100 signatures reached
To: NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS)
No Package Restrictions for NYS Prisoners!
In Spring of 2017, NYS DOCCS announced through an internal memo that they will be that they will be restricting packages to prisoners, forcing family members to buy overpriced food, religious items, clothes, and basic amenities from prison industry vendors. In April, the DOCCS conducted a conference from vendors, but it is unclear if any met the requirements of DOCCS. The “pilot program” is set to begin in August, and we know it will be in one women’s prison, one maximum, and one lower-security prison. It is not too late to stop this directive (4911A) from passing, but we need the support of organizations, state officials, and family members!
Why is this important?
Visitation packages are a crucial part of subsistence in the prisons. New York State’s prison system that houses over 60,000 men, women, and children, all of whom are under fed, under nourished, and are not able to meet hygiene needs without purchasing products. Packages brought in by visitors allow prisoners to sustain themselves while they suffer the “slow death” of the prison system. They receive books, hygiene products, stationery, religious objects, underwear, shoes, shirts and blouses (which allow inmates to regulate their body temperature). All of these objects are crucial for survival for inmates. The proposal to revise the package directive 4911 by adding 4911A to restrict packages to a small selection of prison vendors will severely restrict what prisoners can have (which is already extremely restrictive) and raise costs for family members who already have an extra burden to bear taking care of their loved ones in and out of prison. Currently, visitation packages can be purchased from bulk stores, which allow families to keep costs down. We can be assured that packages purchased through vendors will be more expensive. In addition to increasing costs for families who are already financially struggling, this directive will put even more money into the hands of the prison industry, which is already a multi-million dollar a year industry that thrives of other people’s immiseration. Meanwhile, prisoners are working for slave wages, making 10-16 cents an hour, and are completely reliant on outside support to supplement their starvation diets served in prison.
Furthermore, the justification for restricting packages is that visitors are allegedly smuggling drugs through packages. However, as investigations show, it is often corrections officers who smuggle drugs, and who are the ones allowing in tainted packages. Instead of monitoring the COs--there are currently no cameras in the package room--DOCCS is instead punishing prisoners and their families. In addition, suicide in prison is often a result of alienation, deprivation, and lack of stimulation, which will all increase with a new package restriction. The only things that this directive will be taking out of the prisons if it is implemented are prisoners’ human dignity, will, and incentive for good behavior.
We are asking that the new directive, 4911A, be repealed immediately, before the NYS prison system wastes time and money on vendor contracts, and before the lives of 60,000 inmates and their families are changed for the worse.
Written by families and friends of inmates from the Women’s Facilities of NYS, presented by Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee