How Parole Sets Offenders up to Fail (Part 3)

[Read Part 1] [Part 2]

Over the last six years, locked up in prison, Jon Fontaine has had to rely on others. It was time for him to give back.

In his first week of release, his mother’s basement sprang a leak. He pulled out the broken downspout that was channeling water into the house, and then to divert it, dug a hole – for hours –using just a shovel. But he was on a tight deadline. He needed parts, and someone to drive him to the store. Parole would not allow Jon to drive.

When he returned, he worked feverishly on a three-foot trench, trying to finish in the dark, before his 8 p.m. curfew.

The curfew is one of 33 conditions Parole imposed in place of actual “supervision.” It is an unreasonable list of conditions that are impossible for any human to follow. Here are a few :

  • Cannot have a car or driver’s license.
  • Cannot have a bank account.
  • Cannot leave the county.
  • Must be inside his approved residence between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Cannot consume alcohol.
  • Cannot be in a place in which alcohol is the main form of business (bar-restaurant, et. al).
  • Must maintain employment.
  • Must take substance abuse courses and other courses as directed by parole.
  • Cannot have contact with me, a journalist who wrote a book about him.

Most of the restrictions don’t apply to him. He has not been found to have a drinking or substance abuse problem and has the usual traffic tickets like everyone else.

How does one cash paychecks without having a bank account? And Jon lives in a remote area in the country (right near the county line he can’t cross). How many businesses would hire a convicted felon? How many within walking distance?

How does one “maintain employment” if he can’t drive, leave the county, have a bank account, or is unable to find anyone within walking distance who will hire a felon?

Stable social support systems are critical to rehabilitating offenders. But how does one find love and family with an 8 p.m. curfew? “Oh, and honey, you’ll have to pick me up and drop me off all day, every day, everywhere.”

“And pay for everything, too, because parole has made it impossible for me to find a job.”

These restrictions don’t allow for opportunities. They remove HOPE.

For those who want to start a new life, parole does not encourage that. Those who want opportunities will get into a car and drive to find those opportunities. They will violate these nonsensical restrictions to create opportunities. Conversely, those bent on committing crimes will cross the county line anyway. They will be out after 8 p.m. anyway.

Jon filed a lawsuit to remove the contact restriction between him and me. It is my right to contact him, and Jon wants to see me. How long before he violates that condition?

The restriction doesn’t make sense. Why not remove it?

Parole imposes conditions that are impossible to follow, and that provides them job security. We will inevitably throw these people back in prison (on our dime). The more time an offender spends behind bars, and without opportunities, the more damaged he becomes, and the lesser the chance of rehabilitation.

We have Rochester parolees committing rapes and murders, and no one understands how that happens. It’s because their parole officers felt a piece of paper was sufficient “supervision.”

We pay Jon’s parole officer, Martin Buonanno, $88,928 a year to come up with a list of restrictions – ones that throw up road blocks rather than pave new roads.

And when I called Buonanno to ask him his reason for barring Jon from contact with me, he refused to answer and hung up.

Buonanno is why we have offenders under parole “supervision” who are out committing rapes and murders. Because parole officers like him simply sit at desks and come up with lists without regard to the person they’re supposed to be supervising, and believing they don’t have to answer to the taxpayers who employ them.

More shockers in Part 4 and Part 5. Part 6.

[Hear Jon’s parole officer hang up on me]

 

 

[*Note: Information contained herein has been gleaned from public online postings and through discussions with mutual acquaintances, none of whom are, or have been, acting as third party communicators through Jon.]

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Jon Violates Parole in His First Week (Part 2)

[Read Part 1]

The first day Jon had been released from prison, I figured he needed time to be alone, decompress. I’d give him that space. However, I was disappointed he didn’t call right away.

After having written a book about him and communicating for six years via calls, letters, and at cafeteria-style tables under the watchful eyes of guards and cameras, I was excited to give him a hug and help him through the process of reintegrating into society.

Sure, I knew prison staff had added my name to his “no-contact” list in the 11th hour and without explanation, but I didn’t really think that would stick. We’d been through a nightmare of red tape trying to get it removed and a lawyer was helping us.

But I didn’t hear from Jon, day after day after day.

The condition stated Jon’s parole officer could grant him permission to have contact with me. Why wouldn’t he? There was nothing reasonable or logical about this.

I had not lost my right to communicate with whom I chose, or to reach out to anyone. So I exercised that right. 

I messaged Jon through Facebook Messenger. I had legal information to pass along, and passwords to the accounts I’d maintained for him while he was away. And I’d tell him about my day, share a memory or laugh, or send pictures – everything protected under my First Amendment right.

On October 5, one week after his release, Jon sat down with his parole officer, Martin Buonanno, for what would be his first bi-weekly meeting. I learned Jon showed Buonanno my Facebook messages so Buonanno would see that I was contacting Jon, but that Jon wasn’t responding. He wanted to be transparent with his PO so he didn’t risk a violation.

What was Buonanno’s reaction? “That’s a violation.”

“She is messaging me,” Jon told him.

Buonanno said that because Jon was reading my messages, he was in violation of his parole no-contact condition.

HE WAS IN VIOLATION BECAUSE HE READ SOMETHING I WROTE. Think about that. Buonanno stated Jon violated parole because he received unsolicited communication from someone else.

The parole officer told Jon to block my messages, or be sent back to prison.

Jon did not receive a violation that day, but imagine if he did. Instead of Jon being a productive, taxpaying member of society, you’d be paying to house and feed him in an institution.

All because he read about my day.

More shockers in Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.

[Hear Jon’s parole officer hang up on me]

 

 

[*Note: Information contained herein has been gleaned from public online postings and through discussions with mutual acquaintances, none of whom are, or have been, acting as third party communicators through Jon.]

 

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How Parole Fails Them and You – Jon’s First Day of Release (Part 1)

Jon Fontaine was released from prison on September 29, 2017, with just the clothes from his prison locker and a bus ticket. He traveled alone.

I wouldn’t know much about it. Though I’d supported him the six years he was behind bars, the minute he walked through the gate, parole denied him contact with me.

But Jon made some public online postings, and I saw them. Wearing a bright blue T-shirt circa 2011 that he’d had in storage, he talked into a camera about his first day of release.

His release was also talked about on a popular radio show, The Kimberly and Beck Show. That’s because a Rochester parole officer called the radio show hosts with the “tip.” The parole officer ratted out Jon’s release date and specific home address to the hosts, hoping they’d talk about it on the radio.

One of the hosts called me for an interview. She is the one who gave me the information about Jon. Otherwise, I’d had no idea.

Apparently, parole officers decided it was rehabilitative to broadcast to the world Jon’s exact home address, as well as to isolate him from his support system.

That first night, two parole officers showed up at Jon’s approved residence. They sat in the kitchen. Ironically, they told him he wasn’t allowed to do any media interviews – interviews which would not have been requested had a parole officer not blurted to the media what was supposed to be privileged information.

One of those parole officers, Martin Buonanno, would be Jon’s permanently assigned PO.

That night, for the first time in many years, Jon retired to a bed he could call his own, but he got no rest. Absent the putrid clouds of cigarette smoke and mind-cluttering noise of talking, arguing and steel-clanging to which he’d become accustomed, Jon couldn’t sleep at all.

Adapting to an unfamiliar life of outside prison walls wouldn’t be easy. And Jon would learn freedom wouldn’t mean free.

Most importantly, parole staff would not help with this transition; quite the contrary. They would dismantle the plans Jon had for his new life – plans six years in the making were trashed by parole staff in one fell swoop.

When parole officers fail those newly released to society, they fail all of us who live among them.

Keep reading to learn the shocking chain of events. To be continued in Part 2.

[Read Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6]

[Hear Jon’s parole officer hang up on me]

 

 

[*Note: Information contained herein has been gleaned from public online postings and through discussions with mutual acquaintances, none of whom are, or have been, acting as third party communicators through Jon.]

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Deputy Throws Whistle Blower Inmate in Isolation

Jon Fontaine is the subject of my book, A Jacket off the Gorge. He’s been sending me blogs from behind bars that I’ve been posting on my website. They are not popular among Monroe County Jail staff. They identify serious failures. (Read Jon’s blogs here.)

In what appears to be retaliation, jail staff has now taken Jon’s pen, paper, and modes of communication (phone, visits) and thrown him in isolation.

On May 23, I attended Jon’s court hearing. His attorney handed me a note that Jon surreptitiously passed him to give to me. It listed deputies’ names and stated they’d threatened him.

I walked to jail administration to turn over the note for investigation, and Corporal John Helfer came to talk to me. I had not stated the nature of my visit. Helfer’s demeanor appeared angry and defensive. He brought up Jon’s blogs on my website before I ever did, and before I got a chance to explain why I wanted to talk to him.

Helfer stated someone “sent an email around” to jail staff “with a link” to Jon’s blogs and suggested they look into his claims. Helfer then said to me, “We don’t investigate anything unless someone files a formal complaint.”

It was then I handed Jon’s note to Helfer and stated, “I want this investigated.”

Helfer asked me how Jon gets his stories to me. I said he writes them and mails them.

The next morning, May 24, Jon was taken to the mental health unit and locked in an isolation cell, his pen and paper taken from him, and his phone and visitor privileges revoked. This has been confirmed by an attorney.

Blocking someone from free speech: no small deal. That’s a violation of constitutional rights.

Later that evening, I received a call from the jail, but it wasn’t Jon. It was an inmate I didn’t know. He read a note which details the alleged chain of events. (Click here to listen to the inmate read the note.)

These are the allegations: Jon was talking with other inmates when jail deputy Cambisi confronted him and said, “You and I need to talk.” Cambisi then informed Jon he was going to write him up for “inciting a riot.” Internal Affairs staff arrived to investigate the complaint I’d launched the day before. Jon informed them of Cambisi’s action. After they left, Cambisi went to Jon’s cell and said, “You have a visit.” Jon grabbed his legal folder to take with him, which includes pen/paper. This time, however, it was not Internal Affairs, but two jail employees (Deputy Noble and Corporal Scott Bevilacqua) who took Jon to the mental health unit and locked him in an isolation cell, where inmates are barred from mail, phone calls and visits. Later, Corporal Wayne Guest brought Jon his property. Missing were his pens and paper. (Jon still had possession of the pens/paper he’d taken with him in his legal folder, which had not been searched).

The following is an email I sent to Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn:

I am requesting that inmate Jon Fontaine be immediately released from isolation, where he was put today (5/24/17) after Deputy Cambisi wrote him up on trumped up charges of “inciting a riot.”

This appears to be in direct retaliation of the complaint I delivered on Jon’s behalf to Corporal John Helfer yesterday. Helfer mentioned Jon’s stories on my website before I ever did. He asked how Jon relayed the stories to me. I told him Jon writes them and mails them.

Today, Jon’s pen, paper and carbon paper were taken away from him, and he was placed in an area where he is barred from communication.

I call on Sheriff O’Flynn to investigate these jail employee’ actions, and if the claims are found to be substantiated, to remove them from their duties.

UPDATE:

5/24/17 evening

Two jail guards entered Jon’s isolation cell, awaking him at 10 p.m. to search his property. They took him from the isolation cell and relocated him.

UPDATE:

5/25/17 a.m.

Jon was relocated to the “main frame;” an area of the jail known for housing the most violent detainees. There, guards are caged for their safey.

5/25/17 p.m.

Two inmates in the main frame entered Jon’s cell and bashed his head in. He spent the night in the medical unit under observation. Jon states that after required time in the gym, inmates were returned to their cells and locked in, but soon after the cells locked, they were all unlocked. That’s when, according to Jon, two inmates entered his cell and began stating they were told he was a “baby killer.” They proceeded to slam the back of his head repeatedly into the jail bars. He states he does not remember how this ended. Jon states there were witnesses and security cameras.

UPDATE:

5/26/17 

Without explanation or paperwork, Jon was abruptly removed from the Monroe County Jail and taken back to Mid-State Correctional Facility. He had been under judge’s orders to remain in the Monroe County Jail through June 20, the date of his restitution hearing, so he would have adequate contact with his attorney in preparing for the hearing.

Jon had been at the Monroe County Jail for six months without incident. The weekend before this happened, Jon’s blogs on my website spiked to more than 5,000 views in two days.

 

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