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Prison officials allowing little oversight, despite new law

Oct 20, 2021 1:23 pm

Daniel Moritz-Rabson reports for New York Focus that the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is resisting oversight, according to lawmakers and watchdog organizations. The story says that, "the Correctional Association of New York cannot currently conduct monitoring of state prisons and had to abort a September visit to one prison." David Weprin, a Democrat from Queens who chairs the State Assembly's committee on correction, said he is “deeply disturbed” by the conduct of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. “We want them to be as unrestricted as possible,” Weprin said, “so they can do their job and effectively get us the most independent picture of what’s actually really going on.” Correctional Association of New York executive director Jennifer Scaife says the group’s oversight capacities had been limited since 2004. This year, though, In 2021, the legislature passed a bill opening up prison records, the ability to visit prison facilities without advance notice, and the possibility of court action if the prison agency failed to respect the organization’s new charter. But former Gov. Andrew Cuomo weakened the law, requiring that the Correctional Association of New York give prisons three days notice before visiting a facility and have its oversight members sign a waiver. Prison officials are now trying to weaken the law, saying information obtained during visits cannot be used in lawsuits and they also want to “indefinitely” ban visitors they deem to have violated any security procedures, or other issues. Current Gov. Kathey Hochul, though, won't address the issue so far. “Governor Hochul is committed to improving transparency and restoring trust in government, and we have directed all agencies, including DOCCS, to develop plans to be more transparent," Hazel Crampton-Hayes, the governor’s press secretary, said. Read more about this story at New York Focus.

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