NY1 featured Release Aging People in Prison, with Mujahid Farid, Larry White, and Correctional Association of NY Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah. The community agrees: release our elders. Watch the video.
RAPP & Raise the Age (with Saigon and Messiah!) “What’s Age Got to Do with It? Incarcerating Children and the Elderly”
Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 2 p.m.
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
Representatives of the Correctional Association’s “Raise the Age” and “Release of Aging People in Prison” campaigns engage in a dynamic dialogue with each other and the audience about how we are addressing these problems—and how we can make change, as well as art that supports that change. The event concludes with special performances by Saigon from the TV show Love & Hip Hop and by spoken word artist Messiah, who also works with youth on Rikers Island.
Tanesha Ingram, Youth and Community Coordinator of CA’s Juvenile Justice Project, moderates the afternoon’s conversation with participants including Mujahid Farid, Soros Fellow at the “Release of Aging People in Prison” project; spoken word artist Messiah; advocate Gloria Rubero; actor and rapper Saigon; and Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Director of CA’s Juvenile Justice Project.
Part of the series “States of Denial: The Illegal Incarceration of Women, Children, and People of Color,” presented by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in partnership with the Correctional Association of New York.
Free with Museum admission ($10).
Edwin ‘Eddie’ Ellis Passes
Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) joins the Center for NuLeadership and the entire community in mourning the passing of Eddie Ellis. Here is the notice of his death by the Center for NuLeadership.
By Kyung Ji Rhee on July 24, 2014 in News and Latest
originally published by EastBrooklyn.com
EastBrooklyn has learned that Edwin “Eddie” Ellis (72) has passed. Although, details of Ellis’ passing are unconfirmed, it is believed that Ellis may have passed away in the early morning hours of July 24, 2014, from a heart attack.
Speaking of the news, longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Divine Pryor, released this statement.
“Dear friends and family:
It is with a very heavy heart that I share this news with you. Eddie Ellis, our fearless, tireless and loving leader and warrior passed away this morning.
So much needs to be said, of course, but for now, I want to thank you for your words of support and love. We will be in touch with updates soon. Please direct all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org for now. Thank you.”
Beloved by many, Ellis was born in 1941. He became nationally known as a staunch prison reformer and advocate of the non-traditional approach to the “criminal punishment system” Ellis’ take on the criminal justice system. Ellis was a Black Panther and served 25 years in prison- being one of the last people to remain in Attica after its famed rebellion. Back in 1979, Ellis was one of a small group of incarcerated men who berthed the Seven Neighborhood Study, a project that gave spotlight to the phenomenon of New York State prisons being filled up disproportionately by Black and Latino men from just seven neighborhoods in New York City.
Ellis, founder of the nonprofit Center for Nuleadership On Urban Solutions was perhaps most famous for his distinctive, throaty voice every Saturday mid-afternoon on the radio show “On The Count”, a popular weekly radio show on WBAI that prides itself on being the city’s only show about, for, and produced by people who were formerly incarcerated.
However, Ellis had not personally been on air since late 2013. Fiercely private in his personal affairs, Ellis had been silently suffering from a long bout with chronic conditions, suffered since his time at Attica, which frequently sent him to and from hospitals.
Ellis earned his undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree as a theologian. Ellis was considered by many professionals and advocates working in and out of New York criminal justice system, as a rare, credible and legitimate appraiser of its dollar for dollar value. So much so that several political luminaries, like former Governor NYS Eliot Spitzer and former US President George W. Bush’s domestic policy advisor,continued to tap Ellis for his expertise to serve in consultant and advisory roles.
In, 2011, Harvard University’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice recognized Ellis’s life long commitment to reforming America’s punishing criminal justice system.
Ellis’ passing comes in the midst of efforts by his colleagues to edify his non-traditional approach to criminal punishment system in the form of The Eddie Ellis Academy for Human Justice.
Listen to this radio story on how Colorado has advanced prison reform (and public health and safety) by releasing elders from prison and helping them reunify with their communities.
In the first half of September, 2014, aging people in prison—and the challenges they face winning release and reintegrating into their communities on the streets—provoked a flurry of articles. Here are some (check our press page for more):
September 12: “What’s Wrong With This Picture? Elderly People in NY’s Prisons,” by Peter Wagner: Prison Policy Initiative
September 12: “Begging Cuomo for Clemency,” editorial: The Bedford/Pound Ridge Record Review
September 16: “Mohaman Koti, 87-Year-Old Prison Inmate, Granted Parole After 36 Years,” by Albert Samaha: The Village Voice
September 17: “Even Model Inmates Face Steep Barriers to Parole,” by Bill Hughes: City Limits
September 18: “You’re Old & Finally Out of Prison. What Happens Now?” by Victoria Law: the Gothamist
AND our own Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP Interviews: A Preliminary Report, by Ariane Davisson: RAPP
What might the rest of the year bring? We hope: more releases of aging people in prison, to start undermining mass incarceration and its foundations of permanent punishment, racism and revenge.
Take action now: Sign our petition to release aging people in prison.
Your support helps the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign carry out public education, organizing, and advocacy work. A donation to our campaign is an investment in community-driven advocacy aimed at ending the aging in prison epidemic.
Please click “Donate” page and make a secure donation by debit or credit card. No PayPal account needed, just click on icons for debit/credit cards. Thank you!
Inmates are repeatedly denied parole long after they have served their minimum sentence, not because of misbehavior or any concern for public safety but because of the “seriousness” of the original offense. As one former chairman of the board told The New York Law Journal last year, “If the Parole Board doesn’t like the crime, you are not going to get out.”
This attitude may be predictable from a body made up of political appointees, but that doesn’t make it just or protective of public safety.
In 2011, legislators amended the state law to require that the board consider a prisoner’s future along with his or her past. So far it hasn’t made much of a difference. While New York has reduced its overall prison population by more than 15,000 since 2000, release rates — the board granted just over one-third of the 16,000 applications it considered in 2012 — have actually gone down.
Prisoners’ rights advocates and those who have gone through the process — which involves a brief, often intimidating interview — say parole decisions are inconsistent and largely unrelated to what a person has accomplished while incarcerated. Recently, some state judges have been scrutinizing, and reversing, the board’s denials, which use boilerplate language and in some cases fail even to acknowledge an inmate’s Compas results.
In December, the board finally complied with the 2011 amendment by proposing new regulations to guide its work, but it continues to resist any meaningful change.
Its obstinacy is all the more lamentable because programs like Compas have been proved to work. At least 15 states have used similar data-based risk-assessment tools in recent years, with good results. A three-year study in New Jersey found that parolees were 36 percent less likely to return to prison for new crimes than inmates who served full sentences. The key was post-release supervision: parolees get it; those who “max out” do not.
The study also suggested reducing the number of parolees sent back to prison for technical violations, like a missed appointment or failed drug test. In New York, such violations account for three out of four parole revocations.
Lasting reform of New York’s parole system will require a fundamental reworking of both the board’s process and its culture. For low-risk inmates, early release into parole should be the default, and the board should have to articulate a good reason to keep them locked up.
If the board is worried that some parolees might commit new crimes, it could start by releasing older inmates, who represent one of the fastest-growing and most-expensive segments of the prison population and yet are by far the least likely to reoffend. (Elderly prisoners convicted of first-degree murder have among the lowest recidivism rates of all.)
For parole to have any value, it must serve as a meaningful incentive to personal growth and rehabilitation. “No one can ever change the past,” a prison chaplain wrote to the board last month. “But we don’t have to remain prisoners of it.”