I am writing to you to request your urgent help. I am asking you, and anyone you know, to write to Gov. Cuomo and our State leaders in support of PLS and urge them to include PLS in the Executive Budget.
As you may know, for over 17 years, until 1995, PLS was funded, as it should be, through the Executive Budget. Executive Budget funding for PLS is appropriate because we are a statewide legal services organization that is a crucial part of our criminal justice system. Created in the wake of Attica, Gov.’s Carey and Mario Cuomo understood that executive funding of PLS was vital and necessary to ensure prison and public safety. But in 1995, then- Gov. Pataki removed PLS from the Executive Budget. Since that time PLS has been funded by the NYS Legislature through member item funding.
Tragically, unlike past years, for the state fiscal year beginning April 1, 2010, there was no member item funding from the State Legislature for programs of any kind and thus, PLS has lost its funding. Because of this lack of funding, we have stopped taking any new cases except for emergencies and we will soon be forced to substantially reduce our staff. When that happens, we will also be forced to find outside counsel for the cases we presently have in litigation or, as a last resort, make motions to withdraw as counsel.
We are presently urging Governor Cuomo to include PLS in his Executive Budget which must be presented by February 1, 2011. I am asking you to do the same on our behalf. Please help us. Please share this e-mail with anyone you know who you think would be willing to write on behalf of PLS.
The need is urgent, the time is now.
Yours in the struggle,
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO TO HELP PLS
1. Contact the Governor and urge him to join with the Assembly and Senate in funding Prisoners’ Legal Services. You can contact the Governor by phone, e-mail or letter:
• Call Governor Cuomo at 1-518-474-8390 or 1-518-474-7516 (Albany) or E-mail
• Write to the Governor by addressing the letter to:
The following is a suggested message: “Please tell the Governor that funding for PLS is vital to public safety and public health and is a sound economic investment. In these tough economic times it is critical that the Governor show leadership on the issues that are important to the safety and economic stability of this State. The 2009-2010 budget must include adequate funding for Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York and for other legal aid programs that provide civil legal services to low income citizens.”
2. Contact your local Assembly members and Senator
3. Write a letter to your Newspapers (sample)
In these tough economic times, as the Governor and the Legislature deliberate over the 2009-2010 state budget, it is essential that they make funding decisions based on an informed analysis of what programs best serve the economic and public safety needs of this State. Many not-for-profit agencies that provide civil legal services for low income citizens, community mental health programs, re-entry programs, criminal defense services for low income citizens, and legal services to state prison inmates have seen either decreases or stagnation in their funding over the past 15 years. And yet, many of these programs are essential to ensuring public safety and, when funded properly, often save the State money. Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is one such organization.
PLS has provided civil legal services to indigent inmates in all 70 New York State prisons since 1976, on issues involving access to medical and mental health care, sexual abuse, excessive force, challenges to lengthy sentences to solitary confinement and parole and other sentence matters. PLS is a critical and integral part of the State’s criminal justice system.
As a not-for-profit, however, PLS has repeatedly been a victim of state budget cuts and inadequate funding. After nearly going out of business in 1998 when then-Governor Pataki vetoed all funding for PLS, it rebuilt its program and has continued to provide essential legal services to thousands of inmates in our New York State prisons. However, PLS has had to curtail operations because of stagnant funding for the past seven years. Presently PLS only has 12 attorneys to provide representation to over 60,000 inmates.
The Governor and the legislative leaders must pass a budget which provides adequate funding for state contract agencies like PLS.