The Sylvia Rivera Law Project was proud to join the Jail Action Coalition and its partner organizations for a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday September 9. SRLP staff and members went out in 90 degree weather to protest the tightening of visitation and package restrictions on Riker’s and in all city jails. To read specifics of the ruling and how the tightening of visitation restrictions harms people inside prisons, click here.
To make sure that the voices of those who could not physically join us at the rally were present, we asked some of our Prison Advisory Committee (PAC) members why visitation matters to them.
“If you take away my visits you take away my humanity,” wrote SRLP PAC member Kitty, “What person can feel whole without the love of their family, friends, and significant others?”
Another SRLP PAC member, Charm, added that being inside the city jails “does not raise an iron curtain between a detainee and certain inalienable rights. To limit the scope of who is permitted to visit a detainee is tantamount to violating those rights.”
The impact of these restrictions on all people cannot be underestimated. It is also important to highlight the ways that these restrictions further isolate and make vulnerable transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people (TGNCI). Some of the concerns we highlighted during Tuesday’s rally include:
- The majority of people affected by these tightened regulations are awaiting. They should not be held inside. They should be at home with their loved ones.
- Commissioner Ponte states that this change will decrease contraband, but all evidence points to the fact that the majority of contraband comes in via DOC staff and not during visits.
- Any restrictions on what “family” means will disproportionately affect TGNCI people, LGB people, and survivors of intimate-partner or familial violence whose support network is more expansive than legal or biological ties
- Anything that makes visitation more onerous, more difficult will have disparate impact on visitors with disabilities and visitors who are not fluent in English.
- Individuals visiting already face incredible violations of their rights including pat frisks, dog searches, humiliating comments, and hours long waits to see their loved ones
- There is clear evidence that visits increase connections to community, commitment to treatment plans and programs, and reduce recidivism
- Restrictions on packages and enforcing orders from vendor-providers disparately impacts low-income individuals, and low-income individuals of color already make up the majority of the city jails. This places further economic strain on families already struggling
It is very important to have the voices of TGNCI people and our loved ones raised on this issue. The Board of Correction has scheduled a public hearing on the issue which any member of the public can attend. Join SRLP October 16, 2015 at 1pm on the ground floor auditorium at 455 1st Avenue in Manhattan between E.26th St. & E.27th St. to speak out against these restrictions.