The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has banned all incarcerated individuals in state facilities from receiving packages from their families. What initially started out as a 'pilot program' has turned into a widespread policy.

New York State has taken away prisoners' ability to receive packages sent directly from their family members and loved ones. DOCCS implemented the pilot program on July 18, 2022, which now has gone into effect at all state prisons. The DOCCS claims that it is prohibiting packages in an effort to prevent prisoners from receiving contraband,

In a continuous battle to prevent contraband from getting into DOCCS’ correctional facilities and maintaining security and safety for both staff and the incarcerated population, the Department is revising its policy concerning packages and articles received through facility package rooms.

 

Can Prisoners Receive Packages At All?

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
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Inmates can still get packages, but they must be sent through a third-party vendor, not directly from a family member,

Upon complete implementation, packages and articles will only be allowed to be received directly from vendors via U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, etc. Packages will no longer be allowed to be brought to the facility during visits or mailed directly to the facility from family or friends. Department Directive #4911 – Packages & Articles Sent to Facilities – is in the process of being updated.

Packages cannot be brought during visitation either.

Is The Program Being Used To Punish Prisoners And Their Families?

The Gotham Gazette published an opinion piece stating that it believes this policy will not actually help make prisons safer, but it used to punish prisoners and their families.

It is our shared belief that Directive #4911A will not stop the smuggling of contraband and will instead impose unnecessary financial burdens on the families of the incarcerated and result in hazardous disruptions to the incarcerated population. The Correctional Association of New York (CANY), an independent state-authorized oversight body, has informed us that multiple FOIL requests for data regarding facility violence have been delayed. This lack of transparency leads us to the concerning suspicion that DOCCS is using the package policy punitively against the incarcerated population and their loved ones.

DOCCS says the recommendation received input from the Prison Violence Task Force, Incarcerated Individual Liaison Committees, and advocacy organizations.

Prison officials could be upset with some of the changes that Kathy Hochul and other politicians have put in place to protect prisoners. This move might potentially be revenge for some of those new rules.

DOCCS just recently announced that it's requiring all visitors to wear masks and take COVID-19 tests. It could be another barrier they are adding to make it more difficult for prisoners to see their loved ones, rather than a true safety protocol.

COVID-19 Tests, Masks Required For All Visitors At Any New York State Prison

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision quietly updated its COVID-19 policy. Updated about a month ago, the new policy says,

For purposes of visitation, since social distancing is very difficult to maintain, we will reinstitute a mask requirement beginning with visitation commencing on July 13, 2022. This requirement will be in addition to the protocol for visitors to test negative prior to visiting. The Department will continue to provide an at-home test kit to all visitors. Those visiting in an outdoor visiting area, will be permitted to remove their mask.

 

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The department says it will provide home COVID-19 tests to all visitors since a negative test must be provided for visitation. It's unclear how visitors are supposed to get the tests or how long before they visit they will get a test. The department will stop temperature checks,

With this change, we will also discontinue the entrance health screening/temperature check and will return to normal visiting capacity/procedures. However, we will continue to provide an at-home test kit to all visitors and require that they test negative prior to being allowed to visit.

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