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Help - Prisoners' Legal Services of New York
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OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP PLS

ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF PLS

PLS is primarily funded by New York State.  In January of every year, when the Governor issues his Executive Budget, he has to make decisions about what programs to fund. When the Legislature votes to adopt the budget, it too has to make decisions on what programs should be funded. For over thirty-five years the State has chosen to fund PLS, but recently our funding has significantly decreased.  Contacting the Governor and your legislators and letting them know that funding PLS is a wise investment for New York State can go a long way to ensuring PLS’ continued existence.

Below are things you can do to encourage state lawmakers to continue to provide funding for PLS.

1. Contact the Governor.

Urge him to join with the Assembly and Senate in funding Prisoners’ Legal Services. You can contact the Governor by phone, e-mail or letter:

Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

If you call, tell the person you wish to leave a message for the Governor. Keep your message brief, but strongly advocate for a prompt budget that includes funding for Prisoners’ Legal Services. Keep calling until a budget for 2012-2013 has been passed. Even if the press reports that serious talks are taking place, keep calling until the budget is passed.

The following is a suggested message: “Please tell the Governor that funding for PLS is vital to public safety and public health and is a sound economic investment. In these tough economic times it is critical that the Governor show leadership on the issues that are important to the safety and economic stability of this State. The 2012-2013 budget must include adequate funding for Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York and for other legal aid programs that provide civil legal services to low income citizens.”

2. Contact the Leaders of the Assembly and the Senate.

Speaker Sheldon Silver: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Sheldon-Silver

Albany Office
LOB 932
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-3791
E-mail: silver@assembly.state.ny.us
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos: http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/dean-g-skelos

Albany Office
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247
United States
Phone: (518) 455-3171
E-mail: skelos@nysenate.gov
3. Contact the Chairs of Important Assembly and Senate Committees.

We have strong support from the following influential Assembly and Senate members. Call or write them on our behalf.

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Chair, Committee on Correction:  http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=035

Albany Office
LOB 526
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-4561
Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Crime Vicitms, Crime and Corrections: http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/ruth-hassell-thompson

Albany Office
188 State Street Room 707 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
United States
Phone: (518) 455-2061
Fax: (518) 426-6998
Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Crime Victims, Crime and Correction; Children and Families:http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/velmanette-montgomery

Albany Office
944 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
United States
Phone: (518) 455-3451
Fax: (518) 426-6854
Senator John Defransico, Chair, Senate Finance Committee; Crime Victims, Crime and Correction:http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/john-defrancisco/contact

Albany Office
416 Capitol
Albany, NY 12247
United States
Phone: (518) 455-3511
4. Contact your Local Assembly Members and Senator. 

If you do not know who your Assembly or Senate representative is go to http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/,  type in your address and hit enter. Information on your elected representatives will appear on the right-hand side of your screen. If you click on the name of your representative, you will be able to access contact information for that person.

Support from rank and file members of the Assembly and Senate is very important in making the legislative leaders see that PLS has broad support. Particularly important are Assembly and Senate members in locations where PLS has an office. When you call or write their offices, identify yourself as a constituent.

5. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, especially in locations where PLS has an office.

Local education and pressure makes a difference. Legislators monitor the local papers to see what their constituents are concerned about. Let them know about PLS and the loss of needed legal services to incarcerated New Yorkers. Sample letters:

#1 SAMPLE LTE:

I write to encourage the NYS’ governmental leaders to fund Prisoners’ Legal Services (“PLS”). Created in the wake of the Attica riot to provide prisoners with non-violent conflict resolution and meaningful access to the courts, for 35 years PLS has fulfilled its purpose. And in this time of economic crisis, when everyone is being asked to tighten their belts, this is exactly the time to keep an organization like this around.

Why? Because PLS saved NYS taxpayers over $3.96 million dollars in 2011-2012 by correcting jail time and sentencing errors. True, PLS answers over 12,000 annual requests for assistance and its work has improved prison conditions and provided prisoners with a mechanism to peacefully air their grievances thus helping to prevent another costly prison uprising, but those cost savings are hard to measure. What is not hard to measure is the cost to the State when a person is held, sometimes years past his scheduled release date. We are not talking about letting prisoners out early as is being done in many other States; we are talking about making sure taxpayers are not paying to keep people in prison when they should be out.

With the budget shortfall facing this State, reported increases in prisoner suicides throughout the State and continued increases in prisoner complaints, now is not the time to discontinue funding a program that protects the public while saving the State millions of dollars!

Find PLS at: www.plsny.org or on Facebook: Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.

#2 SAMPLE LTE:

I am writing today to encourage the New York State Legislature to include funding for Prisoners’ Legal Services (“PLS”). Without funding, PLS will be forced to close its doors, layoff  its dedicated employees and will no longer be able to provide critical services to New York State.

Over forty years after the Attica riots and their devastating results, New Yorkers are still aware of just how critical it is to provide non-violent conflict resolution.  PLS was created to provide exactly that – access to non-violent conflict resolution, competent legal advice, and representation for all of New York States 56,000 incarcerated men and women.

Their dedicated work enables PLS to respond to over 12,000 annual requests for assistance, improve prison conditions, correct jail time and sentencing errors, provide inmates with adequate legal advice, and reverse wrongful disciplinary actions. Consequently, PLS has created a safer and more cost effective prison system by saving the State millions of dollars, reducing tensions in the prisons, avoiding unnecessary pro-se litigation, and contributing to the successful re-entry of inmates across the State. In fact, PLS saved New York taxpayers over $5.36 million in 2010 and 3.96 million in 2011 by correcting jail time and sentencing errors, restoring illegally withheld good time and removing people from being placed illegally in extreme isolation. That is over $8 million in savings to New York State in two years!

With national concern regarding the over-use of extreme isolation,  increases in prisoner suicides throughout the State and continued increases in prisoner complaints, it would be the cruelest of ironies for New York State to discontinue funding such an essential service as PLS.

Find PLS at: www.plsny.org or on Facebook: Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.

#3 SAMPLE LTE

Dear Editor:

In these tough economic times, as the Governor and the Legislature deliberate over the 2012-2013 state budget, it is essential that they make funding decisions based on an informed analysis of what programs best serve the economic and public safety needs of this State. Many not-for-profit agencies that provide civil legal services for low income citizens, community mental health programs, re-entry programs, criminal defense services for low income citizens, and legal services to state prison inmates have seen either decreases or stagnation in their funding over the past 15 years. And yet, many of these programs are essential to ensuring public safety and, when funded properly, often save the State money. Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is one such organization.

PLS has provided civil legal services to indigent inmates in all New York State prisons since 1976, on issues involving access to medical and mental health care, sexual abuse, excessive force, challenges to lengthy sentences to solitary confinement and parole and other sentence matters. PLS is a critical and integral part of the State’s criminal justice system.

As a not-for-profit, however, PLS has repeatedly been a victim of state budget cuts and inadequate funding but through it all PLS has continued to do its best to provide essential legal services to thousands of incarcerated New Yorkers in our State prisons. PLS’ work ensures prison and public safety and has done so for over thirty-five years.

The Governor and the legislative leaders must pass a budget which provides adequate funding for PLS.

#4 SAMPLE LTE

Dear Editor:

I write to encourage Governor Cuomo to fund Prisoners’ Legal Services (“PLS”). PLS was created after the Attica riot to provide prisoners with non-violent conflict resolution and meaningful access to the courts. 

PLS answers over 12,000 annual requests for assistance. For 35 years, PLS has been a safety valve for our prisons. By improving prison conditions, correcting jail time and sentencing errors and providing prisoners with a mechanism to air their grievances, PLS has created a safer, more cost effective prison system. In 2011, PLS also provides significant economic savings to the State. In 2011, PLS saved NY taxpayers over $3.96 million by correcting jail time and sentencing errors, and restoring unlawfully withheld goodtime. 

With national concern regarding the over-use of extreme isolation, increases in prisoner suicides across the State, continued increases in prisoner complaints and concern over the economic stability of our State,  now is not the time to discontinue funding such an essential service as PLS.

GUIDELINES FOR LTE’S:

For all LTE’s please include your full name, address, and contact information.  Also, please note that your letter may be edited for length.

For information on submitting a letter to the editor to the Times Union, click here.

For information on submitting a letter to the editor to the New York Times, click here.

To send a letter to the editor to the Journal News email: letters@lohud.com

To send a letter to the editor to the Buffalo News please Write to Everybody’s Column, The Buffalo News, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY, 14240, or fax to 716-856-5150. You may also send an email to LetterToEditor@buffnews.com. You can also read the Submission Guidelines on this page. Every single letter which is printed in the paper is verified by telephone, so be sure to sign your letter and include your address and a day-time phone number.

To send a letter to the editor to the Watertown Daily Times please email: letters@wdt.net

7. Visit our Facebook page !

8. PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS, CO-WORKERS, FRIENDS AND ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN AND ARE WILLING TO ACT NOW TO ENSURE THAT PLS CAN CONTINUE TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES TO PRISONERS.