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Summary

Abstract:
Formed in reaction to the Rockefeller Administration's crack-down following the Attica Prison riot, the New York State Coalition For Criminal Justice's primary mission was to reform what it regarded as an excessively harsh criminal justice system in New York.
Extent:
19.25 cubic ft.
Language:
English .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice Records, 1971-1986. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice Records).

Background

Scope and Content:

Formed in reaction to the Rockefeller Administration's crack-down following the Attica Prison riot, the New York State Coalition For Criminal Justice primary mission was to reform what it regarded as an excessively harsh criminal justice system in New York. It carried out that mission by lobbying the New York State Legislature and the State departments involved in the criminal justice system. The Coalition sought to bring public pressure for change to bear on the Legislature and State departments by forming (January 1975) a Rapid Communication Network as a mechanism to develop a state wide letter writing campaign. Among the records of the Coalition is documentation relating to Coalition's involvement in major issues of criminal justice reform such as the reach of the criminal law, length of sentences set by the legislature, court functions including bail and preventive detention issues, jails, prisons, probation, parole (see the Good Time Survey and initiative of 1981), ex-offenders services, victims, and families of offenders. While the a few items in the records date from the early seventies and also cover the period 1985-1986, the overwhelming bulk of the records cover the period 1975-1884.

The Coalition was hostile to Governor Cuomo attempts to expand the prison system in New York and consequently there is considerable documentation relating to the Coalition's 1981 campaign to block the Prison Bond Issue. There is also considerable documentation of the Coalition's 1970s and 1980s campaign against the reinstitution of the death penalty in New York between 1979 and 1984. Initially, the Coalition sought reform by lobbying the New York State Legislature. Following a flurry of legislative criminal justice reform activity in 1975 and 1976, that forum for positive change narrowed considerably and it became clear that although legislative reform would always be a key Coalition goal, the Coalition needed to change its focus and work to reform the administration of justice by focusing its energies on New York State agencies as Department of Corrections and the Division of Parole. There is considerable documentation regarding the Coalitions involvement with those agencies.

The broad interest of the Coalition can be seen in its monthly newsletter, Updates and in the Annual Meetings of the Coalition as well as the Director's Administrative files. Contained in the records are the original survey forms and the data compiled as a result of the 1981 "Good Time Survey" of prison staff and inmate attitudes toward the granting of early release or parole to inmates for good behavior. There is also information on programs established as alternatives to incarceration in 1975-80. The Coalition's monitoring of proposed bills relating to criminal justice and lobbied for changes in the wording of the bills is fully documented in the records. Among the bills found in the legislative files are bill jackets with suggestions for changes in language relating to criminal procedure laws, correctional law, and the penal law.

Biographical / Historical:

The New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice, Center for Justice Education, Inc. was founded in 1974 in Rochester, New York as the New York State Committee for Criminal Justice. It adopted the name New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice later in 1974. In the early 1970s a number of Rochester community leaders became concerned about "the effectiveness and fairness of local criminal justice operations", specifically focusing their concerns on police brutality, court procedures, and jail conditions. They formed the Task Force on the Courts under the leadership of Church Women United. In early 1972, Rochester's Judicial Process Commission (RJPC), lead by Virginia Mackey and Carolyn Micklem, was created under the auspices of the Genesee Ecumenical Ministry. The RJPC won considerable state and national recognition for its work.

Following the suppression of the Attica prison uprising in 1971, the Judicial Process Commission (JPC) initiated a state wide assessment of the underlying causes of the Attica tragedy. The JPC established ties with the lobbyists of statewide organizations such as the Urban Coalition, Community Service Society, the Citizen's Union, the New York State Council of Churches, and other groups forming the New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice. The Coalition's mission was to increase New York State citizens' knowledge and understanding of the laws, structure, policies and practices of the criminal justice system. In addition, the Coalition advocated alternative correctional policy choices, and devised and coordinated strategies to improve the quality of criminal justice in New York State. The Coalition for Criminal Justice formed the Rapid Communication Network in 1975, to inform and mobilize public opinion on issues related to criminal justice. The RCN relays weekly information from Albany to satellite networks spread across the state. The chair person of the coalition was also the head of the network, and held satellite training conferences for the various coordinators and policy committee members.

The New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice is governed by a Board of Directors, who determines the nature and content of the coalition's programs. Board Members are appointed by incorporators, on a two year basis and members may be reelected for a succeeding two years. The board passes motions by majority vote, and consists of no fewer than seven members, but no more than nine. The board appoints a President, Vice-President, and Secretary-Treasurer who serve one term and carry out the work of the coalition. The Board of Directors may also form committees when necessary. Day to day operations are carried out by a paid director, first appointed in 1976. The first paid director of the coalition was Irene Jackson. There are two yearly meetings of the board, and one of the membership.

The programs and policies of the organization are established by the Board of Directors. There are three classes of directors, elected by all voting members, directors elected by caucuses, and directors selected by sustaining organizational members. In all, the Board includes twenty-five members with one year terms. Officers of the Board of Directors included chairperson (president), vice chairperson (vice president), director (chief administrator), secretary, and treasurer. The chairperson of the board appoints the chairs of committees. Several committees were created including, the nominations committee, membership, finance and fund raising, legislative, personnel, executive, and the policy committee which was the most important committee.

Membership by application is open to all individuals and organizations with a proven interest in supporting the principles of the organization, and who pay the dues set by the Board of Directors. ["Background History the New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice"]. The organization has four classes of membership, individual membership, supporting organization membership, which includes any organization providing significant financial support, organizational membership, which includes any organization supporting the reform of the criminal justice system, and last, an associate member, that is someone whose membership may cause a conflict of interest. All members had one vote, except the associate members who had none. The initial location of the organization was 362 State Street, but in 1978 it moved to the First Presbyterian Church within walking distance of the capitol.

Prominent organizational leaders included the first Chair Person/Director & Coordinator Irene Jackson 1976-82, Administrative Assistant/Assistant Director (1978-82) and Interim Director (1982-83) Diane Geary, Director Richard V. Avant, 1983, and Executive Director Van Zwisohn, 1984-, Policy Committee Chairs Camille Smith (1978-79) and Douglas McDonald (1979-80), and Good-Time Project Coordinator (1981-82) Planning and Legislative Coordinator (1982-83) and Assistant Director (1983) Peter Pollack.

Funding of the organization was provided through membership fees, gifts from member organizations, and a grant from the New York Council of Churches.

Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice.
Processing information:

Processed in 1995-1996 by Claudia Miranda (May 1995), Brian Keough (September 1996), Dan Jackson (December 1996).

Arrangement:

The collection is organized as follows:

Series 1: Coalition Administration Files, 1975-1984

Series 2: Coalition Meetings File, 1975-1983

Series 3: Funding Files, 1976-1982

Series 4: New York State Commission of Corrections, 1975-1983

Series 5: Correctional Facilities File, 1975-1981

Series 6: Division of Parole File, 1973-1983

Series 7: Department of Correctional Services Files, 1972-1983

Series 8: "Good-Time" Attitude Survey, 1981

Series 9: Issues File, 1971-1984

Series 10: Legislation File, 1963-1986

Series 11: Publications File, 1976-1985

All series, except series 8, arranged alphabetically.

Physical location:
The materials are located onsite in the department.

Contents


Access

Using These Materials

ACCESS:
The archives are open to the public and anyone is welcome to visit and view the collections.
RESTRICTIONS:

Access to this record group is unrestricted with the exception of series 5.

TERMS OF ACCESS:

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

PREFERRED CITATION:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice Records, 1971-1986. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the New York State Coalition for Criminal Justice Records).

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