50 signatures reached
To: Governor Cuomo, State and Local Legislators
No New Jails in New York State! Stop the NY State Commission of Correction!
The NY State Commission of Correction continues to force the building of new jails all across New York State. At a moment when criminal justice reforms promise real reductions in jail populations we need a moratorium on any new jail construction and concrete actions that would lead to a fairer criminal justice system.
We thus ask:
Governor Cuomo: terminate the contracts of the current SCOC commissioners, and as an interim measure appoint new commissioners who represent all stakeholders, including independent health and disability experts and the distinguished formerly incarcerated among us,
State legislators: (1) support the call, as in Assembly bill A4373, for statewide public hearings on medical and health problems in our jails, (2) work towards creating a new oversight body for the state’s jails, including independent medical experts and the distinguished formerly incarcerated among us, and (3) pass measures designed to reduce the state’s overincarceration crisis,
Local legislators: (1) support local reviews of county jail operations by committees composed of all stakeholders, including local health and disability experts and formerly incarcerated persons, and (2) seek out non-carceral alternatives to the jail.
Why is this important?
County after county across New York State have for decades been directed by the State Commission of Correction (SCOC) to build new, larger, jails. Build them, and they will come, and they did: thousands of new jail cells have been added upstate at local taxpayer expense. Since Andrew Cuomo became Governor, SCOC actions have led to over $600 million in new jail expenditures outside New York City alone. And yet the SCOC push continues. Ever more thousands linger in our jails, unconvicted, often due to treatable substance use disorders, disabilities, and mental health conditions.
The simple truth is that new jails have delivered neither better care nor safety for those who live and work in them: the number of complaints about physical, sexual, and medical abuse remain intolerably high, while lawsuits over mysterious deaths proliferate.
Meanwhile the SCOC Commissioners, appointed by the Governor, fail to carry out their legal duty to respond to grievances and deaths. In 2014 the State Attorney General stepped in where the SCOC should have, and documented medical malfeasance by the private medical provider in many state jails, fined the corporation, and called for systematic reviews. In October 2017 hearings in the State Assembly before the Health and Corrections Committees witnessed lengthy testimony on medical and physical abuse in the state’s county-run jails. In January 2018 the State Comptroller publicly charged the SCOC for failing to review the thousands of grievances sent by incarcerated persons and their families.
We the undersigned organizations and individuals say: enough is enough. The SCOC and the state have failed our communities. We do not need expensive new jails, the people of the state need human rights and adequate health care based in community organizations.
Decarcerate Tompkins County
Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier
Southern Tier Independence Center
United Voices of Cortland
Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT), Southern Tier
End the New Jim Crow Action Network, Poughkeepsie and Kingston NY
Coalition Against Isolated Confinement (CAIC)
NAMI NYS: Criminal Justice
New York State Prisoner Justice Network
Prison Abolitionists of Nassau Inciting Change (PANIC)
Second Chance Reentry, Inc.
Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP Campaign
Critical Resistance NYC
Broome Tioga Green Party