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Queens lawmakers, advocates rally against statewide policy limiting care packages sent to incarcerated individuals

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Assemblymember David Weprin speaks at a rally in front of the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Elected officials and advocates called for an end to DOCCS Directive #4911A, limiting package delivery rights to incarcerated individuals in state prisons. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Assembly Members David Weprin and Zohran Mamdani rallied with advocates in front of the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, calling on the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to rescind a statewide policy that limits the package delivery rights of incarcerated individuals and their families. 

Weprin and Mamdani were joined by Brooklyn Senator Julia Salazar for a press conference at the facility, located at 47-04 Van Dam St., where they spoke out against the DOCCS policy, known as Directive #4911A. 

State Sen. Julia Salazar speaks at a rally in front of the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

The revised policy, which went into effect in July, eliminates in-person deliveries, and families can no longer directly send care packages, home-cooked meals, fresh fruits, or particular religious items to their incarcerated loved ones.  

“We are here to demand immediate termination of DOCCS’ heartless directive that restricts the delivery rights of incarcerated individuals and their families,” said Weprin, chair of the Assembly Correction Committee. “DOCCS has erected a wall between incarcerated people and their families. I thought DOCCS is supposed to rehabilitate incarcerated people, not isolate them from their families.” 

According to Weprin, the directive is based on “arbitrary and unfounded anecdotal testimony.” While the DOCCS claims the packages sent from home are a contributing factor to violence, Weprin said he doesn’t believe that to be true. 

The assemblyman noted that his office has received complaints that the commissaries are not stocked with nutritious foods and inflation has caused prices to soar. 

“These cruel practices impact morale and instill further trauma,” Weprin said. “DOCCS, how is this an effective policy? Who does this policy help? I don’t get it. All you have done is squander the last bit of hope incarcerated persons have and dismantle the loving connection between them and their families.”

Mamdani said the policy has no grounding in fact, and that there’s no evidence that has been put forward to show that it was necessary or that it has had a positive impact since it was instituted. 

“What this policy does, it heightens the isolation of individuals who are incarcerated and we know that isolation is a precipitating factor for violence,” Mamdani said. 

Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani speaks at a rally in front of the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Aqirah Stanley, a formerly incarcerated woman and deputy director of Alliance of Families For Justice, said incarcerated individuals don’t have the proper food or hygiene products that their families provide. 

“As a formerly incarcerated woman and as a family member of someone who is incarcerated, I speak for the voices who cannot speak right now,” Stanley said. “We need the packages to be brought back so that we can bring packages to our loved ones who are currently incarcerated and not being properly supported, nourished or treated by the Department of Corrections.” 

Aqirah Stanley of Alliance of Families for Justice speaks at a rally in front of the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Stanley says that DOCCS can continue their security measures and remove dangerous or unrestricted materials from packages as they have always done. 

“We can bring our packages to the facility, and there can still be security and all of the things they want that they’ve always had. Give us our packages, do not punish us this way,” Stanley said. “It is a survival lifeline, it’s not frivolous, it’s not just because. People must survive.” 

Salazar is calling on the DOCCS to rescind the “cruel policy that is not in the interest of keeping individuals safe.” 

“It is a tragic reality that for many individuals who are incarcerated in New York, their family members are doing their own time as well and they’re suffering when their loved ones on the inside incarcerated and they can’t even get a care package to them due to unnecessary rule restrictions,” said Salazar, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Crime Victims, Crime & Correction. “This is a public health issue, it is about making sure that people have access to foods, that they have access to basic necessities that the commissary does not provide.” 

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane. 

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