March 15, 2013

Building Bridges - March 2013 edition

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

*** This edition of Building Bridges is dedicated to the memory of Jerry Balone, who died unexpectedly in his sleep on March 13. ***

Prison Action Network's brief summary is given below. Please see Building Bridges for full details, ways to help and get involved.

1. An apology repository exists but who knows how to find it? Do you?

2. Legislation reports: the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, with Senator Patrick Gallivan as Chair, met on Wednesday March 13, to consider 11 bills. A video recording of their meeting is given here.

3. The call to end extreme isolation as a punishment is attracting more attention every day.

4. Parole news includes December 2012 statistics, 2012 summary pt.2, an update on the Thwaites case, and changes to the leadership of DOCCS and the Parole Board.

The Thwaites decision was avoided: the issue is moot. In  2011, Orange County Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Ecker ruled in the case of Douglas Thwaites that the revision of Executive Law 259 (c) not only required the parole board to put more weight on the rehabilitation of the inmate rather than the instant offense, but he also applied the revision retroactively. The Attorney General's Office urged the Appellate Division, Second Department, to overturn the ruling. Mr. Thwaites was released before the issue was decided and not for the first time, a challenge to parole's functioning was declared moot and thereby avoided. (From CURE-NY's Winter 2013 Newsletter.)

Changes in the leadership of DOCCS and the Parole Board:
DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer is retiring at the end of April.
Andrea Evans announced at a Public Safety Hearing that February 6 2013 was her last day as Chair of the Parole Board, but did not clarify whether she would be staying on as a Board Member. The Prison Action Network has heard that she will continue to serve in her role as Chair until replaced by the Governor.

5. Adolescent minds are not receiving the guidance needed, says Corey Parks of SNUG.

6. Appropriate prison programming may be a reality to Fischer, but not to some intended recipients, who explain.

7. Work for Success takes its show on the road, but where does the rubber meet the road?

8. RECONNECT offers job training to women recently released from prison.

9. Job Fair invites formerly incarcerated people to explore opportunities for a second chance.

10. Prison poetry project features former participants and a panel to demonstrate the value of art in rehabilitation.

11. Veterans' Memorial Day weekend retreat and symposium will combine rest and relaxation with efforts to provide better services for incarcerated veterans.

12. Please see Reentry Resource Center: New York's calendar for details of other meetings and events.

13. Black history and culture film series every Thursday in Albany, NY.

14. Knitting supplies are needed at Woodbourne Correctional Facility.

March 07, 2013

DOCCS chief Brian Fischer is retiring

Brian Fischer, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, has announced his retirement, effective April 30, 2013.

A Brooklyn native who has worked as a parole officer and was Superintendent of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Fischer has held cabinet posts since his 2007 appointment by Eliot Spitzer.

He was appointed Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services effective January 1, 2007, was confirmed as Commissioner by the state Senate on March 12, 2007, and with the passage of the 2011-12 State Budget, became Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

He supervised the merger of the Department of Correctional Services with the Division of Parole in 2011.

In his March 4, 2013 letter to all staff, Commissioner Fischer said, "Together we have accomplished much, and I know that good things will continue to develop."

For further information, see:
Commissioner Brian Fischer Retirement (New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision)
Commissioner Brian Fischer's biography (New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision)
DOCCS chief Brian Fischer is retiring, by Jimmy Vielkind (Times Capitol bureau, March 5 2013)

March 06, 2013

Inmate Cannot Clear His Name Without Evidence of Guilty Party

David McCallum "has a plethora of loyal advocates certain of his innocence, a pro bono legal team that has been working on his behalf for a decade, a supportive family that never has stopped believing in him and a district attorney who is willing to listen and even agreed to post-conviction DNA testing."

He has maintained a spotless disciplinary record while in prison, a "stunningly good record," and the parole board's own risk assessment places him at the lowest risk of re-offending, being arrested or absconding.

Yet he has been turned down for parole three times, at least in part because he refuses to accept responsibility for a crime he insists he did not commit.

His next parole hearing will be in April.

John Caher reports on McCallum's case:
Inmate Cannot Clear His Name Without Evidence of Guilty Party, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, March 6 2013)