prisoners fairly in an atmosphere that is easily sensationalized and conducive to improper influence.

For full report, including Pablo Costello's brief, the Board of Parole's reply, and details of Samuel Hamilton's case, see:
Ex-Parole Commissioners Decry Rescission of 'Cop Killer' Release, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, November 26 2012)

November 15, 2012

Building Bridges - November 2012 edition

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

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

1.  Education: Invitation to an educational session on the importance of Pell Grant access in prison.

2.  The Campaign to bring back the free prison bus service has a petition for you and your family and friends to sign.

3.  Find out if you are eligible to have your convictions conditionally sealed.

4.  Seven rights are listed in the Safe Community Declaration of 2013 by Corey Parks.

5.  A New York Times editorial says that denying voting rights to people who have paid their debt to society offends the fundamental tenets of democracy.

6.  "Fortune in My Eyes", the memoir of Fortune Society's founder, has been praised by the NY Times as a "profile in courage".

7.  Michelle Alexander comes to Albany, will speak to high school students and law students.

8.  The National Criminal Justice Commission Act would establish an independent national commission to conduct a review of the nation's criminal justice system and recommend consensus-based and cost-effective reforms. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights asks that you sign on to support S.306, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, which would establish an independent national commission to conduct a review of the nation's criminal justice system and recommend consensus-based and cost-effective reforms.

9.  Open letter to the President lists actions we would like him to take in the next four years, including ending the use of solitary confinement. We want a safer and more peaceful country, where freedom and justice are primary values.

10.  Parole News: September release statistics and the challenges of appointing appropriately qualified Parole Commissioners.

11.  Prisoners Are People Too! - their October meeting was cancelled due to Super Storm Sandy.  Rescheduled for 11/26.

12.  Prisoners Make Us Look Good - NY Times article notes absence of prisoners in statistics regarding black progress.

13.  Pro Bono legal assistance will be required of all future applicants for the NYS Bar exam.

14.  Senate Shenanigans or not? Will we have a Democratic majority? And will it be a repeat of 2008? The votes are still being counted but according to a Times Union Capital blog entry by Jimmy Vielkind, In the State Senate historic Democratic victories come with an asterisk the Democrats appear to have picked up enough votes to regain the majority they won in 2008.