This Monday, September 26, SRLP will join a number of advocates in requesting that the City Council adopt a series of important local laws that would increase the rights of people held in the NYC jail system. In brief, these local laws will:
- Require the Department of Correction (DOC) to bring people to all court appearances;
- Prohibit the DOC from bringing people to court in jail uniforms;
- Limit the fee charged when depositing money into incarcerated individuals’ commissary accounts;
- Permit the Department of Finance to waive the 3% fee on cash bail;
- Codify the role of Department of Investigation’s Inspector General for DOC and require yearly report regarding evaluations and recommendations related to DOC; and
- Require the DOC to integrate trauma-informed care, to use trauma-informed care consistently with federal guidance, and to issue a yearly public report on the training
While all of these laws are of incredible importance to the lives of low-income people and people of color who are disproportionately policed, SRLP wishes to highlight two potential local laws that directly impact members of our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) and our clients.
SRLP strongly urges that the City Council pass Int. 1262-2016 requiring that individuals be allowed to wear their own clothes to all court proceedings. Additionally, if a person’s clothes are unavailable, court clothes that are appropriate for the individual and their identity must be provided. Individuals affected by this law are detainees – people who have not been convicted of any crimes and are confined by DOC almost only because they cannot afford to pay bail.
The clothes that an individual wears should reflect their full identity, including their gender identity. SRLP has often provided court support to female clients who appear before the court in male uniforms. In addition to the incredible humiliation and dehumanization that this creates internally, the uniform undermines the client’s self-identification before the court. In essence, by forcing an individual to wear a uniform, not only are they already branded as a prisoner; for transgender prisoners, their gender identity is also undermined. In effect, this signals to the court and all in attendance that everything this individual says is suspect. Our clients already face huge disadvantages preparing for trial while held on bail. They are separated from their loved ones, their every communication and move is monitored, and they are placed in horrific conditions. Denying individuals the right to appear in court as their full selves only further disenfranchises our people.
In addition, SRLP urges the City Council to pass Int. 1228-2016-A which would support creating an independent Inspector General that will have oversight of the DOC. Time and again, SRLP has attempted to assist our clients in filing complaints and grievances for instances of sexual and physical violence in the DOC. These investigations seem to go nowhere and the reports on these investigations are almost impossible to be found by the survivors or their advocates. Creation of an independent Inspector General will help to lift the DOC out of its secrecy and provide enhanced oversight, transparency, and accountability.
In addition, SRLP urges the City Council to pass Int. 1260-2016, 899-2016-A, 1152-2016-A, and 1144-2016-A, and we encourage individuals to read the statement made by our comrades at the New York City Jails Action Coalition (JAC) which provides more in-depth insight.
If you wish to testify on these matters or support us in our testimony, please join us at New York City City Hall at 12 pm (noon) on Monday for a press conference and please pack the hearing at 1 pm!