New York prisons again banning most packages for inmates
Emily Brown and Rebecca McCray report in New York Focus that New York prisoners are losing their right to regularly receive care packages by mail or in person from family and friends. The new policy right now is for eight prisons, but is a pilot program meant to expand to all New York prisons. Family and friends will not be allowed anymore to bring loved ones packages of food when they come to visit or to send them through the mail. And they also can’t send more than two non-food packages per year. And everything else must be purchased and sent through private companies willing to ship to prisons. “Am I going to be prevented from getting winter clothes if I get a book from my mom in the summer?” asked Jeremy Zielinski, who is currently incarcerated at Attica. Acting Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Anthony Annucci said in a memo that the new policy is a response to, “an increase in violence and overdoses due to the introduction of contraband through the package room, specifically, illicit drugs and weapons.” Contraband, though, gets to inmates in multiple ways, and limiting mail won't do anything to stop corrections officers from bringing drugs, weapons, and other contraband into prisons and jails. While many cases of corrections officers smuggling contraband for prisoners are in the public record, an investigation into the similar limiting of mail by Texas corrections officials in 2020 showed no impact on the amount of drugs circulating in that state's prisons. In 2018, then Gov. Andrew Cuomo halted a similar policy called the “Secure Vendor Package Program,” which limited packages to coming from vendors with limited selections with prices as much as 130 percent higher than on the outside. “I did 12 years in prison. My whole time in prison, I’ve never received a package from a vendor,” says Michael Capers, who was incarcerated at Upstate, Franklin, and Fishkill Correctional Facilities. “And the reason being is because it’s too expensive. So my family, I told them I’d rather have nothing than to make them pay extra money.” The new policy will end one program from a Germantown farm. Jalal Sabur, founder of Sweet Freedom Farm in Germantown, set up farm stands at the Fishkill and Attica prisons, where they hand out fresh food for visitors to give to inmates. “Now, no one can actually bring those packages in,” Sabur said. “So that whole program that we’ve been doing, we can’t do anymore.” Read more about this story in New York Focus.