(1) Academic Programs:
Mandatory G.E.D. completion for all inmates prior to release, dependent upon the length of sentence and the time remaining on sentence. However, if paroled prior to completion or enrollment the inmate must participate in and complete a G.E.D. program within one year of parole release.
(2) Vocational Programs:
Mandatory Vocational Trade completion in one or more of the following vocational fields: H.V.A.C., Welding, Plumbing, Electrical Trades, Masonry/Construction, Carpentry, Auto Repair, Printing, Computer Repair, Television/Electronic Repair, and Food Service. Inmates who successfully complete one of the above courses will be certified by either a newly created Joint Commission or Division of the Departments of Labor, Education, and Corrections, or by V.E.S.I.D.
Certification being an Apprenticeship or State License certifying that the inmate is eligible to work in that particular field and eligible upon release for application for “Journeyman” Training. All Certificates and or Licenses Must state either the New York State Dept of Education or the New York State Dept of Labor, or the name of a newly created Joint Commission or Division of the collective departments. Certificates or Licenses MUST NOT state Department of Correctional Services.
(3) State Sponsored Higher Education/2 Year College Degree Program:
Inmates who have a High School Diploma, G.E.D., or prior College credits; a clean disciplinary record, and have completed a Vocational program may enroll in a S.U.N.Y. or C.U.N.Y. 2 year “Associates Degree” program offered at one of several preferred, State Correctional Facilities. All participants must maintain at least a 3.0 Grade Point Average and a clean disciplinary record. Courses offered shall be in the field of Psychology, Philosophy, Counseling, Behavioral Science, Social Work, Computer Science, Business Administration, or any other field, which do not interfere with penological/security interests.
(4) Facility Level Employment/On-The-Job-Training:
Inmates who have completed academic and vocational requirements are employed at facility and departmental level jobs earning ½ of the New York State Minimum Wage, in support of facility and departmental needs, which will create a self-sustaining facility and department.
Facility Maintenance and Services needs that are generally contracted out of the facility and department will be provided by employing qualified inmates, whom have completed a requisite vocational trade, which the facility or department have a need for services in i.e. food service, electrical, plumbing, air conditioning and refrigeration, etc.
50% of the inmates ½ minimum wage pay will go into an interest bearing savings account to be disbursed to the inmate upon release or to be used for the support of his family (Spouse or Dependent Children); 10% of the wage will go into an inmate education fund, and an additional 10% will go into the ex-offender/parolee Medical/Clinic Fund. (See Proposal #7) and the remaining 30% will go into the inmate’s facility account to be used as he/she wishes.
Research shows that a quality education is one of the most effective forms of crime prevention, and drug treatment and education programs cost less…much less than imprisonment. The U.S. has fallen behind many other countries in terms of per capita national education standards and rates, and lack of education and vocation more than anything else leads to crime and recidivism.
Mandatory G.E.D. and Vocational training quadruples the opportunity for obtaining gainful and meaningful employment upon release. By giving inmates who complete vocational programs state certified apprenticeship licenses, the chances of their obtaining employment increases tenfold. Certificates, which bear the New York State Department Of Correctional Services stamp is a red flag to potential employers to deny jobs to ex-offenders, though they may qualify for them, and otherwise receive them absent such stigmatizing designation. The benefit to society is an ex-offender who no longer must engage in criminal activity and conduct because of barriers to his successful re-integration to society, and unemployment. An individual who can legally provide for himself and his family has no reason to resort to crime.
An “Associates Degree” program for qualified inmates who completed a mandatory G.E.D. and vocational program increases the chances of successful reintegration and reentry by at least 80%---a percentage that is much, much higher than today’s average. The amount that it costs Taxpayers to re-incarcerate an ex-offender or parolee for a “Technical” violation of parole can pay for 10 prisoners to receive a 2 year college degree from an accredited Community College funded with state funds.
By employing qualified inmates at ½ the state minimum wage in departmental and facility level jobs “correctional” facilities and subsequently D.O.C.S. can become a quasi-self-sustained entity. Currently, taxpayers dole out hundreds of millions of dollars per year to outside/private contractors to do jobs that the inmates are qualified to do or can be trained to do. Grounds-keeping, facility maintenance, construction, food service, etc. all jobs contracted out at ridiculously exorbitant rates can be performed exclusively by the inmates in a facility for less than 10% of what is being paid out to private industries. Like the U.S. Military Industrial Complex, prisons may pay $100.00 for a hammer, and an additional $100.00 for a pound of nails---this does not include the cost of labor associated with the need of a hammer and nails, however.
Nevertheless, this type of on the job training will go to inmates who completed a vocational program; maintained a good disciplinary record, etc. furthermore, the inmate will be enabled to actually work in the vocational field he chose and was trained for; help support himself and family while incarcerated; save for his release, and contribute to his education, and his medical needs upon release. Currently, the State pays civilian workers anywhere from $50-60,000 per year to perform jobs inmates can perform at nearly 90% less. Further, 20% of the inmate’s wage will go to off-set vocational, educational, and outside clinic costs, and interests received from the savings account will be reverted back to the state to further off-set the expenses of educating the inmate, and providing medical care upon his release.
In essence, inmates will be helping to pay their own way and develop positive work habits and learn responsibility.
(5) Reassessment and Reconfiguration of Guidance/Counseling Unit/
Mandatory intensive and comprehensive alcohol/drug treatment and relapse prevention. Such programs must begin immediately upon an inmate’s arrival in a state correctional facility, instead of the inmate waiting until he is 2 years to his parole board. In the event of a lengthy waiting list, there is a mandatory state, community, or other organization sponsored Narcotics Anonymous (N/A/) & Alcoholics Anonymous (A/A) (State Recognized Participation) program, with requisite evaluations, monitoring, and accredited hours until there is an opening in A.S.A.T. A.S.A.T. should be reconfigured and administered using the Gorsky Methodology, and there must be mandatory “Aftercare” and mandatory “Relapse Prevention” seminars every 6 months until release.
Mandatory Anti-Violence and Aggression Training beginning immediately upon an inmate’s arrival in a state correctional facility, instead of the inmate waiting until he is 2 years to his parole board. The program must be jointly administered by, the Office of Mental Health, and Certified Counselors or Social Workers, with degrees specifically in psychology, sociology, or behavioral science. The curriculum must concentrate predominately upon Antisocial Personality Disorders, Post Incarceration Syndrome, and related psychological impairments. Mandatory yearly psychological/psychiatric examinations and evaluations for all inmates, and a final exam & evaluation 30 days prior to release.
Family Reunion Programs and counseling services to inmates must be extended to their respective families i.e. spouse, children, parents, etc. upon request. In addition, there must be a family counseling session with the inmate, his counselor and or therapist, and parole personnel, along with the member(s) of his family whom he will be returning home to no less than 30 days prior to the inmate’s release.
Mandatory counseling sessions between the inmate and his respective counselor at least 4 times per year or upon request.
Allow Community and Outside Faith-Based counseling services to work with inmates, their families, and correctional staff in the furtherance of ensuring that the inmates goals and needs are adequately met, and to complement short staffing in regards to guidance and counseling units.
The use, sale, distribution, and trafficking of illegal narcotics are the driving forces behind crime in America, and a great deal of the re-incarceration of ex-offenders and parolees. However, correctional approaches to these happenstances has been the same as that of the Judicial System and based upon an uninformed society’s whims---Punish, Punish, Punish. Just like the Judicial System that imprison drug offenders, corrections throw inmates with drug problems in solitary confinement believing it will deter and curtail their drug use. It is simply counterproductive to correctional and societal goals.
Mandatory intensive and comprehensive treatment is a more effective and less costly solution. New York State Correctional Service’s A.S.A.T. programs are no more than “gab sessions” between the prisoners assigned to the program. There is no real structure or form. For example, in Sing Sing prison, inmates assigned to the program simply watch movies about drugs or with drug related themes on a near daily basis---these are not therapeutic films, but mere Hollywood productions. If asked, 98% of the inmates enrolled in the program could not recite the Twelve Steps to recovery---none of the counselors could either. Guidance counselors assigned to oversee and administer these programs have no control, or relevant experience in the field, but are given these postings in order to fill them, because there is no one else available to do so.
Basically, the taxpayers are paying the salaries of these counselors simply to allow them to drag out a television and video cassette recorder, sit down with the inmate and watch movies. Those monies can be better spent by employing certified alcohol and substance abuse counselors who actually work or worked in the field, with documented experience in administering such programs in a controlled setting.
New York State inmates must wait until they are 2 years to their parole boards in order to get into these therapeutic programs, instead of immediately upon their arrival, and it is unreasonable and irrational to believe that people with decades or more of drug abuse and addiction are expected to break the cycle of addiction in 6 months--- 2 years prior to their release back into society. Coupled with the abovementioned lack of form and structure it is no wonder why these men and women return to prison over and over again.
The same problems are prevalent in state sponsored aggression and anti-violence programs, and correctional staff assigned to these programs are ill-equipped to administer them, and this is due to the lack of requisite training in specific areas of psychology/psychiatry. According to a new Justice Dept. study, 56% of state prisoners suffer from some form of mental illness. Further studies indicate that 90% of the entire U.S. prison population suffers from Post Incarceration Syndrome, which is made up of a myriad of different mental disorders, such as: Institutionalized Personality Traits, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Antisocial Personality Traits, Social Sensory Deprivation Syndrome, Substance Abuse Disorders, Culture Shock, and Institutionalization. (See: T. Gorsky, CENAPS, Inc. P.I.C.S. Post Incarceration Syndrome). Further, according to psychologists and reported in the DSM IV 65-75% of convicted persons suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorders. Wherefore, Corrections must reassess their approaches to dealing with the inmate population and antisocial and or deviant behavior. By successfully treating these inmates and addressing their problems via psychological approaches the chances of a successful reentry and a reduction in crime and recidivism is nearly guaranteed.
The title “Guidance Counselor” or merely “Counselor” in relation to Corrections and its inmate population is farcical and anecdotal at best. Correctional counselors, with the exception of a select few are nothing more than glorified data entry clerks. They meet with their clients only twice per year and merely add or delete phone numbers from an inmate’s phone list. There is no guidance in terms of goal oriented planning; discussions regarding family matters, which often times affect an inmate’s attitude, disposition and behavior, etc. Inmates basically sign a document stating they appeared at the counselor’s office, give the counselor an amended or revised phone list and are hustled out of the door. Most counselors don’t know or would recognize their clients if they were to encounter them in facility corridors. Inmates who do have problems cannot request a meeting with his or her counselor to rectify or discuss them because counselors seldom respond and or tell the inmate to wait until his quarterly review or to file a grievance complaint.
There is no family counseling to speak of in D.O.C.S. except that, which is offered by community-based organizations like the Osborne Association. The Family Reunion Coordinators are nothing more than reservation clerks that schedule family reunion visits, and nothing more. Families and the respective communities where inmates come from must be a part of the counseling and guidance process, and this is because some of the inmate’s misbehaviors are due to family related matters, which counselors and the family reunion coordinators do not, is unwilling or barred from addressing.
By involving the families in the rehabilitation, counseling, and guidance process, it gives the inmate an incentive to do better, because he will understand and realize more of what his family expects of him; how his incarceration hurt his family, and what are some of the things that he can do to improve his life and regain the trust of his loved ones. Inmates are usually released to live with family members, and it is important for the family to be a part of the process and be aware of what may be required of them or how they can further help the goals of society and corrections.
It is obvious that there are not enough counselors available to provide such services to the inmates and their families, and that is why it is prudent and necessary to open the doors of the prisons to community and faith based organizations to help fill the gap left open by the lack of the requisite number of counselors to perform these simple duties. In Sing Sing prison, there are nearly 1,800 prisoners and less than 15 counselors. This means that each counselor has a caseload of 120 inmates each. Wherefore, it is quite understandable that they cannot perform in their fully required capacities.
Community and Faith-Based Organizational counselors can complement correctional counselors, and work in tandem with them to ensure that the needs of the inmates are met and it will only cost the state entrance into the prisons, because most if not all of these organizations are not-for-profit, and have proved their willingness to help. In addition, families and communities must be involved because it is the families and communities where these inmates come from whom are mostly affected by the inmate’s crimes, etc. The Current Commissioner of Corrections, Brian S. Fischer understood and recognized this need while Superintendent of Sing Sing, and implemented some of these measures by allowing community and faith-based organizations into the facility.
(6) Reassessment & Reconfiguration of Inmate Disciplinary System:
Create a Disciplinary Hearing Board consisting of the inmate’s guidance counselor, a facility chaplain representing the inmate’s religious affiliation, a security officer with the rank of Lieutenant or above, and in the case of O.M.H. Level inmates his therapist or psychiatrist.
Discontinue “Total” Keep-Lock of inmates for non-violent/non-security threatening offenses and replace it with “keep-Lock During Non-Program Hours” Unless the incident(s) occurred in a program assignment or facility job.
Discontinue S.H.U. for all non-violent and drug “Use” offenses and for all O.M.H. Level inmates.
Amend the Dept. of Correctional Services Correction Officer Qualifications for employment by mandating at least 60 college credits in the areas of psychology, philosophy, counseling, behavioral science, behavior modification, etc.
Enforce Measures to adequately punish correction officer whom illegally use corporal punishment and assault inmates without cause and couch their behaviors in the doctrine of “Necessary Use of Force”
Inmates are in prison as punishment, not to be punished …the disciplinary system as it stands now is, too arbitrary and most often very capricious. It is irrational to believe that a correction officer standing alone can and will carry out the disciplining of inmates in a completely fair and unbiased fashion. This is so because the hearing officer is still a correction officer, and it is correction officers whom generally write disciplinary charges against inmates. This alone places the hearing officer “Correction Officer” in the untenable position of choosing whether to believe the inmate being charged with an infraction of the rules or believing his colleague(s) whom tendered the charges---despite evidence of innocence or guilt. The hearing officer must decide whether to be viewed as an inmate lover, coddler, or traitor in the eyes of his colleague(s) or viewed as unfair, biased, evil and dishonest by the inmate. Commonsense tells us that the hearing officer will choose the latter for he has nothing to fear or lose by disenfranchising the inmate whom he neither knows or care anything about.
Couple this with the fact that inmates must pay a $5.00 surcharge for guilty dispositions rendered against them, the hearing officer is faced with the obligation of generating revenue for the state and the way to do that is to make a guilty verdict. Since the advent of the $5.00 surcharge, the number of tier 1 infractions and dispositions, which requires no surcharge for a guilty disposition has drastically declined and tier II and III charges and guilty dispositions rose exponentially. Because of these measures, inmates instead of benefiting from a sound, unbiased and fair disciplinary system, which could help correct attitudes and behaviors conducive to correctional goals and self-improvement, become more rebellious, introverted, antisocial, and hostile to all correctional goals and staff. This is because they do not believe they will get a fair chance to defend themselves anyway.
By having the inmate’s counselor, whom knows him; his level of progress, goals, and or problems at his hearing gives corrections the opportunity to better understand some of the reasons for the inmate’s misbehavior, etc. By having the facility’s chaplain representative of the inmate’s religious preference, the inmate may be more disposed towards understanding how his actions and alleged behaviors violates the tenets of his belief and give him the moral incentive to amend his behavior. By having a “Correctional” hearing officer present, corrections and its goals are represented and the inmate may be better disposed to amend his behavior in the furtherance of safety and abiding with the law and rules of not only the department, but of society as well and inevitably. Most prisoners already feel---in some cases rightly so that, the laws and justice failed them.
Subsequently, the use of a disciplinary hearing board will obviate and questions of bias, arbitrary and capricious decision making, and dispositions, and will promote better compliance with rules and instill faith and respect in the disciplinary process and law---instead of hatred of it because it rests on the whims of officers whom possess “Us Against Them” attitudes and see their positions as hearing officers as Judge, Jury, and Executioner---a very undemocratic and unconstitutional happenstance to say the least. In addition, the qualifications for employment as correction officers must be amended, and this is due to the fact that time, research, and experience tells us that correction officers must be able to think and function rationally and have a degree of understanding of the inmate’s religions, cultures, heritages, psychological dispositions, etc. so that there will be better communications between officers and inmates. The officers are usually the first persons whom the inmates will go to solve some of their problems---sometimes, all it takes to solve a problem an inmate is experiencing is a few rational, compassionate, and empathetic words of understanding or advice. Further, these officers must be trained to deal with inmate misbehavior in ways other than corporal punishment and the use of organized violence. Too many correction officers have developed gang mentalities, and or are really members of correction officers’ gangs and terrorize inmates just as much or more than actual inmate gang members.
There must be an end to the illegal assault of inmates by correction officers, and there must be a sound mechanism to enforce this policy and punish officers whom engage in these behaviors. Amending the employment qualification standards in regards to education is the first step towards ending these behaviors. Abusive treatment and the assault of inmates by Officers who motto is care, custody and control defeats the goals of corrections and society, and creates a bitter and more rebellious and violent prone inmate.
The excessive overuse of Keep-Lock for non-violent and non-security threatening behavior effectively abrogates one of the main goals of corrections; the rehabilitation or more accurately in some cases the “Habilitation” of the inmate. Keep-lock should only be used for serious, violent, and security threatening behavior. When you Keep-lock an inmate, it interrupts his therapeutic, educational, and vocational programs to the detriment of the inmate, corrections, and subsequently society. Already, waiting lists for programs are excessively long, and when an inmate is Keep-locked he loses his program; falls behind in his work and rehabilitation, and must wait to get re-enrolled again in that program if still available.
Unfortunately, most inmates, due to denial, rebelliousness, or lack of caring and interests in bettering himself benefits from being thrown out of school, programs, etc. Rehabilitation Must Not Be A Choice! Corrections when they institute Keep-lock for every offense play into the hands of these types of inmates. Keep-locking inmates for non-violent, non-security threatening acts of misbehavior should be during non-program hours only! Meals can be taken in cells and the use of recreation/leisure items such as radios and televisions can be suspended, as well as out of cell recreation---these are better sanctions.
Interrupting the rehabilitation process is counterproductive to correctional and societal goals! In the case of those inmates found guilty of drug offenses, (usage) they should be immediately mandated and remanded to therapeutic care and subjected to intensive and extensive treatment instead of being keep-locked, and or sent to S.H.U. (Incidents involving the sale, distribution, and trafficking of illegal narcotics, of course must be handled differently, because those are actual crimes, as opposed to addiction and usage.)
Correcting behaviors via treatment and commonsense proven methods is more important and more effective than mere punishment. The cost to corrections, society, and the taxpayer of interrupting rehabilitative programs for non-violent, and non-security threatening behavior is too high a cost to pay and is counterproductive to correctional goals from a moral, commonsense and financial perspective.
In the case of S.H.U for O.M.H.-Level mental patients, it is simply barbaric and inhumane! In 1821, Auburn, New York State’s first State Prison tested the efficacy of solitary confinement on perfectly medically and mentally healthy prisoners for a period of 2 years and those “Healthy” prisoners succumbed to severe insanity and medical breakdown. Wherefore, what then is the result when you place inmates, with documented mental illnesses in solitary confinement?
(7) Reassessment & Reconfiguration of Prisoner/Parolee Health /Medical Care:
Ban all smoking in all New York State Correctional Facilities.
(1) Issue Temporary Medicaid Cards to all newly released inmates and Parolees. Or (2) Create D.O.C.S./Div. of Parole/D.O.H. sponsored Community Clinics for Ex-Offenders/Parolees.
Or (3) Create D.O.C.S./D.O.H./Division of Parole sponsored Health Maintenance Organization (H.M.O.) for Ex-Offenders and Parolees.
Mandatory yearly Psychological and Psychiatric examinations and evaluations for all inmates, with the focus being on Post Incarceration Syndrome, and Antisocial Personality Disorders. In addition to a final exam/eval not less than 30 days prior to an inmate’s release, and yearly while on parole.
Mandatory yearly medical physicals/examinations for all inmates. In addition to a final exam/eval. Not less than 30 days prior to release.
Smoking is a dangerous and costly habit to both smokers and non-smokers (we will not belabor this issue) and it is an addiction just like any other addiction requiring treatment. However, studies indicate that quitting “cold-turkey” is the best method of breaking this particular addiction. In addition, the costs to taxpayers, the state, and insurance companies are astronomical. Everyone in society and especially those in a closed prison environment is endangered by smoking and or secondhand smoke. Wherefore, banning its use in prison is the prudent and most effective method of ensuring everyone’s health.
A major problem faced by ex-offenders and parolees is a lack of medical insurance, and with the rise in H.I.V./A.I.D.S., Hepatitis, and related health concerns among prisoners and ex-offenders, coupled with their inability to access adequate health care and insurance coverage, often lead them to succumb to not only their illnesses, but also to drug relapse, renewed criminality, etc. in order to cope and deal with their illnesses. This may be because they adopt hopeless attitudes and ultra-fatalistic mentalities. As abovementioned, by creating ½ state minimum wage jobs in corrections, and other revenue generating employment and programs, inmates will be able to give a percentage of the wage towards the funding of D.O.C.S./D.O.H./D.O.P. community based health clinics in possibly each of the 5 boroughs of New York City, and in major upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Syracuse.
Inmates will receive medical and dental coverage for the duration of their parole time or until they find jobs, which has employee health insurance. However, they will not lose all D.O.C.S. “complete” insurance coverage, but will only receive supplemental coverage to off-set or complement their employment coverage, where it fails to completely cover a particular treatment or ailment. An alternative is issuing temporary Medicaid Cards to newly released inmates until they obtain employment based or another type of health insurance for a period of one year. If this is unpalatable, however, and in support of community-based clinics, one of many things corrections can do is expand the work-release program, in addition to creating the ½ min. wage facility/departmental jobs for inmates, and require that work-release participants also contribute 20/% of their wages to the medical/education fund. However, the work-release inmates must be able to keep the interest accrued from their savings accounts controlled by corrections.
By evaluating inmates on a yearly basis, in regards to their mental stability and viability, corrections, society, the various communities and the families of inmates will be made aware of any problems, which may arise, or exist prior to an inmate’s release, and have the opportunity to move to address and correct them and or recommend further treatment once the inmate is released. By mandating the same evaluations while the inmate is on parole, mental health officials and parole officers can quickly identify any potential problems and head them off before they occur, and mandate the requisite treatment, thereby insuring the process of reintegration is progressively moving forward and society is protected from any potential harm.
By mandating yearly comprehensive medical related physical exams, corrections and health officials involved in D.O.C.S. related health care would be able to monitor and identify any potential illnesses and take appropriate actions and measures to treat them before they develop into serious health concerns. This preventative measure will save lives and the taxpayers millions of dollars in inmate health care, because it is cheaper and more effective to treat illnesses at the onset, than it is to treat them when they have exacerbated---“An ounce of prevention, beats a pound of cure.”
By administering a final examination no less than 30 days prior to an inmate’s release, corrections can again identify any potential problems and transfer the medical records and treatment recommendations to one its “proposed” health care clinics in the community, who will administer further treatment. Parolees are still under sentence and considered wards of the state whether they are in prison or out on parole. Jurisdiction belongs to either the Division of Parole or D.O.C.S. and each are state entities. Wherefore, the ultimate responsibility belongs to the state as long as the inmate or parolee must report to the state and abide by the extra-legal Division of Parole and Correctional Rules, etc. making the newly released inmate or parolee apply for Public Assistance and ultimately Medicaid will eventually prove counterproductive to the individuals rehabilitation and in fact, encourage laziness, and dependency instead of productivity and a sense of responsibility---in addition to over-burdening already cash strapped Medicaid funds.
Another viable solution is the diversion of all parole supervision surcharges towards the creation of an H.M.O., as mentioned above. In addition to those diverted funds, the percentages cited above from inmates’ proposed ½ min. wage salaries, and those diverted from work release participants will complement the funding of an H.M.O., which will be properly administered and invested by the State Comptroller, much in the same way that the States’ pension funds are managed and invested, creating further revenue for this purpose.
(8) Reassessment & Reconfiguration of Div. of Parole:
End parole revocation for all technical violations of parole.
Expand parole board hearings to include (1) Member of the Clergy from the inmate’s respective community. (1) Member (Civilian) representing the community the inmate is from or is going to be paroled to i.e. a member of a Community Board in the inmate’s borough or neighborhood. The inmate’s Guidance Counselor, and the immediate civilian or correction officer responsible for supervising the inmate in his program or job assignment.
Expand the role of parole officers to include housing, employment, and family counseling assistance, etc.
Create parolee mentoring and peer support groups
Enforce compliance with requisite Correction Law, i.e. 259-I
Each time a parolee is sent back to prison, whether for a technical parole violation or due to a new conviction, it costs the taxpayers between $40-50,000. 80% of those returned to prison while on parole are “Technical” violators. They have not committed new crimes, but broke a technical rule of parole---missed curfews, tested positive for drugs, changed in residences or employment without permission, etc. These types of violations are correctable without having to send a parolee back to prison.
In the case of missed curfews, stiffer curfews can be imposed with stricter supervision, such as increased reporting, etc. The same measures can be used for changing jobs and residences without permission. In the case of drug use, mandatory in or outpatient drug treatment can be imposed. It costs 90% less to send a parolee to mandatory rehab as opposed to sending him back to prison.
State parole commissioners and parole boards have effectively usurped the powers of the judiciary and parole boards now resemble courtrooms and the trials that go on in them. Inmates who are up for parole are subjected to double jeopardy inspired types of boards, and this is because the former governor forced parole commissioners and boards to re-sentence inmates at their parole hearings based solely upon the “Nature” of the crime. The offender, however, was already tried, convicted, and sentenced in accordance to the law for the natures of their crimes, wherefore, parole denial or release should be judged and based only upon the individual’s rehabilitation, remorse, achievements, and preparation for life on the outside of prison walls.
Because of mandatory minimums in both indeterminate and determinate sentences, courts and judges by virtue of the sentence they handed down via jury verdict or plea bargain is the sentence they felt appropriate and commensurate to the crime committed. For example, an offender is sentenced to 10 to life for a crime; the offender does the ten year minimum; obtain various certificates; educates himself; rehabilitates himself, and maintained an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison, he then goes to the parole board---He is then “Hit” “Re-Sentenced” by the parole board, once, twice, three times all based upon the nature of the crime, and this is despite the fact that he has done everything reasonably possible to improve his life and chances of going home. So, in essence, the parole board re-sentenced the offender to 16 to life, as opposed to the ten received in court, because they hit him 3 times based solely upon the nature of the crime. This has all the hallmarks of double jeopardy.
New York State’s parole officers unfortunately have a vested interest in keeping inmates behind bars, and continually violating, and returning parolees to upstate prisons---job security. This deplorable undertaking was created and inspired by the former executive branch of New York government under the aegis of former Gov. Pataki, whom exerted an exorbitant amount of political and executive pressure on the Division of Parole. Pataki is no longer in office, and there must now be a measure for checks and balances in the parole division, as is required and requested in regards to prison disciplinary hearings. The same purpose a member of the clergy will serve at prison disciplinary hearings is the same purpose that will be served by having a member of the clergy on parole boards. The inmate’s guidance counselor as well as his supervising program coordinator or the correction officer whom supervises his job assignment and actually “know” the inmate, his character, demeanor, disposition, work ethic, etc. should be made a part of the process to ensure a fair hearing.
Parole commissioners acting on the basis of the crime and what was written in a pre-sentence report 10 years earlier cannot render an adequate or fair judgment without also “knowing” the individual and or witnessing any changes in his disposition, etc. The community in which the inmate is from and most probably will be returning to must have a say in the process, because it is they who was affected by the crime, and who will be subsequently affected by the inmate’s release. It is they---the community that the inmate will be returning to. An additional benefit is the sharing of responsibility of returning an inmate to society between the inmate’s respective community, the state, and the inmate’s religious authority. Religious authority should not be left out, despite any concerns of the separation of secular and religious authority, because after all, in every courtroom in this country and even on the face of our currency are the words “ In God We Trust” and if we can trust God with the administration of fair justice and our money, we must be equally prepared to trust His representatives on earth with ensuring the fair treatment of prisoners---“Let he, who is without sin cast the first stone!”
Parole officers are the representatives of both society and the parolee. Their jobs is not to find ways to violate parolees and get them out of society, but to find ways to keep them out of prisons, while at the same time protect society. By finding ways and supporting measures to keep parolees in society, society may be able to benefit from whatever contributions parolees may make to it. Wherefore, parole officers must be more than what they otherwise resemble to paroles in their care. The parole officer must be no different than a high school or correctional guidance counselor.
People learn and are inspired by the teachings and examples of others whom overcame some of the same obstacles they may presently be facing. There are thousands of people, who have successfully completed parole or are making a successful goal of it. These parolees must be utilized to help steer the new parolee in the right direction, and mentor him/her on how to be as successful or more so, than they are. It is very hard to learn from or take advice or direction from someone who has never experienced what you may have gone through or is going through.
New parolees will be inspired by their successful peers, and endeavor to emulate their success. They may better accept the advice and teachings from one of their own, rather than someone else whom have nothing in common with them or their particular circumstances, and who they may see as the enemy. Wherefore, it is conducive to the goals of society, corrections, parole and the parolee to institute parolee mentoring and peer groups, that will help with a smooth transition back into society, and offer parolees the incentive to emulate their successful peers. This measure will also help keep the Mentoring/Peer Counseling Parolee on his or her best behaviors also.
(9) Create A Joint Commission Comprised of D.O.L., D.O.E.,D.O.P.,N.Y.S. Housing Finance Agency & D.O.C.S. :
Create a joint commission between the Departments’ of Labor, Education, Parole, Housing Finance Agency, and Correctional Services to provide comprehensive vocational and educational training to parolees and ex-offenders and subsequent licensing or certification upon completion. In addition to assisting them in finding suitable and affordable housing and employment prior to release and if necessary while on parole. The Commission will be made up of one representative from each department and answerable to the Governor. D.O.C.S representation will be via Transitional Services/Reentry Services.
Creation of an employment and housing database specifically for ex-offenders and parolees under the aegis of the joint commission, with centers in each facility that has a transitional services unit, and each community based parole office
It is imperative that inmates that are soon to be released and parolees have a place where they can go to secure employment and housing. It is equally important that inmates are made employable through adequate and proper training in certain vocational fields, and are certified and or licensed in those fields as mentioned above. By creating a joint commission between the abovementioned state agencies focus can be placed on ensuring that the inmate has everything he needs and every opportunity to secure housing and employment upon his release. This measure will also limit idle time upon release and will guarantee that the newly released offender will have a job waiting for him as soon as he steps out of the door, and adequate housing available instead of going into shelters, etc. which is counterproductive to a successful reentry.
Parole officers and Transitional Services counselors will be able to maintain and access a specified database with listings of prospective employers that are willing to benefit from the various tax incentives that comes with hiring ex-offenders, etc. In addition, parolees that become unemployed for various reasons can access the employment database via their parole officers and local parole offices, foregoing any idle and unemployment time that may lead to criminal activities as a means of making ends meet. Corporations will also benefit from the database, because they can list their job openings, etc. on the database and have a virtually limitless employment pool to tap. There are in fact, many jobs available in the outside world, however, a great portion of society do not want to fill them for various reasons. Parolees and ex-offenders cannot afford to be choosey in their employment endeavors, unless they have specific skills, expertise, and or the connections to obtain the jobs they want.
Parolees, however, should not be forced to take jobs listed in the database unless they have proved unsuccessful in obtaining employment on their own. However, release from confinement will not be based upon the guarantee of employment and or housing. In addition, due to the high cost of living in New York State and City, the State Housing Finance Agency can give housing grants and incentives to those parolees and newly released offenders who have no family or homes to return to instead of releasing them back into society labeled and disenfranchised by virtue of being an ex-offender and homeless---a troubling and counterproductive prospect. Section 8 type housing grants can be issued, or a certain number of low rent regulated apartments can be set aside each year for returning ex-offenders/parolees exclusively.
All of the above listed proposals are designed and submitted in furthering society’s endeavor to reduce crime and recidivism rates, and in order to relieve a great deal of the State’s financial burdens.
Whether or not we want to acknowledge and admit it, ex-offenders and parolees are in fact, a special interest group who needs and requires special treatment and incentives in order to allow them to transform themselves into positive, successful, honest and productive members of society, and in furtherance of correctional and societal goals to encourage conformity to our internal systems of social controls.
Never once was the offender, ex-offender or parolee asked what it is they require in order to become positive, productive, successful assets and members of society, and since we were never asked, we have taken this small initiative to tell society just some of the things that will help us in that endeavor. We are not asking to be coddled or treated as special, we are asking for a real chance to become better humans and citizens. We are not asking for exoneration for our collective crimes against humanity and society--- we take responsibility for them and acknowledge our errors and are remorseful---we are remorseful for not being strong enough to overcome our temptations and weaknesses, and we are remorseful because since the birth of this great nation, the poor, African-Americans and Latino peoples have been sorely disenfranchised and not left with very many choices. Sometimes, the choices we had were tantamount to choosing the lesser of many evils---some were inspired by society itself.
Nevertheless, we hereby apologize for our weaknesses and transgressions and ask not only for ourselves, but also on behalf of all people in America that the systemic and systematic mass incarceration of the American people come to an end and that we collectively find better solutions to deter and end crime. We ask that there be an abrupt end to economy dependent prison building and incarceration practices that, too much resembles the slave trade that split this great country in two approximately 146 years ago come April. We also ask that there be universal support for the Good Time Incentive Bills being considered by the Legislature and our new and esteemed Governor, Eliot Spitzer.
We admit the errors of our ways and are hereby appealing to society to give us a chance to make good and become better members of the human family. Some of us have been given numerous chances at freedom, but freedom encompasses much more than simply being able to go where one wants, worship how one wants, etc. Freedom is also the ability to adequately provide for one’s self, one’s family, and subsequently the members of one’s respective society in ways, which does not force one to infringe upon another’s freedom, but ensures that all of humanity also has a fair opportunity to do so. Wherefore, we are asking for that type of freedom as well all the others that come with it.
Sheldon Nathaniel Messer
February 23, 2007
Presented By: Sheldon N. Messer, Chauncy Ramos, and Manuel Mena