By Naeisha Rose
The New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision has ended a pilot program that restricted prison packages earlier last month, which Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Forest Hills) and families of inmates considered flawed.
According to the Governor and Assemblyman Weprin, the pilot program was too limiting of the shipment of books, care packages and food for inmates. Also, the commissaries from the new vendors that prisoners had to buy from were expensive.
The Dept. of Correction said that before Cuomo and Weprin’s intervention in ending the pilot program with its initial vendors, it already heard the outcry from various inmate advocacy groups beforehand and was already in the process of looking at other vendors.
The purpose of DOCCS reducing the amount of care packages and seeking a secure vendor program was to prevent illegally imported items in their prisons, according to Thomas Mailey, the Director of Public Information for DOCCS.
“As part of a multi-faceted plan to address the flow of contraband, the department recently launched a pilot secure vendor program in three of its facilities, similar to ones already in place in nearly 30 other states,” Mailey said. “However, concerns have been raised by families of inmates regarding the availability and price of products under this program, concerns we do not take lightly.”
According to Carpenter, once additional vendors were secured to meet the needs of inmates, the competition between the different suppliers would have driven down prices.
DOCCS will also continue to meet the dietary needs of Jewish inmates by providing hot kosher meals instead of cold alternatives, and halal meals for its Muslim population, according to spokesman Patrick Bailey.
As the DOCCS seeks new vendors it will continue to redouble its efforts to eliminate contraband and increase safety in the prison system, according to Mailey.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose