To Reduce Crime and Uplift Society Spring 2014
Published by the New York Chapter of CURE, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants
Newsletter Editor Jim Murphy, Blog Editor Deb Bozydaj: http://www.curenewyork.wordpress.com
“He ain’t Heavy”
By Gilbert Yong
Urgent Mailed Newsletter needs $$$.
The CURE newsletter is printed and mailed to nearly 1,000 people, with over 500 sent to those incarcerated and unable to receive the email edition. It costs $400 to print and mail the newsletter. We will need to raise that amount to send out the next edition. Thanks
New York’s Broken Parole System Jim Murphy
“Even Exemplary low-risk inmates get boiler plate denials based on their original crime” (NY Times editorial February 17, 2014) The Times editorial joins the chorus of advocates, legal professionals judges, faith communities and incarcerated men and women calling for the parole board to follow the intent of the 1971 Bartlett Commission and the legislation passed in 2011. In 2010, Judge Richard Bartlett who had been Chair of the Commission and later Dean of Albany Law School and Chief Administrative Judge of NY reaffirmed the intent of the legislation:
“It is not the function of the Board to review the appropriateness of the sentence. That is for the court to decide. Their role is to determine the suitability of release based on the inmate’s behavior while imprisoned and the likelihood of their reoffending”.
Currently, many parole board members pay no attention to Judge Bartlett’s remarks. They see their role as that of a sentencing review board. Rather than determining the “suitability of release based on the inmate’s behavior while imprisoned and the likelihood of their reoffending”, they decide if the sentence has been long enough. Decisions assert current danger based on the past crime. In doing so, the decisions are random depending on the particular board member. In addition, they are subject to external pressures. This especially affects A1 felony murder cases where unsupported assertions that a person is likely to reoffend based on the past crime are made. The person’s current history and risk assessment are merely noted and dismissed as if they are unimportant and not relevant to the decisions.
As reported by John Caher in the September 16,2013 NY Law Journal, Robert Dennison, a former chairman of the board said “If the Parole Board doesn’t like the crime, you are not going to get out,” His comments were echoed by Tom Grant another former member “The Parole Board process is broken, terribly broken,”
However, when individuals convicted of felony murder are released as some are, the statistics underline the weakness of asserting current danger. In the years between 1985 and 2009, 2,130 individuals sentenced for murder were released. 47 or 2.2% were returned with a new conviction. None of those 47 was convicted for a new murder.
To put a face on some of these individuals:
•Larry White was released in 2011 after 32 serving years and being denied 6 times. He now works for the American Friends Service Committee in Manhattan.
•Mujahd Farid was released in 2011 after serving 33 years on a 15 to Life sentence. He was denied parole 10 times. Currently he works for the Correctional Association of NY and is chief organizer for Releasing Aging People in Prison (RAPP).
•Diana Ortiz was released in 2006 after serving years 22 1/2 years on a 17 to Life sentence and being denied parole 3 times. She is now Associate Director of Exodus Transitional Services, an organization helping those returning from prison to live crime free and productive lives.
• Shuaib Raheem was released in 2011 after 25 serving years on a 25-life sentence and being denied 5 times is a career coach in the Fatherhood Initiative at the Osborne Association.
And the luck of the draw
Why were Larry, Mujahid, Diana and Shuaib released after being denied multiple times before? Were there new factors that made them eligible that had not been there before? Were their releases based on a change in their risk? NO. They were not less likely of being a danger to the community before than later. The simple answer is the different members hearing their cases. The 2011 revision of the Executive law stipulates that “the inmate shall be informed …. of the factors and reasons for such denial of parole. Such reasons shall be given in detail and not in conclusory terms” 259i. Few decisions comply with the provision. Without stating the reasons for the denial or release, decisions are dependent on the point of view of the member not the evaluation of the person before the board. A look at the data on Parole Board members and their decisions show how much those decisions vary.
(For readability’s sake, I summarize my findings here, but can supply the data to anyone who is interested. Jim Murphy)
2010-13 Decisions for Long Termers (sentenced prior to 2001 In a few cases, no Board members are listed and there is only 6 months of data from 2011)
· Between 2010-13, the data shows 16,892 decision votes with 82% for denial and 18% for release.
· The range of decisions vary from a high of 90% denial and 10% release vote to a low of 49% denial and51% release rate.
· The 6 members with denial rates over 85% accounted for 31% of all decisions; 33% of all denials; and 13% of releases. 5 of the members were appointed by Governor Pataki and 1 by Governor Cuomo.
· The 3 members with denial rates under 70% accounted for 9% of all decisions; 7% of all denials; and 19% of releases. 2 of the members were appointed by Governor Cuomo and 1 by Governor Pataki.
2013 Decisions for A1 Felons
· Between 2010-13, the data shows 3,142 decision votes with 73% denials and 27% releases.
· The range of decisions vary from a high of 88% denial 12% release vote to a low of 59% denial to 41% release rate.
· The3 members with denial rates over 80% accounted for 16% of all decisions; 19% of all denials; and 9% of releases. 2 of the members were appointed by Governor Cuomo and 1 by Governor Pataki.
· The 3 members with denial rates under 65% accounted for 18% of all decisions; 15% of all denials; and 40% of releases. Governors Pataki, Patterson, and Cuomo each appointed 1.
NOTE on the Data In 2010, I started copying the data of decisions listed on the Division of Parole web site for each month. I used excel. After requesting a schedule of board hearings for each month by a Freedom of Information request, I knew which board members were involved in the decisions for each hearing. I separated the decisions of denied, and released for all cases and then for those serving more than 10 year. for the same years. From there I was able to get a % percentage for the decisions of each board member from 2010-2013. In 2013, I was able to collect the data on A1 felony cases with DINS before 2001 by using DOCCS’ Inmate Lookup page.
In a few cases no Board members are listed and I have only 6 months of data from 2011 Because a hearing may have 2 or 3 members, the numbers are not of individual cases but of the decisions of the board members in total. In addition the numbers and % s are not the complete story, but they give a picture which more sophisticated analysis can work with. They likely understate the differences.
Campaign for Reform Continues On Sunday May 4th and Monday5th , Advocates for reform are gathering in Albany to press for reform in this legislative session.
· May 4th from 5-9pm – An Evening of Social Justice Awareness featuring at GWU Center 274 Washington Ave.,Albany, NY 12206.;:
◦People v Scot Ebanks A case of actual innocence;
◦People v. Pascal Carpenter Why the felony murder rule needs to be changed;
◦Gizewski v. NYS DOCCS Solitary Confinement and abuse
o 23 Reason Why 23 Year is Enough a film featuring the case of Pascal Carpenter . This will be its first showing in the Capital Region. The film is available on youtube.
◦CURE NY Board member Cheryl Kates-Benman Esq. has organized the event and will be joined by former Parole Commissioner and CURE Board member Tom Grant
•On May 5th 12:30pm NY AGAINST PRISON INJUSTICE CORNELL WEST, KEYNOTE SPEAKER East Capitol Park, Albany.
◦STOP Solitary Reform Parole Release Elders
o Create Truth and Justice Commission Ban Post-Prison Discrimination
o Organized by NY Prison Justice 518 434-4037 NYSPrisonJustice.org
The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, has been introduced by Assembly member Jeffrion Aubry and state Senator Bill Perkins..The bill would limit the use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons and jails to 15 consecutive days for most inmates and bans the punishment outright for certain inmate groups. The bill it is intended to help drive America towards alignment with international standards. The UN has issued a report saying that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days “should also be subject to an absolute prohibition.” Currently, there are about 4,000 people in solitary confinement in NY’s jails and prisons.
A Testimony about Education in prison After two prison sentences and years of addiction, John Crutchfield was sent to Auburn Correctional Facility, he writes:. “my outlook began to change. Cornell University had been offering college classes taught by volunteers….. I learned discipline and how to manage criticisms instead of reacting to them. I became attracted to decent people who did things well… College, for me, wasn’t about the degree. It was an opportunity to learn skills I could transfer to more practical objectives. The act of completing an essay on time turned into the practice of showing up every day and serving a customer until the job is done. The research I do today is profitable. The questions I asked in those prison classrooms, the advice I took and the powerful emotions I learned to manage all help me navigate the new life I now live in Ithaca”. John Crutch field op-ed Albany Times Union March 4, 2014
January through March 2014 PAROLE BOARD RELEASES – A1 VIOLENT FELONS – DIN #s through 2001 (unofficial research from parole database)
# Released -12
# Denied – 32
Rate of Release – 27%
# Released – 55
# Denied – 149
Rate of Release – 27%
# Released – 67
# Denied – 181
Rate of Release – 27%
41 of the AI felons denied parole from January through March 2014 were in their 60’s, 13 in their 70’s and 1 was over 80.
“If the Risk is Low, Let Them Go” The Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) campaign mobilizes to change the routine in which parole and compassionate release are denied to those who have spent decades in New York’s state prisons. More than 9,200 people (nearly 17 percent) imprisoned in New York are 50 or older. While the state’s prison population dropped this past decade – from 71,466 in 2000 to 56,315 in 2011 – the number of people 50 and older has increased by 64 percent. Lead organizer Mujahid was arrested in 1978 and sentenced to 15 years to life for an attempted murder. By the time he was eligible for parole in 1993, he had earned four college degrees as well as certificates for numerous other programs. None of these ccomplishments mattered. “I realized it wasn’t personal They’re not looking at your personal development. They’re simply looking at your conviction.”