December 2011 Update
Merry Christmas Everybody,
First off I want to thank all of you that worked so hard to get us the survey’s we needed for the Law and Justice Interim Committee meeting on the 15th. We were only allowed 3 minutes to speak so we reminded the committee why we are there and what we are advocating for this session which is mandatory parole, do away with the Board and NO MORE MONEY FOR BEDS. We made a last minute decision to hold on to the survey’s until the next meeting where we have asked to be on the agenda so we can have more time to present the survey’s, Board decisions for the year and other issues. I felt we couldn’t be very effective with only having 3 minutes address our issues and concerns. I was able to schedule some meetings with committee members after the meeting adjourned so we will have plenty of opportunity to talk to individual members about our concerns and possible remedies. We continue to receive survey’s and I would like to encourage all of you to keep handing them in, at the present we only have 262 total 29 from Glendive, 14 Gt. Falls, 175 MSP and 44 from Shelby, it would be nice if we could get more between now and the next meeting in 2012. Many of you wrote letters and did an excellent job of explaining your Board experience those letters have been stapled to your survey. My plan is to create a summary of those experiences and present all of what we collect to the L&J committee in 2012. It’s always interesting to attend the meeting and hear the concerns of the people, it also amazes me how the DOC can stand in front of the committee and blatantly lie. Every one of them should be ashamed of themselves. A couple of examples of those lies were…Fern Osler saying there are not 2 parole books. If that were true why is it that many of you have asked to see your parole book and were given only 1 and told you could not see the other. Ferriter told the committee he knew of nobody that has gone without medical care when needed and none of you are walking around with huge growths coming out of your bellies such as hernias and liver problems. Even after he saw the pics of Ronney Harriman he denied that any of you look like that within his care. With some help from you guys hopefully we will be able to prove otherwise. Ronney was and is a huge help because he sent us everything we needed to help him and all of you. It is essential that we have documented proof to advocate for the issues you say are important to you. Senator Shockley will be coming to MSP within 30 days to see for himself how Ronney is and also talk to some of you that requested a visit on other issues. Please be prepared to have documentation when he and others come to see you.
Unfortunately there is some potential bad news, at the meeting some family members brought up the unfairness of visitation, in that Shelby only has 2 days a week and less hours for visitation than MSP. MSP has 5 days a week and a lot more hours each day. When questioned about visitation Ferriter’s answer was, they have already been talking about visitation and that visitation at MSP conflicted with treatment and programming so they would be continuing those talks. So we all know what that means “RIGHT” instead of visiting increasing at Shelby which I am sure was the intent when brought up, it will more than likely mean MSP visitation will be the next cut you guys have to deal with, just a heads up and my opinion and experience of how they operate. We have made some good progress so far and I am encouraged that we can stop the feeding of the BEAST (DOC). They are finally listening to us and others as far as mandatory parole or some equivalent goes and we are encouraged by that to keep bringing it up.
On another note Opening Doors in Gt. Falls is working on getting a Coalition of organizations doing the same work in Montana together. They have contacted us to invite us to join and we feel it is a great match, instead of all of us working separately there is strength in numbers. Connections has a lot to bring to the table including our Criminal Justice Reform Network with 3500 members. I would like to hear your opinions and concerns as far as us joining the Coalition before a final decision is made. Do you feel like this would be beneficial for all of us? We are representing all of you and are your voice in the FREEWORLD so we need to include the Advisory Board members in our decision. Please talk it over with the population and let me know how you feel concerning this issue.
As we move into 2012 unless we hear otherwise from all of you our goals will remain the same and are efforts will continue to focus on 1.) Mandatory parole, 2.) Parole board reform and 3.) Stop expansion of beds by not feeding the BEAST.
Finally, when we were in Helena the 15th we had the opportunity to sit in on the scoring of the RFP’s for our funding next year. Connections scored the highest marks in our category so hopefully our funding is secure for the next five years we will hear the decision in another week. I also have applied for other grants and will know by January 6th on the second grant and in March on the third grant. All of our funding is for HEP C education and testing and counseling. We receive NO MONEY for our criminal justice work. All of that work is out of pocket. We are able to include prisoners and other high risk populations in our presentations and at that point are able to raise awareness to the public about the issues that concern all of us. So all in all we are feeling confident that the winds are changing and positive change can and will happen in 2012. We are always looking for more Advisory Board Members and will continue to collect all the survey’s you can gather. Please use the form that has the space for your B-DAY. The DOC has taken your B-Days off of their website which is where we use to get that info from. We like to make sure you get a B-Day card from us on your special day so please include DOB on any survey you send in. Keep encouraging your families and friends to contact us and get involved because that is the ONLY way we are going to be able to make a difference.
Thank you so much for all of the cards and love and support you give and send to us. We wish you many blessings and hope you are feeling hopeful about 2012.
Connections 1195 Stone Ridge Dr #3 Bozeman, MT 59718