Grants Will Fund Job Training, Mental Health, Other Services for Individuals on Parole, Probation or in Court-Ordered Programs New State-Supported County Re-Entry Task Force Created in Queens to Help Individuals Transition from Incarceration to their Communities

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced more than $10 million in funding to support programs providing job training and other re-entry services to individuals currently under community supervision. Additionally, these grants will create a new state-supported County Re-Entry Task Force in Queens and allow 19 other existing Task Forces across the state to assist more people returning to their communities after serving state prison sentences.

“These investments play a critical role in ensuring those seeking to turn their lives around have access to the tools and resources needed to succeed,” Governor Cuomo said. “Expanding these services will be able to help more at-risk New Yorkers break the cycle of recidivism and incarceration, helping them to lead more productive lives and increasing the safety of our communities.”

The first $6.4 million in grants will be awarded to 13 agencies and non-profit organizations across the state to provide employment-focused services to individuals on parole, those supervised by probation or referred by the court to alternatives to incarceration programs. These grants will be distributed across the state and will allow services to be available for the first time in five counties, which include Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Tompkins and Wayne counties.

The 13 organizations receiving funding will use evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism and reliance on incarceration. These programs, which range in duration from three months to up to a year, include job placement services, as well as cognitive behavioral intervention and services to increase job readiness, including transitional employment. Approximately 2,500 individuals will be served by these programs annually.

The remaining $4 million in grants will create a new County Re-Entry Task Force in Queens and allow 19 existing Task Forces to hire a coordinator and serve more individuals in Albany, Broome, Bronx, Dutchess, Erie, Kings, Monroe, Nassau, New York, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Rockland, Schenectady, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester counties.

The 20 task forces have a collective goal of serving approximately 5,000 individuals returning to their counties after serving a state prison sentence. These individuals have been assessed as needing coordinated substance abuse and mental health treatment; job training, placement and skill development; and cognitive behavioral interventions, which are designed to help individuals change thinking that contributes to criminal behavior, improve positive motivation and further develop social skills.

County Re-entry Task Forces are co-chaired by representatives from the county and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and include law enforcement, community supervision, social services and mental health professionals, as well as victim advocates and substance abuse treatment providers.

The list of funded agencies and organization can be found here.

Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “I commend Governor Cuomo for supporting and expanding these initiatives, which use evidence-based practices. These programs and services have been proven effective in helping people to have the best possible chance to break the cycle of recidivism and change the course of their lives for the better.”

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci, said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for his visionary leadership in providing the resources to assist offenders along their journey to a successful reentry into the community. When an ex-offender obtains lawful employment not only is the recidivism rate lowered, our communities are safer and the tax base for New York is raised.”

During his tenure, Governor Cuomo has consistently worked to remove barriers faced by people with criminal convictions as they seek to reintegrate into society. At the recommendation of the state’s Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration, he has, among other things, instituted ‘fair chance hiring’ for state agencies and implemented uniform anti-discrimination guidelines in assessing candidates for occupational licenses — 94 percent of qualified applicants with criminal convictions have successfully obtained state-issued occupational licenses as a result. The Council’s work and these grant-funded programs also complement the state’s Work for Success program, which connects formerly incarcerated men and women to jobs through connections developed through Department of Labor career centers. Through the program, approximately 18,500 individuals across the state have found jobs.

About the Division of Criminal Justice Services
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

America’s Invisible Inferno Martin Garbus December 8, 2016 Issue Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement

If you look inside a solitary confinement cell such as the ones I have visited in New York’s Sing Sing prison, you’ll see a gray-walled, eight-by-eight-foot room with a concrete slab bed; it’s underground, more like a tomb than a cell. The light is always on. Usually there aren’t any windows, but there is a toilet (no toilet seat or paper) and a shower.
The solitary cell is home to a single prisoner, twenty-three or twenty-four hours a day; the extreme isolation and sensory deprivation imposed by the cell can last for days, months, years, or decades on end. Someone who visits a solitary cell might not notice the feces or the urine that leaks from the cells above, down the walls into a puddle on the floor. He or she would not be shown prisoners mutilating themselves or fighting guards or one another to the death, or men in their underwear, or naked, shackled by their hands to the bottom of bunks, deprived of books, paper, radio, pens, or pencils. I have represented a range of defendants in constitutional and criminal cases during the last fifty years, and my clients who have spent time in solitary consistently testify to having witnessed, or been subjected to, these abuses.
They describe being shackled to their bunks by their feet and hands, and moved from place to place like animals. They report being fed slop and also left without food in a state of extreme hunger. They tell me that hooded guards, armed with tasers and bats, in body armor and riot gear, extract prisoners from their cells and leave them lying on the floor, beaten, bruised, and unexamined by doctors. Once you see—and smell—a solitary cell, you will never forget it.
I first saw a solitary cell at Sing Sing in 1963, when I went to visit Fred Wood, an inmate there. (Mr. Wood, who had the odd distinction of being the next-to-last man executed by New York State, laughed as he sat down in the electric chair and said, “You are about to witness the damaging effect electricity has on wood.”) Since then, I have had many occasions to visit clients and talk with inmates in solitary cells in federal and state facilities throughout the country. Each of the many solitary cells I saw was an abomination.
Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement is a collection of seventeen essays by men and women who have been held in solitary confinement in American federal and state prisons. They were collected by Jean Casella, James Ridgeway, Sarah Shourd, and Solitary Watch, a national organization that opposes solitary confinement. For readers who have no sense of the nature of the punishment that is exacted in their name, this collection offers an unforgettable look at the peculiar horrors and humiliations involved in solitary confinement.
America’s prisons hold 2,193,000 people. That is more than the number of people who live in Manhattan. It is also more than the total number of prisoners in either Russia or China, the countries with the second- and third-highest prison populations. The United States shares with North Korea the distinction of having the world’s highest incarceration rate. With 5 percent of the world’s population, America houses 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
Approximately 400,000 people in our prison population move in and out of solitary, and many of America’s over two million prisoners know they can be put in solitary even if they are jailed for the most minor offenses. Between 80,000 and 120,000 men and women are held in solitary confinement every day. Every federal and state prison has solitary cells. More than 100,000 American children inhabit prisons in which solitary is considered a standard management practice. Men, women, and children can be put there for years on end, solely at the whim of a prison guard. There is no legal process that gets them there and no legal process that can prevent them from being put there.
“Cruel” and “unusual” are likely two of the first words most inmates—and most readers—would use to describe solitary confinement. But no United States court has ever held that solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment and its proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. It seems that few American judges have ever been inside a solitary confinement cell.
Hell Is a Very Small Place provides a harrowing guided tour of some of the country’s solitary units. The essays in the collection were written by inmates, some of whom have been confined for months to decades in solitary, as well as by one lawyer, two professors and legal activists, and two psychiatrists, including Stuart Grassian, a former Harvard Medical School professor who writes about the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement. Together these essays are both a condemnation of our prison system and an indictment of America. It is difficult to read this book without feeling shame.

The first American experiment in solitary confinement sprang from utopian ideals. In their introduction, Casella and Ridgeway observe that there are many historical accounts of people confined alone in towers and dungeons, and that, before the nineteenth century, many different societies used solitary as a way to torture and punish miscreants. But, they argue persuasively, “solitary confinement as a self-conscious, organized, and widespread prison practice” is a uniquely American creation.
The “penitentiary system” was introduced in the late eighteenth century in Philadelphia and was intended by its Protestant founders to quietly house “penitents” for as long as necessary in solitary so that they could have ample time to read the Bible, reflect, and change. Proud penitentiary supporters invited and encouraged important visitors from abroad to observe them; Casella and Ridgeway describe the appalled findings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Gustave de Beaumont, and Charles Dickens, who were among those who came to visit.
In their 1833 treatise on US penitentiaries, Tocqueville and Beaumont wrote that, from the very beginning, the whole system had gone horribly, murderously wrong:
The convicts had been submitted to complete isolation; but this absolute solitude, if nothing interrupts it, is beyond the strength of man; it destroys the criminal without intermission and without pity; it does not reform, it kills.
Charles Dickens visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania in 1842, and the editors call him “one of the earliest—and still one of the most eloquent—critics of solitary confinement.” He described the penitents there as men “buried alive.”
In an 1890 case, the United States Supreme Court recognized the harm, cruelty, and inefficiency that Dickens and Tocqueville described, but nonetheless found solitary confinement lawful according to the Constitution. Now, more than one hundred years later, America uses solitary more often, and for longer periods of time, than any country in the world. The cruelty we impose in solitary cells is, for the most part, nearly invisible. The American government prohibits UN officials from visiting solitary cells. No president in office has ever visited a solitary cell; few judges or legislators have seen one.
The arbitrary power to send an inmate to solitary confinement does not belong to a judge or jury; instead, as Casella and Ridgeway observe, solitary is “a ‘classification’ that is handed down by prison officials” who have unchecked discretion and can subject inmates to this kind of extreme punishment for a range of infractions—walking too slowly, or too fast, or talking too much. Most systems have hearing procedures that do not have a semblance of legal process—the prison guards, usually a tightly knit unit, are prosecutors, witnesses, and judges.* More than 98 percent of prisoners’ complaints about solitary are denied.
Prisons provide jobs and revenue for the communities in which they are located, which have an interest in ensuring the facilities’ success. If something untoward happens to an inmate, it can—and often is—presumed to be the fault of the inmate rather than that of the revenue-generating prison. Mindful of this and of the very low number of prisoner complaints that are upheld, few of the inmates dispatched to solitary ever challenge their status.

Bebeto Matthews/AP Images

A solitary confinement cell at Rikers Island jail, New York City, January 2016
The racial breakdown of those confined in solitary cells is particularly shameful: though black and Hispanic prisoners constitute 60 percent of all arrests, they make up 80 percent of the country’s prison population and 95 percent of the inmates confined in solitary cells. Matters are not getting better: in the five-year period from 1995 to 2000, the most recent years for which data are available, the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement increased by 40 percent. As the prison population increases, facilities are overcrowded and harder to control, making solitary more appealing to those charged with maintaining order. The racial makeup of our prison population, and of our solitary population, reflects a system of criminal justice in which the scales of justice are heavily weighted against people of color.
The prison system has increasingly become a warehouse for juveniles and for the mentally ill. The Treatment Advocacy Center estimated that in 2012, more than 350,000 people with serious mental illness were housed in prisons and jails, ten times the number confined in state mental hospitals.
In August 2011, a committee chaired by Juan E. Méndez, who serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and contributes an afterword to Hell Is a Very Small Place, ruled that solitary should never be used for juveniles. Often, however, solitary is imposed on juvenile—and adult—inmates who are deemed unable to handle ordinary prisons. The suicide rate for juveniles in solitary is eighteen times greater than for juveniles in the general population.
Many of the contributors to this volume lived, for much of their lives, like caged animals. Yet their voices remain those of observant people with distinctive and varied responses to their confinement. This is precisely why the collection is so revealing and disturbing.
Judith Vazquez, age fifty-nine, the first female licensed electrician in Jersey City, spent over five years in solitary in a New Jersey state prison after she was convicted of first-degree murder. Confined in a tiny cell, with a “dime-sized piece of the sky,” Vazquez describes her thirst for air—an urge to breathe free. It was so intense, she writes, that she spent months scraping her fingernails against the rubber seal on the window frame in order to create a tiny hole. “I needed some air,” she writes. “I believe it took about six months of scraping and bleeding before I finally made a tiny little hole.” The hole was not large enough to admit a breeze, but Vasquez writes that there was room enough for her to put one nostril against the hole at a time so that she could breathe fresh air in. “It gave me a sense of being human again,” she writes.
Shaka Senghor, age forty-three, was eighteen when he killed a man in a fight involving drugs. He served twenty years of his forty-year sentence for second-degree murder in Michigan state prisons, including seven years in solitary confinement. After his release, Senghor founded the Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project in Detroit, and since then was named a 2013 MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow and a 2014 W.K. Kellogg Community Leadership Network Fellow.
In 2013 he published a memoir, Writing My Wrongs. Senghor’s writing provides graphic testament to the brutal and deranging force of solitary confinement. In one passage, he recalls his early impressions of his fellow inmates on the cell block called Graves, because, he writes, inhabitants are “dead to everyone in the general prison population” and because the cells are so small that prisoners feel they have been “squeezed into a coffin.”
A lot of the prisoners at Graves do act like animals, or worse. They wage battle after battle against the officers and each other. Their weapon of choice is what’s called “Weapons of Ass Destruction,” feces-filled bottles hurled at anyone considered an enemy. Once squirted with a shit pistol, no matter how many showers you take, the thought and feeling of being drenched in another person’s defecation is not easily forgotten. The smell hangs in the air like a miasmic cloud for days, and stands as a reminder for everyone else to be careful.
My client Gerardo Hernández, who did six years in solitary while serving a life sentence at Lompoc, a federal maximum-security prison in California, once gave me a particularly vivid image of the twisted forms human invention can sometimes take in extreme circumstances:
Imagine prisoners can make killing weapons out of most anything—the cardboard within a roll of toilet paper, hardened by feces. One of the few things the prisoners have and can use freely is their feces. It’s also an element that the prison guards can “keep” in the cells and on cell walls.
Senghor’s description of a Latino prisoner’s efforts to end the pain and misery that were his life in solitary suggests the perverse logic that governs solitary housing units:
One night a Latino prisoner set himself on fire, so desperate for escape from this pain and misery he would rather end his life through immolation. After days of harassment about his sexual orientation by guards, he woke everyone up in the middle of the night reciting a chilling rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. The next day he set his cell on fire. The officers sprayed him with a fire extinguisher then took him to suicide watch where he set himself on fire again.
In the small world of solitary confinement, torture takes unexpected forms. Smell, noise, and temperature can all have terrible effects. William Blake, fifty-two, who is in his twenty-ninth year of solitary after he killed an officer and wounded another in an attempted escape during a court hearing, writes that for months the first thing he noticed when he awoke in the morning was the “malodorous funk of human feces, tinged with acrid stench of days-old urine, where I ate my breakfast, lunch, and dinner with that same stink.” Blake writes that he’d seen
days turn into weeks that seemed like they’d never end without being able to sleep more than short snatches before I was shocked out of my dreams, and thrown back into a living nightmare, by the screams of sick men who had lost all ability to control themselves, or by the banging of the cell bars and walls being done by these same madmen.
Five Mualimm-ak, forty, was jailed for twelve years for a series of drug offenses and spent five years in solitary in a New York state prison. Released in 2012, Mualimm-ak is a founding member of the New York State Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement. In his essay, Mualimm-ak describes an anarchic world governed by prison guards and their seemingly arbitrary rules, which they enforce by giving “tickets” that add up to special punishments:
In New York, guards give out tickets like penny candy. During my years in prison, I received an endless stream of tickets, each one more absurd than the last. When I tried to use artwork to stay sane, I was ticketed for having too many pencils. Excess pencils are considered sharpened objects, or weapons. Another time, I had too many postage stamps, which in prison are used like currency and are contraband.
One day, I ate an entire apple—including the core—because I was starving for lack of nutrition. I received a ticket for eating the core because apple seeds contain arsenic. The next time I received an apple, fearful of another ticket, I simply left it on the tray. I received a ticket for “refusing to eat.”
For parents, solitary confinement sometimes involves additional violence. My client Kathy Boudin was the young mother of a fifteen-month-old boy when she was put into solitary in the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal prison, for participating in a robbery during which three men were killed. Acting on their own authority, prison officials refused to let him visit her. After a long court battle, the child was allowed to visit so long as he and his mother remained at opposite ends of a twelve-foot-long table and did not touch each other. If the child cried, guards ended the visit. Guards checked the boy’s anus and mouth for drugs and weapons whenever he came through jail security. The child howled. We tried to get the prison officials to stop this practice, and failed.
After a four-month battle, Kathy received court permission to touch her own child during visits. A maverick federal judge presided over her exceptional case. Most of the hundreds of thousands of women kept in solitary confinement who do not have access to lawyers are not able to have physical contact with their children.
The state rules against parents touching their children serve no apparent purpose; that the government (in this case US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani’s deputies) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to keep a mother from holding her baby seems particularly irrational and despicable.
Is there reason to believe that testimony as graphic and as memorable as that collected here will bring an end to solitary confinement? Recent court decisions, legislative actions, and public outcries suggest a diminishing tendency to impose the punishment. And yet in May 2014, a federal appeals court in Denver found that Thomas Silverstein’s captivity for thirty years of solitary confinement did not violate the Constitution.
In the report on solitary confinement prepared by his UN committee in 2011, Méndez, who was held in solitary by the Argentine government in 1975 for filing writs and petitions on behalf of political prisoners, recommended ending virtually all prolonged solitary confinement practices around the globe. The committee defined “prolonged” as a period lasting longer than fifteen days and demanded that prisoners have available to them a legal process by which they can ask for release from solitary. With Amnesty International and other human rights groups, I introduced his report in a Florida federal court and its recommendations for changed public and legal procedures intended to produce a court ruling that solitary confinement violated the Constitution’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.
The Supreme Court had occasion to consider the lawfulness of solitary confinement last summer. In reviewing Davis v. Ayala, the 2015 case over a death sentence given to a Hispanic defendant by an all-white jury, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy agreed with the majority in upholding the conviction but noted that the defendant had likely been held for twenty-three hours a day during most of the past twenty years in a windowless cell no larger than a typical parking spot. Invoking Dostoevsky’s observation that “the degree of civilization in society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Justice Kennedy said that the conditions of Hector Ayala’s solitary confinement might have violated the US Constitution. Solitary “literally drives men mad,” Kennedy told a House subcommittee. He seemed to invite a case that would make the Court confront the constitutionality of solitary confinement.
Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg took note of the special brutality of solitary; however, most of the major recent court holdings, including one by the Supreme Court, suggest that we are a long way from abolishing a practice that degrades us all. Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement may provide a fifth vote to start restricting it.
Meanwhile, the prison-building epidemic goes on. A new $200 million supermax prison is set to open this year in Illinois that will double the number of federal solitary prison cells in the country. And powerful corrections unions continue to oppose any procedures that interfere with the total control of guards over prisoners.
Barack Obama, the first US president to visit a prison, has spoken out against solitary confinement and directed his attorney general to investigate the misuse of solitary in federal prisons. His recommendations include a complete ban on the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. This year, New York City officials decided to ban the solitary confinement of juveniles at Rikers Island. But other cities and states will not come to similar decisions easily.
Today’s forward progress is reversible. Solitary will end only when the public demands it. Franz Kafka wrote that “a book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.” This book may be such an instrument.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cuomo’s Commitment to Clemency Tested in 3 Murder Cases About New York By JIM DWYER NOV. 22, 2016

One year ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced a “clemency project” to breathe life into a power that has withered from disuse in the state and across the country: the granting of pardons and the commuting of prison sentences for people convicted of crimes.
Be careful what you wish for.
Among the people waiting to hear from the governor are three men, all convicted of murder, who have maintained their innocence as the years of their lives turned into decades in prison.
One is a 73-year-old man from Westchester County who had been in the sports memorabilia business at the time of his arrest. Another, 51, had been an auxiliary police officer in Brooklyn. The third, 41, was a teenager in Suffolk County, on Long Island, who had not yet finished high school.
Nothing in the American government system compares to the clemency power held by presidents and governors. One person can undo the findings of the judicial system; that person serves as a backstop against excesses, or as the repository of mercies that cannot be put into statutes.
Naturally, it is a power that scares the heck out of whoever holds it.
Beginning in the 1980s, the use of clemency plunged at both the state and federal level. Crime was climbing; mercy was politically dangerous. Since 2006, New York governors have granted clemency to less than one person for every 100 who sought it, with the exception of Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, who used it for about three people in 100.
Until late last year, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had pardoned five people in about five years and had given no commutations. (A pardon wipes clean a conviction; the commutation of a sentence can make a person eligible for an earlier parole or immediate release.)
One big problem, said Alphonso B. David, the governor’s chief counsel, was that many prisoners did not understand how to ask. “We would get a single sheet of paper from a prisoner that said, ‘I would like clemency,’” Mr. David said. The governor and his staff needed to know if the person had made serious progress toward rehabilitation, had the ability to survive outside prison and would not pose a threat to public safety.
So the governor enlisted legal groups across the state to organize volunteer lawyers to prepare the prisoners’ requests. “It has been slow and it has been rocky,” Carol A. Sigmond, president of the New York County Lawyers’ Association, said. One revelation for the volunteers was how few prisoners were obvious candidates for clemency, such as people doing time for nonviolent drug offenses. New York has reduced the number of people it sends to prison by about 25 percent since 2000.
Last year, Mr. Cuomo commuted the sentences of two people convicted in drug cases, and pardoned two others who had long since finished their terms but faced problems because of their criminal records.
Those were the definition of low-hanging fruit.
So far, the new project has yielded six “robust” applications, Mr. David said.
“We have to think about giving people a second chance,” he said. “At the same time, we have to look at them also through a prism of not putting anyone at risk.”
The newer cases are politically harder than pardoning someone for an ancient drug possession charge. Of the six known pending applications, three were submitted on behalf of the men who were convicted of murder: Joseph Gordon, Felipe Rodriguez and Carlos Sanchez. All three are represented by Nina Morrison and Susan Friedman of the Innocence Project, who are collaborating with Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma on Mr. Rodriguez’s case.
Each has what appear to be plausible claims of innocence, but the cases lack the definitive proof that could get the men’s convictions overturned. What is uncontested are their strong prison records. Mr. Sanchez, arrested before he graduated from high school, will soon receive his bachelor’s degree in mathematics; Mr. Gordon, the former memorabilia dealer, works with inmates who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled; and Mr. Rodriguez is trusted with handling caustic chemicals and is credited by prison staff with rebuilding “much of our facility plumbing.”
They join a group that includes Judith Clark, who was convicted of three murders for serving as the getaway driver in the 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored car in Rockland County. After 35 years in prison, Ms. Clark, who is held in high esteem by prison officials as a counselor and teacher, faces decades more time.
Mr. Cuomo’s commitment to giving people a second chance will be tested.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CURE-NY Summer/Fall 2016 Newsletter

NEW ADDRESS!
CURE-NY
PO Box 182
Hopewell Jct, NY 12533

Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants

Dearest CURE-NY Friends, As we end another beautiful summer, there are many things to look forward to in the upcoming season. Here at CURE NY, we also have a few changes on the horizon, both with leadership and content. Join us first in congratulating our hard-working Co-President, Cheryl Kates-Benman, Esq. for receiving the Thomas Empowerment Hour Radio Show’s (TEHRS) Humanitarian Award for 2016, along with CURE-NY Advisory Council Member and exoneree, Marty Tankleff. Also help us bid a bittersweet, farewell to Cheryl as she takes on other new ventures, in addition to growing her law firm. She may be stepping down from the rewarding, yet tiresome role helping lead the organization, but she will not be far, as she will remain firmly seated on our Board of Directors.

Be sure to see the return of the ‘His & Hers’ column, now written by CURE-NY’s Board Secretary, Angela Jackson, and her incarcerated husband, Jeff. You will also see photos from the recent picnic hosted by the online support group, Free Our Loved Ones, led by two loving wives of incarcerated men. Both have been integral in bringing this anticipated summer event for its third year.

We will continue to tap into the legal mind of Attorney Cheryl Kates-Benman, and also share what CURE-NY members are doing all over the state to advocate for reform.

In future issues, look for the introduction of CURE across the Nation, where we share stories from our sister chapters, and what work they are doing in this challenging fight for change.

Check out CURE NY’s twitter page which can be found at @curenewyork
Like us on Facebook: curenewyork

We are still working to improve the website, which can be found at http://www.curenewyork.info. Our blog can be found at http://www.curenewyork.wordpress.com where you can stay up to date on current criminal justice issues.

Justice for Samuel Harrell

On a chilly Saturday in April, Cure-NY joined family and friends of Samuel Harrell III, in a vigil to both celebrate his life and not only mourn his death, but fight for real justice for those responsible. Samuel, of Kingston, was killed one year earlier at
Fishkill Correctional Facility by officers who are accused of handcuffing him and shoving him down a flight of stairs. About 250 people joined to call for change, about 2 blocks from the prison. During the event, actors recreated the scene of his death overwhelming his sister with emotion. His father, Samuel Harrell Jr., told the crowd, “We have to keep pressing on; we will get justice”. In addition to CURE-NY, the event was attended by Black Lives Matter activists, as well as the group that organized the event, Beacon Prison Action. We will keep fighting for justice for Samuel, and the many others whose lives have been cut short, while only trying to make it home to their families after their period of incarceration is completed.

His & Hers

This column is co-written by Board Secretary, Angela Jackson and her incarcerated husband . They will explore issues as husband and wife, from the inside and out. This issue will begin the series with one of many challenges faced in everyday living for them both.

HIS:

Take me with you! There are a lot of things I cannot see from behind these walls. I can’t see what my wife goes through being processed in or out of here. I don’t see her making shopping lists, getting the items, packing it in the car, to take it home and repack it, then carry it in, stand in line, and hope none of it gets rejected. I am glad I had the knowledge to prepare her, and to be considerate and thankful. Nevertheless, I cannot see any of it being done. I ask her for patience while she explains it all to me.
Then there are places and situations you may not think are important, but they are priceless to us. Photos or your typical day is only one example. When people send us photos from outside these walls, we are not just looking at the people; sometimes the most important thing is the background! The cars, the stores, the buildings. You all have a camera in your pocket. When you think of your family member, pull out your phone and start clicking!

HERS:

Nothing brings me more joy than providing the things to make my husband more comfortable. Anything from a good meal to warm clothes for winter, I try to make sure he is good! Yes, it is a challenge to get a package to him, but I do not always want to tell him how hard it was, so he won’t feel bad.
Now about those pictures! Out here alone, it is hard to take pictures when I’m usually driving. In the moment, it is easy to forget how important those photos are, since where I may be is so insignificant. Once I realized how much he enjoys the streets, the buildings, the scenery…well it has become much more important to capture those shots, to ensure he can close his eyes and imagine the world outside his cell. The best invention, so says my husband, has been the selfie stick! Time to take advantage of mine, and send him some pictures…

Remembering John Mackenzie

All of us at CURE-NY would like to express our sadness and deepest condolences to John MacKenzie’s daughters and family on the loss of their loved one. Although most of us did not know John personally, his name has been forged in mine and CURE-NY’s purpose for many years.

John MacKenzie, at 70 years old served more than 40 years in the New York State prison system and was eligible for parole for the past 16 years. Mr. MacKenzie was a model prisoner with a perfect record. He earned degrees in business administration and the arts. He counseled other incarcerated individuals nearing their own release dates, and, with a $10.000 grant, he created a program to give victims an opportunity to speak directly to other incarcerated individuals about the impact of their crimes.

In the last decision, it was not mentioned that Mr. MacKenzie posed any risk to society, and made only a small reference to the letters supporting his release.

As we move forward in our efforts for criminal justice reform, we will remember the life and legacy of John MacKenzie and his contribution to all of us in the struggle.

Rest in Peace John, you are finally free, and you will not be forgotten.

Deb Bozydaj
Co-President, CURE-NY
CURE-NY

CURE in the Community: Free Our Loves Ones—Annual Picnic

For the third straight year, wives of men who are incarcerated in NY joined forces and held a huge summer picnic in New York City. This year’s event, at St. Mary’s park in the Bronx, was held the Saturday before Labor Day. Led by Mrs. ‘Kiss’ Brown and Mrs. ‘Dia’ Butts, the team of ladies laid out food, fun, and gifts for the kids. Sixty backpacks filled with school supplies were
given away, and raffles for bus rides to upstate visits and Flikshop credits were held. A fun day was had by all, including brothers, mothers, and even out of state prison wives, in support of the annual event. The candy table was a big hit with the kids, as was the piñata for the adults. The picnic is a chance for the families who have supported each other through our social media group to get together.

We get to see the children growing up, and even chat with a few of the husbands who have returned to their wives. This gives those who still wait the hope to continue, knowing one day their loved one will come home to them. Meanwhile, we are anxious to begin planning FOLO 2017!
~A. Jackson

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER WORLD PREMIERE

Please join us November 4, 2016 at 7:00 PM for the grand opening of Galleria La Muse; 1115 East Main Street, Suite 230, The Hungerford Building Rochester, NY. The world premiere of co-president Cheryl L. Kates’ movie “Happily Never After” will take place this evening Learn about how the NYS criminal justice system treats victims of domestic violence. Featured in the movie is CURE advisory committee member Michele Lennon. Michelle is in Taconic Correctional Facility serving a sentence of (20-Life) for killing her abuser. Michelle fits a unique exception in the law where because of being a victim of domestic violence she can apply for work release. NYS DOCCS is blocking her release on parole and work release because of the serious nature of the crime. The movie discusses issues such as the failure of the NYS Board of Parole to protect victims in the community, same sex couple issues, and a law enforcement perspective. You don’t want to miss this night. Live performances by Royelle and Rain Christi. There will also be a fashion show featuring Mary Terese Friel Models.

ACTIVISM IN THE COMMUNITY
By CHERYL KATES

Candles for Clemency staged a protest on the lawn of the governor’s home in Mt. Kisko, NY. The group hopes their activism will influence Governor Cuomo in the upcoming year to exercise his discretionary power to grant clemency. A few months ago, corrections released a memo encouraging people to apply for clemency. There was indication the normal bars to clemency weren’t going to be applied (less than 2 years to parole board). This relief is expected around the Christmas holiday. There was an indication inmates were being called that down for review. Stay tuned for more updates!
_________________
Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) stages weekly rallies to continue to advocate for solitary confinement reform in the NYC area.

In Other News

Glenn Martin and Victor Pate have been leading efforts in marches to close Riker’s Island. Attorney Audrey Thomas is writing a book about her experiences with Riker’s. An event is being planned April 15, 2017 at York College in Rosedale, NY ( 4 pm).

Excerpt from MICHAEL WINERIP and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ SEPT. 21, 2016:

On the night three years ago when Kevin Moore’s dreadlocks were ripped out and his ribs and facial bones were broken, a group of New York State corrections officers involved in a confrontation with him said that they were the victims, that Mr. Moore, a 56-year-old inmate, had attacked them.. Mr. Moore spent 17 days in the hospital, according to the indictment. The officers were suspended and eventually resigned, though one officer stayed on the job until last month. All have now been charged in the attack.

SUNY Bans the Box

NEW YORK – The Board of Trustees at the largest comprehensive public university system in the nation voted TODAY to give potential students with criminal histories a chance by moving its criminal history check box off of its current application process. The move comes after the Board of Trustees heard public testimony from formerly incarcerated students and advocates in May, organized by the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO), to explain what barriers “the box” presents for applicants with a criminal justice histories.
Momentum has been building across New York State toward Banning the Box in higher education for years. Most recently, hundreds of students spent the spring rallying to make change at NYU, and SUNY campuses. The ground work was laid for these efforts as far back as 2010 by one of EIO’s leadership members, the Center for Community Alternatives. It was this research, along with an updated EIO and CCA 2015 report called “Boxed Out,” that laid the ground work for the federal guidance encouraging colleges and universities to go Beyond the Box. These new guidelines were announced in May by US Education Secretary John King, and both EIO Co-Founder Vivian Nixon and EIO leadership member Marsha Weissman were invited to the press conference at UCLA’s campus for the reveal. After its release, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher released a statement commending the move. “I myself, was boxed out of SUNY Old Westbury when I reapplied to college after getting out of prison, and I am so happy
to hear SUNY finally realized that we shouldn’t stop or deter anyone from bettering their life with education,” said Vivian Nixon, EIO’s Co-Founder, and Executive Director for College & Community Fellowship, a non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated women achieve a higher education. “I was able to finish my degree at SUNY Empire where I had completed a few courses prior to incarceration, and thus could return without reapplying. Others aren’t as lucky. I was so proud to represent EIO next to US Secretary of Education John King when he urged U.S. Universities and Colleges to look Beyond the Box back in May, and even prouder that SUNY has listened to our voices, our experiences, and will now give every potential student a chance to transform their lives with education.” The 2015 study conducted by EIO and CCA showed that nearly two-thirds (62.5%) of SUNY applicants who disclose a prior felony conviction never complete their applications, compared to 21% of applicants with no criminal history across all of its 64 campuses. The study attributed the number to a “chilling effect” caused by a fear of stigma, and a set of complicated, and sometimes impossible, set of supplemental requirements once the box was checked. “The research doesn’t lie. There is no empirical evidence that having a criminal history question on an application makes a campus any safer,” said Alan Rosenthal, Advisor on Special Projects for the Center for Community Alternatives, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization. “The bottom-line is that this ‘box’ does nothing but deter qualified applicants in desperate need of a second chance. People who attend college are less likely to have further involvement in the criminal justice system, thus making our communities safer. EIO is proud that SUNY has decided to pave the way for other universities across the country who are still asking this harmful question of its applicants, under the false assumption that it keeps a campus safe.” The Education from the Inside Out Coalition helped write proposed legislation currently in committees of both houses of the New York State Legislature. The Fair Access to Education Bill (S969/A3363) would make it illegal for colleges and universities to ask an applicant whether they have been previously convicted of a criminal offense. EIO is hopeful SUNY’s decision to “move the box” will spur action on the issue and lawmakers will finally pass legislation to ensure every college and university in New York State bans the box in higher education. “Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and EIO applauds SUNY for listening to our EIO members’ firsthand experiences with the box,” said Glenn E. Martin, Co-Founder of EIO and President of Just Leadership USA, which aims to cut the prison population in half by 2030. “We can only hope the news encourages lawmakers to pass current proposed legislation in New York State, which will permanently ban the box once and for all. Education is the key to building stronger communities, families, and future leaders in this country; nowhere should a person’s past solely define their self worth or future.

Second Chances
By FLO MARTINEZ

John Stossel, host of Fox Business Network, and columnist for Creators Syndicate, wrote an article for Poughkeepsie Journal on July 5, 2016, entitled, “Ex-offenders deserve a second chance in society”. He writes, “America makes it extra hard for ex-offenders to find work. Some states make it illegal. Illinois bans ex-offenders from more than 118
professions. The Illinois Policy Institute, a free-market group that tries to get these laws tossed out, reports that ex-offenders must give up trying to become a nurse, architect, interior designer, teacher, dietician, buyer of slaughtered livestock, etc. Who cares if a livestock buyer once served time? No one says that crimes these convicts committed don’t matter but punishing them forever doesn’t help. You went to jail, you paid your debt to society. Coming out, how are we going to treat you? Are we going to deny you work that keeps you…out of trouble? Some competing businesses WANT to hire ex-offenders, and when that works out, it is good. It is important to let employers and customers make these calls.” Let’s hope that our New York State politicians start seeing that these laws have to change.

Courtroom News By NINO CAMPOS:

I fought tooth and nail by way of oral argument in the Third Department Appellate Division regarding the statute of limitations for a prisoner to file a Claim or Notice of Intention re: “Wrongful Confinement”. During oral arguments, Chief Judge Karen Peters and all of the sitting Justices agreed with my argument that People vs. Davis (2011) is unconstitutional because it falls contrary to Supreme Court precedent
“Balisok vs. Edwards”, which demands that a prisoner who wishes to file a “Wrongful Confinement” lawsuit must first seek and obtain a reversal of their Tier 3, before filing a 1983 claim. They literally scolded and humiliated the Assistant Attorney General for arguing against my claim, since the “Davis” case states the opposite. The “Davis” Case – which happens to be Third Department precedent -requires a prisoner to file a Wrongful Confinement claim in the Court of Claims BEFORE a Tier 3 Reversal! Ninety days after you’re released from SHU, way before your Article 78 is even decided! My argument won like a Slam Dunk during oral argument, but 3 months later, they denied my appeal (on paper). I guess my case would open up a brand new can of worms and hundreds of cases might have had to be reviewed, or they just refused to reverse their own precedent? Either way, simply put, they have been doing wrongfully confined prisoners dirty since the “Davis” case. In my case, when they realized that Davis was utterly flawed they agreed with my claim…. But, when it came time to pay, they -with cold blood – changed their decision. Before this case, I always thought the Third Department was reasonably fair, because I had never lost a case there … until now: See, Campos Vs. State of New York (Feb. 9, 2016) (Oral Argument-Albany).

CURE-NY Spotlight

Martin Tankleff, a CURE NY Advisory Board Member has had a busy few months.

Over the summer, he sat for the Uniform Bar Exam and is awaiting the results. Hopefully, all goes well and he can become admitted to practice law in New York.
On August 18, Marty was interviewed for Jason Flom’s new podcast that interviews exonerees which will be premiering on October 4.

Then, on August 20, Marty received a Humanitarian Award from Audrey Thomas and the THERS legal group.

On September 14, Marty appeared on the Stephanie O show to speak about the criminal justice system and wrongful convictions. On September 23, Marty was party of a press conference on New York City Hall steps to demand systematic reform to the criminal justice system by passing laws that mandate all interviews and interrogations be electronically recorded. After the press conference, Marty testified before the New York City Council on these issues.

Most recently, he was part of a panel discussion on wrongful convictions at the Brooklyn Bar Association at an American Inn of the Court event. Days after that event, he was part of a two day meeting of the New York Innocence
University, Boston University School of Law, Nassau Community College, Touro Law School, Williams College, and several others. He has appeared on several major television stations and radio shows, such as CBS 48 Hours, American Justice with Bill Kurtis, ABC, WPIX, Channel 55, News 12, NBC, WBAI, WNYC, NY1, and others.

He regularly speaks at colleges, universities, and high schools. He has lectured at the NYPD training academy, he was the keynote speaker at the Nassau County Bar Association, the New York State Defenders Association, and he has spoken at Cardozo Law School, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Georgetown University, Boston University School of Law, Nassau Community College, Touro Law School, Williams College, and several others. He has appeared on several major television stations and radio shows, such as CBS 48 Hours, American Justice with Bill Kurtis, ABC, WPIX, Channel 55, News 12, NBC, WBAI, WNYC, NY1, and others.

CURE-NY
The New York Chapter of National CURE
Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants
PO Box 182
Hopewell Junction, NY 12533

We are currently doing our annual membership drive and asking all current members to send in their 2017 dues now. A basic membership is $10. If you are incarcerated, you have the option to send a reduced membership fee of $2-$10, based on your ability to pay. Please send what you are able. Family memberships costs only $20. This ensures that both you and your loved one will get a copy of our newsletter.

We ask that you pledge to send this letter to 20 of your friends to help spread the word about CURE’s commitment to participate in criminal justice issues!

CURE-NY MEMBERSHIP: Individual : $10; Family: $20; (Visa/MC via PayPal, Facility check, money order)
Name________________________________________________________________________________
Address______________________________________________________________________________
Email:_________________________ _Twitter________ __________________
FaceBook_________________________Family Member Name/#: _______________________________
Incarcerated Member sliding scale $ 2.00-10.00 based on ability to pay (please enclose payment)

CURE NY is a 501(c)(3). Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, ask us how!

Beginning with the first issue of 2017, non members will be removed from our mailing list due to budgetary constraints

Make checks payable to: CURE NY; Box 182, Hopewell Jct, NY 12533

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Message from the International Prisoners Family Conference

There are 2 Primary Reasons Our Advocacy is Not Working.  
Perhaps this will shed light on what has eluded us for decades.
 
Despite all the outcries significant criminal justice reform has not happened.  Society doesn’t care, no matter how loud we bang on their door.
 
We all know it’s pure insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Never the less, that’s what we keep doing.
 
It’s time we become WISER, not louder with our outcries.  That requires taking some steps BACKWARD to make greater strides in our advocacy! 
 
That realization has placed us on a new path to the success that has eluded us.
 
In all of our outcries WE HAVE IGNORED THE MOST CRITICAL PIECE required to ever achieve change.
 
OUR FIRST STEP should always have been to prove to society something we as advocates already know:  THE PRISON FAMILY IS FULLY DESERVING of respect; equity; inclusiveness—dignity.
 
We should not have to do that. Society should see the prison family as human beings like any other members of society.
 
They should.  But the fact we must face is:  THEY DON’T.  And, here are 2 reasons why:
 
#1.  All of us fear and avoid what we don’t know.  Society doesn’t know the REAL prison family, so they fear and shun them.
 
#2.  Society always looks for an easy scapegoat!  Sad, but true.  And the prison family has been an easy scapegoat; retreating instead of advancing.  As a result, society has easily built a lucrative prison industrial complex by discarding prison families as something less than human. 
 
Harsh, but true.  And, mass incarceration continues to destroy families and erode the quality of life in our communities.
 
It continues, because society as a whole does not know and therefore does not care about the REAL prison family—the intelligent, skilled, talented valuable people that they are. 
 
Instead, in fear and ignorance society hangs on to a false CARICATURE of the prison family based on grotesque myths and stereotypes that perpetuate unfounded fears.
 
The caricature they believe makes it easy for them to disregard; disrespect—DISCARD an entire population—MILLIONS OF HUMAN BEINGS.
 
The harsh reality is that we can shout and complain and demand change, BUT BEFORE we can expect any real change, society must come to know and care about the REAL prison family. 
 
If we we stop long enough to put a FACE on the prison family; if we introduce REAL PRISON FAMILY MEMBERS to society in a non-threatening way—no shouting; no rioting; no demanding; no whining; no complaining—if we simply put faces (and stories) of REAL prison family members before their eyes, fears will subside and society won’t so easily discard the prison family.
 
The “Faces of Mass Incarceration© documentary project is the crucial missing piece in advocacy. 
 
It is long past due. 
 
The proposed professionally and sensitively produced documentary has the potential to change society’s view of the prisoner and their loved ones. 
 
We’ve started it.  Filming of interviews with many prison family members took place at the 2016 InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference.  Bold, courageous family members bared their hearts to tell their stories.
 
Now, we must have your help to complete it.
 
View the trailer.  If you agree the proposed documentary has the potential to change hearts and minds when shared liberally with the public—through social media; in community meetings; in college and university classrooms; via webinars, etc.—support it and share it with others.
 
If you agree the “Faces of Mass Incarceration”© documentary has the potential to open doors for our advocacy, click the link above and donate whatever you can.  $5, $50, $500—it all adds up and we will be able to complete the documentary and begin making the REAL prison family known across the country.
 
If you have any questions, please let us know.

Your support is needed.  Thank you.
 
With heartfelt thanks to those who have already supported the project,
Carolyn Esparza, LPC – Conference Chair  
 

Carolyn Esparza, LPC
Chair, InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference
Co-author, The Unvarnished Truth about the Prison Family Journey

Phone: 915-861-7733
Visit Our Website     
Like us on Facebook  

The InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference is a project of Community Solutions of El Paso, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

State prison culture toxic

The brutal incident that led to indictments last week of three former New York state correction officers is only the latest case to suggest that abuse in state prisons has reached a crisis level.
The federal grand jury indictment alleges that, in 2013, correction officers at a state prison in Dutchess County viciously beat a prisoner from Coxsackie Correctional Facility. In an effort to conceal their crime, the officers injured one of themselves with a club to support their lie that the inmate had instigated the altercation, the indictment said. The inmate, Kevin Moore, was being held overnight, en route to testify at a hearing the next day. A repeat felon serving up to 20 years for burglary, he never made it to the hearing.
The officers “brutally beat (Moore) for an extended period of time with fists, boots and batons, causing many life-threatening injuries,” the indictment charges. He was left bleeding on the floor for hours and was eventually hospitalized for three weeks.
The Times Union and The New York Times have reported extensively on this and similar cases, including the situation at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where two convicted murderers pulled off a stunning escape last summer. The case illustrates the breakdown in the discipline of staff that contributed to the successful break. Reports of inmates beaten during the investigation into the escape evoke an image of a third world prison or the supposedly less-enlightened prisons of our own past.
Numerous other cases across the system, including the 2015 beating death of a mentally ill inmate by a group of officers known as the “Beat Up Squad,” have been documented. The state seems unable to respond.
A major problem is the difficulty in firing corrupt or otherwise unfit correction officers. The disciplinary process under the contract with the powerful correction officers union requires most actions be arbitrated. Both sides must agree on the arbitrator, who knows from experience he won’t be called again to serve in this lucrative position if the findings result in too harsh a punishment, such as firing. Too often, to protect these gigs, arbitrators order only a suspension. So the abusive guard is soon back on the job for which he or she is unsuited.
Over time this fosters a perverse culture in which the rights of prisoners are ignored and correction officers get away with horrific treatment of inmates. The result is an environment not unlike that at Abu Ghraib, where revelations of prisoner abuses by U.S. servicemen, under the guise of “enhanced interrogation,” severely undermined our war efforts in Iraq.
When the rights of prisoners are ignored and they are subjected to such abuse, the most likely result is that they become neurotic, resentful, angry, and even more prone to violence than when they committed the crimes that put them there in the first place.
It’s foolhardy to think this passes for discipline, and it endangers us all to call it rehabilitation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

”We’re Freedom Fighters”: The Story of the Nationwide Prison Labor Strike

James Kilgore – September 18, 2016

The first national prison labor strike in US history launched on September 9. Billed as a “Call to Action Against Slavery in America,” the spark for the action came from the Free Alabama Movement (FAM), a prison-based organization that has been mobilizing across the state since 2012. Alabama has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country.
Reports from FAM’s base within Holman Prison indicated a universal refusal of the population to go to work on September 9. Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, the chief outside spokesperson for FAM, speaking to Truthout on the day of the launch, said significant strike action also took place within prisons in South Carolina, Virginia and Ohio.
“These men have gone beyond religious barriers and race barriers and most of all, incarceration barriers,” Glasgow told Truthout. By Wednesday evening, the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee (IWOC) estimated that 15,310 people in prisons were on lockdown in facilities where organizing or strikes had been confirmed.
Several actions related to the strike have gained considerable attention. The night before the national action, some 400 men in Florida’s Holmes prison staged a rebellion that lasted most of Thursday night. By Monday, collective resistance had spread to five Florida prisons, including civil disobedience by 40 men in Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City and a two-day work stoppage at nearby Mayo. In Northern Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility, the men took a more low-key approach, with about 400 incarcerated individuals staging a demonstration inside the gates. Immediately after the action, 150 of them were put on buses and sent to other institutions.
Political prisoner Chelsea Manning also began a hunger strike on Saturday, September 10, apparently timed to coincide with the national actions. By Wednesday morning she had reportedly won her demand for gender-affirming surgery.
The Legacy of Slavery
The linkage between the strike action and slavery largely grew out of the extreme labor conditions inside Alabama prisons. In these facilities, many people work in license plate factories and on plantation-like farms for a few cents a day or, in some cases, no remuneration at all. The exploitation of prison labor in the state has been accentuated since the state legislature passed a law in 2012 to permit private contractors to employ people behind bars.
But the FAM vision also situated the exploitation of prison labor in the context of broader notions of injustice. Their launching statement said: “Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school-to-prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls.” They went on to posit the potential systemic impact of their actions: “When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.” As Free Alabama member Melvin Ray summed it up, “We’re freedom fighters. We’re not just fighting for wages, we’re simply pointing out the fact that this is a slave model of free labor.”
Historical Roots
This action has deep historical roots. The day chosen to launch the strike, September 9, coincided with perhaps the most famous prison uprising in modern US history — the rebellion in New York’s Attica prison in 1971. On that occasion men of Attica’s D yard took over their section of the prison and held it for four days. They issued a set of demands for improved conditions, but the bottom line was articulated by one of the leaders, L.D. Barkley: “We are men, we are not beasts, and do not intend to be beaten or driven as such.” In the end, Barkley and 38 other men died in that prison yard after an armed assault launched by state troopers. The dead included 10 prison staff.
While the Attica legacy has drawn much attention as an inspiration for the recent strike, the rebellion in upstate New York was an expression of a national awareness among people on the inside during that period. Sundiata Tate spoke to Truthout about this history. Tate was a long-time activist inside California state institutions and close associate of legendary prison revolutionary George Jackson, who was murdered at San Quentin prison in August 1971.Tate told Truthout that there were often-forgotten links between resistance in California prisons and the events in New York. Tate recalled that the seizure of D yard took place less than a month after the murder of Jackson. “People on the East Coast had heard about him, people in the prisons… George was able to reach out into society,” he said. Once the men in Attica seized the yard, Tate noted, “One of the things they mentioned was the death of ‘Comrade’ (Jackson).” At the time, Jackson was a well-known member of the Black Panther Party as well as well as the author of a bestseller written from behind prison walls, Soledad Brother.
In Alabama, the historical roots of the strike also lie in the day-to-day political work done by many incarcerated activists and their families over the years. For instance, former political prisoner Sekou Kambui, who spent 47 years in Alabama state prisons, used his decades behind bars as an educator and organizer, building political awareness and commitment amongst the population and the community, laying the groundwork for present-day activists.
The Significance of the Strike
The strike represents the nexus of several waves of recent social justice activism: the growing movement against mass incarceration; offensives against systemic racism, led by the Movement for Black Lives; and the actions by low-wage workers to gain the $15-an-hour minimum wage. The call for a living wage on the streets resonates behind prison walls, where wages have stagnated for decades while those in prison have seen their living conditions deteriorate due to the cutbacks in educational programs and job training, and the addition of copays for services like health care.
This latest prison strike also constituted an ambitious escalation in scale and tactics of a wave of resistance in prison in recent years. The three hunger strikes in California prisons — largely a protest against solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit and the use of “gang validation” to justify prolonged isolation of prisoner/organizers — have drawn the most attention. However, those in Pelican Bay are not alone. In June of this year, several men inside the Waupun Correctional Institute in Wisconsin embarked on a prolonged “Dying to Live” hunger strike that resulted in forced feeding by prison authorities.
Many other actions have also occurred: labor strikes in Georgia prisons in 2010 along with recent work stoppages in Texas and several Alabama prisons, including an April uprising in Holman. Immigration detention centers have also been the scene of many actions, several led by women. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by their counterparts who were held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas. These mobilizations are largely a protest against the criminalization of people seeking asylum in the United States as a result of political violence in Central American countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Assessing the Strike
Though information on the level of activity remains limited, the strike appears to have fallen short of the predictions by FAM of the involvement of incarcerated people from 25 states and 54 prisons. The reasons why the action may not have reached anticipated levels are not difficult to discern. To begin with, since prison officials were forewarned, many institutional authorities may have simply imposed a lockdown before September 9, short-circuiting any opportunity for people to refuse to go to work. Evidence of this came via video from one man in a South Carolina prison who posted a clip of water in his cell after men on his block flooded the area as a protest against four days of lockdown.
Second, organizers both inside and outside prison possibly underestimated the difficulty in mobilizing people who are incarcerated, especially at a national level. Most prisons and jails ban meetings or even doing physical exercises in groups. In addition, prison officials have a range of punitive tools available to block coordination and communication. Apart from the possibilities of physical beatings, individuals suspected of organizing collective resistance can be placed in solitary or have visiting and phone privileges denied. Most importantly, for those who do not have a life sentence, receiving a disciplinary infraction can result in an extension of their sentence. In addition, prisons typically have surveillance capacity. They can listen to outgoing phone calls and eavesdrop on visits.
Plus, the widespread use of confidential informants within the institutions provides authorities with an ear to the ground of the details of planned actions. Several instances of reprisals against individuals identified as strike leaders have already been reported. All of these, when combined with the lack of access to information technology inside prisons, pose formidable obstacles to coordinated action.
Perhaps the surprise is not that the strike didn’t reach the level hoped for, but that the spirit of protest and rebellion penetrated as widely as it did.
The Successes
Ultimately, this strike achieved a number of important milestones. Most importantly, strike organizers highlighted the oppressive labor and living conditions inside prisons. No other action in recent times has shone as bright a light on the fact that incarcerated people perform the bulk of the work that keeps the institutions running, from cooking to cleaning to managing the HVAC systems and repairing the electrical circuits. And they do this for little or no pay.
The strike also raised the specter of coordinated national action to emphasize the systemic, national quality of not only conditions of prisons as a workplace, but also as a site of punishment and enslavement.
In addition, although as noted above, most prisons provide no access to the internet or cell phones, the action offered a showcase for how information technology can become an effective tool for sharing the experiences and aspirations of incarcerated people. Individuals on the inside are discovering new ways to make their voices heard on social media. While people like Mumia Abu-Jamal have long communicated with the outside through interlocutors, the men at Holman went further — producing videos earlier this year that exposed the oppressive conditions under which they live. They also captured real-time action of their uprising in April. Kinetik Justice, one of the leaders of FAM, spoke live on Democracy Now! during a strike in May, telling the world that “the prison system is a continuation of the slave system.” Justice has been in solitary confinement for 28 months since playing a leading role in a 2014 protest at Holman but still found his way to the airwaves.
Moreover, social media were crucial in organizing support for prison resistance in communities across the country. IWOC, a relatively small organization, has maintained a constant vocal presence on Facebook and Twitter, with local activists posting videos, photos and written updates in real time. As a result, communities across the country stood up in support of the strike. Actions took place in some 60 locations, including all major cities. Even small towns like Hutchison, Kentucky; Champaign, Illinois; and Merced, California staged noise demonstrations, educational events and mobilizations outside of prisons. IWOC’s webpage produced a daily log of dozens of solidarity actions, which began in early August, while a Google doc tracked strike actions.  IWOC’s reach, coupled with the moral appeal of the voices from inside prison, even succeeded in drawing statements of solidarity from European countries, such as Serbia, Lithuania, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Lastly, the strike has added further momentum to reconstruct or replace the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. This amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” effectively permitting the enslavement of those who have been convicted of a crime. The spirit of this amendment flies in the face of increasing pressure for full rights of citizenship and equality for all those convicted of a crime or with a record of incarceration. As Pastor Glasgow put it, “As long as it sits in our Constitution, along with it sits slavery in our Constitution… the 13th Amendment needs to be reconstructed.”
Attention to the 13th Amendment’s legalization of slavery for people who have been convicted of crimes is likely to further heighten later this month when Ava Duvernay’s Netflix film, The 13th, launches at the New York Film Festival.
Key Issues for Social Movements
This strike has also brought to the fore a number of important issues relating to the struggle against mass incarceration and the building of broad movements for social justice and liberation.
The fundamental nature of the strike action raises interesting questions. In a telephone interview with Truthout, talk show host, writer and activist Bill Fletcher, also a former trade union official, expressed uncertainty as to whether the national action was a rebellion or an effort to organize a union. If it was a unionization effort, he was unclear what the specific objectives were and, given the lack of collective bargaining rights inside prisons, “if there is a way to sustain any kind of victory.” Certainly the demands of FAM, as well as those in Kinross and other prisons, went well beyond traditional labor notions of increased pay, shorter working hours and better working conditions. Moreover, a large number of the actions were not refusals to work but other forms of protest, including hunger strikes and demonstrations. While the IWOC literature on the strike has stressed the low wage levels and encouraged the formation of union chapters at the prison level, FAM has not adopted this strategy. Pastor Glasgow stated that FAM views prison labor as slave labor that must be ended rather than fall under a union ambit.
The issue is further complicated by attempting to identify the beneficiaries of prison labor: Who is making money? According to Glasgow, companies in Alabama are not outsourcing labor overseas — they are “insourcing” to people in prison. Yet, much of the production taking place in Alabama prisons, such as license-plate making and agriculture, is designed for use by government rather than for private profit. This is the case across the country, where a relatively small number of people behind bars actually work under contract to private companies. The question then emerges as to whether prisons are primarily profit centers for exploiting labor or a political project driven by white supremacy and neoliberal economic restructuring.
In other words, are people incarcerated in order to mobilize their labor power inside prison, or to erase them from urban landscapes that are being gentrified into enclaves of race and class privilege?
The Complexities of Solidarity
A second crucial question arising from this strike concerns the challenges of building solidarity between people inside prison and those on the outside. IWOC has played the major role in promoting awareness of the strike and getting the statements and voices of FAM and others behind bars onto the streets. An offshoot of an early 20th century labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies), the IWOC says its key aim is to “further the revolutionary goals of incarcerated people and the IWW through mutual organizing of a worldwide union for emancipation from the prison system.”
In mobilizing support for the September 9 action, IWOC has helped create one of the most widespread, social-media-savvy networks in the history of the struggle against mass incarceration. Yet IWOC also has a determination to build the strength of its own organization by creating local chapters inside prisons. Its website even includes a link to donate money to pay the annual dues of an “incarcerated worker.” According to activist Claude Marks, the support efforts for the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers, of which he was a part, took a different approach. He told Truthout: “We focused on raising money to mobilize the families of those incarcerated to organize and speak out.”
While clearly there is a need to incorporate people who are incarcerated into the movement against mass incarceration and for social justice, the complexities of the difference between amplifying the voices of those inside and speaking for them pose key challenges for all those involved in such work. The differences in these approaches have important gender and racial implications. While most of the people involved in the actions inside are men, their family support networks are predominantly women. By lifting up the voices of the families, organizers are acknowledging that individuals who are incarcerated do not do their time alone. Their loved ones also suffer and are willing to fight back. To date, in the September 9 strike, the voices of the families have been faint.
Moreover, efforts to build solidarity and the profile of the movement create uncertainties about how to handle information that comes from unverifiable sources, be they prison officials or individuals who are incarcerated. The repressive conditions in prisons during moments of conflict heighten the complexities of verification. This context perhaps leads to attempts by organizers and supporters to engage in questionable practices like implying that the ongoing hunger strikes at Guantanamo have some relation to the September 9 action.
The third question is perhaps the most obvious: Where was organized labor during this strike and the run-up to September 9? As Fletcher points out, “Organized labor has, up until recently, ignored the issue of mass incarceration.” While prisons and jails hold millions of marginalized workers, the unions’ reluctance to take a position on mass incarceration relates to membership issues. Some of the country’s largest and most significant unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), count on prison and jail workers, including guards, to boost their membership. Pushing back against incarceration could likely jeopardize these jobs. However, over the years union leaders have consistently criticized the use of prison labor, arguing that it undercuts the bargaining position of prison staff. Still, when the incarcerated labor force actually took action, the trade unions remained mute. Repeated efforts by Truthout to elicit a comment on the strike from national and regional officials of the AFL-CIO as well as the SEIU and AFSCME drew silence, apart from one AFL-CIO official who said that they “have not done work around prison labor for many, many years.”
More Fire to Come?
In addition to the strike not surfacing on trade union agendas, mainstream and even alternative media sources have largely steered clear of the story. Though in some ways this strike may be as significant as Attica, media coverage and historical memory are more easily triggered when there is blood on the ground, especially the blood of rebellious, politically-conscious Black people. In last week’s strike, we have an apparently unspectacular case of people standing up for their dignity by refusing to work. In taking this action, the activists behind bars, despite the intense efforts by IWOC, FAM and many others to publicize their actions, may not have done anything dramatic enough to draw significant media attention. The invisibility of worker issues blends with the invisibility of prison activities to create a low profile. Moreover, the ability of prison authorities to both suppress information and punish the rebels without recrimination relegates the heroic efforts of the strike to a sidebar in the chronicle of social justice struggles.
But it seems unlikely that those who want to silence or erase these actions forever will win the day. A flame of resistance inside prisons and in communities across the country is definitely burning. The prison strikers, along with their allies and accomplices on the street, will be on fire again soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Solidarity with Standing Rock, Executive Clemency and the International Indigenous Struggle

international human rights organizations that have called for my immediate and unconditional release for more than four decades.
I have to caution you young people to be careful, for you are up against a very evil group of people whose only concern is to fill their pockets with even more gold and wealth. They could not care less how many of you they have to kill or bury in a prison cell. They don’t care if you are a young child or an old grandmother, and you better believe they are and have been recruiting our own people to be snitches and traitors. They will look to the drunks, the addicts, and child molesters, those who prey on our old and our children; they look for the weak-minded individuals. You must remember to be very cautious about falsely accusing people based more on personal opinion than on evidence. Be smart.
I call on all my supporters and allies to join the struggle at Standing Rock in the spirit of peaceful spiritual resistance and to work together to protect Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth. I also call upon my supporters and all people who share this Earth to join together to insist that the US  complies with and honors the provisions of international law as expressed in the UNDRIP, International Human Rights Treaties and the long-neglected Treaties and trust agreements with the Sioux Nation. I particularly appeal to Jill Stein and the Green Parties of the US and the world to join this struggle by calling for my release and adopting the UNDRIP as the new legal framework for relations with indigenous peoples.
Finally, I also urge my supporters to immediately and urgently call upon President Obama to grant my petition for clemency, to permit me to live my final years on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Scholars, political grassroots leaders, humanitarians and Nobel Peace Laureates have demanded my release for more than four decades. My Clemency Petition asks President Obama to commute, or end, my prison term now in order for our nation to make progress healing its fractured relations with Native communities. By facing and addressing the injustices of the past, together we can build a better future for our children and our children’s children.
Again, my heartfelt thanks to all of you for working together to protect the water. Water is Life.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Doksha
Leonard Peltier

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lawsuit: Syracuse Jail is Harming Children with Abusive Solitary Confinement Conditions  

September 21, 2016 – The New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of Central New York filed a lawsuit in district court today against the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office for locking up children ages 16 and 17, many of whom are mentally ill, in near-complete isolation in solitary confinement for months at a time. The children are sexually harassed by adults, housed in disgusting conditions, denied education and, in some cases, pushed to contemplating suicide. Children are routinely sent to solitary for “offenses” such as speaking loudly, wearing the wrong shoes or for no other reason than the sadistic pleasure of guards. The lawsuit contends that the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office’s use of solitary confinement violates the U.S. Constitution and federal education laws.
 
“Any time you send a child to solitary confinement, you risk damaging them permanently,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director at the NYCLU. “Punishing children with solitary doesn’t improve public safety nor serve any disciplinary value — it is simply torture and has to stop.”
 
“Onondaga County is well aware of the harm they are inflicting on 16- and 17-year-old young members of our community, yet they continue the unconscionable practice of regularly placing them in solitary confinement,” said Josh Cotter, co-lead counsel on the case and a staff attorney at LSCNY. “This practice, combined with the complete lack of meaningful educational or rehabilitative programming offered at the Justice Center, makes it nearly impossible for these children to re-assimilate into the community.”
 
Since October of 2015, the sheriff has placed at least 86 children in shocking and dehumanizing solitary confinement conditions over 250 times, forcing them to spend 23 hours a day locked in tiny cells where, in some instances, there is visible feces and urine on the floor. Young girls in solitary are watched by adult male guards as they are forced to shower without a curtain. One girl,16-year-old Charnasha, described a deputy guard making comments about her naked body and calling her and other girls “little bitches.”
 
”I felt uncomfortable and exposed. I still can’t sleep at night because of the nightmares. I think what happened to me was wrong,” said Charnasha, who wrote her mother a letter saying she was going to take her own life.
 
Because under New York law children starting at age 16 can be housed in adult facilities, the sheriff puts children in solitary cells next to adults who threaten them with violence, sexual harassment, and sometimes throw feces at them or urinate on them. One child described an adult threatening to force him to perform fellatio on him and masturbating while watching the child walk to the shower.
 
“For children, even a short stint in solitary at the Justice Center can alter their entire lives,” said Philip Desgranges, co-lead counsel on the case and staff attorney at the NYCLU. “Their mental health deteriorates and some have thoughts of suicide after just a day in solitary. A justice system that puts anyone, especially vulnerable children, through long periods of abuse for such trivial reasons has forgotten the meaning of justice.”
 
As in many jails, the majority of those at the Justice Center, including the children, have not been convicted of a crime, but are held because they are too poor to afford bail. Nonetheless some wind up with over a hundred days of solitary time during which they are not allowed to talk to other detainees, receive essentially no education or mental health care, and are limited to one-hour of “recreation” in small chain-linked filthy cages.
 
Solitary is dangerous for anyone, causing psychosis, trauma, depression and self-harm. As the tragic suicide of Kalief Browder reminds us, the effects of solitary on a child’s developing brain can be fatal. But at the Justice Center jail officials have deliberately ignored warnings that children are especially vulnerable to solitary. Instead, children who reach their breaking point and want to kill themselves are put on suicide watch for a short period, only to be returned right back to solitary.
 
“You can’t see anything, just black walls closing in. I kept thinking about killing myself,” said Randy, who was 16 when he was sent to solitary for arguing with another kid over a basketball.  Randy later tried to cut his own wrists.
 
“This is child abuse. Parents would be locked up for treating their children the way the Justice Center is treating them every day,” said Walta Williams, Randy’s mother, who put her home up as collateral to remove her son from the center.
 
There is no evidence that putting children in solitary reduces further misbehavior, and the Sheriff’s Office barely bothers justifying its use of the punishment. One child was put in solitary after a deputy told a group of children that if he made a basketball shot, one of the children would be sent to the solitary.
 
Incarceration of children in Syracuse has been a nightmare for years. Previously housed at the Jamesville Correctional Facility, children were transferred to the Justice Center after advocates like the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse complained that the children were placed in isolation for weeks and months. The county made the transfer under the pretext of ending solitary confinement for youth, only to place the children right back in the same conditions at the Justice Center. At present, the Sheriff’s Office refuses to even acknowledge it is placing children in solitary.
 
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of six Black and Latino children ages 16 and 17 jailed at the Justice Center and a class of similar children.  The named plaintiffs, who are identified only by their initials because they are children, include:
 
·         R.C. is currently in solitary, in part for singing a Whitney Houston song in his cell. In solitary, guards heard the adult above him shout “I’m gonna stab you in the showers” and “I’m gonna make you suck my d**k” at all hours of the night, and they responded by moving the adult directly next to him. Yesterday that same adult used a cup to throw his urine in R.C.’s face during recreation.
 
·         V.W.is currently in solitary, and has not been able to change his clothes since Sept. 8. A pre-trial detainee who has never been convicted of a crime, he nonetheless has spent over 115 days in solitary.
 
·         C.I., currently at the Justice Center, once tried to file a grievance in solitary, and a guard drew a penis on his form before throwing it away. “Being in the box changes you. It makes you do things like think about jumping off your table into the ground,” C.I. said.
 
·         M.R., currently at the jail, has been sent to solitary for reasons including wearing his shower shoes at the wrong time. A deputy once responded to his complaints by threatening to “bash [his] skull in.” After being in solitary, M.R. now finds it hard to even be in a regular cell for any period of time.
 
The suit, filed against officials at the Onondaga Sheriff’s Office and the Syracuse City School District, charges that the use of solitary confinement violates the children’s rights and that the sheriff and school district are denying them an appropriate education in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Eight Amendment and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The lawsuit asks the court to order the Sheriff’s Office to stop using solitary to punish children entirely. 
 
In addition to Desgranges and Cotter, lawyers on the case include Mariko Hirose, Mariana Kovel, Aimee Krause, Aadhithi Padmanabhan and Christopher Dunn from the NYCLU, and Susan Young and Sam Young from LSCNY. 
 
To view the complaint, visit: http://www.nyclu.org/news/lawsuit-syracuse-jail-harming-children-with-abusive-solitary-confinement-conditions
 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Education from the Inside Out Coalition praises SUNY for voting to remove the question about an applicant’s criminal record history off its admissions application, opening the door to the transformational powers of education to criminal justice-involved students everywhere 

NEW YORK – The Board of Trustees at the largest comprehensive public university system in the nation voted TODAY to give potential students with criminal histories a chance by moving its criminal history check box off of its current application process. The move comes after the Board of Trustees heard public testimony from formerly incarcerated students and advocates in May, organized by the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO), to explain what barriers “the box” presents for applicants with a criminal justice histories.

Momentum has been building across New York State toward Banning the Box in higher education for years. Most recently, hundreds of students spent the spring rallying to make change at NYU, and SUNY campuses. The ground work was laid for these efforts as far back as 2010 by one of EIO’s leadership members, the Center for Community Alternatives. It was this research, along with an updated EIO and CCA 2015 report called “Boxed Out,” that laid the ground work for the federal guidance encouraging colleges and universities to go Beyond the Box. These new guidelines were announced in May by US Education Secretary John King, and both EIO Co-Founder Vivian Nixon and EIO leadership member Marsha Weissman were invited to the press conference at UCLA’s campus for the reveal. After its release, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher released a statement commending the move.
 
“I myself, was boxed out of SUNY Old Westbury when I reapplied to college after getting out of prison, and I am so happy to hear SUNY finally realized that we shouldn’t stop or deter anyone from bettering their life with education,” said Vivian Nixon, EIO’s Co-Founder, and Executive Director for College & Community Fellowship, a non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated women achieve a higher education. “I was able to finish my degree at SUNY Empire where I had completed a few courses prior to incarceration, and thus could return without reapplying. Others aren’t as lucky. I was so proud to represent EIO next to US Secretary of Education John King when he urged U.S. Universities and Colleges to look Beyond the Box back in May, and even prouder that SUNY has listened to our voices, our experiences, and will now give every potential student a chance to transform their lives with education.”
 
The 2015 study conducted by EIO and CCA showed that nearly two-thirds (62.5%) of SUNY applicants who disclose a prior felony conviction never complete their applications, compared to 21% of applicants with no criminal history across all of its 64 campuses. The study attributed the number to a “chilling effect” caused by a fear of stigma, and a set of complicated, and sometimes impossible, set of supplemental requirements once the box was checked.
 
“The research doesn’t lie. There is no empirical evidence that having a criminal history question on an application makes a campus any safer,” said Alan Rosenthal, Advisor on Special Projects for the Center for Community Alternatives, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization. “The bottom-line is that this ‘box’ does nothing but deter qualified applicants in desperate need of a second chance. People who attend college are less likely to have further involvement in the criminal justice system, thus making our communities safer. EIO is proud that SUNY has decided to pave the way for other universities across the country who are still asking this harmful question of its applicants, under the false assumption that it keeps a campus safe.”
 
The Education from the Inside Out Coalition helped write proposed legislation currently in committees of both houses of the New York State Legislature. The Fair Access to Education Bill (S969/A3363) would make it illegal for colleges and universities to ask an applicant whether they have been previously convicted of a criminal offense. EIO is hopeful SUNY’s decision to “move the box” will spur action on the issue and lawmakers will finally pass legislation to ensure every college and university in New York State bans the box in higher education.
 
“Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and EIO applauds SUNY for listening to our EIO members’ firsthand experiences with the box,” said Glenn E. Martin, Co-Founder of EIO and President of JustLeadership USA, which aims to cut the prison population in half by 2030. “We can only hope the news encourages lawmakers to pass current proposed legislation in New York State, which will permanently ban the box once and for all. Education is the key to building stronger communities, families, and future leaders in this country; nowhere should a person’s past solely define their self-worth or future.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment