We're Back!

RobertG.Dellelo Editor

 

We know it's been a long time coming; however, we are finally back in print. Nobody said it was going to be easy, and it certainly wasn't. Assuming all things go according to plan, we will be publishing Outlook on Justice four times a year: January, April, July and October.

Now, exactly what's Outlook on Justice going to look like? What it is going to look like will depend entirely upon you. Your input will have an enormous affect on the publication. Outlook is going to be an open forum for dialogue and debate around the concepts of justice, corrections, the courts, legislation, rehabilitation, re­entry, and the creation of safer communities. It will focus on identifying problems and, where possible, suggesting solutions or alternatives. We know that sometimes you will want to say, "I don't know what the solution is, but this is a problem I'm living with." That's definitely okay. But Outlook is not going to be a forum for simply airing gripes or sniveling.

Here are some questions we will be considering. We invite you to write us with your thoughts.

Lifers and Long-termers: Can you write about what your life is like? What would make your lives more meaningful and purposeful? For example: what if you could earn a Master's degree in Education and then teach other prisoners, or become trained in certified vocational skills and then train other prisoners?

 

 

Prisoners who are at the end of long sentences and can now see the light at the end of the tunnel: What do you believe you need in order to increase the chances that when you leave prison you won't return? Education, vocational training, drug treatment, psychological counseling?

Short-termers, people who won't be in the system long and will hit the street shortly: What do you think you will need to survive once you leave prison? What will help keep you from returning to prison?

All prisoners: How do you think: society can best rehabilitate people while they are in prison and then re-integrate them into communities? How do you think society can work: toward building safer communities?

Judges, legislators, and the community at large:

How do you believe society can best rehabilitate criminals while they are in prison and then re­integrate ex-prisoners into communities? How do you think: society can work: toward building safer communities? What are your ideas and initiatives?

Outlook on Justice is going to be what we make it. Let's make it a vital and thought-provoking forum for dialogue and debate about justice.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need For Periodic Reiteration Of Correctional Philosophy

George J. Reardon Jr. Contributing Writer

When the politicians' slogans and the superficial packaging are removed, there arc two basic ;;correctional" philosophies: One is based on the premise that people do not change, and therefore prisons should serve the sole purpose of isolating offenders from society. The second philosophy adheres to the notion that the overwhelming majority of prisoners will, at some point, return to society, and therefore it is in the interest of that society to attempt to alter one or more of the factors which led to a given prisoner's antisocial act. Each philosophy has its own set of problems.

The overarching problem with the first philosophy is that it does not consider reintegration at all. Rather than promote socialization, it causes or reinforces antisocial patterns. The proponents of this philosophy believe that reintegration becomes less critical if prison sentences are lengthy enough to hold prisoners past the age when they are likely to re-offend (not addressing the cost of their needed support at that point).

Enacting this philosophy calls for an increasing number of prison cells. In Massachusetts, a relatively small state, even local jails and houses of correction have become sprawling and costly prison complexes. During the Weld and Cellucci governorships, the prison populations increased well beyond a cost-prohibitive level. The prison guards union, along with the various other agencies and unions it associates itself with, became so large that they could credibly, as a bloc, swing state-wide elections. The tail could, in fact, wag the dog.

This article is about the overarching problem with the second of the two philosophies: the problem of public perception. One would think that where one philosophy offers no depth, and no promise or possibility of success whatsoever, the other--however marginal its success may tUI1l out to be--would be the obvious choice (real dollar costs can favor either, depending on management). Yet a review of correctional philosophy in Massachusetts over the past half century would show a distinct and periodic swinging back and forth between the two above-outlined philosophies. Why?

Public perception is why. The ineffective hard-line philosophy is simple. It hits home with an audience. The people who are moved to vote in this direction do not care that the overall rate of crime does not rise and fall as a result of correctional philosophy and that the ebb and flow of crime rates are relative to more complex social indices. They are moved by the 6 o'clock news. When a politician or policymaker can offer a solution in a simple sound-bite, its reception is relative to its simplicity. 'Simple' equates to 'refreshing' when dealing with complex issues.

The second philosophy is complex in its application. It has many components: a diagnostic component; a planning component; a school and/or training component; a reintegration plan component; and possibly, community-based components. The discussion of every detail of these components, their exact numerical correlation to the likelihood of re-offending, and the penny-by-penny cost analysis of policy are mind-numbing to the public.

The public wants to be periodically reminded of what the administration's overall philosophy is, and why it has chosen it. Simple is refreshing. If the public puts its faith in the administration's philosophy, then the administration owes it to the public to put in place people who are willing and able to enact the policies necessary to carry out that philosophy.

The Department of Corrections cannot affect the overall crime rate. (Economics, school systems, parents, adolescent intervention programs, and particular social conditions are the primary variables that affect overall crime incidence.) But the Department can and should have an obligation to have an affect on whether a given released prisoner will impact the rate of crime in his or ~ler specific community. The Department can affect the preparation of that released prisoner to earn a living, and his or her ability to foresee common pitfalls. The Department of Corrections can affect whether there are future victims of a released prisoner by the philosophy it adheres to while that prisoner is in its custody. Though the responsibility lies with the released prisoner, the effect of prison policy should not be taken lightly.

People can change. That is the underlying tenet of the second philosophy. There are two conditions which are absolutely essential to the successful reintegration or rehabilitation of a released prisoner. The first is a healthier understanding of the roles and responsibilities of every member in a community, including him or herself and the impact each individual has, negative or positive, on the community. This understanding will bring empathy, caring, and valuing into any decision-making process. The second essential condition is the ability to earn a legitimate living wage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Corrections cannot guarantee these conditions. It can, however, create prison environments and policies which make attaining these conditions possible. Remember, these are not ideal-case options. They are, as stated above, absolute essentials. They ca11not be obtained under the warehousing or isolation-from-society philosophy outlined above. Therefore, the choice between those two philosophies, if one's aim is to successfully reintegrate prisoners into society (which they will eventually re-enter), should be clear. In order to continue to implement that philosophy, public statements regarding it should be equally clear. If not, we run the risk that a more short-sighted philosophy will seem more refreshing, if solely due to its simplicity.

Speech by Mary Lou Elias

(Made at a hearing at the Massachusetts State House)


 

 

I send you my words to you in the hope that you will see through Ollr eyes and hear our voices in the detrimental plight of incarcerated individuals who receive and serve minimum mandatory sentences. Our stories are not that of proclaiming innocence, but ones of fairness and equal access and opportunity in our esoteric community ­called prison.

I will begin by telling you a little about myself. My name is Mary Lou. I will keep this brief but would like to allow you to see and feel as I do.

Presently, I am serving a minimum mandatory sentence for trafficking cocaine. The sentence imposed for my offense states as follows: MCI Cedar Junction to serve a term of three to ten years. I must serve a minimum mandatory term for a three-year period prior to becoming eligible to receive a hearing by the parole board to determine if! could have the privilege of re­entering the community. I am a first time non-violent offender, but I am fll11y aware that I have committed an infraction against the laws of our Commonwealth and the laws of our country.

I was an ambitious woman, the proprietor of an Insurance Agency; I am a mother of two beautiful boys ages 5 and 9; I made a grave mistake in my life. I began my fascination with an organic substance believing that I could accomplish 1110re work and tasks in my day-to day life; my fascination ultimately became I11Y dependence, my destruction, my loss of will, drive, ambition and yes, caring for my loved ones. The victims of I11Y crime are my two beautiful children, my mother, my family and friends.

By the time I was arrested, I was a broken individual. In the almost year that I awaited sentencing, I attempted to regain some of my self-worth and began to question, "Where did I go Wrong?" I will spare you from all of that because I will end up losing you as to why I am sending my words to you.

My co-defendant is my husband, who is also incarcerated and is serving a mandatory sentence of five to ten years. We pled guilty as charged. In a plea bargain arranged by our attorneys, we accepted the sentences imposed and did, in fact, admit to our guilt. But, previous to the honorable judge imposing this sentence upon me, he called my attorney and the prosecutor to the bench. The judge asked the prosecutor if he would consider lowering his recommendation for the sentence that I was about to receive. The prosecutor refused to lower his recommendation for the sentence under the guidelines of mandatory Sentencing. The judge, in his entrusted judicial capacity in fact, had his discretionary powers rescinded I will ask you to question in your minds this ludicrous removal of a judge's discretionary ruling when he is about to impose a sentence, especially a mandatory sentence for a non­violent offense.

Allow me to explain further what a Minimum Mandatory sentence entails. Anyone who is sentenced to a mandatory term of incarceration is precluded from the following:

- Earning good-time deduction to reduce parole eligibility.

- Making application for early consideration for reduction of sentence via the parole board.

- Any consideration for reduction on a Revise & Revoke Motion via the courts.

- Applying for any Bracelet Preparatory Program.

- And the most unfair preclusion of all, the opportunity

to apply for pre-release status to allow and permit us to engage in gainful employment - and to leave the confines of prison with the hope to re-enter their community successfully with some dignity and financial security.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider the following: with every offense committed, under the guidelines of the sentences imposed, the individual is afforded the opportunity to apply to the Department of Corrections for pre-release status and eligibility.

Regarding pre-release status, any and all inmates granted the privilege of obtaining gainful employment

in the community are required to remit 15% of their earnings to the respective institution, therefore economically contributing as a supplement to the budget granted each institution. Although it may appear to be little, it is better than none.

By the precluding of individuals who are serving minimum mandatory sentences from becoming pre­release eligible, the reality is that our criminal justice system is being bogged down even further with overcrowding and more of our tax dollars are being


 

 

utilized to house, maintain and support even more individuals convicted of felonies. The full detrimental effects have not been seen yet, because very soon, many individuals who received and have served mandatory sentences without the opportunity to save a little nest egg to re-enter the community - will, in fact, become an even bigger burden to the community.

After spending a number of years incarcerated, many people do not have a viable supp0l1 group to assist them with successful re-entry. Our human service agencies are stretched presently, due to our economy and the plight and despair of tax-paying people who are trying to survive; therefore, human service assistance has been slashed drastically to assist any incarcerated individual who desires to re-enter society and rebuild his or her life successfully.

 

Featured Resources in the Community

Boston Workers Alliance (BW A)

BWA was formed in September 22,2005 at a large meeting of jobless workers at the 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury. We agreed to unite for the uplift of our community by building powerful collective challenges to the crisis of unemployment. Our two immediate priorities involved fighting CORI discrimination and forming a BW A worker-owned temp agency.

Tn this organization, we will work on improving our job situations by developing the necessary skills and resources to find work. At the same time, it is clear that job training and business resumes are useless if no one is hiring. We recognize that unless we demand a societal change to have fair work for all, members of our community will be forced to compete, like crabs in a barrel, for fewer and  lower-paying jobs. When we unite, we are fighting tor more than a paycheck. We are fighting for jobs for our youth and stable work that ,we can raise our families on.

If you're unemployed, working two jobs & still not making it, can't get a job because of your CORl, or just sick & tired of being "sick & tired," please join us-tell your story, fight for CORI refonl1 and jobs.

Address: 51 Roxbury Street, Roxbury, MA 02119. Contact person: Aaron Tanaka, Phone No. (617) 427-8180. http://www . bostonworkersalliance

Massachusetts State Wide Harm Reduction Coalition (SHaRC)

The mission of SHaRC is:

To build a statewide social justice movement that is dedicated to working with individuals and communities;

To minimize the adverse consequences of drug use, t1u'ough means such as: syringe access, healthcare for those with HIV and hepatitis, and overdose prevention; and

for drug law changes, moving from punitive criminal justice policies, in support of non-coercive, community­ based public health models.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are individuals, groups, organizations and agencies from across the state of Massachusetts against jailor prison expansion/construction and/or addition of beds.

Address: c/o ARISE for Social Justice, 94 Rifle Street, Springfield, MA 01105. Phone no. 413-348-8234.

 

letters to the editor

Hello everyone.

Here is ""here the letters to the editor are going to appear in the future. However, for today, we'll outline the basic structure of the issues we envision discussing in the upcoming issues. Along with the

topics mentioned below, we will always have space for issues that are brought to

our attention as we hear more from you.

January:

Re-introducing ourselves and re-entry

March: Classification, Mass Health, and vocational training

June: Solitary confinement, educational resources, and the death penalty

September: Parole, commutations, lifers and long terms

Sincerely, The Staff

(Robert Dellelo, Jamie Bissonnette, John Boughner, Rabia Mir)


 

 

What is the AFSC's Criminal Justice Program?

Jamie Bissonnette Staff Writer

The American Friends Service Committee's Criminal Justice Program in New England was founded in 1973 to continue the work begun by the Ad Hoc Committee on Prison Reform and the National Prisoners Reform Association at Walpole Prison.

The NPRA Board at Walpole was pivotal in determining the kind of work that the Justice Program would focus on.

The AFSC has four foundational positions: we call for the abolition of prisons, a moratorium on prison construction, the abolishment of capital punishment and of the mandatory sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole.

Currently, the AFSC is the sponsor of the STOPMAX Campaign, a national campaign to end the use of solitary confinement in the US. This Campaign unites prisoner rights activists and human rights activists across the country to work together to end the cruel and unusual punishment of isolation.

From the beginning, the voices of those who are in prison have been the crucial voices in determining the work of the CJ program of the Service Committee. To this end, Outlook on Justice was first published on 1974. Initially, Outlook focused exclusively on the issues that confront men and women in Massachusetts prisons. NO\v, the publication looks at prison issues from a New England-wide lens, hoping to unite those who are engaged in the struggle for justice throughout the region.

Over the years, prisoners, formerly incarcerated men and women, and prisoner family members have written most of the articles in Outlook. Today, we welcome a new editor: Robert Dellelo, who was the President of the Walpole NPRA and one of the original board members of the Criminal Justice Program. The editorial outlines Bobby's vision for this publication. On page 7, you will see a list of themes that we will address in upcoming issues. We hope you will both contribute articles on these topics and give us feedback on the articles we do publish.

Thank you for joining us in the crucial work to move the criminal justice system away from punishment and toward healing: healing for the victims harmed by crime, the communities that are impacted, your own families, and all of you who are in prison. Our culture--indeed, our social well-being-depends on it  


 

Opinions Express in Outlook are not necessarily those of AFSC


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norfolk Lifers' Group Proposes Task Force on Long Term Prisoner's

The Lifers' Group at Norfolk Prison has drafted a resolution which calls for the creation of a task force on long-term prisoners. Gordon Haas, chairman of Lifers' Group, Inc., has sent the resolution, modeled on a national initiative by Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), to every Massachusetts state senator and representative. Ed Bowser of Lifers' Group asks that concerned individuals call their senators and representatives asking them to sponsor the resolution, which is printed below. The Norfolk Lifers' Group can be contacted at: Lifers' Group Inc., 2 Clark Street, P. O. Box 43, Norfolk, MA 02056-0043.

Proposed Resolution

Whereas there are over 200,000 long-term prisoners in the US including 128,000 serving life sentences;

Whereas the number of prisoners serving life sentences has increased 83% in the last ten   years;

Whereas in 1992 there was only one in six lifers serving no parole sentences and today there is one in four;

Whereas research shows this increase has not been the result of violent crime, but longer mandatory

sentences, and more restrictive parole and commutation policies;

Whereas the recidivism rate for long-termers is the lowest of any group of prisoners;

Whereas it costs a million dollars to house a person sentenced to life in prison for 40 years;

Be it resolved that a Task Force on Long-Term Prisoners be created to recommend a state strategy involving the prison and parole agencies and other partners, as appropriate;

That this task force's recommendations ensure the achievement of the highest level of public safety; That this task force study successful long-term release programs such as Life Line in Canada;

That this task force be appointed by the Governor and complete its work by December 2006, in time for the legislative session in 2007.

Focus on Reentry

Milt W. Jones Contributing Writer


 

While AFSC for many years has diligently addressed various social justice issues, particularly relative to prison reform, we have taken a more active role in the area of reentry. We recognize that focusing inside the walls and seeking assurance that out' incarcerated men and women are treated humanely and afforded the maximum opportunity for rehabilitation is extremely necessary, but not enough. We must seek ways to help our returning men and women adjust to society in a manner that will enable them to relinquish their negative life-styles and to embrace a more healthy way of living, thereby contributing to out' ultimate goal of building safer communities. To that end T have been designated to steer our focus on reentry.

I founded Community Reentry Preparation Group (CRPG), which is a program designed to stimulate the thought process in preparation for release into the community. Each individual that goes through the program receives a certificate upon completion.

CRPG is entering its third year of operation at Plymouth County Correctional Facility as well as Norfolk County. It serves 30 men monthly for a six month cycle. The groups are engaged in in-depth discussions developed from and guided by six pre-determined topics: pride vs. humility, dangers of addiction, desires vs. needs, spirituality, changing the thought process, and an overview/group assessment.

Through these topics we discuss behaviors during incarceration and the resulting benefits or consequences. We consider the obstacles one will face upon release and how to work through them. Ultimately we seek to layout the framework for making the necessary life changes that will allow one to live a quality life and become a meaningful asset to his or her community. In furtherance of this initiative we are proposing this program to at least three more county facilities, for which we will seek funding. For those CRPG graduates who are released to the Boston and surrounding areas, we have set up CRPG at AFSC for their continued group participation. Lastly, we have assembled a group of advocates consisting of formerly incarcerated men and women (with a proven record of successful reentry); lawyers; paralegals; clergy;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

college students; social service providers; grant writers ; and research analysts to work on the Reentry Center Development Committee.

The obvious objectives of this committee are to plan the strategy for the development and operation of a reentry center that will provide a safe haven while offering educational, therapeutic, and recreational programs. Those of us who are moving ahead are responsible to encourage those who are coming behind.


 

Wrapping up soon?


 

Are you wrapping up soon? Do you expect to live on SSI? If you answered yes to these questions, the following information may be of help to you.

Social Security's Definition of Disability

We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if, due to a medical or mental condition:

a) You cannot do work that you did before and ,ve decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your condition(s), and

b) Your disability is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Unlike other programs, Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings, and investments.

Understanding Supplemental Security Income

The prerelease procedure allows you to apply for SSI benefits and food stamps several months before your anticipated release from an institution so that benefits can begin quickly after your release. We do not pay you SSI benefits when you reside in a public institution.

We will process an application for you under the prerelease procedure if you are in an institution (e.g., hospital, nursing home, prison, or jail) ; and appear likely to meet the criteria for SSI eligibility when you are released from the institution; and are expected to be released within 30 days after you are notified of your potential eligibility for SSI benefits.

There may be a prerelease agreement in effect between the institution and your local Social Security office. However, you may file an application for SSI benefits under the prerelease procedure even if there is no agreement in effect. A prerelease agreement may be formal (a written agreement signed by both parties) or informal. Under the agreement, we help institutional and social service staffs learn the prerelease procedure, and we provide a contact to assist the institution in applying the prerelease procedure. The institution agrees to: notify us if you appear likely to meet the criteria for SSI eligibility and you could be released within 30 days after notification of potential SSI eligibility; provide current medical evidence and non­medical information needed to process your claim;

provide your anticipated release date and notify us of any delays that may result in a later release date; and notify us when you are released. We agree to: process your claim or reinstatement as quickly as possible; and notify the institution of the SSI determination promptly.

You should take advantage of this program because the process can take a very long time and you might as well have them processing your claim while you are still serving time. If you experience any difficulty accessing this program, please be in touch with us.

Will Social Security benefits to my spouse and children stop while I am in prison? No. Your eligible family members will continue to receive benefits. You, or a member of your family, should contact Social Security right away to report that you are in jail.

Next time: more information about Social Security.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Outlook on Justice

New England Regional Office, American Friends Service Committee

January 2007                                                                                      Vol.26

Promoting Non-Violent Social Change since 1971

 

 

 

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