Cuomo wants to cut visitation, positions at Auburn, other NY maximum security prisons

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From The Auburn Citizen:

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Photo: Auburn Citizen

A proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017-18 executive budget would reduce the visitation schedule at New York’s 17 maximum security correctional facilities and result in the elimination of 39 positions.

Under the governor’s plan, the number of days visitors are allowed at maximum security prisons would be reduced from seven to three. The figure would be nearly identical to the visitation schedule at the state’s medium security facilities, which currently allow visitors on weekends and holidays.

The proposal would allow the state to eliminate 39 positions and save $2.6 million.

At Auburn Correctional Facility, the lone maximum security prison in Cayuga County, visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, including holidays. The same policy is in place at nearby Five Points Correctional Facility in Seneca County.

For medium security prisons, such as Cayuga Correctional Facility in Moravia, visiting hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

“Weekend visitations are the most popular as many families have to travel long distances,” said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Division of Budget.

“This change — which comes with the expanded use of video conferencing — would be a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars and match the preexisting policy at medium security (Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) facilities.”

Peters added that visits would be offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The video conferencing component — “tele-visiting,” he said — would be scheduled at a certain date and time. The visitor would go to a designated site with the necessary equipment for a video conference with an inmate.

Jack Beck, director of the Correctional Association of New York State’s Prison Visiting Project, criticized Cuomo’s proposal.

“Basically going from seven days to three for maximum security facilities will mean that, I think, for many people they will not be able to have their visit or they will be substantially shortened,” Beck said. “It will clearly deteriorate the relationship between an incarcerated person and their family.”

One of Beck’s concerns is with a reduced visitation schedule, families may be discouraged from traveling to see an inmate. For those who live in New York City and have a family member serving a prison sentence at an upstate facility, it can take several hours to travel to and from the prison.

Beck predicts there will be fewer visits if Cuomo’s proposal is adopted.

“And to save a few million dollars really doesn’t make sense to have one of the most positive programs inside being substantially curtailed,” he said.

While Beck acknowledged the video conferencing provision is “something,” he said it doesn’t replace the physical interaction between an inmate and his or her family.

“There’s nothing more important than being able to come in and hug the person that you love,” he said.

Read the full article here.