John MacKenzie, whose repeated parole denials focused attention on the extreme cruelty of the New York State Parole Board, died in an apparent suicide in Fishkill Correctional Facility W ednesday following his tenth parole denial after more than 40 years in prison.



MacKenzie was the person parole was invented for. Filled with remorse for the life he had taken, he started a victim impact program to encourage others in prison to find their place of remorse. His disciplinary record in prison was outstanding, and he had strong support on the outside to ensure that he would succeed in re-entering society. But the Parole Board, as it has done in tens of thousands of other cases, saw only the one thing John MacKenzie could never change, his crime.

Judge Maria Rosa of Dutchess County Supreme Court said about John MacKenzie, “This case begs the question, if parole isn’t granted to this petitioner, when and under what circumstances would it be granted?” She found the Parole Board in contempt for violating the court’s order to hold a new hearing for Mr. MacKenzie that correctly considered all the factors as required by law. The Parole Board then held another hearing in front of some of the same biased commissioners who had previously defied the court order. This hearing resulted in a denial. The Parole Board’s appeal of Judge Rosa’s decision was being deliberated on the day that Mr. MacKenzie apparently took his life.

In words that could have been a suicide note, John MacKenzie sent a poem he called “Death’s Trilogy” to a friend several years ago. In it were the lines,

“After forty years of torture,
Eventually hopelessness prevails.
Now time’s toll awaits its debt to the reaper.”

John MacKenzie’s death is on the hands of the Parole Board and the administrative, legislative, and judicial functionaries that allow, encourage, and condone the Board’s system of unaccountable, revenge-based torture known as parole decisions.


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Vivian Nixon heads to the White House for first ever United #StateOfWomen

Vivian Nixon heads to the White House to speak at the first ever United State Of Women Summit Tomorrow, Tuesday June 14th!

We are so excited to share that CCF’s Executive Director and EIO’s Co-Founder Vivian Nixon will speak at the first ever United State Of Women Summit at the White House, Co-hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah!

The White House Council on Women and Girls is convening the summit, a large-scale effort to rally together advocates of gender equality to highlight what we’ve achieved, identify the challenges that remain, and chart the course for addressing them.

Vivian will join hundreds of experts, advocates, and grassroots and business leaders who work in both domestic and international arenas—all coming together to highlight key issues affecting women and girls!

Vivian Nixon will be speaking on a panel entitled, “Second Chances for Success: Women, girls, and the justice system,” from 2:50pm-3:50pm Tuesday, June 14th.

The panel itself will be moderated by Broadcast Journalist Soledad O’Brien, and includes:

Piper Kerman, Author of Orange Is The New Black

Judge Catherine Pratt, Los Angeles Superior Court STAR Court

Brenda Smith, Professor, American University, Washington College of Law

Andrea James, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls

Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship and Co-Founder of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition

Sue Ellen Allen, Author, Speaker, Activist and Formerly Incarcerated Woman, Global REINVENTION

More information on the summit is available at

Our mailing address is:

College and Community Fellowship

475 Riverside Drive

Suite 1626
New York, New York 10115
Add us to your address book

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NYS Judge Finds Parole Board in Contempt for Ignoring Order

Joel Stashenko, New York Law Journal
June 1, 2016

A judge has held the state Board of Parole in contempt for ignoring a directive to give greater weight to factors other than those underlying the 1975 murder of a police officer when deciding whether to release the man who killed him

It was the second time in a year that the parole board was found in contempt of a court order related to the reasons it denied an inmate’s parole

State Supreme Court Justice Maria Rosa said prisoner John MacKenzie made a prima facie showing of contempt. She said the parole board held a new hearing for MacKenzie in October 2015, per her direction, but used the same flawed determination to deny him release two months later without considering all the factors demanded under state Executive Law §259-c.

Rosa, ruling from Poughkeepsie in Matter of MacKenzie v. Stanford, 2789/15, ordered a newly composed parole board to decide his case anew. She said she would fine the state $500 a day starting June 7 for each day that MacKenzie does not get a hearing that comports with state law

“It is undisputed that it is unlawful for the parole board to deny parole solely on the basis of the underlying conviction,” the judge wrote. “Yet the court can reach no other conclusion but that this is exactly what the parole board did in this case. No other basis has been stated by the parole board for the denial of parole in either of its determinations in December 2014 or December of 2015.

She said the state was given the opportunity to shed more light on the December 2015 decision and why it was not markedly different than the one in December 2014 as she considered the contempt charge, but that it failed to do so.

“At the [May 20] hearing on the contempt application, the respondent offered no proof whatsoever,” she wrote. “Remarkably, no one testified on behalf of the respondent. No new documents were offered into evidence on behalf of the respondent.

The December 2014 ruling said MacKenzie’s release would not be “compatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the seriousness of his crimes of conviction as to undermine respect for the law.” The December 2015 decision, while making new references to MacKenzie’s rehabilitative efforts while imprisoned, similarly concluded that, “Your release would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the offense as to undermine respect for the law,” Rosa wrote.

MacKenzie, who is now 69, has served 40 years of a 25-year-to-life sentence for the Dec. 16, 1975, death of Officer Matthew Giglio, who was shot as he chased MacKenzie following the burglary of a West Hempstead boutique

A jury convicted him of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, grand larceny, burglary and criminal possession of a weapon. After his initial conviction was thrown out on appeal, he was tried and convicted a second time

MacKenzie said he was high on several kinds of pills at the time of the killing, including Valium, Darvon and Melhoral, and has no memory of the shooting. But he acknowledged responsibility for Giglio’s death, saying “It’s my fault, 100 percent my fault” and other similar statements during his 2015 hearing.

Despite evidence of post-conviction good behavior and contrition, Rosa said the parole board failed to base its December 2015 determination on anything other than the fact he was imprisoned for slaying a police officer

“It is undisputed that this petitioner has a perfect institutional record for the past 35 years,” the judge wrote. “This case begs the question, if parole isn’t granted to this petitioner, when and under what circumstances would it be granted?

MacKenzie’s requests for freedom have been turned down eight times since 2000.

In her ruling, Rosa said MacKenzie’s post-conviction accomplishments have been noteworthy and are not being given sufficient weight by parole boards focusing on the underlying nature of the crime. In addition to maintaining an “unblemished” disciplinary record, Rosa noted that MacKenzie has received two associate’s degrees and a bachelor’s degree since his incarceration.

In addition, Rosa said MacKenzie established a victims impact program while at Green Haven Correctional Facility, named after Giglio to teach prisoners the effects of crime and incarceration on victims and offenders.

Giglio had a wife and three children. His survivors have opposed his release each time he was eligible, and the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association has sponsored letter-writing campaigns to the parole board and public demonstrations opposing his release.

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which contains the state Board of Parole, declined to comment on the ruling.

Assistant Attorney General J. Gardner Ryan defended the board.

Albany attorney Kathy Manley, who is representing MacKenzie, said she patterned her challenge to the parole denial on a case brought in Orange County Supreme Court on behalf inmate Michael Cassidy. In that matter, the parole board also was found in contempt for issuing a ruling that contained the “usual and predictable” language to which the court had objected when it ordered a new parole hearing (NYLJ, June 1, 2015).

Arguments in that case, Matter of Cassidy v. New York State Board of Parole, 2015-06927, were heard by an Appellate Division, Second Department, panel on May 10.

Manley said the outcome of Cassidy may affect MacKenzie’s bid for freedom, since Dutchess County is also in the Second Department.

MacKenzie has spent his four decades in prison as productively and peaceably as an inmate can, while repeatedly showing his contrition for his crime, Manley said.

“He has changed into a totally different person and there is no reason he should not be released,” she said.

Related Decisions:
•John Mackenzie, Petitioner v. Tina M. Stanford, Chair of the New York State Parole Board, Respondent, 2789/15

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CURE-NY 2016 Winter/Spring Newsletter

CURE-NY Winter/SPRING 2016 Newsletter

Dear CURE-NY Friends,
A basic membership is $ 10.00. Please renew your membership as memberships expired on December 31,
2015, unless you sent dues after July.

We changed to a new system where the membership begins January 1st and expires December 31 so it is easier to keep track of everyone.

If you are incarcerated you have the option of sending a reduced membership of $ 2.00-10.00. Please send
what you can. The dues can be mailed to CURE NY PO Box 1542 Fairport, NY 14450.

If you are on the outside please send your current email address to:

This will be the last newsletter you will receive if you are not a member of CURE-NY.
Cheryl L. Kates-Benman Esq. & Deb Bozydaj Co-Presidents CURE-NY

Support changes in parole law to examine culpability for actual innocence and felony murder convictions;
Support the initiative to appoint ex-incarcerated people to serve on the NYS Parole Board;
Support efforts to educate public about domestic violence and intimate partner violence;
Support the use of the domestic violence exception for work release, for women who were convicted of
killing their abusive spouse;
Support the increased use of technology within NYS prisons;
Support the reform of current solitary confinement, care of disabled inmates and mental health care in
NYS prisons;
Support efforts to reform the parole law regarding secret practices of confidential information, increase
accountability of the DOCCS regarding re-entry initiatives and use of evidence-based procedure.

Angela Jackson is the Co-Secretary of CURE New York, where she works closely with the Co-
Presidents to bring light to the many injustices in the correctional system. She holds Masters
Degrees in both Public Administration and Business Administration. She is the President of TFL
Services & Pen Pals, an administrative company dedicated to assist incarcerated individuals with
tasks they are often unable to accomplish in their current circumstances, as well as assist in
finding pen pal relationships with others to enhance their rehabilitation. TFL offers to its clients a
bi-monthly newsletter, highlighting their stories, providing them writing and communication
tips, and success stories of others who have walked in their shoes. Angela met her own husband
through a pen pal service, and knows first-hand the direct link to improved mental state brought
about by maintaining external familial relationships while incarcerated. Her 2016 initiatives with
CURE New York are highlighted by a desire to improve rehabilitation services provided to the
incarcerated population of New York, to better prepare men and women who have been in prison
for extensive lengths of time for not only meeting a parole board, but to be ready to exist in a
society that has evolved without them. Angela can be contacted regarding her organization or her
rehabilitation platform through TFL at PO Box O-171, Glenham, NY 12527.

Cheryl L. Kates- Benman Esq. and Chris NG Esq.

It’s been a big season for CURE NY as Cheryl L. Kates- Benman and Chris NG, in their private
practices lead the way in parole reform through litigation. Chris NG won Bruetsch v. NYS
DOCCS in Sullivan County. This case examines the way the Parole Board renders conclusory
decisions focusing on solely the nature of the crime. He also walked his first lifer out of prison.
Way to go Chris.

Kates, a long-time advocate of the new evidence-based procedures argued since 2011, the risk
assessment criteria was not applied correctly and the TAP plans were not initiated and used by
corrections as the legislature intended with the enactment of Corrections Law 71 (a).
In the fall, Kates triumphed first with Khan v DOCCS, Kossoy v. DOCCS and Senke v. DOCCS
wherein the Appeals Unit finally ruled the TAP plan (Offender Case Plan) was needed in the
parole file for individuals who entered DOCCS after 2011. This was a limited ruling which was
not providing any remedy for those incarcerated before 2011. Weeks later, the Appeals Unit
provided additional relief in Sistrunk v, DOCCS, where the Appeals Unit ruled after codifying in
the law in July 2014 the new written procedures, a TAP plan was necessary for all people who
appeared at the parole board after this date. Kates re-submitted a massive number of cases for
reconsideration after this ruling which most resulted in a reversal. This remedy is wide-spread. It
involves a year and a half of erroneously decided parole appeals holding DOCCS did not have to review a
TAP plan for anyone incarcerated prior to 2011.

Cheryl L. Kates- Benman Esq.

CURE NY Advisory Council member Michelle Lennon falls under the work-release exception. The
subject and purpose of this exception is to permit certain violent felons to participate in the
Department of Correctional Services'(DOCCS) temporary release program when the inmate was
subjected to substantial physical, sexual, or psychological abuse by their victim, and it is proven that
such abuse was a causal factor in the inmate’s offense as indicated in the legislative history.
Under current law, inmates serving sentences for homicides and certain assaults are not
eligible to participate in a temporary release program. Effective in 2002, Section 851 of Correction
Law authorizes the Commissioner of DOCS to permit inmates serving sentences for homicide or
assault offenses, who are eligible for parole or will become eligible for release on parole or
conditional release within two years, to participate in a temporary release program.

The criteria indicates:
• the victim of such homicide or assault was a member of the inmate’s immediate family,
or had a child in common with the inmate;
• the victim subjected the inmate to substantial physical, sexual, or psychological abuse;
and such abuse was a substantial factor in leading the inmate to commit the crime.
CURE NY’s co-president Cheryl L. Kates- Benman (in her private practice) challenged DOCCS
denial of allowing Lennon to apply for work-release. In March 2015, despite becoming eligible in
2012, Lennon was finally permitted the opportunity to apply for work release just to be denied
regarding the nature of the crime. DOCCS refused to allow Ms. Lennon any additional relief, despite
denying her the right to apply for a period in excess of three years.
Lennon, was instrumental in assisting CURE NY identify major issues presenting at Taconic CF for
women who are incarcerated. Among the issues identified were mental cruelty, lack of programs,
lack of DOCCS to satisfy offering programs so the women could qualify for merit release (Taconic
failed to have an instructor for General Business). Lennon now suffers as the target of correctional
officers who are writing her retaliatory disciplinary tickets.
Lennon was a victim of severe domestic violence. She tried to escape her abuser on numerous
occasions however he always found her and made her return. Lennon is currently serving a life
sentence for her role in her abuser’s murder. Lennon appeared before the Parole Board in February
2016.Parole was denied. Efforts are continuing to attempt to gain work release and or parole on her

CURE NY will continue efforts to expose and advocate for women who are eligible for work release
under the exception in 2016. A conference is currently being planned in Rochester NY in the fall
along with Rochester Woman Magazine. Women who are victims of domestic violence deserve a
chance to start over. This is especially true when they have served their minimum prison sentence
and are eligible for release.
***Call to action: If you would like to support the release of victims of domestic violence on parole
and or through work release please share your views with Cure NY. Submissions may be sent to:
CURE NY – PO Box 1542 , Fairport, NY 14450

Cheryl L. Kates- Benman Esq.

In memory of Benjamin Van Zandt, who committed suicide while in solitary confinement at
Fishkill, NY in October 2014, Co-President Cheryl L. Kates- Benman supported the efforts of a
young lady who also suffered from bouts of mental illness. A.G. by the age of 14, made several
attempts to commit suicide. CURE NY appeared and recognized her for her efforts in the
“Suicide Walk” for the Federation of Suicide Prevention. Kates hung a memory butterfly on the
tree of hope in honor of her former client Ben. What was most memorable of this event is the
impact suicide had on the family members left behind.
Kates spoke with various people participating in the event. The stories were not to be forgotten.
While walking through the vendors one of the objects on display was a quilt. The quilt contained
pictures of people from all walks of life who chose to end their life through suicide. The one
question which lingered after participating was why?

Along with Mrs. Monroe County America, Rosina Miller, Kates and CURE NY join her in her
efforts to spread the word about the challenges of mental illness. Join the pair at the NAMI walk
May 7, 2016 in Rochester, NY.
Cheryl and Rosina (below) Cheryl and Michelle Lennon ( below)

Congratulations to Scot Ebanks, on his recent release. CURE NY worked on his campaign
for freedom and he was part of the events CURE NY sponsored last year. Efforts in gaining his
release included the release of a documentary film. Seen above, film producer Tawanda from
CNN, Cheryl, and Scott were filmed for Scot’s first 24 hours after release as part of an
upcoming series on CNN focusing on re-entry.

Why Should We Raise the Age in NYS?
By Board member Alicia Barraza

Unless you have had a teenager involved in the criminal system, most individuals are not aware
that NYS is only one of two states in the country that automatically charges 16 and 17-year-olds
as adults. This has been the case since the 1960s. Imagine your teenager being interrogated by
police without your presence or an attorney.
The police can make all kinds of promises and outright lie to get them to sign a confession.
Under these circumstances, teenagers have been known to give false confessions. It’s like
taking candy from a child, except they are taking much more than that. They are taking their
futures and hurting their families.
Today we have more fact-based evidence than ever before that the practice of treating
adolescents as adults in the criminal system is counter- productive and damaging. We know
that a teenager’s brain is still developing and that they function differently than a 30-year- old.
So punishing a teenager with adult prison time is not a deterrent when it is in their nature to act
impulsively and not think of the consequences. Taking some risks and making mistakes is what
allows them to experience, learn and mature.
In addition, recent studies have shown that adolescents processed in New York adult courts
were more likely to reoffend, compared to adolescents in states where they are processed in
juvenile court. Yet, for lack of public interest, apathy, opposition, or other reasons, the New York
State legislature has been unwilling to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18. Now is the


April 17, 2016 – Cheryl L. Kates- Benman and Stakk Citi Mayehem will be guests on the Voices
Beyond the Wall radio show with Ernest Henry. This can be streamed live via the internet at 91.3
FM through Vassar College. Special Guests include the kids from Hip Hop Ed.
June 12, 2016 – Voices Beyond the Wall Radio. Topic TBA

March 30, 2016 – Audrey Thomas Esq. hosts the weekly program on Wednesday evenings from
11:00 pm- 12:00 am. Cheryl L. Kates-Benman and Stakk Citi Mayehem will appear discussing
the current projects etc. WVIP 93.5 FM. Listen online at at

March 30, 2016
Co-President Cheryl L. Kates- Benman will be on hand at the Nancy Coons Art Show in NYC
from (5 pm -11 pm) at Rustico Restaurant 135 First Avenue NYC.
April 20, 2016

Co-President Cheryl L. Kates- Benman Esq. will don the runway at the Rochester Woman
Magazine event alongside her sponsored candidate for Mrs. NY America, Rosina Miller ( the
current Mrs. Monroe County America) (5 pm-9 pm), at the Rochester Plaza, 70 State Street
Rochester, NY.
Film Productor Taunja Issac unexpectedly passed away in
January 2016. Cure NY Salutes her. Seen here with Cheryl and
film producer Deidre Sinnot

Co-Prez. Cheryl L. Kates- Benman with the CEO’s
of Dirt Road Records North & Sohuth
Voices Beyond the Wall Radio
May 7, 2016

Join Co-President Cheryl L Kates- Benman Esq. and Mrs. Monroe County America, Rosina
Miller as they join the efforts to raise awareness regarding mental health. NAMI is having a walk
and fundraiser. The pair are assembling a team of walkers. Please contact Cheryl or Rosina on
Facebook if you are interested in walking or donating to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’
fundraiser. See Meet at 274 N. Goodman Street, Rochester, NY (Village
Gate) at 8:30 am.
August 20, 2016
TEHRS.COM ANNUAL AWARDS SHOW– Join us August 20, 2016, (4 PM-10 PM) at the
York College Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. Queens, NY
when Audrey Thomas Esq. will present our Co-President Cheryl L. Kates- Benman Esq. with the
2016 Humanitarian Award for her work last year with clients Mark Gizewski and Pascual
Carpenter. After starting a campaign for their release including the making of 2 documentary
films (Deirdre Sinnot, producer) both clients were released from prison on parole.

The CURE NY newsletter will be now sent in digital format. This is a complimentary copy. The April newsletter will
be available to members only. Please become a member today
City____________________ State____________
Zip code _____________
Email address _____________________________
Memberships run from January 1, 2016 –December 31, 2016. Please mail your membership fee to
PO Box 1542
Fairport, NY. 14450
Individual membership 10.00
Family 20.00
Lifetime 250.00
Incarcerated person 2.00– 10.00 sliding scale based on ability to pay
The New York Chapter of National CURE
Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants
PO Box 1542
Fairport, NY 14450
Return Service Requested
Non Profit
US Postage
Rochester, NY
Permit No.

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Update on Robert Seth Hayes

Greetings Everyone

Thank you to everyone who called, wrote and faxed for Seth!

Seth was taken to an outside hospital (Albany Medical Center) on Sunday morning unbeknownst to us and we have received confirmation that he is alive and undergoing tests.

Though we have not heard directly from Seth, we are are going to call off the call in campaign for now until we find out the results of these actions. We are hopeful but not naïve. We are so thankful for people’s vigilance and we will keep you abreast of the situation as it unfolds.

Seth’s lawyer is working assiduously, making phone calls to both Sullivan and Albany Medical Center to see if his wife Sheila can visit him or at least speak to him or to a nurse over the phone about his condition.

We know ultimately Seth needs to come home to get healthy. Prison life is not meant for health. He goes to the parole board in June 2016 for the 9th time, not including other parole appeal denials in between the two year hits.

Being outside prison, Seth could receive true medical, family, nutrition and other related aspects of life that can contribute to the immense healing process that is needed.

Thank you again. As soon as we have more information, we will let people know immediately.

It would be heartening for Seth to receive get well wishes at this time. Although he is not currently at Sullivan, you can write to him there and let him know he is in our hearts and on our minds.

Robert Seth Hayes #74-A-2280
Sullivan Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 116, Fallsburg, NY 12733-0116

To contribute to ongoing efforts supporting Robert Seth Hayes, please donate online at:

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CURE NY Interview with Gunna of Feloni Rekords (An independent record label started in 2008, in Rochester, NY).

Feloni Rekords prides itself in:
• Assisting people upon re-entering society ;
• Giving people a second chance;
• Recognizing the stigma associated with a felony conviction.

Q: What is the concept behind the name?

After serving a prison sentence, the majority of society stigmatizes people returning to their communities. The criminal justice system across the United States disproportionately affects people of color. Mass incarceration is destroying minority communities. We strive at Feloni Rekords to assist our returning brothers and sisters and recognize their worth and talent.

Q: Why is helping people who were incarcerated important to you?

After I watched so many of my family and friends come home from prison struggle to put food on their tables, I decided to start Feloni Rekords. The concept included the idea people who served time have a story to tell. So many people languish behind bars for sometimes decades and those very people go unrecognized and their talent is never discovered.

Q: Who is Gunna?

I grew up in the Bronx, At 13 years-old, when I was at a house party someone who didn’t want to get searched shot up the party. I got shot in my stomach and almost died. I dropped out of school when I was in the tenth grade and had my first kid at 18. I lived the lifestyle. I spent some time in the system at Rikers Island. In 2006, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere with what I was doing so I turned my life around. I started working and going to school where I got my GED. I started my label. I like helping people. It makes me feel great that I can help make a difference in people’s lives and in my community.

Q: How does someone start the process of being down with Feloni Rekords?

We’re in the process of getting a line that will accept collect calls and establishing a mailing address.

** In the meantime, CURE NY can forward any mail to Gunna.

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