By Mark Hallum
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) stood with prison reform advocates on the steps of City Hall Sunday against the state’s proposal to reduce the number of allowed visitation days in minimum security jails.
The plan as part of the Executive Budget Proposal for New York State reduces the allowed number from seven days per week to only three. Weprin currently serves as the chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction and explained that a high number of visitation days with family reduces recidivism and cuts down on violence in penitentiaries.
“The amount gained by enacting this proposal does not match what is lost,” Weprin said. “Increased visiting has been proven to reduce recidivism, as visits help family members maintain ties with people in prison, and there is some evidence to suggest that more visiting means less violence in prisons, offering a better work environment. I am hopeful that this morally inhumane and financially shortsighted proposal will be removed from this year’s New York State Final Enacted Budget.”
The state expects to save $2.6 million by eliminating 39 full-time positions from the reduction.
JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Long Island City-based Fortune Society, delivered remarks on behalf of the her organization, which is mostly made up of ex-offenders, and educates the public on the U.S. prison system. They also advocate for alternatives to incarceration and assists recently released convicts upon reentry into society.
“Through our work at The Fortune Society, we know firsthand that people in prison who maintain important connections through visits from family and friends have an easier and more successful re-entry home than those who don’t. The visits our clients receive while incarcerated make a big difference in their lives – both ‘inside’ and in the success they can achieve after release. From helping keep family and community ties alive, to contributing to their emotional and behavioral health, those visits give incarcerated individuals hope that they have something to come home to. And while there may be some cost-savings by reducing visitation, the potential long-term human and societal cost of failed re-entry and recidivism will be far greater. And this is simply a cost that New York cannot afford” Page said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall