How Parole Stole College from Criminal (Part 6)

[Read Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]

Jon Fontaine had just gotten out of prison, and he had a plan. He had goals. At 34, he wanted to go to college. His past was his past, and he would pave a new road to his future.

But his parole officer threw up a detour sign. He wouldn’t let him drive.

The parole officer said no. In fact, it took him a while to say no. Really, he didn’t even say it to Jon directly for weeks on end – he simply ignored Jon.

To get a construction technology degree, Jon would have to go to school full time. He applied to Monroe Community College and was approved to start a full roster of classes in January. The only way he could take classes was if his Rochester-based parole officer, Martin Buonanno, allowed him to drive to school.

What convicted felon could afford an $80 round trip Uber each day to school on a dishwasher’s wages? (For the slow, that’s $400 a week… on a $200 a week paycheck).

With college to start on January 21, Jon asked his PO several weeks in advance for permission to drive to school. He would have to register for classes by January 16.

On January 4, Buonanno told Jon he’d give him an answer on January 18 (two days after the registration deadline), at their bi-monthly sit-down meeting.

Not hearing word from his PO, Jon had no choice but to register for classes. He signed up for six classes totaling 17 credit hours; an ambitious schedule for someone working full time.

On January 18, he anxiously reported to parole with copies of his course registrations and schedule, and a single question upon being seated.

Would he be allowed to drive to school?

But Buonanno didn’t give him an answer. He said he hadn’t gotten around to asking his supervisor.

Five days after classes started, Jon got a knock on the door. It was Buonanno. He’d come to tell Jon that his supervisor, Thomas O’Connor, had told him – four days earlier – that Jon was not allowed to drive at all.

Jon stood. He stared. Maybe Buonanno could read the questions in his face, or the disappointment. He either didn’t let on, or didn’t care. Still, Jon had to thank him. He had to be gracious for the fact the PO came by to deliver this news at all. He is required to show respect, even when it is unreturned.

Buonanno turned to march back to his car.

“Thank you very much, sir,” Jon told him, as he quietly closed the door behind him.

###

In Part 7, Rochester parole Bureau Chief Kathleen McDonnell calls my cell phone to say she’s seen these online blogs and YouTube video and claims I’m “harassing” her staff.

[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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No Love for Parolee, Literally (Part 5)

[Read Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

One month out of prison and Jon found a job. He was hired by a restaurant to wash dishes.

He’s a highly skilled and talented home remodeler, but his parole officer said he couldn’t work in anyone’s home. Barring that, he went to work washing dishes. Pay is paltry, and it won’t bring in enough for him to get a place of his own. It won’t pay for taxis/Uber, and he’ll still have to rely on others for transportation. It won’t be enough to buy clothes or to adequately feed him. But despite Parole chipping away at his morale, Jon got a job.

It’s a six mile round trip walk from his home. He started in the coldest season and continued through bitter winter.

I found this post from Jon online: “[Parole] as an entity is not structured to help inmates or parolees succeed. It’s structured to alienate, assassinate, and undercut.”

Parole next alienated Jon from love and companionship.

Not only was Jon determined to find work (and succeeded), he managed to find a girlfriend. She was a woman he knew before he left for prison, and they started a relationship at some point after he got home.

Jon found a girlfriend, someone willing to help with driving and nurturing, and providing the comfort that everyone needs from another human being to make life worth living. It is, perhaps, the single most important component to rehabilitation – love.

She has two little children, both who adored Jon, by all accounts I’ve seen and read online (his parole officer barred him from contact with me, so I rely on public internet postings and mutual friends for information).

Jon posted an email online that he sent to his parole officer, Martin Buonanno, in December. He asked Buonanno permission to spend the night at his girlfriend’s house on Christmas Eve, so they could wake up together early Christmas morning with the children.

He wanted to be part of a family on Christmas. One night.

His parole officer said, “No.”

One night. Christmas Eve. Love.

Jon no longer has a girlfriend.

In Part 6, see what happens when Jon wants to go to college.

[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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Parolee Pleads for Self Worth (Part 4)

[Read Part 1]   [Part 2]   [Part 3]

He left prison with no job or living supplies, no toothbrush, no underwear, no food. No support system – friends and family dropped off with each page turn of the calendar.

Prior to being released from prison, no state employee asked Jon what he needed to be a productive member of society. That’s what he wrote in an online post.

“Allow me to live up to my potential. Let me work doing something I’m good at and enjoy. Let me go back to college and finish my degree. Allow me to not be a burden on others by asking them to take time off work to drive me places. Let me earn money so I can provide for myself and not be dependent on loved ones, or taxpayers. Allow me to have self-worth.”

He was – he wrote – “ready to be the most successful parolee the [corrections system] has ever seen, but every goal that’s simple in concept has some crazy restriction attached to it.”

He wasn’t allowed to see me, a friend ready to help. He wasn’t allowed to drive. How would he get to all the appointments mandated by Parole?

Jon lives in a remote area. The bus comes once (no return trip) at 10 a.m. That’s when it heads to the county seat of Lyons, New York.

The second parole condition (on a list of 33) mandated that Jon go to Lyons to apply for public assistance – or go back to prison. This, despite an order that he pay nearly $200,000 in restitution – or go back to prison.

Jon had to dip into his whittled pool of support and beg for a ride – more than one hour round trip.

“I had to have someone take off work to drive me there,” Jon posted. “This person not only had to spend their time driving me, they lost hours of pay.”

The receptionist asked Jon which services he wanted to apply for, and he told her: “Nothing. I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need anything from you. I want to work, but parole says if I don’t apply for assistance, I’ll go back to prison.”

If he qualified, it would take 45 days to receive assistance.

They scheduled Jon for a mandatory one-hour orientation. Who would take off work to drive more than an hour, and then sit in a car another hour while he attended?

At the DSS orientation, Jon was scheduled for a second meeting the following week, at 8:30 a.m. In an online video, he’s holding the letter that states the appointment is at 8:30 – while standing outside the locked building with a sign stating the office opens at 9 a.m.

All the while with someone sitting in a car, waiting for him, and missing work and income.

Jon then learned he was required to return – twice – each for four-hour sessions.

“Remember how I said my parole officer said I can’t drive? Remember how I said the bus stops one time, at 10am, arriving in Lyons at 11:30? No return trip? 22 miles from my house?”

Miss a mandatory public assistance meeting – go back to prison.

“Haven’t I cost taxpayers enough? Shouldn’t I be allowed to work and contribute to the tax roll, not take from it? Shouldn’t public employees, especially the Department of Social Services go: Oh! You want to work? You have work lined-up? We’ll help you go to work in any way we can.”

To be continued in 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 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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Inmates Gamble Hair

[by New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine]

With so little to do behind bars, some inmates gamble for fun. They gamble on almost anything – pro sports, chess, checkers, Dominoes, Scrabble, inmate-on-inmate fights, award shows, and card games.

I don’t gamble on anything. But I’ll watch the outcome of a really interesting bet.

One boring Saturday, I was playing cards with two other guys, Mike and Jordan, and they bickered endlessly about what to gamble.

One wanted to wager cakes off meal trays, known as “tray cakes.”

“No, I don’t want to give up my cakes.”

500 pushups.

“If I win, what do I get from watching you do pushups?”

The old man.

“What?”

Jordan threw out an offer. Loser had to shave the top of his head to look like an old man. Saturdays are hair cut days, the same day we were playing. The loser would lose his hair right then.

They agreed.

I was at the head of the table, Mike to my left, Jordan to my right.

“This is great!” I said. “I win either way!”

The game was tense. And in the end, there was no question – fitness-freak Mike, known for being cocky, lost.

“I hope this is a humbling experience,” I told him. “Maybe you’ll learn not to gamble.”

A few minutes later, Mike looked like an old man.

Then, Sunday came.

Whenever Mike said something to me, I responded with, “I can’t even take you seriously right now with that hair cut.”

Jordan, confident he could win again, offered Mike another bet: “If you win in Rummy, I’ll get the old man. If I win, you give me a bag of coffee.”

A bag of just three ounces of instant coffee costs a whopping $5 on commissary. Cocky as always, Mike took the bet.

An hour later, Jordan won again.

Mike was so pissed. Jordan sensed another opportunity. He offered Mike another bet: “You win and you don’t have to get me a bag of coffee, and I’ll get the old man. I win, and you owe me a second bag of coffee.”

But Jordan’s luck ran out.

“That’s what you get for being greedy!” I told him.

Not only did he lose the bag of coffee, he lost his hair.

Both hoped they didn’t have to go anywhere (visits, court, medical…).

Neither learned a lesson, despite being laughed at by just about everyone who came in the unit, inmate or civilian. They haven’t stopped gambling with each other. I sit at the table, Mike to my left, Jordan on my right, thinking about how they look like a peanut M&M that’s been bitten in half, their bare skulls the nut stuck in a bowl of chocolate.

It’s Dumb and Dumber Jail Edition.

Now, they’re wagering eyebrows.

[New York State prison inmate Jon Fontaine is temporarily in the Monroe County Jail awaiting a hearing that Monroe County Court Judge Vincent Dinolfo illegally denied him five years ago.]

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Reeking Jail Jumpsuits

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS inmate who has been transferred to the Monroe County jail from Mid-State Correctional Facility, awaiting a hearing.]

There were two holding areas. In the first were guys in street clothes. In the second were guys in jail jumpsuits. Other than the deputies, I was the only white guy in booking. Everybody was staring at me because I was in prison clothes. They were stating the obvious:

“He just came from prison.”

“He’s white.”

“He’s a white guy who just came from prison.”

The deputy led me to a room full of jumpsuits and property bags. I found a pair of new, jail issue, generic blaze orange clogs. I was not issued a single undergarment, nor were there any in sight – no socks, no under Ts, no underwear. My previous stay was the same. Monroe County jail does not issue any undergarments.

I sat in the holding area for probably an hour before a deputy came around saying, “I have to lock you guys in a holding area. We have a crazy guy coming through.”

We got moved to a holding pen the size of a living room. I took the coveted corner spot where two wood benches met, and put my back against the wall and my feet on the bench. Four other guys napped in the hard chairs, while one paced the holding area. And one kept popping up and down from his chair saying he hadn’t gotten to make a free call.

On the far side of the pen was s stainless steel toilet and sink combo. From 20 feet away, I could see both were totally covered in filth. Flies buzzed over the scum. The floor was littered with trash.

A deputy was locking the guys dressed in street clothes into a second holding pen. A few of them started complaining about being locked up.

“There’s no crazy coming through.”

“Yeah, they’d bring him in cuffs and lock him in isolation.”

“They just wanted to lock us up.”

“It’s two o’clock,” I said. “Shift change is in an hour. A crazy is coming through, but he’ll be wearing a badge, and these deputies want us locked up until their shift is over.”

The guy complaining about not getting a call asked, “You’re the guy who just came from prison, right?”

He sat down next to me, two mystery meat sandwiches wrapped in plastic in his hand. “What were you in prison for?”

“I beat a guy to death.”

“Damn! What’d you beat him with?”

I held up my hands. “My fists.” I touched a scar in the center of my forehead. “After I head butted him in the face.”

“Holy shit! You’re a bad dude! Why’d you kill him?”

“Last time I was in prison, he asked me what I was in prison for.”

His eyes got wide and his jaw moved around. I couldn’t tell if he knew I was joking.

“You want a sandwich?” he asked.

“Can I have both?”

“Sure,” he said. “Take both.”

The guys spent the next five hours asking about prison, talking about their cases and telling stories. The oldest guy, the one who gave me his sandwiches, would get up and pace around, and then sit back down next to me. When he’d talk, he’d wave his arms all around and I’d have to tip my head to avoid getting smacked in his excitement.

Every time he moved his arms, I’d get whiff of rancid body odor.

Finally, I got up and stood in a corner by the door like I was looking out into booking. I was near a vent and could still smell the rancid BO. I started sniffing my own jumpsuit. It reeked. “Do they wash these things?”

“No, they just put them in a dryer.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. It kills bugs but saves money on water and soap.”

“My God this jumpsuit stinks.”

Despite a few dozen requests, it would be seven days before I got to exchange my jumpsuit.

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Mid-State Prison Retaliates Against Me (UPDATE)

[by Susan Ashline]

PART ONE:

Mid-State Prison Strikes Back after Learning of My Book

PART TWO:

I wrote a book. A Jacket off the Gorge is based on incidents outlined in a lawsuit against Mid-State Correctional Facility. The subject of my book, Jon Fontaine, is currently housed at Mid-State.

As Fontaine is prepared for release, he met with his counselor in November 2016 and went over his parole conditions upon release. Jon’s sentencing judge had issued four orders of protection against him; individuals tied to the case for which he is imprisoned. Just one of those individuals, Dora Rosser, was the actual crime victim.

Jon’s counselor notified him that his parole release document will state he is not allowed to communicate with those four individuals.

Makes sense.

But this doesn’t make sense. Just days after meeting with his counselor, Fontaine received a hard copy of those conditions. Someone at the facility had surreptitiously swapped in my name, and swapped out Rosser’s name. The NYS Parole Board approved the document. So I am now listed as being barred from communicating with Jon upon release. And Rosser’s name was removed from the list, though it names three of the four individuals with orders of protection.

Why? And who did it?

No one at Mid-State prison will tell me. In fact, the staff at Mid-State has only told me they have no idea who put my name there, or why. Now, they are dodging all contact with me.

Clearly, the document needs to be revised, as it glaringly omits the name of Fontaine’s crime victim. Yet, staff at the prison is ignoring the issue.

Only after snail-mail letters attempting to address this did Deputy Superintendant of Programs Anne Joslyn send a response – one that makes no sense.

“It has been determined that personal information regarding inmate Fontaine cannot be released to you as there is no signed consent form signed by inmate Fontaine to release information to you.”

What personal information did I request? None. The response is not relevant to my issue.

In fact, she threw it together so quickly, she doesn’t even spell her colleague’s name correctly (it’s Ronald Meier, not Meiers); there is missing punctuation and rambling, incoherent thoughts.

Joslyn is a state employee who is either not very bright, or thinks others are not very bright and this smoke-screen letter will placate me.

It will not.

The Office of Special Investigations has opened an investigation on the matter as of December 19. However, OSI is run by the prison system (DOCCS), so is, in effect, the organization policing itself. Because of that, I don’t expect results.

In their 2016 annual report, the NYS Assembly Committee on Correction noted they also don’t have much faith in OSI, and tried to get a bill passed that would allow independent examination of complaints regarding prison staff. In 2017, the committee hopes to get approval to open an Office of the Correctional Ombudsman, which would  investigate complaints when an inmate or citizen has failed to get satisfactory results through available institutional channels.

Other states have one. Why not New York?

Not having faith in OSI, on December 21, I brought my complaint to the Assembly Committee on Correction Chairman, Daniel O’Donnell.

We’ll see if anything gets done. Stay tuned.

PART THREE:

Mid-State Prison Staff Stonewalls Me (UPDATE)

 

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Someone Doesn’t Want This Story Told

Cheryl’s Shenanigans (in the Monroe County Executive’s Office)

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