March 5, 2014 - Our wonderful Director of State Policy Tracie M. Gardner was quoted in a Newsweek article this week which described Legal Action Center as "a key driver in developing coordination of criminal justice and health in New York." This terrific article highlights the tremendous opportunities that collaboration between the health and criminal justice systems creates for improving both public safety and health. Read more here.
UPDATED March 4, 2014- Thanks to all of you who voted in Senator O'Mara's poll. Thanks to your successful efforts, we have been able to push the results from approximately 75% against when we started this campaign to 57% in favor. The rallying effort by all of you and by all of our allies was overwhelming. Please continue to show your support by voting here so that opponents of education in prison are not able to reverse our success.
March 3, 2014 - The Legal Action Center successfully saved a job for one of its clients with a criminal record history by explaining to our client's employer the role of the recently created NYS Justice Center and assuring the employer that it had the right to retain the employee (our client). Because the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs only began operating on June 30, 2013, some employers remain unfamiliar with its requirements and so need to be educated about what their role is when making employment decisions relating to employees or applicants with criminal record histories versus the role of the Justice Center. Job applicants and employees with criminal record histories should also educate themselves about their rights. (For more information about your employment rights, check out LAC's free criminal justice publications page.)
March 11, 2014 - As people with HIV live into their 60s and beyond, new legal issues emerge. This 2-hour training will cover some of the legal issues that older New Yorkers with HIV face.
February 25, 2014 - NEW YORK FUNDING ALERT
MAINTAIN $5 MILLION TO ESTABLISH COORDINATION BETWEEN NYS MEDICAID HEALTH HOMES AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH, INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY AND CREATE SIGNIFICANT COST SAVINGS
February 19, 2014 – Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) announced an agreement to dramatically reform the way solitary confinement is used in New York State prisons. Under the agreement, the state agreed to end the use of isolation for youth under the age of 18 and pregnant inmates. The state will also adopt sentencing guidelines for the first time, and set first-ever maximum limits on isolation-sentence lengths, including a 30 day limit for those who are developmentally disabled.
February 19, 2014 – On February 18, Governor Cuomo announced that the “Work For Success” (WFS) initiative had successfully placed 1,646 formerly incarcerated individuals with 1,016 businesses and that the initiative would be transitioning from a pilot program to a standard state-wide model for how public safety and employment agencies engage the formerly incarcerated.
February 18, 2014 - Governor Cuomo, this weekend, announced a plan to expand college course opportunities for individuals incarcerated in Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prisons. The plan, which would begin in the fall and is based on an existing and very successful program organized by Bard College at six prisons around the state, would use state money to pay for accredited associates and bachelor's degree programs at 10 state prisons, one in each region of the state.
February 13, 2014 – Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio today announced that New Yorkers who are permanently disabled by HIV/AIDS and receive rental assistance will no longer be required to pay more than 30% of their income towards their rent. The announcement is a massive victory for advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS who have pushed for such protections for many years.
February 13, 2014 - On February 11, 2014, in his State of the Judiciary address, Chief Judge Lippman called for New York State to institute its first ever expungement law. This law would represent a momentous change in how New York preserves and shares criminal record information. Additionally, he proposed that the Office of Court Administration (OCA) no longer include certain misdemeanor information in the records that it sells to the public. LAC has long advocated for these very changes and are delighted that the Chief Judge referenced our decades of work in this area as one of the sources from which he will be crafting his proposals.
February 7, 2014 - On Tuesday afternoon, the full Senate passed the Farm Bill conference agreement. Although the final bill contains significant cuts to SNAP that will undoubtedly hurt children and families across the country, LAC is pleased that in response to strong advocacy by a coalition we co-led, Congress removed two harmful and discriminatory provisions that had been included in earlier versions.
January 23, 2014 - LAC has joined a number of advocates in sending a letter to the Board of Parole in response to proposed regulations (9 NYCRR, Part 8001 and Sections 8002.1(a) and (b), 8002.2(a) and 8002.3) to implement Executive Law § 259-c(4), which was passed by the Legislature in 2011. The 2011 law aimed to change the trend of the Board refusing to release individuals onto Parole based on static factors such as the conviction crime and/or the individual's prior criminal history by requiring the Board to consider the individual's risk and needs assessment and their success in completing their individualized case management plan.
January 23, 2014 - Karla Lopez, an LAC Staff Attorney, and Sebastian Solomon, an LAC Policy Associate, wrote an as-yet-unpublished letter to the Albuquerque Journal in response to a January 10 editorial on the use of methadone maintenance in the local, Bernalillo County, jail. The letter attacked the editorial for claiming that any savings for participants that arose from a longer period without recidivism was negated by the fact that participants supposedly remained in jail longer. The letter also stated that "Equating the value of days without recidivism to the value of days spent in jail...overlooks so many realities of addiction, and crime, as to be virtually nonsensical."
January 21, 2014 -- Legal Action Center commends Governor Cuomo’s funding for alternative to incarceration [ATI] and reentry programs in his 2014 Executive Budget proposal, including continuation of last year’s historic increase in funding for these critically important services, support for a new Reentry Council and a new committee on raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, and millions in tax incentives to encourage the hiring of individuals with criminal records.
January 8, 2014 -- Legal Action Center applauds Governor Cuomo’s call in his 2014 State of the State address to make New York safer by establishing a State Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice to help New York State develop recommendations on youth in New York’s criminal and juvenile justice system. These important new initiatives further the State’s priorities to make our criminal justice system more fair and effective, reducing crime and recidivism and saving money for taxpayers.
Chicago, December 11, 2013 -- Today Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC) recognized the outstanding contributions to fairness and justice that the Legal Action Center’s Director/President, Paul Samuels, has made over the past four decades by honoring him with one of two TASC 2013 Leadership Awards. Paul has fought on behalf of people with addiction histories, HIV/AIDS, and criminal records since 1976, participating in and leading Legal Action Center to major victories in litigation and in policy - at the federal and New York State level, as well as around the country - which have had an enormous impact on the lives of our clients. We congratulate Paul on this well-deserved honor.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) released a new policy brief in partnership with the Legal Action Center today, entitled Medicaid and Financing Health Care for Individuals Involved with the Criminal Justice System. LAC's staff authored the content. Support for the production of this brief was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The brief outlines opportunities for states and localities to improve public health and safety outcomes and reduce spending on corrections and health care services by maximizing the appropriate use of Medicaid coverage for people involved with the criminal justice system.
The Legal Action Center (LAC) has developed easy to read FAQs on the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), also known as the federal parity law, which seeks to eliminate discriminatory access to mental health and substance use disorder (MH and SUD) benefits in certain health insurance coverages.
On October 1, LAC's Senior Criminal Justice Policy Associate, Mark O’Brien, spoke at a Congressional briefing about legislation aimed at improving the accuracy of FBI background checks for employment purposes. The briefing was hosted by Representatives Bobby Scott and Keith Ellison, in collaboration with the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
Legal Action Center and its National H.I.R.E. Network congratulates the Attorney General and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the August 12th announcement of momentous and sweeping changes to DOJ policies to reduce mass incarceration in the federal prison system. This policy change for people convicted of non-violent offenses and certain drug crimes represents a very significant step toward a more effective, balanced federal approach to criminal justice policy and greater utilization of more cost-effective community-based solutions.
National groups advocating for civil rights and workers’ rights today released a guide for employers to limit use of criminal history in order to avoid unlawful discrimination in hiring applicants for new jobs. The National H.I.R.E. Network, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the National Workrights Institute prepared the guide, "Best Practice Standards: The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring,” in consultation with prominent leaders of the background screening industry. The publication will be the subject of a conference this Fall hosted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
In what is believed to be the most detailed and up-to-date analysis of the different types of errors that exist in New York State’s criminal justice records, the Legal Action Center closely examined 3499 RAP sheets from its clients, looking at records from 2008 to 2011 and determined that at least 30% of these records contained at least one error, with some containing as many as ten or more. The actual error rate is almost certainly higher, as LAC identified an additional 7% of the records that appeared to have errors, but could not verify this because of difficulties in obtaining the necessary information from the police, courts, parole, probation and other authorities, especially information on older cases – some of these incomplete records date back to the 1950s and 60’s.
The Legal Action Center's report, Legality of Denying Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in the Criminal Justice System, explains why criminal justice agencies violate Federal anti- discrimination laws and the United States Constitution when they deny access to medications, such as methadone and burprenorphine, to treat opiate addiction. The report addresses the prevalence of opiate addiction in the criminal justice system, the limited availability of methadone maintenance and buprenorphine treatment throughout the criminal justice system, as well as the causes and consequences of this limited availability. The report then analyzes the circumstances in which the denial of access to these medications violates Federal anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals with disabilities and the United States Constitution.
When a young Phoenix man named Gabriel left prison after a four-year term for burglary, he was 21 -- the same age at which his uncle, P. David Lopez, graduated college and saw before him limitless opportunities.
A Brooklyn native used to big-city life, LAC paralegal Lionel Oglesby didn’t expect much from a little barber shop small-talk. But when he got to chatting about work, his barber, David Rivera, perked up at the mention of the Legal Action Center.
The Legal Action Center is pleased to announce the release of a toolkit to help providers obtain federal Byrne JAG funds to support alternatives to incarceration (ATI), reentry, and substance use treatment and prevention services.
The New York Times editorial board weighed in this month on Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to close prisons. Like LAC, The Times stresses that unneeded capacity in the state's prisons costs the state millions of dollars that are desperately needed elsewhere.
The 2013 Arthur Liman Public Interest Awards Benefit will honor Doug Liman, President of Hypnotic, and Jane Sherburne, Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of Citigroup Inc.
The benefit will be held October 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm at the Tribeca Rooftop in New York City. Purchase your tickets today!
Governor Andrew Cuomo released his $132.5 billion plan for the 2012-2013 budget today, closing an estimated $3.5 billion budget gap with $2 billion in savings and $1.5 billion derived from a reworked tax code that boosted levies on top earners. There are no new taxes or new fees under the plan, and, as agreed last year, the state would spend an additional 4 percent on education and Medicaid. The budget also proposes mandate relief, changes to pensions, and significant reform to the education system.
At this stage of our analysis, we do not see significant reductions or cuts in criminal justice or addiction or HIV services. Read our full preliminary analysis for more details on the key changes in our areas. The Legal Action Center will continue to gather details on the budget from our meetings and conversations with state policymakers and legislative staff.
The 2012 Arthur Liman Public Interest Awards Benefit will honor Elizabeth M. Sacksteder, Deputy General Counsel and Global Head of Litigation and Regulatory Investigations at Citigroup Inc., and Jim and Sue Cusack, founders of the Villa Veritas Foundation.
The benefit will be held October 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm at the Tribeca Rooftop in New York City. Purchase your tickets today!