Take Action!

Call to Action: Support Immigrants

At the request of the Worker Justice Center, SURJ ROC supports the Greenlight campaign to enable undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses in New York State. Call Assemblyman Harry Bronson's office, 244-5255, and tell him you support A4050. Ask him to support the campaign and move the bill out of the Transportation Committee.

And find out more about what's happening to immigrants in our area and how you can help at a meeting Tues, June 20, 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on S. Winton.

Worker Justice Center of New York and Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigration Justice will sponsor this meeting to discuss important local initiatives for confronting the immigrant crackdown. For info/reservations: graniamarcus@gmail.com

 

Call to Action: Write City Council Today!

At our May general chapter meeting, members voted to endorse Enough is Enough's call for a Police Accountability Board, previously endorsed by SURJ ROC's Steering Committee. Now it's time to ask you to act as well: Please write a letter to City Council President Loretta Scott, and send it to Enough is Enough co-author Barbara Lacker-Ware (address below).

You can write your own letter, or use some suggested wording from the one below. If you live in the city, make sure you mention that and include your address. If not, write anyway; police accountability is a community-wide issue that affects all of us. (Questions? contact us at action@surjroc.org)

Thanks so much for your support!

SURJ Action Committee

PLEASE MAIL ALL SIGNED LETTERS TO:

Barbara Lacker-Ware, 260 Woodside Place, Rochester, NY  14609

If you are unable to mail your letter, please sign and scan it, then email it to justiceforall365@gmail.com

SAMPLE LETTER OF SUPPORT

Date

President Loretta Scott

Rochester City Council

30 Church Street

Rochester, NY  14614

Dear President Scott,

We/I have reviewed the research findings and recommended ordinance in “The Case for an Independent Police Accountability System: Transforming the Civilian Review Process in Rochester, New York” written by Barbara Lacker-Ware and Theodore Forsyth. We/I agree with the goals and values of Accountability, Transparency, Transformation, Justice, Dignity and Respect that are set forth in this document.

We/I completely supports the research findings and fully endorses the recommended ordinance in the aforementioned document. Furthermore, we/I encourage City Council to adopt the recommended ordinance and establish it as law in the City of Rochester as soon as possible.

Civilians in Rochester deserve to have a complaint process that truly holds police officers accountable for any misconduct, especially excessive use of force. The current Civilian Review Board does not provide an adequate process for police accountability and the process of the Rochester Police Department to review officer misconduct and assign appropriate discipline is not transparent to the community.

We/I recommend the adoption of the ordinance found in “The Case for An Independent Police Accountability System: Transforming the Civilian Review Process in Rochester, New York.” This ordinance abolishes the current Civilian Review Board and establishes a new Police Accountability Board as a separate department of the City of Rochester. This new Police Accountability Board will:

  • Hire an Administrator and Investigator who report to the Board,
  • Conduct investigations independently of the Rochester Police Department,
  • Have the power to issue subpoenas to compel testimony and evidence,
  • Make findings to determine whether civilian complaints against officers are sustained or the officers are exonerated,
  • Make recommendations to the Chief of Police regarding the discipline of officers whose charges of misconduct are sustained.

We/I have a vested interest in the safety of all members of the Rochester community and that each person be treated fairly and justly. We/I trust that City Council represents these values for all Rochester residents, and for this reason we/I strongly encourage you to adopt this measure. Thank you for your service to the community and for acting in the best interests of all.

 

Join our first Lobbying Day in Albany May 10!

Plans are shaping up for the Day for Parole and Prison Justice Wed., May 10. If you’d like to go, contact Paula at action@surjroc.org. There is online training available but even if you don’t get to do that, come anyway. There will be time to talk on the way and orientation when we get there.

Here's some background on the issues:

                   TRANSFORMING PAROLE IN NYS 

THE PROBLEM 

1.People who have served years and decades in prison are repeatedly denied parole release despite their many accomplishments and demonstrated transformation, remorse, low risk to public safety, and readiness for release.

2. Commissioners deny people based on the nature of their crime of conviction, regardless of who the person is today (college graduate/scholar/mentor/teacher/etc.), thwarting the purpose of parole. A person’s crime is the one thing that can never change.

3.The parole process is deeply flawed: Short (15minute) videoconference interviews. Boilerplate decisions that are arbitrary, unfair, & racist, and do not provide denied applicants any direction for how to move toward release.

4.While most applicants are Black or Latino people from urban areas/cities, most Commissioners are white, from non-urban areas, with law enforcement backgrounds. 4 Commissioners were appointed by Gov. Pataki, 5 are up for re-appointment in 2017 and there are seven vacancies (only 12 of 19 commissioner seats are filled).

THE IMPACT 

1.People are denied parole 3, 5, 8, 10+ times, spending numerous years & decades in prison beyond the minimum sentence imposed for their crime of conviction. People are dying in prison.

2.The number of aging and older people in NY prisons is skyrocketing – number of people aged 50+ is up nearly 100%: 5,111 in 2000 to 10,140 in 2016 (now 20% of all people in prison).

3. While older people & people convicted of the most serious crimes have the lowest recidivism rates, the Board refuses to release them.

4. Parole denials are perpetuating a paradigm of punishment and vengeance, fueling mass incarceration, devastating the lives of people, families, & communities, and denying all of us New Yorkers valuable contributing community members, mentors, and leaders. We want our elders home. 

GENERAL SOLUTIONS & SPECIFIC “ASKS” OF POLICY-MAKERS 

1. GENERAL: Parole decisions should assess who an applicant is today and be based on values of fairness, accountability, redemption, and public safety (rather than subjective practices of perpetual punishment and vengeance). There should be a presumption of release for people who are low risk, or who successfully achieved program accomplishments or otherwise demonstrated rehabilitation/readiness.

2. Co-sponsor SAFE Parole Act, A.4353 / S.3095A: enhances parole procedures and requires the Board to: assess applicants on dynamic factors, release people who demonstrate growth/release readiness, and specify what denied applicants can do to be released.

3. Oppose all 2017 re-appointments of the 5 commissioners who repeatedly violate the law and deny parole solely on the basis of the nature of the crime: Ferguson, Ludlow and W. Smith (the Pataki appointees), and J. Smith and Cruse. Help fill commissioner openings (there are 7 vacancies) with people representative of applicants’ communities, with social work/public defense/reentry backgrounds.

4. Support Challenging Incarceration Platform: Parole is one part of our racist and horrific incarceration system. This platform will help end mass incarceration, stop state violence and torture, and promote racial justice & community empowerment. Issues include: bail, sentencing, voting, college, solitary, Rikers/Attica, DVSJA, racial justice. Oppose any laws that fuel mass incarceration and racism, or throw under the bus any group of people or category of conviction.

Source: Parole Justice New York