Governor Cuomo recently suggested that he might cut the availability for visits in maximum security prisons. He does not need the consent of the legislature or the senate to make this change. This means that the most powerful voices to push back against this are ours. We must reach out to the Governor and tell him that these cuts are simply not acceptable.
Visits are a source of incredible healing and connection for people in prison. Their importance cannot be overstated. Meeting with loved ones, community members, and non-legal advocates is essential for people’s mental health and increases the chance that people will have positive and affirming re-entries.
Restrictions on visitation run the risk of increasing violence. Studies from the Vera Institute have shown that adults who have strong relationships with loved ones fare better in prison – increased mental health, increased participation in programming, and less disciplinary tickets – and are less likely to return to the system once they leave. Likewise, young people who receive consistent and positive visits receive less disciplinary tickets, perform better in school, and generally report higher levels of mental health wellness. Read more about this here, here, here, and here.
From our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC), we also know that for trans, gender non-conforming, and intersex individuals, visits from loved ones can give someone the strength to live through another day. Visits from loved ones can also provide one of the rare opportunities to talk to someone who will treat them with love, respect, and dignity.
In 2015, when the NYC Board of Corrections was considering changing visiting hours, some of our PAC members wrote to us about the impact this would have on their lives. One member, Kitty, wrote to us, “If you take away my visits, you take away my humanity. What person can feel whole without the love of their family, friends, and significant others?”
There are many different ways to share your concern. You can sign the online petition, you can send an email to any of the individuals at the end of this post, or you can mail a letter to Governor Cuomo and Acting DOCCS Commissioner Annucci. Below, SRLP has some simple sample language to use, but you should feel free to use your own language and make it personal. Governor Cuomo needs to know that these actions deeply affect New Yorkers!
I am writing to you in opposition of any reduction in visitation at New York State’s maximum security prisons. This is contrary to creating humane conditions. Visitation increases people’s mental health well-being and allows for continued community ties.
Contact visits, family reunions and family programming at our prisons are essential to maintaining love and hope for a better future, and numerous studies have shown that people are less likely to return to prison if they have had access to strong and positive visits.
I am particularly concerned about how a loss of contact visits effects people who already feel very isolated such as transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex individuals. These individuals are more likely to be held in solitary-like conditions and serve longer sentences so visits are especially important.
Please do not reduce the visitation schedule at our state prisons.
[YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS]
Send an email:
Tony Annucci, Acting DOCCS Commissioner Annucci
Marta Nelson, Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration
Alphonso David, Governor’s Office, Deputy Secretary and Counsel for Civil Rights
Senator Gallivan, Senate Chair of Corrections Committee
Assemblymember Weprin, Assembly Chair of Corrections Committee
Senator Avella, Senate Chair of Children & Families Committee
Assemblymember Jaffee, Chair Assembly Committee on Children & Families
Send a Letter:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
Supervision Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci
Department of Corrections and Community
Harriman State Campus, Building 2
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12226
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