In New York, 13 prisons are being closed under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s watch. It has become evident that the budget for the 2017-18 year has become tight. In order to accommodate the decreasing budget and the increasing rate of prisoners, Cuomo called for the state to slash family visiting hours at all of the remaining 17 of New York’s maximum security prisons. This action would save the state budget a small sum of money but would work against inmates’ connection to their families.
In the 90’s, visitations were offered seven days a week in New York prisons. Cutbacks occurred as prisons became overcrowded, enabling visits only on weekends and holidays. By cutting visits to only on weekends in 2011, the prison system saved $2.6 million per year out of an annual correction budget of about 3 billion a year.
No one disputes how influential these visits are to the inmates and their families. Research shows that prisoners who get frequent visits from family members are more likely to do well when they are released. They are less prone to violence and committing another crime as well as being more functional in society.
In the perspective of the inmate’s family, the 100,000+ children who have a parent behind bars in New York, visits are a crucial part of developing healthy, long-term relationships. The state should be working to make things easier on these families.
Fortunately, the state has not yet taken Cuomo’s proposal into serious consideration. The small costs of keeping visiting hours in prisons makes an enormous difference in prisoner’s life.