On April 30, 2012, New York Law Journal published an article “Effect of Risk Assessment Rule on Parole Decisions is Unclear” byline John Caher. The article offered insight into the contradictions and conflict between NYS Division of Parole and NYS Legislators enacting new policy for parole procedures and decision making. The new legislation states the parole board must consider each prisoner’s efforts towards rehabilitation, and a risk assessment to live and remain at liberty without violating the law, including emphasis on the prisoner’s parole release plan. Unfortunately, Andrea Evans, Chairwoman of the Div. of Parole, has instructed parole commissioners to essentially ignore the new legislation, to continue to make decisions subject to the “nature of the crime” and the “criminal history” of prisoners eligible for parole.
On May 22, 2012, the New York State Prisoner Justice Network conducted a spirited day of protest and demonstration in Albany, challenging the current parole policy and practice. The Network supports several bills seeking to reform parole policy in NYS. What is ironic about the entire process is that prisoners, especially political prisoners, must initiate a political campaign to persuade parole commissioners to grant them release on parole. Why is this a problem? The principal problem is that the majority of parole commissioners are former prosecutors and law enforcement officers, who socio-psychologically adhere to an ideal aberrant to prisoners’ rehabilitation and redemption. This is especially true for prisoners convicted of A-1 violent offenses, including assault or killing of law enforcement officers, even though these prisoners were not sentenced to life without parole. Here in NYS, three of us, Robert “Seth” Hayes, who’s been to the parole board 8 times, Herman Bell, who’s been to the parole board 5 times, and myself, with a scheduled 6th parole board appearance, face these conditions despite our exemplary prison records, excellent family ties, and strong community support to ensure our acclimation back into society. Furthermore Herman Bell, and myself have the great fortune of the support of one of the victim’s family members in support of our release from prison, consistently holding we have served enough time in prison.
Given this reality, it is established the NYS parole system is broken, operating as an extension of a system of retribution and punishment, not one to assist prisoners towards rehabilitation and redemption. In this regard, I have proposed to NYS prison and reform activists the need to demand the resignation of Andrea Evans for her failure to adhere to the legislative mandate of reform; to demand the end of nepotism and cronyism in the prison and parole system; and move to build a “Community Prison and Parole Review Board with Ombudsman” to create and develop alternative institutions and oversight of the prison and parole system. This is extremely important given the reality, as explained in the above referred article, when NYS Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubrey is reported to have said “‘… part of the rationale for the revision was to provide the board with political cover if it releases someone with a violent past, or someone whose crime resulted in the death of a police officer. We know that parole board decisions are both administrative and political,’ Aubrey said” (NYLJ 4/30/12). A “Community Prison and Parole Review Board with Ombudsman,” with respect to parole decisions, would be able to ensure parole decisions best serve the interest of the community, and not the “administrative” or “political” interests of the NYS Div. of Parole or the overwhelming influence of law enforcement ideals of retribution and punishment.
Prominent NYS parole attorney Cheryl L. Kates recently submitted a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice petitioning the Civil Rights Division to initiate a formal investigation under CRIPA, 42 USC § 1997. Ms. Kates alleges and complains of violations of constitutional and federal law in the means and methods by which the NYS Division of Parole is failing to make parole decisions in accord with its legislative mandate, as Assemblyman Aubrey has charged.
Those who wish to read and study this extensive legal document should go to http://www.freejalil.com/NYS_Civil_Rights_Complaint.pdf. I further ask lay people and legal folks to support Ms. Kates’ submission by writing and/or calling the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Exhort them to conduct a formal, thorough and exhausting investigation pursuant to Ms. Kates’ complaint.
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Phone: (202) 514-4609; Faxes; (202) 514-0293, (202) 307-2572, (202) 307-2839
In closing, I personally thank all who ventured to www.change.org/petitions/nys-chairwoman-of-parole-release-jalil-muntaqim-to-buffalo-on-parole-in-june-2012 and signed the signature petition, or to www.freejalil.com and supported my parole campaign.
In fierce struggle,
Jalil A. Muntaqim
May 28, 2012