CURE New York
The New York Chapter of National CURE
Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants
PO Box 182
Hopewell Junction, NY 12533
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IN LOVING MEMORY OF RUDY CYPSER
It is with heartfelt sorrow that CURE has lost one of the champions of criminal and social justice. Rudolph “Rudy” Cypser passed peacefully at his home on February 16, 2018 at the age of 94.
Rudy, along with his wife Betty, spent well over 40 years, essentially a lifetime, as criminal and social justice reformers. We cannot remember Rudy without speaking of Betty, his loving wife of 70 years.
CURE-NY had the privilege of hosting a luncheon around 3 years ago in their honor and awarding them a plaque in recognition of their service to others.
Not only were they co-presidents of CURE-NY in its infancy, they were also co-editors of the CURE International newsletter and served on the Board of Directors of CURE National along with representing CURE International at the UN. Creating and active in the Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) within NYS Correctional Facilities, they also were involved in prison education, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Correctional Association and the Judicial Process Commission.
In 2007 they were honored for 32 years of prison work by the NY Catholic Charity Directors. In 2008, they were the recipients of the “Peacemaker” Award for their dedication to prison reform, the teaching of nonviolence in prison and faith development amongst those incarcerated.
As part of “Prison Reformers without Borders” they produced a document and booklet “Human Rights For All”, which Betty is quoted “Who will speak, if we don’t? Who will speak so their voice will be heard? Who will speak, if we don’t?” These accomplishments are only a few for us to acknowledge in a long list that goes on and on.
Those of us that were privileged enough to have known Rudy for many years have been the lucky ones to receive his gift of humanity. However, if you only met him for a minute in time, you would know that his spirit, caring and humanity were something we should all aspire to be, especially in these troubled times.
Rudy was a mentor to me throughout the 15 years I knew him. His legacy inspires me to be better, to do better. For the knowledge he provided me on my journey I will be forever grateful. No one I have ever known has dedicated themselves more in an entire lifetime to being the change we all want to see.
Rest in Peace and Power, my dear friend
Deb Bozydaj, President CURE-NY
Testaments from current and former CURE-NY Board Members and Executives
In loving memory of Rudy Cypser, one of the Fathers of Restorative Justice in New York State. Rudy and his beautiful beloved wife Betty combined spent about 80 years (if not more) in and out of New York State Prisons. I met them in the late 80’s when they were full swing in coalition building mode growing Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in NYS prisons and initiating the formation of the NY chapter of the national organization Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-NY).
During 1995-2006 or the Pataki administration we had such a daunting task before us, creating a constituency among prison families and addressing re-entry and parole for those formerly incarcerated in NYS. I am so thankful that in such a dark time we had Rudy’s wisdom, strength and sensibility. I always felt better when we had Rudy in the room with us in those days. He vigorously accompanied us in the halls of power while we were warring against the prison industrial complex. He used his power, privilege and influence as an ally and was a guardian of dignity in every exchange when we took the risk to speak truth to power.
Thank you Rudy for affirming justice, dignity and love in every struggle and battle you so valiantly fought. Rest In Peace. Sandra Oxford (Member CURE-NY)
An icon in the field of criminal justice reform. There is no other anywhere close to what he was. From the CURE NY newsletter to the support he gave national office and continued on with our NY chapter. You will be greatly missed my friend. For you I raise my fist and salute. The work you did for incarcerated people throughout your lifetime will forever be remembered. You are a king. Rest in peace my brother in the struggle. Cheryl L. Kates-Benman, Esq. (CURE-NY Auxiliary Board-Mentors & Advisors)
Rudy and Betty have been stalwarts for peace and justice in so many areas. They have been marked with energy, grace, hard work and such a generous and loving spirit. Those of you who not have known or worked with them have missed a rare gift. Jim Murphy, (Former Treasurer, CURE-NY)
Years ago, Rudy and Betty gave us coffee mugs that said that “Education is better and cheaper than incarceration…Put Internet education in all the prisons of the world! I almost daily use my mug to think about them and their national and international contributions to prison reform. Charlie and Pauline Sullivan (International CURE).
I have participated in several of their programs and experienced how good they are in engaging the population and bringing light, joy and growth to those behind the prison walls. Both Betty and Rudy, at least since the early nineties when I met them, have worked tireless with the Maryknoll Affiliate movement; meeting monthly for fellowship and engaging with peace and justice issues in the world at large. I have personally benefited so much from my relation and friendship with the Cypsers. I feel indebted to Rudy and Betty for getting me involved with CURE.
They are a beacon for us all.
Hans Hallundbaek (CURE-NY Auxiliary Board-Mentors & Advisors)
The State of Packages in NYS
Cheryl L. Kates Benman Esq.
One of the only things a NYS prisoner looks forward to on visit day is getting a package from their family. What could an inmate receive in a package? The most important healthy items are fresh fruit and vegetables. They can re-ceive limited personal care items and books. Limited by col-ors, clothing and footwear (under 50.00) in value are also receivables. Home-baked goods aren’t allowed, but receiv-ing a package it was still something like the comfort of home. To feel loved and appreciated goes a long way when you are behind bars. Cooking a meal with other inmates is sometimes the closest thing to home some of the incarcer-ated get. Receiving these packages were the only way, someone incarcerated could eat well-balanced meals, avoid the drama of the mess hall and enjoy something while doing time behind bars. Recently, this luxury came under fire when prison officials decided to go through approved vendors, based on the idea stopping personalized packages might decrease the contra-band problem in NYS.
In March of 2017, a memo indicated a pilot program began at 3 prisons where the visitors were now refrained from bringing their loved one’s packages. In December 2017, it was determined the pi-lot prisons would be Taconic, Green and Green Haven. Many prison advocacy groups including CURE NY stepped up to provide a voice for the otherwise voiceless in NYS prisons. One of the advo-cates’ concerns were the extreme prices of goods offered from the 5 to 6 approved vendors. There was a limited offering of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some people’s families don’t have access to a bank account or credit card. This was also seen as a way of alienating prisoners and worsening al-ready known inhumane practices in NYS prisons. Something needed to be done.
Criminal reform advocacy and interest groups began contacting legislators voicing their con-cerns. In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed DOCCS officials to halt this program. This is only a temporary solution as it is only stopped until concerns are addressed. What people need to under-stand, on the face of things rules imposed in prison are often implemented based on what looks like a security or budgetary concern but in the long-term analysis, these policies adversely affect the inmate population. To truly rehabilitate an individual takes many things. Among them is acclimating coping mechanisms and adjusting thinking which resulted in their incarceration in the first place. Implement-ing rules which diminish or take away connections with family or support systems is not the way to go.
While contraband being introduced into prisons is a huge safety and security issue in correc-tions, it is fair to say it is unlikely the package room is the way most of the drugs get into prisons. It is too risky. Corrections has the data, why not investigate the issue? How many inmates were disci-plined for package room contraband as opposed to unknown sources of contraband? This issue can clearly provide the answers. As a criminal justice advocate and one who is familiar with correctional issues I want to say maybe corrections should investigate or implement stricter policies screening their own employees for contraband.
Another thought that comes to mind, which I discussed with my brother who was recently re-leased after serving 30
stroy people’s packages? There is a consistent problem where guards destroy things purposely. Inmates file grievances and lawsuits. This policy implementation could be in violation of the first amendment right to address the right to file a grievance. Look deeper.
For those who have the mind-set once people become criminals, they should just rot and receive no amenities. You are missing the point. The majority of people in prison, come home. To increase the risk to the community by decreasing programs in prisons no one wins. A person in prison can become an asset to the community if we just give them a chance!
Cheryl L. Kates-Benman Esq. is a defense attorney who handles parole and correctional matters only. She can be reached at PO Box 734 Fairport, NY 14450.
FAMILIES WITH LOVED ONES INCARCERATED SUPPORT GROUP
I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about my support group which I have facilitated for the last 5 years and have been involved with for at least 15 years. It is called “Families With Loved Ones Incarcerated”. We meet twice a month….every 2nd and 4th Monday at 253 Mansion Street in Pough-keepsie, New York. It really is for family members. We do discuss prison issues but our main goal is for support. When a loved one is incarcerated, it totally impacts the entire family. We talk about how we are also judged by the outside world and how to deal with it. For first timers, we “veterans” help them get through the emotional impact…help them to get through process rules in the facilities etc. I always try to impress at our meetings that we need to keep a balance in our lives…..not to lose contact with family members and friends. We have developed great friendships over the years. If anyone who lives in Dutchess or Ulster County and has a loved one incarcerated, we welcome you to come to our meetings. I think it will make your journey a little less hard to deal with. For more information, please contact:
Flo Martinez, Secretary/Treasurer CURE-NY
Cheryl L. Kates Benman
I would like to share the story of my brother finally coming home. I must admit, working in the system for the last 15 years, clearly outlined for my family there was a chance brother was never coming home. Although I have freed hundreds, when life is on the end of a sentence, one never knows. To live in a so-ciety, a sub-culture where you are stripped of every human dignity even your name, without the hope of one day crossing back over to the real world is a very dismal reality. A dismal reality that scares even the strongest of people. Is he going to die in here?
Brother, when growing up didn’t have a chance. He grew up in a world where he was basically alone. Like many others, when you live in single-parent household, and your parent is struggling to make ends meet there isn’t much time left for you. Many succumb to spending their free minutes with a bottle in-stead of their child. The bottle can change even the sweetest one into a monster, an unrecognizable be-ing who spits fire slicing the heart of a child with their bitter words. So, you seek love elsewhere. Luckily, he was able to fill this void with my family. We were far from perfect. But we were there. Gram treated brother like he was one of her own and that is how it all started
The teen years were not very good for us. We jour-neyed down a path of no return. Trouble, it often calls you. Once you go too deep, it’s over. There’s no coming back. That’s what happened and now we’re living “you have a collect call from…”. At 17-years-old, I never thought I’d be travelling to Elmira on a bus to see brother and he would be locked in prison serving life. But that’s what happened. Fast forward 30 years. This was a life-time. He missed graduations, weddings, di-vorces, and a baby being born. He did his crime, so he had to do his time.
I can’t describe the feeling to see the one who left a young man, getting off a bus with gray hair, some wrinkles on his face covering up 30 years of living in hell. He was still in one piece. He learned quickly what it, meant to survive. Man up. Mind your business. And now he was home. To hug him on the other side of the wall, was something words just can’t describe.
After enduring 30 years behind bars in some of NY’s worst prisons, you would think one could go through anything. Being home presented its own challenges. Yes, you were free, I guess, sort of. We started off being told my address wasn’t suitable. Go figure. I live where the doctors and lawyers live. Why is my address unsuitable? A puppy and a security system. Wow. So, we start our first day of freedom in a half-way house. Surrounded by other struggling felons trying to all get back on their feet. To think, why on earth would this be more suitable then my castle? 30 years of prison and now the first night of freedom will be spent with absolute strangers.
Once the anger wore off, we quickly adapted and then settled in. It was hard to watch brother take it all in, the changes, the adaptation of society when thirty years passed him by. The first meal at Dinosaur Barbeque, to have this many choices for what to have for lunch. Just something this simple was overwhelming. This was the first time in forever, my brother was able to eat with a real knife to cut his food instead of a plastic flimsy one. Lunch was awkward. Periods of silence where it was troubling but even I didn’t know what to do. The first visit to parole. That was the worst. Family can’t come inside so this meant hours for me just sitting in the car. What could possibly be taking this long? Once brother emerged, he had a new piece of hardware. An ankle bracelet.
Now the anger really ripped in. An ankle bracelet was placed because someone called parole and said they were scared brother came home. Someone insignificant. Someone he has had no contact with for years. To think someone’s freedom could be tracked like a dog for no other reason
then someone called and said they were scared is simply disgusting. You are the last thing from his mind. To think instead of living your life you must infringe upon his. Why? How can this government agency get away with this? He did nothing.
First thing, after eating and checking in with big brother is a trip to the local Walmart. Brother wore his state greens home. He said they were more comfortable. I would think after being forced to wear greens for thirty years, green would be your worst hated color. Again, instead of being a comfort, Walmart was not a nice place but a bit overwhelming for brother. We needed t-shirts and underwear, He took one look and said “let’s hurry up and get out of here”.
When you first come home, I learned first-hand, it isn’t all bells and whistles because you are finally free. You must re-establish yourself in a world which is no longer familiar to you. Nothing remained the same. People have come and gone. What used to be there is no longer. Then add the world of technolo-gy. What phone to get? What is this beautiful thing called Facebook? What the heck is a fire stick? Why can’t I fill out a paper application? How do I access all the things without a tablet or a computer? What is a debit card? PayPal? These are all things we do on a regular. Think about it. This is all foreign to someone who has been in a prison for 30 years.
ID. All you have is a prison issued id. Now we need to think about a social security card, non-driver’s license, or license? How do you go from 88C-0688 back to I am a real person again? Your credit doesn’t exist. Basically, in thirty years you were obsolete. It’s like you didn’t exist out here. Your starting off from scratch. Its joy and pain. It takes a minute to adjust. Be patient with your loved ones they adjust but it is hard. Prison is not normal. It is far from normal. To return from the belly of the beast, and jump start your life back in society, it’s not an easy thing. They get there. It takes a minute. But they do.
This was just a glimpse of what someone goes through on their first day coming home. It’s a long process to re-acclimate. Re-entry is hard. My office prides in making these moments happen I am a parole defense attorney. This is what I’ve done since I graduated law school in 2002. This is what I will keep do-ing. There is no better gift you can give a person other than their freedom.
8TH INTERNATIONAL CURE CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS & PRISON REFORM, KIGALI, RWANDA
Good News for Peace and Development and CURE International call on all Human Rights activists, experts, prison administrators and reformers, academia, CSOs, NGOs, and delegates from international organizations from around the world to save the date from the 21st to the 25th of May, 2018 where we will advance thinking in the arena of human rights and prison reform.
Stay tuned for more information about this conference will be included in our next newsletter.
TABLETS FOR ALL
The JP5, is now on its way to the New York State population. Here is what we know so far:
JPay makes a tablet known as the JP5, which is specialized for prisons. The tablets will be on a secured network with access only to pre-approved apps and features and not a typical internet browser, according to the company. The tablets will connect to the email program through kiosks with secured lines in the prisons. The company pledged to install the needed infrastructure and perform maintenance on its own dime. The state is not set to make any money off the tablets, according to DOCCS. The tablets will, however, provide a potential revenue stream to JPay. Each will come pre-loaded with certain pre-approved books and educational materials. But incarcerated persons will be able to purchase certain add-ons, such as music, through JPay. The company didn’t say how much those extras would cost. In addition, they will also have to pay to send emails on the tablets, according to JPay. The company will keep the money; the state won’t be taking a commission.
“Similar to purchasing a song on iTunes or an online game, incarcerated individuals will have the same opportunity to purchase entertainment and media products and download them onto the JP5 device,” JPay said in a statement. “There are fees associated with those purchases, as well as sending emails.”
The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision entered into a deal with JPay that will provide all New York state incarcerated individuals with a tablet. JPay is a company that provides technology and services that help those who are incarcerated stay connected with people outside prison, according to the company’s website. Anthony J. Annucci, the department’s acting commissioner, called the development a “groundbreaking move.” Annucci said the tablets would provide inmates with “the ability to access free educational material.” Prisoner’s will also able to file grievances with the prison directly from the tablets. The tablets are free as part of a deal between the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and JPay. The department didn’t say when the tablet program would go into effect.
Other states have recently implemented similar programs. Both Georgia and Colorado have started programs that provide inmates with tablets. Georgia is also working with JPay. In a statement announcing the “alternative learning tablets” in Georgia, officials said the tablets will allow inmates to “maintain and enhance family communications; and assist with their re-entry into society.” Connecticut recently announced plans to implement a similar program in its prisons.
What we’ve found regarding these tablets capabilities are the educational materials were developed in conjunction with the Correctional Education Association (CEA) and works with content partners such as Ashland University, JPay’s Lantern is a cross-functional program that makes education accessible to incarcerated individuals through a Learning Management System, JPay tablets and inmate kiosks.
According to their website tens of thousands of incarcerated students have earned college credits, studied for their GEDs, and participated in other educational activities through JPay’s Lantern, and new state correctional systems adopt the program every semester.
KA Lite offers thousands of education videos that are created specifically for self-guided learning.. The program provides a variety of subjects, including math, science, computers, language arts and more. The videos are simply downloaded to the JP5 tablet from the JPay Inmate Kiosks. The eBooks from JPay’s library houses thousands of titles in a variety of genres.
JPay’s correctional email service is faster than regular mail, with incarcerated persons usually receiving emails within 48 hours. Each email requires a “stamp,” often available at more affordable rates than traditional postage, and can be purchased online and at JPay kiosks in the correctional facility.
What exactly will be the capabilities for NYS DOCCS is yet to be seen. While this is seen as a major step forward to introduce technology into our system here in NYS, we must remain vigilant that it is not used as a “gift” to take other services away, such as re-instating 4911a or to replace in person visits. We’re encouraged, yet cautious. Other states have been using the tablets for quite some time and I’ve found no negative feedback regarding their use. As with everything else, this service will be paid for by the incarcerated persons and their families. Let us hope this is happening for all the right reasons, to truly transform the lives of our prison population, prepare them for re entry and take our correctional system into the 21st Century or closer anyway.
UNITED NATIONS SIDE EVENT
On the occasion of the 56th Session on So-cial Development, the Prison Partnership Program was invited to host its second Side Event at the United Nations on Thursday, February 1, 2018 from 3:00-4:30 pm.
The event was co-hosted by:
The Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations
The World Council of Churches, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Presbyterian Church USA
The International Prison Chaplains Associa-tion (IPCA), which has about two-thousand members serving as Prison Chaplains in more than fifty countries.
Citizens United for the Return of Errants (CURE), which has thirty-nine chapters in the US and representatives in close to thirty countries. CURE engages in legislative prison reform efforts in the US.
Speakers included were:
Bikkhu Bodhi, President, Buddhist Association of the United States
Chris Burdick, Supervisor, Town of Bedford
Darren Ferguson, Minister and National Director of Public Relations, Healing Communities
Hans Hallundbaeck, Advisory Board, CURE-NY
Brian Fischer, Retired Commissioner, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervi-sion
Ann Jacobs, Director, Prison Reentry Institute of John Jay College
Teresa Kellendonk, Vice President, International Prison Chaplains Association (Canada)
Bruce Knotts, Director, United Nations Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Doug Leonard, UN Representative for the World Council of Churches
Jean-Didier Mboyo, Vice-President, International Prison Chaplains Association (Congo)
Julio Medina, Executive Director, Exodus Transitional Community
JoAnne Page, President and CEO, The Fortune Society
Ib Peterson, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations
Karen Shiel, Rehabilitation Through the Arts
Charles Sullivan, President, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants
10th Anniversary of the Prisoner Family Conference to be held in Dallas, Texas, October 10th – 12th 2018
There are two creative arts competitions, Creative Writing and Fine Art and Crafts, please pass the fol-lowing information to your family members if you’d like to submit something for the conference. The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2018.
To encourage family & friend involvement, those having creative, talented loved ones in prison are asked to e-mail for entry guidelines to share with incarcerated writers, artists and crafts-persons.
Send them the guidelines, and encourage their participation!
Note: All requests to mail guidelines must include a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE)
Remember May 2018 is National Prisoner Family Month, “Closing the Empathy Gap”
It is this very lack of empathy that has remained a roadblock to criminal justice reform! After all, if society has no empathy for prisoners or their loved ones, why would society care about reform-ing a system they believe only affects those who are incarcerated?
In the words of Maya Angelou:
“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for my-self and others like me”