Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

prison

prison

  • second comm hosts

    Incarcerated women visit with family (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    This April, as we do every year, we hear about the need to offer system-impacted people a “second chance” to re-enter society and live their lives freely. But to realize true, transformative change, we must acknowledge the reality of our country’s incarceration crisis: many people entangled in the criminal legal system never had a first chance to begin with. This is especially true for incarcerated women, who are so often left out of the conversation.

    I know firsthand how

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  • greene correctional fac

    Governor Cuomo at a state prison (photo: governor's office)


    For nearly a year, we’ve borne witness to the devastating effects of COVID-19. We wept at the sight of fellow New Yorkers entering hospitals, and at the images of trucks storing our deceased neighbors. But there are tens of thousands of New Yorkers whose pandemic traumas have, by design, been kept out of our sight. They are the hardest hit and the least protected. These are the New Yorkers incarcerated in jail and prison cages across the state, and our state leaders are failing

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  • Rikers Island guards bars jail

    Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    New York’s state government, its counties, and municipalities altogether spent $18.2 billion in 2019 on police, jails, prisons, prosecutors, parole, and probation while only spending about $6.2 billion on mental health services, public health, youth programs and services, recreation, and elder services, according to a new report.

    The report, by the nonprofit Center for Community Alternatives, examined local, county, and state budgets to place into stark contrast the

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  • gov attorney update

    Gov. Cuomo walks a prison (photo: governor's office)


    A crowded field of Democratic candidates is seeking to replace Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, a third-term Democrat, in this year’s election and criminal justice reform advocates have cause for optimism. In a new survey of the candidates, seven of the eight expressed support for a raft of parole and sentencing reforms that advocates have long advocated for as well as discretionary policies aimed at decarceration. Vance has not yet announced his campaign intentions, though he has not been raising

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  • Cuomo state prison walkthrough

    Gov. Cuomo visits a prison, pre-pandemic (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


    While New York continues to expand the circle of groups eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, people living and working in correctional facilities are being left out of the equation, despite early commitments from the city's Health Department and the heightened risk of infection in those settings.

    With a limited supply of the vaccine, public health officials at the state and city levels have been developing a plan to prioritize populations that are most exposed

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  • solitary confinement jail cell


    We need to end solitary confinement in our city and state. Spending all day in a cell the size of an elevator can cause permanent brain damage. Common sense tells us this. Science confirms it. But only the words of someone who has been in solitary confinement can begin to explain it.

    “No one to talk to. Nothing to do. I did push-ups. I read the Bible. That’s it. For days.” That is the way my brother-in-law explained it to me. And the haunting look in his eyes –– years later –– conveyed more than words ever could.

    This is an issue of fundamental

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  • ny go is

    Governor Cuomo at a correctional facility (photo: governor's office)


    The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, and scores of Black Americans have once again put a spotlight on the brutality of policing in this country. But policing is only one part of a criminal legal system that was founded on dehumanizing and oppressing Black people. There are countless Black lives, including those of Kalief Browder, Layleen Polanco, Benjamin Smalls, and Lulu Benson-Seay, that have been taken away in jails, prisons, and detention centers across New York. Now is the time to

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  • must address jails

    A rally to end solitary confinement (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    On April 14, 60-year-old Leonard Carter died of COVID-19 while incarcerated at Queensboro Correctional Facility. He had already been granted parole and, after a quarter century behind bars, was just weeks from his release date. He was the brother of one of us writing to demand change here

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  • prison sing sing

    Sing Sing prison, 19th century (photo: New York Public Library)


    Monuments of all kinds are facing renewed scrutiny as protesters, fueled by the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, have taken to the streets in more than 140 cities. Statues that glorify and venerate slavery and slaveholders are coming down, with or without governmental approval, across the country. The sight of these prominently displayed symbols of brutality, inhumanity, and state-sponsored racism tumbling down inspires hope that there may also be a long-overdue

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  • New York State government capitol building Albany legislators

    The State Capitol Building (photo: Governor's Office)


    The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people at the hands of police sparked righteous calls for change across New York State and led to meaningful action in Albany. We were proud to vote for police reforms that promote more transparency, accountability, and justice for those we represent. These were important steps, but they fall short of addressing the harm that happens to our constituents behind bars.

    For years, we’ve spoken with

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  • Cuomo signs bills

    Governor Cuomo signs criminal justice reforms (photo: Governor's Office)


    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been trying in his daily press briefings to position himself as the national voice of reason, truth, and compassion regarding the coronavirus. To that end, he has liberally signed an array of executive orders ranging from shutting down businesses and closing schools to limiting the size of social gatherings.

    When the evidence revealed that COVID-19 was especially ravaging communities of color, the governor then tried to assume the mantle of race

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  • gov health dep

    Governor Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


    At his daily coronavirus press briefing on Sunday, April 26, Governor Cuomo was asked  whether he had any plans to grant broad clemencies to people in prison, particularly to vulnerable populations. His testy and dismissive response – “How about if they are violent and just started their sentence?” – was telling. Presumably, the governor meant to remove from consideration people he believed remained a threat to public safety and had not been sufficiently punished.

    The reporter’s question was

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  • Cuomo prisons coronavirus

    Gov. Cuomo tours a prison (photo: Governor's Office)


    At the time of this writing, more than 287 detainees in New York City jails and 441 Department of Correction staff members have tested positive for the new coronavirus, COVID-19. Each of these men and women have friends and family members who wake up every morning, desperately hoping not to receive that dreaded call they know is increasingly possible. And there are thousands more families with loved ones in state

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  • greene corr
    Gov. Cuomo visits a correctional facility (photo: governor's office)


    Last week, the inevitable happened: the first cases of COVID-19 in Rikers Island jails and upstate prisons were confirmed.

    We are on the precipice of a public health catastrophe in New York’s jails, prisons, and communities most impacted by mass criminalization and incarceration. COVID-19 can spread like wildfire through the state’s jails and prisons, where social distancing is all but impossible.

    Much of this is preventable.

    Right now, access to the basics, like soap and water, is

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  • prison cell bars

    (photo: Andrew Bardwell/Wikimedia Commons)


    When I was first elected to the New York State Assembly in November 2016, I pledged to promote safety, fairness, and justice for my community and other communities across New York. I knew that we had so much work to do to support everyday New Yorkers and their loved ones, especially those harmed by the criminal justice system—something that has impacted me and so many others in my northern Manhattan district for decades. 

    While colleagues and I made important changes to New York’s pre-trial legal system in

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  • coxsackie officer

    (photo: Governor's Office)


    In 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a project to provide pro bono legal services to prisoners seeking clemency. The governor explained that this was “a critical step toward a more just, more fair, and more compassionate New York,” and that he sought to “identify those deserving of a second chance and to help ensure that clemency is a more accessible and tangible reality.”

    Two years later, the governor re-emphasized his interest in clemency via a press release stating that “Family members of individuals

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  • cuomo sign clemency

    (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    A year ago, almost to the day, Governor Cuomo gave me a second chance at life.

    That is not an exaggeration. On October 26, 1988, I along with several co-defendants, was convicted of murder for my role in a robbery that went terribly wrong. The judge, known to be particularly harsh, sentenced me to 80 years to life. That meant that I would not be eligible for parole until I was 98 years old. I was 18 years old and facing the reality that I would die in prison.

    I spent the next three decades fighting

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  • Cuomo executive order parole

    (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor’s Office)


    More than 49,000 people on parole in New York had their voting rights restored under a conditional pardon order, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, in the year-and-a-half since it’s been in effect.

    The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision told Gotham Gazette Thursday that 49,485 people have been re-enfranchised since the program launched in May 2018. Of those, 7,943 were later revoked, either because of a parole violation or a new conviction. Officials won't say how many parolees were not

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  • college prison lte

    Stacy Burnett, the author (photo: College & Community Fellowship)


    To the Editor:

    Regarding "New York College-in-Prisons Program is Flourishing" (Dec. 3): I am proof there can be no rehabilitation in prison without education, and that restoring Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding for college-in-prison participants must be a top priority if New York is serious about building safer communities.

    In 2013,

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  • bpi photo 3

    (photo: Bard Prison Initiative)


    In February 2014, early in his first reelection year, Governor Andrew Cuomo made what proved to be a bold proposal to reduce recidivism by creating opportunities for higher education in state prisons, seizing on an enduring problem at the intersection of social and criminal justice reform efforts. But he had misjudged the political landscape and the announcement was met with significant backlash followed by an uncharacteristic reversal for the seasoned New York powerbroker.

    It took nearly four more years, and litigation with the world’s largest

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  • attica correct fac

    Attica (photo: Wikimedia Commons)


    As the heated debate over the movement to close the Rikers Island jail complex rages on despite or because of the New York City Council’s vote to build four new jails and close Rikers by 2026, where is the corresponding clarion call to close Attica, Auburn, Clinton Dannemora, or any number of New York State’s brutal and archaic prisons?  

    In 2017, when Mayor de Blasio and the Lippman Commission released reports laying out proposals to close Rikers, there were about 10,000 people in New York City

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  • attica corr fac

    (photo: Wikimedia Commons)


    Last week, my friend and client Carlos passed away in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections. His life had been filled with so much suffering and pain, and yet he showed me only friendship and kindness during the three years I was privileged to know him. Known to his friends and family as Carlos, Edgardo Gonzalez was a professional boxer before he was sent away to serve a sentence of 50 years to life after an attempt was made on his life in a South Williamsburg bar and he killed two people.

    He had fought

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  • eastern correctional facility ny1

    Eastern Correctional (photo: wikimedia commons)


    The conversation around criminal justice reform is finally moving from general talk about mass incarceration to the specific reality of the multitude of people serving massive sentences. The more accurate description of these sentences – death by incarceration – is replacing antiseptic phrases like “life without parole.” These long-term sentences are, in truth, sentences to death in prison. 

    Several years ago, the Defenders Clinic at CUNY Law School began

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  • first lady chir2

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Valerie Gaiter died in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility last week. She had been in prison longer than any woman in New York State.  She had cancer. She was 61 and had served 40 years of a 50-years-to-life sentence for her conviction of the murder of two elderly people in Brooklyn in 1979. She was eligible to see the Parole Board in 2029 when she would have been 71.

    Edgardo Gonzalez is in Fishkill Correctional Facility. He is 75. He has chronic liver failure, hepatitis, and other ailments. He has lost

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  • gov cuomo tour wbai px

    (photo: the governor's office)


    August 7, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: State Prison Policy, Parole and Reentry Programming

    lizgaynes official wbaiLiz Gaynes of the Osborne Association joined the show to discuss state prison policy, including the controversial planned closing of a Manhattan facility, reentry programming, and parole laws.

    Listen to the

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