Prison Downsizing

With 2.3 million people currently in prison or jail, the US has the dubious distinction of being the world leader in incarceration. Recent data show that one in 32 adults—over seven million people—are incarcerated or on parole or probation. As a country, we spend more than $68 billion on prisons each year, consuming an extraordinary amount of tax dollars while critical in-prison programs, alternative-to-incarceration programs, and vital community-based services are severely underfunded.

Over-incarceration has a particularly devastating effect on low-income communities of color. In New York State, 75% of people in prison are black or Latino. For Black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are people of color, despite data that shows the majority of drug users are white. There is much that indicates that, far from rehabilitating people, the prison system in fact detracts from public safety by exacerbating the underlying problems that drive crime.

Budget crises on the state and federal levels have focused some legislators and government officials on finding ways to decrease corrections budgets, providing a window for advocacy organizations like the Correctional Association to advance important reforms. In New York, for example, the CA played a leading role in helping significantly reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws—the state’s notoriously harsh and racially-biased mandatory minimum drug sentencing statutes—and in supporting the state’s prison downsizing measures.

New York’s approach to prison downsizing clearly works: over the past ten years, our state has reduced its prison population by 15,000 people, decreased prison spending, and, making the case that incarceration is not necessary for safer communities, also reduced the crime rate by 25%.

Through the Drop the Rock Coalition, the CA continues to advocate for additional measures to close prisons and sustainably reduce the prison population, including: diverting some individuals from prison into alternative-to-incarceration programs; releasing people earlier in their sentences, after participation in programs that have better prepared them for successful reentry into their communities; reducing the number of formerly incarcerated individuals who are returned to prison for technical parole violations; reforming the broken and ineffective parole system, and addressing the crisis of the elderly in prison.

 

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News | June 27, 2017

State Comptroller Responds to Aging in Prison. Now, Let’s Hear from the Attorney General.

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When a crisis plagues our society, we want elected officials to act. So the skyrocketing population of older people in New York prisons should provoke response from New York’s public servants. Recently, it did just that when NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a searing report, “New York’s Aging Prison Population.”Read More

News | January 9, 2017

CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons January 9, 2017 (New York, NY): The Correctional Association of New York roundly applauds the continued commitment of Governor Andrew Cuomo to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, ending the prosecution and incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.Read More

News | September 22, 2016

Board of the Correctional Association of New York Appoints Carlton S. Mitchell Interim Executive Director

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On September 22, 2016, the Board of Directors of the Correctional Association of New York announced the appointment of Carlton S. Mitchell as Interim Executive Director. He will start his duties in September 2016. Read More

News | September 14, 2016

Blog: “Living With Attica”

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As we mark 45 years since the 1971 Attica rebellion, conditions there remain as deplorable in 2016 as there were then. It is time for New York State to finally close Attica. I spent 26 years and 11 months in New York’s prisons from 1979 to 2005, and I was in Attica from 1982 to 1983. I witnessed the most horrific incidents of brutality and experienced it for myself inside Attica. Today I work for the Correctional Association of New York (CA) – a non-profit organization with legislative authority to monitor conditions in all NYS prisons -- so now I go back inside in order to expose the abuses. Based on what I experienced inside and what I see still happening today, it is clear that Attica will never change. Read More

News | October 31, 2014

CA Refutes Corrections Officers Union’s Claims of Safety Risks

October 29, 2014  Since 1844, the CA, a non-profit independent watchdog agency has been monitoring the conditions in the State’s prisons. Using its unique legislative mandate, the CA has reported its findings and made recommendations to law makers and policy people. Consistent in its findings has been the pervasive existence of abuse and violence perpetrated by corrections officers.Read More

News | October 21, 2014

VOICES FROM ATTICA

“Voices from Attica” – a compilation of twelve powerful narratives of people incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility in 2014 – paints a picture of endemic staff violence and abuse at this infamous prison. The prison walls are designed not only to keep incarcerated people in, but also to keep the public out.Read More

News | June 10, 2014

1000 Religious Leaders Call for Smarter Federal Drug Sentencing

Hundreds of faith leaders affiliated with more than 40 faith organizations, including Roman Catholics, Jews, Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants signed onto a letter calling on Congress to support the Smarter Sentencing Act (S1410/HR3382). Read More

News | August 2, 2013

NYS to close four more prisons

This will bring the total number of prisons closed under Governor Cuomo's watch to 13. Read More

News | September 25, 2012

Attica: The Bars That Bind Us

Attica Correctional Facility

Everyone exposed long-term to max incarceration at Attica pays a high price. Find out why and how you can help change a broken system.Read More

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News | March 1, 2012

Aging Behind Bars: The Facts

There are smarter, more humane alternatives to incarcerating elderly people who pose no threat to public safety.Read More

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CA in the Press | December 13, 2016

Parole Reform Groups Say Proposed New Rules Don’t Go Far Enough

ALBANY – Groups frustrated at the state’s unyielding attitude toward releasing some inmates has urged the Board of Parole to go further with new regulations meant to produce more favorable parole determinations. The proposed regulations would base inmate release decisions more on prospective risk to the public and less on the nature of the crime that led to incarceration (NYLJ, Oct.Read More

CA in the Press | October 4, 2016

“The System Abuses Us by Locking Us Up Forever”: Aging Survivors Behind Bars

On October 6, 2016, 15-year-old Bresha Meadows will appear in an Ohio family court for the death of her abusive father. Meadows had spent a lifetime watching her father hit, kick, shove and control her mother. If her mother tried to leave, her father often threatened that he would kill her and their three children.Read More

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CA in the Press | September 9, 2016

New York: Activists Call on Gov. Cuomo to Close Attica Prison

On Thursday, dozens of activists held a protest outside the Manhattan office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, calling for the closure of Attica prison. Scott Paltrowitz of the Correctional Association of New York said conditions at Attica haven’t improved in more than four decades. Scott Paltrowitz: “The brutality, the racism, the torture, the abuse that’s happening in Attica continues to this day.Read More

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CA in the Press | September 9, 2016

“Whatever Your Worst Fear Was, That Was Attica’: Former Prisoners Ask Cuomo to Shut Down NY’s Infamous Prison

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Photo: Victoria Law On Thursday afternoon, the day before the 45th anniversary of the most famous prison uprising in U.S. history, dozens of people gathered across the street from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office demanding that he close the maximum-security prison at Attica. Fed up with brutal conditions, men imprisoned at Attica seized control of the prison on September 9, 1971, taking 43 staff members hostage.Read More

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CA in the Press | June 23, 2016

What NYC lost when it lost a prison

Russelle Miller-Hill was convicted on a drug charge and sent to Albion Correctional Facility in 1991. Born and raised in the Bronx, the prison near Niagara Falls was far from home, and she says she got no visitors. Towards the end of her term, she went down to New York City to spend about 18 months at Bayview Correctional Facility, she says.Read More

CA in the Press | November 20, 2015

New Report Highlights Growing Number of Aging People in Prison

Gloria Rubero served 26 years in New York prisons. Between being incarcerated at the age of 30 and her release at age 56, she was denied parole five times, suffered two major strokes, and earned her GED and a college degree. “When I got out nine years ago, it was like being thrown from the top of the stairs to the bottom—I had nothing,” she wrote in a recent policy paper, part of a new report on reducing elder incarceration in New York state.Read More

CA in the Press | November 10, 2015

Former Prison for Women to Become a Place That Serves Them

Over the years, as West Chelsea went from gritty to glamorous, Bayview Correctional Facility, a notorious women’s prison, became an increasingly odd fit. Art galleries surrounded the prison, at West 20th Street and 11th Avenue. The Chelsea Piers entertainment complex beckoned from across the street. And a gleaming condominium, where views from some apartments included the exercise yards on the prison’s roof, sat next door.Read More

CA in the Press | November 10, 2015

NYS Prison Budget Climbs, Despite Fewer Inmates

New York State has slashed its inmate population by more than a quarter since its peak in 1999, from 71,538 to roughly 53,000 today, but the state’s corrections department budget has swollen by nearly a one-third in that time to close to $3 billion. This seems unlikely to change much either–in fact the budget went up last year, as did the number of unionized guards –and these trends could very well continue.Read More

CA in the Press | October 29, 2015

What Happens When Old Prisons Are Given Back to Their Communities?

Sharon Richardson remembers looking out the window of Bayview Correctional Facility, the sole women’s prison within New York’s five boroughs. “I could see the ships coming in and I wondered, ‘When is my ship coming in?’” For more than three decades, the Bayview Correctional Facility sat inconspicuously on the far west side of Manhattan, across Eleventh Avenue from Chelsea Piers, a 28-acre sports and entertainment complex on the Hudson waterfront.Read More

CA in the Press | August 6, 2013

Upstate lawmakers question prison closures

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Upstate lawmakers are angry after the Department of Corrections announced plans to close four prisons next year.Read More

Testimonies

NYS Public Protection Committee Budget Hearing: February 6, 2013

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The Correctional Association testified about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Fiscal Year 2013-14 proposed budget for public protection, focusing on his proposal to close two women’s prisons, Bayview and Beacon Correctional Facilities. Our testimony expresses the concern that closing Bayview and Beacon Correctional Facilities will eliminate some of the most effective opportunities incarcerated women have to maintain family ties and prepare for a successful reentry.Read More

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Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Summer 2012

In this issue; The Close to Home Initiative: youth leaders speak out; The Prison Rape Elimination Act; Welcome to CA’s new staff and board membersRead More

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Drop The Rock Advocacy in Albany 2010

NYC youth attend Advocacy Day in Albany to speak out against the Rockefeller Drug Laws and advocate for less spending on incarceration and more spending on education.Read More

Fact Sheets

The elderly and aging in prison

Over the past decade the overall population in New York State prisons has decreased by over 20% -- but the number of incarcerated individuals ages 50 and over has increased by 64%.Read More

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Testimonies

Close to Home Initiative

The CA has, for many years, advocated for keeping children in custody closer to their homes and communities. We have also long advocated for ensuring that all youth justice programs and facilities, regardless of who operates them, promote positive outcomes while keeping youth and communities safe. The Close to Home Initiative (CTHI) represents a unique and powerful opportunity to re-create the youth justice system for New York City’s youth and communities. Details of the plan are, however, of paramount importance.Read More

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Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Fall 2011

In this issue; Gov. Cuomo announces prison closures; Reflecting back at the 40th anniversary of the Attica rebellion; CA calls for the closure of notorious prisonRead More

Video

Soffiyah Elijah on One to One

Soffiyah Elijah discusses the mission and work of the Correctional Association of NY and current issues in criminal justice reform in the state.Read More

Fact Sheets

Attica Correctional Facility: 2011 – Basic Facts, Findings & Recommendations

The September 1971 Attica rebellion brought the plight of incarcerated individuals to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. No longer would these invisible people experience invisible injustice behind brick walls and barbed wire fences. The prisoners’ demands included basic civil rights such as medical care, religious and political freedom, in addition to a living wage and opportunities for education and rehabilitation.Read More

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Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Spring 2011

In this issue; Welcoming Soffiyah Elijah to the CA; Treatment Behind Bars: New report from the Prison Visiting Project; 300 advocates take on Albany—Advocacy Day 2011Read More

Reports & Research

Time’s Up for New York Prisons: Proposals to Close Prisons, Cut Costs, and Build Communities

For over the past decade, New York has seen a dramatic decrease in crime and incarceration rates. Our state is now uniquely positioned to implement sweeping criminal justice reforms, creating a model for other states to rethink and replace antiquated, ineffective and costly punishment practices.Time's Up for New York Prisons presents the statewide advocacy agenda of the Correctional Association of New York's Drop the Rock Campaign. This policy paper outlines six major strategies for reducing incarceration, saving critically needed tax dollars and reinvesting constructively in our disadvantaged communities.Read More