The CURE NY newsletter will be now sent in digital format. This is a complimentary copy. The April news-letter will be available to members only. Please become a member today
Memberships run from January 1, 2015 –December 31, 2015. Please mail your membership fee to CURE NY 207 Riverside Avenue, Scotia, NY 13202
Individual membership 10.00
Incarcerated person 2.00– 10.00 sliding scale based on ability to pay
Dear CURE-NY Friends,
We are pleased to kick off 2015 with our newly expanded version of our newsletter. However, expansion requires we must seek funding to do so. Beginning with our next newsletter, we will begin circulating to all who are not incarcerated digitally through email and in our “ mem-bers only” section on our newly designed website which is in progress.
We have a twitter page which can be found at @curenewyork. Our Facebook page is up and running at curenewyork. Like us on Face-book! We are working on the website. Our new site is at http://www.curenewyork.info. It is under construction. There is also a blog found at http://www.curenewyork.wordpress.com where you can stay up to date on current issues in the criminal justice front.
A basic membership is $ 10.00. Please renew your membership as memberships expired on December 31, 2014, unless you sent dues after July. We are in the process of changing to a new system where the membership begins January 1 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 207 Riverside Avenue Scotia, NY 13202. If your on the outside please send your current email address to email@example.com 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
His & Hers
This feature is written by Vice President Sherisse
Fardan and her husband Kamal. They will explore
issues as husband and wife from the inside and
out. This issue’s topic is going to the initial Parole
HIS: My First Parole Board
I am in my 25th year incarceration.
I go to my initial Parole
Board January 20, 2015. For
the first 19 years of my incarceration
while in a maximum
security, I could not even
phantom the thought of a Parole
Board appearance. Now
approximately one month before
the appearance this is all I
This reminds me of preparing
for trial, only with freedom as
a possible outcome, opposed to
prison time . Either way, my
future is in the hands of a
group of people; during trial it
was twelve jury members, now
it is two or three parole commissioners.
There are no clear and concise
written guidelines that someone
in my position can rely on;
at least the commissioners have
not been known to follow any.
We should be able to know if
we meet a certain criteria; then
we will be released.
There is also this notion where
we are denied our first Parole
Board, especially if we have a
violent crime, It really doesn’t
matter how much we are rehabilitated.
I committed a brutal and senseless
crime and I take full responsibility
for it. Unfortunately
I cannot change that decision
25 years ago. What I could
change I did. I changed who
that person was on that dreadful
day; he no longer exists. I
also changed how I live my
life. All I have control over is
my rehabilitation and the condition
of my heart. I feel so bad for some of the collateral victims involved; namely any members of the family that may be contacted about my pa-role interview. They have an old wound opened; the pain I caused just never ends. And then my family, friends and loved ones; especially my wife, daughter, grandchild and 76 -year -old brothers. Too many people have suffered as a result of me. The decision to release me is a choice the commissioners are responsible to make.
HERS: The First Parole Board
This is a very surreal experience for me. I never thought, in a million years, I would marry someone incarcerated Had you asked me 5 years ago, what my life would “look” like? This would be the polar opposite of my response. Yet I wouldn’t trade my husband or experiences for the world. Some days I feel as if I’m walking on eggshells with the juggling of my multiple lives, and wishing others would keep their “feelings” about my choices to themselves.
I vacillate between two worlds of the everyday and the many emotions I have about my love ,whom I cannot live out the eve-ryday with like “everyone else”. I cannot imagine the roller-coaster of emotions my husband or any of the men and women facing a Parole Board go through as they get closer, but Kamal helps me by honestly sharing his inner thoughts, concerns, fears, and frustrations. I want him home, but the family of his victim wants their loved one home, as well .We discuss this; it’s hard, but it’s real. We can’t undo the past, we must look towards the future of together helping those who may be on the wrong path not to make the same mistakes. This is the hope we both cling to, along with God being in control of the outcome and the de-tails. That is how we choose to move forward, in strong faith.
TECHNOLOGY IN PRISON
Cheryl L. Kates-Benman Esq.
In San Francisco, an interesting new use of technology is per-mitted in the jail. 125 inmates are taking part in a new pilot pro-gram allowing them the use of tablets to do homework, use the law library and to access school programs through the Five Key Charter Program. Upon further research, the company who makes the prison tablets is stationed right here in New York: American Prison Data .
This technology was designed with correctional security con-cerns in mind. There are two other states using similar programs in jails: Kansas and Indiana. Correctional officials in all states were citing the use of technology as a way to reduce recidivism. In Maryland, officials are using a trial system in a state prison. The US Federal Bureau of Prisons allows inmates access email to communicate with their families. More information can be found at http://www.sfgate.com
The company Facebook page ( American Prison Data Systems )has a survey for families to fill out at http://www.survey mon-key.com/s/APDS2
This technology appears to be fairly inexpensive as in Virginia and Louisiana, a mini tablet can be purchased for about $50.00. Given how technology is used in this society as early as kindergarten, we need to use this as part of the rehabilitative process. Even applying for a job is done online. Offenders can-not truly be rehabilitated without some knowledge of technolo-gy. NEW YORK state having such a large number of returning citizens needs to adjust their policies and get on board!
This will be one of CURE NY’s objectives in 2015.
CURE NY 2015 POLICY INITIATIVES
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 inti-mate partner violence;
Support the use of the domestic violence exception for work re-lease, 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 the reform of current Freedom of Information requests made to the NYS government by use of litigation and advocacy;
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
Study recidivism rates in NYS for violent felony offenders.
VICTIM SERVICES THROUGH NY DOCCS
Sharon Jones Witbeck
Directive 4522 forbids offenders from contacting a victim/ victim’s representative directly but there is a place where an offender may con-vey words of apology through the DOCCS apology repository. I report-ed on this service in the past and would like to state that after our report ran there was an increase in the amount of letters the repository re-ceived.
These letters are maintained in the office of Victim’s Assistance. When a victim’s representative contacts the office about an offender they are told an apology is in the repository. The victim can choose to have a copy sent to them or have the letter read to them. They also have the option not to hear what the offender has to say. The letters are screened only to see if there are any threats in the content.
This repository was created in 2002. At the time we approached Direc-tor Janet Koupash originally in 2012, there were little or no apology letters on file for anyone who was registered as a victim so we can’t report how the process seems to work once a victim’s representative is given an apology. I will provide an update in April after again reaching out to Director, Janet Koupash.
ONE BEAUTIFUL DAY (GUEST ESSAY):
Nino Genaro Campos
Coming to prison, as a young man with a sentence of (28-years-to-Life) was not an easy thing. I woke up every morning thinking I was tired of living. I thought this way for the first ten years of my bid. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I was successful in seeing a portion of my sentence overturned. The sentence, (28-to-Life) became (18-to-Life), this was more livable. My sentence was unlawful ,but that is a whole other story.
I changed in prison and learned like most of us do to feel nothing. You turn off your feelings to survive. You became a walking exist-ence of nothing, feel nothing ,showing no emotion. I began to fill my days with programs to hope that when my first Parole Board came in 2009, I would be ready. I wanted to come home and change my life. I took the Cadre Program, the Veteran’s Program, ART, Phase I, II, and III. I became a facilitator conducting the inmate pro-grams. I thought when I went to the Board I was ready!
New words of hope filled my mind , my first Board was coming, but 2009 came and went. My release was incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community. What? Are you kidding me? The old words came back: “ I’m tired of living”. My son kept me going, he was in his 20’s but he might still need me. I had to be there “ home” my mom and sister may need me. One beautiful day.
Now 20 years in, two years later. High hopes for freedom! Wrong! Two years later, 22 years. Wrong! I learned to study law in prison and I believe it was through challenging my denials which paved the way to my eventual freedom at my fourth Parole Board. Now after 24 years of hell, I am home,. One beautiful day came. I spent the holidays with my family and this my friend was my miracle. I was sure it would come, “ One Beautiful Day!”
CLEMENCY : THE UNDERUSED EXECUTIVE POWER
Cheryl L. Kates-Benman Esq.
Governor Cuomo exercised his right to grant political pardon to two individuals in 2014, to avoid their deportation, and allow them to remain in the United States with their families .
While CURE-NY applauds any efforts taken by government to show compassion for anyone under the oppressive NYS mass incarceration, one must wonder why our Governor issues this extraordinary power so sparingly?
In Illinois, Governor Quinn acted on 179 applications dated back to 2008, granting 179 clemencies on Christmas Eve and another 102 on New Year’s Eve according to reports by the Chicago tribune ( see http://www.chicagotribune.com. He even granted 3 aboli-tionists clemency dating back to 1843!
In NYS the power is granted by the NYS constitution and Exec-utive Law. This is an extraordinary form of release; the burden is on the applicant and is most granted when people show ex-traordinary strides for self improvement, have a terminal illness or extreme disability or further incarceration demonstrates un-fairness ( see http://www.nygov/services/apply-clemency) This is anew website the governor opened for clemency.
The criteria for eligibility includes must have more than a year of incarceration, must have served 1/2 the minimum and must not be eligible for parole within a year of application. The NYS Board of Parole screens applicants prior to them reaching the Governor.
Congratulations to Antonio Argibay and Alvaro Khalil Cum-berbatch on receiving pardons! Congratulations to member Aa-ron Talley for his freedom granted by the Parole Board after 42 years of incarceration!
VOICES FROM WITHIN
CURE NY will begin printing a question in the newsletter soliciting opinions from people behind the wall. We want your voice heard too! Newsletter submissions must be limited to one paragraph in length and must be on the topic of discussion. Send your sub-misssions to CURE-NY ; firstname.lastname@example.org
TOPIC FOR APRIL 2015
In response to the failure of national grand juries to indict police of-ficers in questionable deaths of several African-Americans which occurred in the line of duty, Americans have taken to the streets pro-testing across the country and some international protests have taken place as well on the focus of “ Black Lives Matter”.
Tragically, two NYPD officers were killed while sitting in their pa-trol cars in response also to this agenda although not by anyone affil-iated with the protests, The question for the next newsletter is “ Is this a Race Thang?” or is this a “Policing Matter” ? Is it solely based on race or is it uncontrollable police practices where officers are not
PAY FOR SUCCESS PROJECT: Cheryl L. Kates-Benman Esq.
The governor announce NYS will be the first state in the country to enter a partnership with a private organization to boost employment opportunities for recently released inmates. This program is based in NYC and Rochester, NY with the Center For Employment Opportu-nities. According to a press release, 13.5 million dollars have been raised through the private sector to fund this initiative
. The goal is to increase employment by 5% and reduce recidivism by 8%. If the private organization meets this goal, they w ill receive state reimbursement. The program will begin with 2000 formerly incarcerated people. The payment from the state is based solely on the program’s performance. If they fail they eat the costs. To find out more check out http://www.doccs.ny.gov/presssrel/2013/pay_for_success_2013.pdf.