HELP FREE WILLIAM BLAKE FROM SOLITARY AFTER 32 YRS. TELL NEW YORK TO PASS HALT BILL NOW.

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Sign this petition to tell the New York State legislature to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act.

In June 2019, this bill failed to reach either floor of both houses of the New York legislature for a vote, despite having enough support to pass in each. It was a tragedy.

It's time to build momentum for 2020 and you can help by signing this peitition. The more signatures this petition receives, the more the message that solitary policy in New York and beyond needs to change will be heard. I will use the petition as leverage to call attention to the situation. The more signatures the peition has, the more leverage I can exert over the next year. It's that simple.   

By signing, you can also help free Mr. William Blake from the torture of living in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. He has spent more than three decades locked in a 6’ x 8’ closet-sized cell. He is reportedly the longest-held prisoner kept in administrative solitary confinement in New York State.

But there's more you can do to than simply signing. Please read the entire petition for more ways you can help.

The Photograph

During his 32-year prison stay, Mr. Blake has not spent one day outside of solitary confinement. He has gone years at a time without having a single visitor. After corresponding by mail with Mr. Blake for nearly two years, I was finally able to visit him this past January.

He didn’t want me to visit him as a lawyer because we’d be separated by plexiglass and we’d have to talk through a small open window. He said he’d feel less human if I met him that way. So I visited him like anyone else and we were able to talk while seated across from each other at a stainless steel counter.

The picture was taken in front of false backdrop at New York’s Great Meadows Maximum Security Correctional Facility. It is located near the Vermont border just outside of the Adirondack Park. There’s a story behind this picture, but I can’t go into it here and now.

That’s me on the left. I’m an attorney, former judge, and an author.

On the right and dressed in an extra-large (“X-L” was written in magic marker in large letters on the outside of his back collar) green prison jumpsuit, is Mr. William Blake. He showed me how he had to tear off the bottom hem of his jumpsuit by hand to shorten it so he would not trip over the extra length.

I have met Mr. Blake a total of three times at Great Meadows just like any other visitor. At all times the prison personnel there have treated me professionally. I have witnessed their interaction with many other visitors. As far as I could tell, the staff acted professionally with them as well.

Our Story

In April of 2017, Mr. Blake first wrote me a letter and asked for pro-bono (free) legal help as an attorney. Later, I learned that he sent the letter to me at random along with about twenty other attorneys in New York State. There are about 177,000 lawyers in New York and I had not practiced a day of criminal law in my life. I knew nothing about Mr. Blake. Because I’m not a famous author, judge, or attorney, he knew nothing about me.

Mr. Blake wrote me because he wanted my legal help to get him out of solitary confinement. He didn’t want my help to get out of prison. He wanted the opportunity to be placed with the community of prisoners in the general population.

It is important to realize that Mr. Blake is not asking for a second chance. He’s asking for a first chance because he has not lived one day outside of solitary confinement since his sentencing in 1987.

I wrote back to Mr. Blake and explained that I could not help him. As a solo lawyer, I was ill-equipped to devote the necessary manpower and resources on his behalf in a legal battle that would likely involve years of litigation and then years of appeals.

I am the author of two thriller novels (Saving Babe Ruth and The Killdeer Connection) with a third, Caged to Kill, being released along with this petition. You can read more about Caged to Kill at this Amazon Link. You can read more about me at my blog at this link.

While I couldn’t assist Mr. Blake in court, my conscience would not let me walk away. I thought that I could tell people about his plight via a story about a prisoner dealing with the effects of solitary confinement. I asked him to help me research the topic. Mr. Blake agreed, and we started a nearly two-year pen-pal relationship that helped me create my new novel.

I hoped that Caged to Kill would help raise awareness of Mr. Blake’s situation. But I know when I write fiction, even inspired by true events, people always wonder if something is true or not. I didn’t want this to happen to Mr. Blake. I want to make sure that people see the true nature of the torture he deals with daily. When I learned that legislation was up for a vote in New York State that could gain his release from solitary, I decided I had to write this petition.

The United Nations

In 2015, the US government voted for, and the United Nations adopted, the Mandela Rules, which prohibit any person from being held in solitary beyond 15 days because it is torture. In 2013, the United Nations specifically cited the case of Mr. Blake as an example of torture. The UN Special Rapporteur concluded that the rights Mr. Blake “to be free from torture have been violated, and that the practice of solitary confinement in New York State violates the international obligations of the United States of America.”

New York and other states currently place no limit on the total time a person can spend in solitary confinement.

Colorado, for example, has implemented a 15-day limit on solitary and reduced the number of people in solitary from 1,500 to 18.

The New York Remedy

If the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, (A. 2500 / S. 1623) is passed by the New York legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo, then a person in New York may be held in isolated confinement no more than 15 consecutive days nor 20 days total in any 60-day period. At these limits, a person must be released or diverted to the alternative residential rehabilitation units with more out-of-cell time, programs, and therapy. Also, no person 55 years or older can be held in solitary confinement.

Mr. Blake, now 55 years old, has spent almost 32 years of his life in solitary confinement or its equivalent in New York State prisons. That’s going on 11,680 days or nearly 780 times greater than the length of time allowed for by the United Nations.

He lives in a 6’ x 8’ box alone for 23 hours per day. For recreation, he’s allowed to roam outdoors exposed to the weather in an empty cage alone for an hour per day, take it or leave it.

Up until three months ago, he had no furniture in his cell--just room for a cot and a combination toilet/sink. Three months ago, they added a small desk, but he still uses his solid bedframe for a desk while he sits on his mattress on the floor.

Good luck finding publicly available photographs of his living arrangements because they don’t exist. I have some sketches and that’s it.

Meals are delivered through a slot in the door. There is continuous noise from people in mental anguish and the odors from desperate men can be overwhelming.

As revealed by his first letter to me, Mr. Blake believes that his only remedy is to sue New York State for constitutional violations in federal court to at least get the chance to live with other prisoners in the general population.

I learned later that Mr. Blake, representing himself, had already sued in federal court for his unconstitutional confinement in 1992 for the early part of his solitary confinement. Little good it did him. The case didn’t reach trial until 2005. He spent thirteen years in solitary awaiting trial.

Though he won the case and showed that he was not given fair reviews of his solitary status for years, the jury awarded him $1.00 in damages. They found that even though he had not been given fair reviews of his status, the prison officials would have confined him anyway in solitary if he had been given fair reviews.

The important thing to note here is that the federal court is either incapable or unwilling to properly review Mr. Blake’s solitary confinement. If he were to sue today challenging his solitary confinement, would it be another thirteen years for him in solitary before his case would come to trail again? Most likely, yes.

You can plainly see that there is no remedy in the courts for Mr. Blake. But there is a remedy in the court of public opinion. The law of large numbers is more powerful than any court of law. Please sign this petition and tell New York State to stop torturing Mr. Blake and those similarly situated.

Yes, Mr. Blake killed a police officer in 1987 and wounded another officer. What he did was horrible and he knows it. In 2011, he publicly apologized for his actions in open court and has been sentenced to a life sentence in prison for the crimes. He was not sentenced to a life sentence in solitary confinement.

In writing and researching Caged to Kill, I have spent two years reviewing his case history and thousands of pages of documents that relate to his time spent in prison. I have personally interviewed him. I don’t believe that any of us should spend a lifetime being perpetually defined by the worst day in our lives, if we are capable of changing. Quite frankly, I don’t believe Mr. Blake is the same angry young man that killed the police officer when he was twenty-three years of age.

Please understand that inmates who have killed police officers live in the general prison population. By and large, killing a police officer or anyone else doesn’t land you in solitary. Even David Berkowitz, who came to be known as the serial killer “Son of Sam,” lives in the general population according to an April 2006 press release from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. In the 1970s, he shot and killed six victims, injured seven others, and pled guilty to setting multiple fires in New York City.

While the standards for acceptable behavior should be automatically adjusted when we put someone in a cage alone, they are not necessarily lowered. If you treat someone like a beast, they should be expected to behave like a beast. Imagine how you’d feel if you were locked in an elevator-size room day in and day out. How would you behave?

But disciplinary tickets are often issued without considering that the prisoner is locked in a cage. It’s like saying, “You need to behave well while we torture you.”

Even so, over the course of the past 32 years, there have been long stretches where Mr. Blake hasn’t had a single ticket for an alleged disciplinary violation even while treated like a beast. In the past five years plus, he has been written up only once for an incident for which he received counseling. But they still won’t give him the opportunity to get out of the box and live with the prison community.

His status in solitary is supposed to be reviewed regularly every 30 or 60 days, depending on the regulations in force at the time. But New York has missed many reviews over the past four years. In fact, the state may have missed more reviews than it has actually written during this time frame, according to Mr. Blake.

Mr. Blake is not allowed to attend and participate in any solitary status reviews that may occur. He is not allowed to have legal counsel represent him at the reviews either. That’s a shame because I would be willing to represent him and even testify on his behalf.

When he does receive a written solitary review, they talk about his original crime or his most recent ticket as if it happened yesterday, even if it was years or decades ago.

At no time do they tell him what specific behavioral goals he needs to achieve in order to earn his release from solitary, despite repeated written requests by him.

Once someone is placed in solitary, the goal automatically should be to release that person from solitary if at all possible.

But such a system does not exist for Mr. Blake. It’s like the famous roach motel commercial for him: He can check into solitary, but he can’t check out. It makes no difference if he’s an angel or the devil himself while in solitary. No matter what, he’ll still find himself in solitary or be sentenced to more solitary for any infraction, real or fabricated, even if there’s no end to his solitary sentence to begin with. Madness? You bet.

As you can see, there is no remedy for Mr. Blake currently in New York’s prison system.

It’s amazing that Mr. Blake hasn’t killed himself, gone mad, or committed any acts of self-harm while he’s been held captive. Many inmates do these things when faced with this situation. Mr. Blake spends much of his time reading, writing letters, writing stories, and writing poetry. He has had a poem published along with several essays. If he gets out of solitary, he told me he’d like to offer a course in writing for other prisoners.

Conclusion

There are capital-punishment states and there are life-sentence states. New York is neither for William Blake and those like him.

What we have currently in New York for Mr. Blake and others like him is a torture state.

This situation is a crime against humanity. It also is a threat to our society and communities when we victimize these tortured prisoners and then release them into our neighborhoods. If and when inmates do finish their sentence while in solitary, they are released directly into the streets and dumped on your doorstep. Prison officials have said publicly that wouldn’t want to live next a person straight out of solitary.

Only the deranged knowingly support a state government that has a policy of torture. We know it exists; now we have to make it stop. It’s our justice system and it’s up to all of us acting together stop this cruelty.

All William Blake wants is the opportunity to live in the general prison population. If passed and signed into law, the HALT legislation will give him that opportunity because he’s 55 years old and will not be subject to solitary confinement under this proposed law. But there are many inmates who are trapped in solitary.

In sum, there is no remedy in the system and there’s no remedy in the courts for Mr. Blake. If the legislation doesn’t pass, Mr. Blake and others like him will be tortured in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives.

In June 2019, despite having the votes to pass the HALT legislation, the New York legislature failed to bring to the floor for a vote because Governor Cuomo was reortedly concerned about the bill's cost. It wouldn't cosT the taxpayers one cent to place Mr. Blake in another cell in the general population. 

PLEASE HELP:

(1) FIRST AND FOREMOST,  PLEASE BE A HERO AND SIGN THE PETITION TO END THE TORTURE OF WILLIAM BLAKE ALONG WITH OTHERS IN NEW YORK STATE AND BEYOND. TELL GOVERNOR CUOMO AND THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE TO GIVE MR. BLAKE AND OTHERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE IN THE GENERAL POPULATION BY PASSING THE LONG-TERM (HALT) SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT.

(2) GET A COPY OF CAGED TO KILL AND REVIEW IT ON AMAZON.

"Tom Swyers has written not just a suspenseful and chilling work of fiction, but an important treatise on solitary confinement and mass incarceration in America. Anyone interested in criminal justice reform should prepared to have their eyes opened after reading Caged to Kill."

~Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the Groveand Beneath a Ruthless Sun.

LET CAGED TO KILL SERVE AS A LITERARY EXPRESSION OF ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH SOLITARY CONFINEMENT. TELL OTHERS ABOUT. MORE THAN ANYTHING, PLEASE LEAVE A BRIEF REVIEW OF THE BOOK ON AMAZON TO HELP RAISE AWARENESS OF MR. BLAKE’S SITUATION AND THAT OF OTHERS TRAPPED IN SOLITARY. IT ONLY TAKES A FEW SECONDS. EVERY COPY OF THE BOOK HAS LINKS IN IT TO THIS PETITION AND READERS ARE SIGNING THE PETITION DAILY. YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BOOK AND PURCHASE IT HERE AT THIS AMAZON LINK. (PART OF THE PROCEEDS HELPS TO FUND MY WORK ON SOLITARY CONFINEMENT). 

(3) COMMENT BELOW ABOUT WHY YOU SUPPORT THIS CAUSE SO WE CAN RETWEET YOUR COMMENTS TO RAISE MORE AWARENESS.

(4) JOIN AND SUPPORT THE NEW YORK CAMPAIGN FOR ALTERNATIVES TO ISOLATED CONFINEMENT AT THIS LINK .

(5) EMAIL THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS OR, IF HAVE A MAILING LIST OF PEOPLE WHO MIGHT SUPPORT THE CAUSE, PLEASE CONSIDER EMAILING IT TO THEM.  

THANK YOU FOR SIGNING THE PETITION AND FOR ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN DO. 

Use the hastags: #HaltSolitary, #FreeBillyNow, #Justice, #CagedToKill