What I Didn’t Do on President’s Day

I didn’t see Jon Fontaine on President’s Day. That’s because his parole officer will not allow Jon to see me, even though he has no reason to block communication, and despite that we have a lawsuit to remove the illegal condition.

On President’s Day:

  • I didn’t steer Jon to do the right thing.
  • I didn’t provide Jon emotional or motivational support.
  • I didn’t help Jon with his writing, something he wants to enhance.
  • I didn’t help advocate for Jon.
  • I didn’t brainstorm with Jon ways to better his situation.

I didn’t write about Jon’s transition from prison to society. But I’m going to start.

The only reason Rochester parole officer Martin Buonanno is denying communication? Power. Either that – or stupidity. Because when we have a chance to provide support and positive influence to someone in transition, it’s inarguably best to do so.

On September 29, Jon Fontaine, the subject of my book, A Jacket off the Gorge, was released on parole. Facility staff added my name to his “no contact” list, and we are currently suing to get it removed. The condition states Jon cannot communicate with me without the permission of his parole officer.

And yet – for no reason at all, and for five months now – parole officer Martin Buonanno has said “no.”

Our lawsuit contends the restriction violates my constitutional rights and is arbitrary and capricious. Prison and parole staff have not offered any reason for my name to be on the list, and the Attorney General’s office has done its best to get the lawsuit thrown out, rather than answer it.

Buonanno simply saw my name on that list and told Jon – nope. Just because. Power.

Parole is not rehabilitating the formerly incarcerated. They can block communication between the two of us, but that won’t prevent me from exposing their bad acts and a faulty system.

On President’s Day, I didn’t expose Buonanno and the others. Tomorrow, I will.

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We Sued the NY Parole Board and their Lawyers Are Playing Dodgeball

I learned on Valentine’s Day that the New York Attorney General’s office is acting like a bad partner in a lover’s spat.

It’s like when the wife says, “I need you to put your dirty underwear in the basket. Can you do that?”

And the guy replies, “Well, I can’t stand the way you snap your gum!”

Instead of answering our lawsuit—they didn’t.

We filed an Article 78 against the NY Parole Board. It’s a lawsuit that challenges an administrative decision. The State Attorney General lawyers defend it.

I wrote a book, A Jacket off the Gorge, about a guy named Jon Fontaine. He was in prison, but now he’s not. When he was in prison, we had all sorts of contact. That led to me writing a bunch of blogs about the bad goings on in prison. And it got a lot of attention. How Prison Guards Really Behave is the most popular blog, earning low scores all around from prison staff.

And then—BAM—my name ends up on a document that states Jon cannot have contact with me when he is released from prison.

There’s a head scratcher. I’m not a victim. I had nothing to do with his crime (or any crime. I’m crime free, aka a good influence.).

But—oh, wait. There’s that anti-prison book. Oh, and those anti-prison blogs.

We filed an Article 78 lawsuit challenging the no-contact decision after one solid year of prison staff giving us the run-around. No one admitted to putting my name on the list. Then, different people raised their hands to own up to it (“It was me.” “No, it was me.”). Most importantly, no one could tell us why my name was on the list.

We think we know. (See previous paragraph about anti-prison book and anti-prison blog).

Our lawsuit alleges constitutional rights violations. Jon is owned by the state, but I am not. And a restriction on Jon communicating with me is a restriction on my communication. I am a free adult. No one can hamper my communication. And there’s that b-o-o-k. There are first amendment violations all around.

So Prisoners’ Legal Services took up the case for free. They filed the Article 78 on December 6, 2017. The AG had a three week deadline to reply. Instead, they asked not to reply. They waited until the very last day—the deadline—and got the judge to push back the case another month and a half. And on their next deadline to reply, instead of filing an answer, they filed a Motion to Dismiss, and a laughably stupid one at that.

The grounds? The AG lawyer claimed Jon did not exhaust all of his options to try to remove my name from his no-contact list, because he didn’t file a grievance to prison staff. It doesn’t take a law degree to understand that an inmate grievance to facility staff has nothing to do with parole release conditions imposed by the NYS Board of Parole. Sure, the staff initially put my name on there, but they sent it to the Parole Board, who then rubber stamped it. Done.

The good news for us: The judge will strike it down. The bad news for you: your hard-earned tax money gets to pay for all this unnecessary court drama.

The PLS attorney filed his rebuttal on Valentine’s Day, and it delivers quite the one-two punch. You can almost hear the “ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ STUPID?” in his response papers. Perhaps on Friday (February 16), the judge will rule on the motion to dismiss. Either way, it unfairly drags out this lawsuit for us, and costs you money.

“Petitioner could not have raised his complaint regarding release conditions by filing an Inmate Grievance pursuant to 7 NYCRR Part 701, because pursuant to 7 NYCRR 701.3(f) actions or decisions by an outside agency or entity not under the supervision of the Commissioner of DOCCS are not within the jurisdiction of the Inmate Grievance Program . . . Pursuant to Executive Law 259-c(2), the Parole Board has the “power and duty of determining the conditions of relase of any person being released to community supervision.'”

Prisoners’ Legal Services Senior Supervising Attorney

Read Prisoner’s Legal Services entire  reply to the Motion to Dismiss.

Read the NYS Attorney General’s Motion to Dismiss, prepared by Assistant AG Omar Siddiqi (perhaps better suited to be an intern).

Read more about our litigation here.

And stay tuned for more parole drama! We’ll get your head spinning with this stuff. Sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss a minute of it.

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