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N.Y. prisons to ban packages for inmates

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The state Department of Corrections plans to bar visitors from bringing packages to prisoners to cut down on contraband being brought inside, the Daily News has learned.

Instead, clothing, books and canned foods will have to be sent through “approved secure vendors,” according to an internal department memo.

Friends and family currently can supply those items during visits and through the mail. Officers search the packages before handing them over to prisoners.

But jail officials believe they are a major source of contraband. Inmate advocates slammed the new policy, set to start in August as a pilot program in three undetermined prisons.

“It’s another example of the poorest and the most marginalized population continually paying the price for policy on the state level that we should really just stop,” said Stanley Richards, executive vice president of the Fortune Society, a group that helps prisoners get back on their feet.

“My mom does not have a computer or a bank account,” said the inmate, who asked his name be withheld.

“Some (family) shop in mom and pop stores or a 99-cent store on the block. And now the prison wants to take the money away from businesses in our neighborhood.”

Corrections officers should do a better job searching packages brought by visitors if they want to cut down on contraband, he argued.
State Corrections memo on the ban on packages for inmates. Image by: Handout
“If they are not finding drugs in packages then they are not doing their jobs,” he said.

A prison spokesman said the department has “implemented a comprehensive strategy to crackdown on contraband.”

That includes cell phone detectors and a doubling of the K-9 force “that has led to more visitor arrests for drugs,” said spokesman Thomas Mailey. “We believe these aggressive actions will protect our hardworking staff and the inmate population against those who continuously disregard the law and endanger others.”

The move to limit packages comes after Gov. Cuomo proposed drastically reducing family visiting hours at the state’s 17 maximum-security prisons as a cost-saving measure. The decreased visiting days would save the state an estimated $2.6 million by eliminating 39 positions.

That proposed policy change has also been blasted by critics and inmate activists. They point out that studies have shown family visits help reduce prison violence and the odds of a new offense upon release.

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