Conroy settles in at prison, as dad, pastor raise funds

Jeffrey Conroy talks during an interview with Newsday Jeffrey Conroy talks during an interview with Newsday at the Suffolk County jail four days after he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime in one of the most notorious crimes to go to trial on Long Island. (April 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

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While Jeffrey Conroy settles in at a prison six hours north of his Medford home, his father and a Patchogue pastor are raising money to help him buy supplies while behind bars.

Conroy, 19, who was sentenced in May to 25 years in prison for the 2008 hate-crime slaying of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, last week was transferred to Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate Dannemora. There he is allowed to buy clothes, food, soap and other items at the commissary and from catalogs.

Robert Conroy said Monday he wanted to send T-shirts and sneakers to his son, who he said now wants to study law and become a criminal defense attorney. But with care packages to inmates limited by prison rules, he asked about 40 friends last week to donate money so his son can make more purchases.

"Any parent would do that for his child," Robert Conroy, of Medford, said Monday. "He tells me what he wants and I make sure he gets it."

He was joined in the effort by the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue, who asked about 20 to 30 friends and organizations, including members of his church and other religious groups, to make donations.

Wolter, whose church hosted Lucero's funeral, said he views the fundraising effort as part of the reconciliation he believes must be done to close racial and ethnic fissures exposed by Lucero's death.

"Jeffrey Conroy indeed now has become a convicted criminal, but he remains a human being," Wolter said. "I couldn't find a really good reason to say no to a request like that."

Conroy and Wolter said they have received positive responses, but no contributions so far.

Lucero's brother, Joselo Lucero, declined to comment.

But word of the fundraising disturbed the Rev. Allan Ramirez, pastor of the Brookville Reformed Church and an adviser to the Lucero family.

"Jeffrey Conroy was sent to jail, not the Hilton, and . . . having to live a sparse life is what his punishment is about," Ramirez said Monday.

Jeffrey Conroy was convicted April 19 of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime for fatally stabbing Lucero. He was the first person to be convicted of a hate crime for a death in Suffolk. With good behavior, Conroy could be released from prison in about 20 years.

After Conroy was sentenced to prison, his family and attorney tried to have a swastika tattoo removed from his upper thigh. But the tattoo, which Suffolk prosecutors referred to at his trial to show Conroy held an animosity toward minorities, remains because he had no guarantee it could be removed, Robert Conroy said.

He said his trips to see his son will be curtailed now that he is incarcerated a few miles from the Canadian border. After seeing his son weekly at Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, about 2 1/2 hours from Medford, Robert Conroy said he plans monthly trips to Clinton, about a 6 1/2-hour drive.

"Obviously, I want to see him but I know he has to adapt to a different life now," Robert Conroy said.

While in prison, Conroy hopes to obtain a college degree, his father said, adding that his son, who had planned to be a coach and gym teacher, has changed his career plans.

"He wants to become a criminal defense attorney," Robert Conroy said. "I'm kind of proud that he wants to do something like that."Clinton Correctional Facility

General: Maximum-security prison

Where: Dannemora, Clinton County

Built: 1844

Current population: 2,790

General description: For inmates 16 years old and older.

Travel time from Medford: 6 hours, 28 minutes.

Travel distance from Medford: 365 miles

Famous inmates

Joel Rifkin: Serial killer from East Meadow serving 203-year sentence.

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Martin Tankleff: Former Belle Terre man served 17 years for murdering his parents; released in 2007 after conviction overturned.

Robert Shulman: Hicksville serial killer; died in Albany hospital in 2006.

Tupac Shakur: Rap legend served eight months in 1995 for sexual abuse. Died after 1996 shooting in Las Vegas.

Robert Chambers. "Preppy Killer" served about two years in Clinton for 1986 murder of Jennifer Levin before being transferred to another prison. Released from Auburn Correctional Facility in 2003.

Work

State inmates are required to work while in prison. They are paid 16 cents an hour and work about 6 hours a day in jobs such as laundry, maintenance, food delivery and educational assistance. An inmate's pay is deposited directlyinto his or herprison bank account; inmates cannot carry cash or coins.

Packages

In Clinton and some other state prisons, inmates can receive two food packages per year from family and friends. Other prisons allow two food packages a month.

Purchases

Inmates are limited to purchases up to $50 every two weeks at the prison commissary. They also

may buy clothes and other items from approved catalogs.

Sample commissary items

Deodorant soap: 34 cents

15 oz. dandruff shampoo: 75 cents

Poker cards: 90 cents

Vitamins: $1.14

11.5 oz. orange juice: 44 cents

15 oz. black beans: 54 cents

12 oz. corned beef: $1.95

4 oz. calamari: 64 cents

16 oz. spaghetti: 62 cents

4 oz. instant coffee: $1.07

18 oz. peanut butter: $1.32

24 oz. iced tea mix: $1.67

English muffins: $1

12 oz. chocolate chip cookies: 93 cents

Microwave popcorn: 27 cents Ice cream sandwich: 23 cents

Root beer: 31 cents

- Carl MacGowanSOURCES: NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, MAPQUEST.COM.

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