A group of lawmakers is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to re-think his plan to cut visitation days at maximum security prisons as a cost-saving measure.
Included in Cuomo’s 2017 budget proposal is a plan to cut visitation days by more than half at some prisons, thus eliminating the need for 39 officers.
The Chair of the Assembly’s Corrections Committee, David Weprin, is leading the fight against the proposal.
Weprin, D-Queens, sent a letter to Cuomo in an attempt to stop a plan to reduce visitation days from seven days a week to three days a week. The proposal would save an estimated $2.6 million a year by eliminating 39 Department of Corrections jobs.
However, Weprin and his supporters say the human costs of such a move far outweigh the fiscal savings.
“This proposal is inhumane and punishes families by preventing inmates from keeping a relationship with them,” Weprin said.
Weprin said maintaining a strong relationship with one’s family helps those incarcerated to be less violent, which could save the state money in the long run while improving work conditions in the state prison system. A strong family bond also helps incarcerated individuals transition to life outside of prison, the assemblyman said.
“Increased visiting has been proven to reduce recidivism, as visits help family members maintain ties with people in prison, and there is some evidence to suggest that more visiting means less violence in prisons, offering a better work environment,” Weprin said. “I am hopeful that this morally inhumane and financially shortsighted proposal will be removed from this year’s New York State Final Enacted Budget.”
Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, D-Washington Heights, said, “If we want people who are currently in the criminal justice system to be able to come back into society and integrate back into our communities, we need to give them more human interaction, not less.”
According to Assemblyman Walter Mosley, D-Brooklyn, the visitation cuts are nothing more than a punishment. The letter sent to the governor about his proposal notes that there are 80,000 children in New York state with a parent in prison.
“Not only are you punishing the incarcerated but you’re punishing the children, the families, the extended families.” Mosley said. “We understand that this $2.6 million [in projected savings] is not even a drop in the bucket. It’s as worthless as that penny,” pointing to a penny on the ground.
Naomi Jaffe, 73, spoke about her experience visiting a loved one in a maximum security prison every month for 30 years.
“I understand that it’s nowhere near as hard as for the people who go up on a bus and have to go overnight with small children, but it’s hard for me.” said Jaffe, who explained that, even after her arrival, she often waits a hours before getting to see her son.
“I don’t understand what public benefit is served by further punishing people who face decades behind bars whose freedom is already taken away,” Jaffe said.
The letter sent to the governor points out that the $2.6 million that will be saved by reducing visitation days is only 5.5 percent of the total in savings the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is required to make this budget year.
Weprin said he hopes that the Assembly and Senate will pass their one-house budgets, which do not include these proposed visitation cuts.