Advocates take issue with new state policy on inmate care packages

Print Friendly

From Albany Times Union:

Reform advocates contend a restrictive new program that privatizes the sending of care packages to prison inmates is punitive, but prison officials say it’s intended to fight contraband.

“People are very upset and families are upset,” said Jack Beck, who runs the Prisoner Visiting project at the Correctional Association of New York, a group that advocates for better prison conditions.

“We are doing everything we can to stop it,” said Judith Brink of the Prison Action Network, which has launched a letter-writing campaign.

At issue is a new policy in which friends and family members of state prison inmates can no longer directly send care packages of food, books, clothing and other items.

Instead they must order them from a pre-approved list of vendors that specialize in inmate needs.

The policy is in effect in three prisons: Green Haven, Greene and Taconic, but will be phased in at all New York prisons by next year, officials said.

Critics like Beck say that will make it harder for prisoners to get fresh fruit and vegetables as well as books and items like sheets and towels. Many inmates, he said, rely on care packages for their meals rather than eating prison food.

Beck also believes it is a cost savings for the state because controlling the flow of packages reduces the need for inspections, which requires manpower. Items currently brought into prisons are thoroughly inspected, which is a time-consuming process.

The approved companies are big players in the private prison service industry: E-Ford Commissary; Access Securepak; Union Supply; JL Marcus; Walkenhorst; and Music by Mail, with two more to be added in the next few weeks.

Thomas Mailey, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said the agency has been developing the plan during the past two years to reduce contraband brought into the prisons.

Read the full article here.