The New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents is asking professionals, organizations and family members to write letters urging legislators to support the closures of four prisons and the Kinship Guardianship Assistance program, two measures in the proposed NY state budget.
The prisons slated for closure are the minimum security Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility in Clinton County, the minimum security Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Essex County, the minimum security portion of Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County, and the medium security Ogdensburg Correctional Facility in St. Lawrence County.
The prisons are remote—there is not one city with a population over 25,000 within 125 miles of them, the Initiative said. They are also under capacity: When you divide the total number of prisoners in the four facilities by the total number of employees, you get one state employee for every 1.5 prisoners, New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer pointed out.
The state’s prison population has dropped nearly 8 percent in the last three years, and is expected to decrease by another 1,000 people by the end of the year, the Department of Correctional Services said. The proposed prison closures would save $46 million, DOCS said.
But more importantly, the closures would create a chance for incarcerated parents to be moved to prisons closer to their children and families, said Tanya Krupat, program director of The New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents.
“Keeping [incarcerated] people closer to home will help families maintain their relationships and benefit children because being closer to their parents will increase the likelihood that they can visit them, and the parents will be able to more actively parent their children,” Krupat said.
“And certainly for children in foster care, they’re more likely to be able to see their parents than if they’re incarcerated far away, because distance is a significant barrier to visiting at all.”
A number of children in foster care would also benefit from the Kinship Guardianship Assistance program in the Governor’s proposed Education, Labor and Family Assistance bill, which would provide financial assistance to family members dedicated to caring for the child of an incarcerated parent permanently, but would leave the parent’s rights intact.
Although the families would receive financial assistance, the state would save money because it wouldn’t have to monitor them the way it would if the children remained in foster care, Krupat said.