The misuse and abuse of political power

Free Lawrence Hayes now!


By: Lawrence Hayes

Lawrence Hayes is a former death-row prisoner who was recently sent back to back to prison for a parole violation.

His death sentence was commuted in 1974 after the death penalty was abolished. In 1991, he was released from prison on parole. But last year, Lawrence was given a five-year sentence for missing a single meeting with his parole officer.

The truth is that Lawrence was locked up for his political views. He was an active and outspoken member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and he played a leading role in opposing the death penalty that Gov. George Pataki brought back to New York.

The Committee to Free Lawrence Hayes - a working group of the Campaign - is building the fight to free Lawrence.

If you'd like to get involved or want more information about his case, call 212-330-7056.

I would like to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to the people who have expressed support for my case. It is clearly a case in which all citizens should be deeply concerned and involved. It represents the depths of human insensitivity and political tyranny that no civilized members of a society can allow to go unnoticed, unchecked and unresolved.

If anyone had any doubts about whether my imprisonment is based on political motives, I hope the events of the past six months have been clear enough to dispel them.

Everything about this case is unusual. It was unusual for a parolee to be arrested and confined for the reasons I was. Unusual for representatives on the commissioner's level to take personal interest and manipulate the revocation process to assure a finding of guilty. Unusual for them to personally call members of the family of the police officer killed in my case some 26 years ago and obtain a victim impact statement and submit it at the hearing. It was unusual for the hearing officer and the administrative judge to ignore all the letters of support for me - and the meaningful contributions I've made over six-and-a-half years of freedom.

Yet though these circumstances were involved, understanding the relative importance of this case in the greater scheme of things is critical to us all.

Ninety percent of what occurred in my case is steeped in the misuse and abuse of political power. I believe it is based on a pact between Gov. George Pataki and New York Parole Commissioner Brion Travis.

The crime rate in New York City - which supplies 85 percent of the state prison population - and New York state has been dropping for the past five years. Yet the prison population has not only been at full capacity, but over capacity - with new prisons opening, under construction and promised to counties where no prisons yet exist.

In the face of dropping crime rates, the logical result should be a push toward "downsizing" the correctional system, thereby freeing up money for other needed areas like education, AIDS research and treatment, employment and community development programs.

Instead, what is taking place now is a major shift in parole policy, which makes the least of incidents cause for a violation.

The other clear reality is that prison abuse goes beyond the state of New York and reaches well into the federal system. After a little research, I discovered that Travis is an associate member of the FBI, the very agency charged with investigating such abuses and seeking "prosecution of those individuals…who, through deceit or dishonesty, attempt to interfere with the lawful functioning of Federal (therefore state) agencies, programs, or projects."

There is no redeeming human quality in any aspect of Pataki's prison policies - nor in Brion Travis' betrayal of the thousands upon thousands of men and women who find that the promise of aid for a new life through the parole system is just another empty, hollow game of deception.

Lawrence Hayes #72H001
Woodbourne Correctional Facility
Pouch 1
Woodbourne, NY 12788