How Parole Stole College from Criminal (Part 6)

[Click to buy my true crime book Without a Prayer]

 

[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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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 Go F Yourself

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, temporarily housed in Monroe County Jail]

Toilet paper, soap, and something to brush my teeth with – that’s all I needed. It’s all I was entitled to: basic toiletries.

I left prison at 6 a.m. and stayed shackled until my booking into the Monroe County Jail six hours later. For the next five hours, I sat in a small booking tank with a half dozen other inmates.

It was filthy. There was trash on the floor, and a toilet that looked like it had endured every form of bodily explosion and never been cleaned. Flies buzzed all over it.

I was informed our jail issue jumpsuits don’t get washed before re-issue; only tossed in a dryer to “kill the bugs.”

I kept trying to dodge the reek of body odor, only to learn it was my own unwashed jumpsuit.

We were all given bedrolls and moved to the “street plaza” unit. It was December 8, 2016.

When we got to the unit, a young Latino deputy was browsing the internet on the unit’s officer computers.

Street plaza was empty, so they gave us our choice of cells. I chose an end cell (quieter). It turned out my cell was also at a scanner, where the deputy (same one playing on the internet) had to make rounds, wave a key fob and then turn around.

About 30 minutes after I arrived, I asked the deputy during a pass at my cell, “Do you think I can get toilet paper, soap, and something to brush my teeth with? I’ve been on the road since 6 a.m.”

“I’ll see,” he told me.

A few minutes later, more inmates moved into the unit; more started asking for basic toiletries.

Next round (15 minutes later), I asked again. He told me he didn’t have a chance to check. Must’ve been too busy on the internet.

Correction law requires jails and prisons to provide basic toiletries. If inmates were denied toilet paper and a tooth brush, incarceration would be much more dehumanizing than it already is.

Next round, I said to the deputy, “Please, deputy, can I get supplies? I left prison at 6 a.m. and haven’t been able to use the bathroom or brush my teeth.”

“When I check.”

Each round, I asked, and each time, he gave me the same variation of not having time to check. After each round, I’d watch him return to the computer and the internet.

Finally, at 10:30 p.m. when I asked again, he told me, “I don’t have anything to give you.”

I am aware each unit has an entire supply cabinet full of everything. I asked politely, “Can I please see someone with stripes?” That is a supervisor.

He stopped. He asked why I wanted to see someone with stripes. I told him, “Because I’m entitled to use the bathroom, and you won’t give me what I need.”

“They’ll be around on rounds at 3 a.m., if you’re awake,” he replied.

I asked if he could radio someone and tell them I need to see them. He told me no.

“What’s your name, deputy?” I asked.

He turned his back on me, and as he started to march away, responded, “My name? It’s Deputy Go Fuck Yourself.”

Name tags are so small, you have to be close to read them. I couldn’t see his. I never did get supplies that night, or the next morning. It wasn’t until almost noon the next day that I was given basic toiletries so I could use the toilet, brush my teeth, and wash my hands with soap – 30 hours since I’d been given that basic human dignity.

Four days later, I was moved to a normal housing unit and found a Monroe County Jail handbook in my cell. Page 13: Upon admission to the jail, inmates will be provided with personal care items including soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, toilet paper.

Not only did Deputy Go Fuck Yourself violate Correction Law, but he violated his own boss’ policies.

Monroe County Jail requires that inmates get permission to file an internal complaint. How many jail deputies do you think are going to give an inmate permission to file a complaint about the jail?

 

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Livingston County News: Jon’s Story

Read the Livingston County News cover story on Jon Fontaine’s lawsuit and A Jacket off the Gorge.

Former Groveland inmate claims torturous treatment in lawsuit against state

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Dying Inmate Scrawls Message in Blood

[written by Susan Ashline; as told by inmate Jon Fontaine]

A huge crash awakened me in my cell at Mid-State prison. It was early – 5 a.m. – and all the lights were on. It was August 2014.

I ran to the door, joining the other inmates who’d craned their necks to the hallway, trying to figure out what was happening.

Mid-State used to be a mental hospital, so the cell was a room with no toilet or sink, and no actual door.

The corrections officer working the overnight shift on my unit only left his office for two things: the midnight and 6 a.m. head counts. He did not make the required half-hour rounds. Instead, he would sleep in his office.

I saw a guard we called “Dirty Red” standing in the hallway, just outside another inmate’s door. Dirty Red was notorious for mistreating prisoners. But one act got him beaten senseless by another guard. Dirty Red would piss in the inmate ice machine. Each housing unit had one, like the kind you’d find in a hotel. But he failed to consider that officers used those ice machines, too. And then, one found out about it.

Dirty Red wasn’t even supposed to be on our unit that night. That, along with his reputation and the crashing locker led me to one conclusion.

“They’re fucking up Shadow!” I yelled.

More inmates rushed to their doors.

Shadow was a white guy with a long, black pony tail. He was super quiet and played guitar. We talked every day.

He’d been battling the prison administration and the Office of Mental Health (OMH). He wanted – needed – his bi-polar medication. He’d taken it his whole life, he told me. But the administration wouldn’t let him have it. He felt fine, they insisted. They argued he’d been cured of his mental illness.

And he’d mock them. “Miraculously cured,” he would say.

Knowing he wasn’t cured, and riding an emotional roller coaster, Shadow started filing grievances and writing letters. Everything was getting denied. Their reasoning? Shadow shouldn’t be granted “special treatment.”  By that, I suppose they meant expecting to be able to continue taking medication he’d been taking for years.

His cries for help denied by Mid-State administrators and OMH staff, Shadow resorted to filing an Article 78. It’s a form of lawsuit used to challenge an administrative decision, action or policy. You can’t get money from an Article 78. The most you can win is the administrative action you’re seeking.

In this case, Shadow wanted his mental health medications. He’d been feeling ill for so long.

I knew Shadow had just filed the Article 78. I’d surmised this was just another retaliatory beating in typical prison guard Gestapo fashion. I figured a couple of officers – certainly Dirty Red – waited until the early morning hours to storm Shadow’s room in a gang assault to teach him a lesson about challenging the administration. Of course my mind would go there. That stuff happens epidemically in the prisons.

I heard bangs and thuds and a mix of voices – shrieks and hollers. I saw more officers rushing the scene, some carrying medical bags; one with a defibrillator.

I read the panic on Dirty Red’s face. I saw it in his hands. They shook so violently that he dropped a package of gauze pads and another officer snatched them.

Shadow’s locker came sliding out of the room into the hallway, creating a smeared trail of blood.

I heard the AED beep its warning. An electronic voice spoke commands on how to restart a heart.  Then, a voice crackled over the two-way radio, “The ambulance is here.”

Guards picked out four inmates standing in their doorways. A folding canvas stretcher opened and then disappeared into Shadow’s room. It came out moments later, carried by the inmates.

As it passed through the doorway, I saw Shadow’s feet. Then, I saw his arm dangling from it, like his locker, cold and gray.

“Look at how bruised he is!” someone shouted.

He wasn’t bruised. He was dead. I knew it, and I hollered it back.

The stretcher gone, we were allowed to make our way to the bathroom one at a time. We would have to walk past Shadow’s room, squeezing by the metal locker splattered with blood.

When I got to Shadow’s room, I gawked.

Blood spray ran down the wall where the locker used to be, leaving a blank outline.  Shadow’s chair was in the far corner. A huge pool of blood was on the floor and leading from it, trails of bloody footprints.

I moved on to the bathroom, but stopped again on my way back. This time, I looked at the locker blocking my way. On the side that would’ve been closest to Shadow’s chair, was a message written in blood:

“Now how do I feel?”

Later, we learned what happened. In the early morning hours, an inmate on his way to the bathroom passed Shadow’s room and saw him slumped on the floor in blood. The inmate ran to the officer on duty and found him sleeping in his office, so he woke him.

Shadow, who’d been miraculously cured of bi-polar disorder and no longer needed medication to control his mood swings, had sat in the chair in the corner of his room and, with his state-issued shaving razor, cut his wrists and used the blood to ink a final argument for treatment.

Now, how do you feel?

 

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Prison Guards Bringing in Bullets and Drugs

[by NYS prison inmate Jon Fontaine, at Monroe County jail awaiting a hearing]

At the end of summer 2016, a new corrections officer at Mid-State prison became “the regular” on my housing unit. I helped him move a refrigerator into his office. He’d purchased the fridge himself, which was twice the size of a mini fridge, about chest high with a separate freezer.

It was still sealed in the box, and as I helped him take it out of the box, I realized – not only were his bags not searched, but a box holding a fridge was not searched.

I knew this officer could have hidden a dozen fully-loaded assault rifles in the fridge section, another dozen fully-loaded handguns in the freezer, and walked them right into the prison. It occurred to me this could’ve been the way escape tools were smuggled to Clinton escapees Richard Matt and David Sweat in 2015.

On today’s Rochester news – a heroin overdose at Groveland Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. An inmate overdosed on heroin and was saved by father and son officers. The reporter read the Department of Corrections’ (DOCCS) official statement that drugs are brought into prisons by people visiting inmates.

I personally know of dozens of inmates who spend nearly every moment of every day high. The reality is that a miniscule percentage of the drugs come in by visitors.

Knowing how easy it is to get drugs in prison and the vast amounts, it is impossible for inmates’ families to be responsible for even half the amount.

Drugs smuggled in during visits are passed mouth to mouth during a kiss. The drugs are packed in a balloon the size of a thumb. After the kiss, the inmate goes into the bathroom and hides the balloon inside his rectum.

In Mid-State Correctional Facility, one of New York’s biggest prisons (nearly 1600 inmates), every inmate would have to get a visit every week and smuggle back a balloon…  and the total still wouldn’t come close to supplying the drugs prisoners consume in a week.

I would guess roughly 200 inmates get visits at Mid-State on a busy week. So where do the drugs come from? The same officers who think nothing of murdering inmates, committing gang assaults, committing rape and gang sodomy think nothing of supplying drugs to prisoners.

What’s the incentive? Money. The inmates pay them.

There are no searches of officers when they enter the facility. Most come to work carrying a book bag and lunch cooler big enough to hold two 12-packs.

Bullets – yes, firearms ammo – turn up in prisons. How? Guards.

Inmates are subjected to full body metal detecting after visits. Every rectum gets scanned in the “body chair.”

If an officer thinks nothing of smuggling in escape tools (ala escapees Matt and Sweat), bullets and cell phones, they won’t hesitate to smuggle in drugs.

Without regular searches of prison staff, there will continue to be heroin overdoses and escapes.

[Jon has been blogging from behind bars at the Monroe County jail, while awaiting a hearing.]

Prison Guard Busted for Smuggling Phones, Drugs into Jail.

New York Post

Prisoners Texted Guards for Drugs and Paid Them with PayPal

The Daily Beast

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Hear My Interview on Utica Radio

Listen to my interview on WIBX 950 radio/Keeler in the Morning.

I tell the story of Jon Fontaine and A Jacket off the Gorge.

We talk about Jon’s lawsuit against two New York prisons (Mid-State and Groveland).

I answer why people should care about guards abusing/neglecting inmates behind prison walls.

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Try Getting a Job as a 19-Year-Old Felon

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS prison inmate]

READ Part 1: From Math Class to Prison

December 26, 2016

No one would hire me. 

When I finally found a job, my family threw a fit about who I was working for: an ex-con.

No one would hire me, but to an ex-con involved in organized crime, I looked like a prodigal son. That’s what he’d call me: his prodigal son.

Through him, I was passed off to two other ex-cons with legitimate businesses as fronts for organized crime. I was 19 years old, sitting around a bar full of a real-life “Goodfellas” cast, themselves each having done 15, 20, 25 years in prison.

To them, I was a “stand-up guy.” I had potential. I was useful. Did I want to take a trip to Chicago? Could I take their Lincoln to get waxed?

It was my first day working for my third boss, and he sat me down and told me,”This is a mob joint. You’ll fit right in.”

Barely into my teens and I’d hit the big leagues in the crime world.

I was kind of a mascot, because I had the same name as a main character in the mobster Bible, The Godfather: Johnny Fontaine.

Dropping my boss’ name got me in places and got me favors. I remember one day, at a local hardware store, I came up short on cash when I was buying stuff for my boss. I was pissed because I thought I’d have to drive across town to pick up more money and come back. In the middle of my cursing, I said my boss’ name and the owner of the store stopped me and asked who I worked for. I told him, and he told me not to worry, that what I had was enough.

I met football players, TV people, a writer for an auto magazine, and even a federal judge; people who wanted to say they rubbed elbows with convicted murderers and mobsters. In my head, it wasn’t a bad life. But I also knew I couldn’t tell my girlfriend what sort of place I really worked for. I wasn’t totally committed to the criminal lifestyle. The line was thin and I was straddling it.

When my six-month waiting period to go to college passed, I again attempted to enroll. I filled out forms and took placement tests. The college gave me forms my parole officer had to fill out by a certain date to be admitted for the fall semester. I gave the forms to my PO and followed up weekly.

He never filled them out.

My admission was denied because of the missing forms.

Where could my life possibly lead? I was a kid with a bunch of criminal role models who all treated me like a son.

I’m now a 34-year-old three-time felon with three parole violations and more than 10 years in state prison under my belt. Now, I preach to the young guys that they don’t want to wind up like me: no wife, no kids, half my family gone, everything I’ve worked for, earned, or treasured – gone.

I went from and 18-year-old freshman in prison to a 34-year-old with a PhD in criminal behavior.

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From Math Class to Prison

[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS prison inmate]

December 20, 2016

When my friends went back to their junior and senior years in high school, I was a freshman in prison. When they were in 2nd period math, I was working in a prison mess hall with murders and rapists.

I had just turned 18.

Something happened – what,  I don’t remember. Maybe I got in an argument. Maybe a corrections officer yelled at me. Maybe I dropped something and snapped.

Either way, I cried.

It was the only time a state employee said something useful to me. A corrections officer (CO) saw me and called me into his office. He told me: in prison, if you act weak, people will take advantage of you. If you act tough, people will test you. But if you act crazy, no one will want to mess with you.

Shortly after that, I was sent to another prison primarily full of teens. This was an institution supported by taxpayers and run by state employees that was as lawless as you can imagine.

Officers brutally assaulting teens younger than their own children; sometimes a gang of officers on one 16, 17 or 18 year old, only to lie in reports and claim the teen assaulted the half-dozen officers. And then they’d have the kid criminally charged.

Weapons, drugs, fights, cuttings, stabbings, teens putting combination locks in socks and bashing each others’ faces in.

I watched one inmate use just such a weapon to attack another teen while he was on the phone to his mom. The teen was screaming, his mom was screaming through the phone that was left dangling and swaying back and forth. All over a pair of sneakers.

There, I did not act crazy. I was crazy. But so was everyone else. Any disrespect or off-handed comment was a call to fight. Not a fight like boxing or MMA. No refs. No rules. No towel to throw in. Weapons okay.

A life-or-death fight. No one there to break it up.

Five COs will jump a 120 pound 16- or 17-year-old. Beaten by 1200 pounds of adult.

And normal people wonder why I have a problem with authority and no respect for rules that are selectively applied and enforced.

I’d never been to a circus, but that first year in prison, I routinely watched a circus train of animals pass right outside the prison gate.

Who were the real animals?

That year, everyone I grew up with and went to school with graduated from high school. When they walked across the stage to get their diploma, I was in prison. When they went off to college, I was in prison getting a bachelor’s degree in criminal lifestyle.

I watched the Twin Towers fall in prison.

I wound up being released three days before my 19th birthday. I had earned my GED behind bars. My release was in late fall, and I immediately tried to enroll in community college for the semester starting at the end of January.

To my shock, the admissions office told me it was non-waivable policy that anyone released from prison had to wait six months to even apply. The way the timing worked out, that meant I would not start college until 10 months after my release from prison (two years after I was last in school).

I also learned there was no point in pursuing the career I’d dreamed of since childhood: architect. New York law would not give an architect license to a convicted felon.

So I tried to join the army. 9/11 was two months prior. My entire life, my only plan other than being an architect was joining the army. I had even been in contact with a recruiter when I was in high school.

I called him.

Despite the army’s need for cannon fodder in Afghanistan, the recruiter told me no branch of the military would take me, a felon.

Parole required me to have a job, or go back to prison.

Try getting a job as a 19-year-old felon on parole.

Why did I only have a GED? “I went from being a junior in high school to being a freshman in prison.”

“Sorry, but I can’t work after 9 p.m. because I have a parole curfew.”

“Sorry, I can’t travel… ya know… parole.”

“… and I’ll need Tuesdays off so I can meet with my parole officer.”

If I didn’t have a job, parole would send me back to prison. No one would hire me because I had been in prison and was on parole.

 

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Auburn Prison Guard Plants Weapon to Frame Inmate

READ THE STORY HERE (December 23, 2016).

This happens all day, every day. For some reason, this story made news.

Why should you care? Because rules are in place to be followed. In fact, you may not care until someone in a position of power doesn’t follow the rules involving you, and you need lots of luck trying to fight the system and do something about it.

 

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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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