Advocates have been rallying against NYC Mayor de Blasio’s proposed changes to visiting conditions on Riker’s Island. While incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, their loved ones, and advocates have been able to push for many important changes at Riker’s, these new changes almost “snuck in” amidst the better news.
These proposed regulations aim to reduce violence within prisons by limiting the number of visits and physical contact between people inside and their friends, family, and loved ones. These changes assume that violence occurs because visitors pass drugs, weapons, and other contraband to people on the inside. But we all know that the major source of violence within prisons and jails comes from corrections officers and the system itself. This regulation only reinforces harmful assumptions that people in prison–the majority and disproportionate number of whom are people of color, low-income people, and trans and gender nonconforming people–are dangerous and violent. Regulations such as this one allow prison staff, judges, and public officials to justify an intensely racialized system of surveillance, restricted movement, confinement, punishment, and death for our communities.
SRLP is opposed to any measures that increase punishment and keep our incarcerated communities from contacting their loved ones. Being able to be in contact with family and community on the outside provides an important restoration of dignity and humanity to those on the inside. Advocates are asking for Mayor De Blasio to hear from all New Yorkers before he passes this terrible recommendation into law.
Visiting already takes the loved ones of those inside significant time and money as well as mental distress. A person coming from any of the Five Boroughs will often spend four to five hours in transport and waiting for a visit that is ultimately limited to an hour. Loved one must undergo pat frisks, showing of IDs, metal detectors, and intense personal scrutiny during this process. We know that trans, gender nonconforming, and intersex visitors in particular face difficulty getting through these processes. Even once someone is inside, meetings with loved ones are supervised and far too short.
SRLP urges our community members to do everything we can to stop this regulation from becoming a reality. Our comrades at the NYC Jails Action coalition are organizing events where the voices of those most affected can be heard. Follow #Taleof2Jails on social media and check out their website for opportunities to share your knowledge of what the NYC jail system is truly like and how vital visits are: http://www.nycjac.org/