TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the correction law, in relation to establishing the
pilot project for the placement of inmates close to home; and providing
for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof
To conduct a pilot program placing certain inmates in facilities closer
to the communities where their children reside
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one of the bill is the legislative intent.
Section two of the bill is the name of this act which shall be the
"pilot Project for Placement of Inmates Close to Home".
Section three of this bill establishes the pilot program in a facility
of the Department of Corrections' choosing which will house inmate
volunteers whose minor children reside close to the facility in order to
facilitate visitation between the inmate parent and his or her child.
The Office of Children and Family Services and/or the local district
social services offices will be consulted as to the appropriateness of
visitation before any inmate is admitted to the program. Further, an
independent, academic analysis is required to determine the effective-
ness of this pilot and make recommendations, if any, for expansion and
Section four is the effective date.
Approximately 59% of all New York state prison and jail inmates are
parents. For women under custody in New York the number is closer to
71%. More than 80,000 minor children in New York State have a parent
incarcerated in a state prison. Transportation provides a major barrier
Inmates are often placed in prisons far from their children and far from
home. Male inmates at Lakeview Correctional Facility who come from New
York City are more than 400 miles from home, while female inmates at
Albion are around 375 miles from New York City. Distances are large and
public transportation is difficult, especially with the termination of
the longstanding DOCS free bus program that provided visitors with
transportation to remote prisons from sites around the state.
For children in foster care, distance is the number one barrier to
legally mandated visits with their incarcerated parents. Social service
agencies are required to maintain contact with incarcerated parents
(except in cases where a court has ruled otherwise) including bringing
children for visits with parents in prison. When the goal is reunifica-
tion the requirement to provide visits extends to the tri-state area.
Non-compliance is routine in large part because of the distance. Given
the caseloads and demands on child welfare workers, it is difficult to
take a whole day or two for one parent-child visit. As a result, chil-
dren in foster care with incarcerated parents suffer greatly from lack
of parental contact. Without visits, an incarcerated parent is at great
risk for termination of his or her parental rights, the permanent legal
severing of the parent-child relationship.
Recent studies have emphasized the importance of visits and family ties
in the prevention of recidivism. One study found that every visit a
prisoner received measurably and increasingly lowered the likelihood of
recidivism. Visits by relatives, including children, seem to matter most
when it comes to reducing recidivism, creating a significant public
safety benefit to supporting the maintenance of parent-child and other
ties during incarceration.
Children who have parents in prison are significantly affected by the
frequency and quality of contact with their parents. While there are
instances when visits are not in children's best interest, for most
children visits are beneficial to their psychological and emotional
well-being, their physical health and development, and can help smooth
the reentry process and family reunification. Children of incarcerated
parents are recognized as an at-risk population and parental incarcera-
tion is now included as an ACE factor, as "Adverse Childhood Experi-
ence," that can negatively affect children's development. The risks for
children associated with having an incarcerated parent can be signif-
icantly mitigated by the continuing presence of the parent in the
child's life, through visitation, telephone contact, and letters. The
number one way to promote visiting is by reducing the distances between
the incarcerated parent and their children.
While the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision normally
places inmates in prisons based on classification by security level and
programmatic needs, this pilot program will explore the use of a third
criterion, proximity to an inmate's minor children. The purpose of this
act is to establish a pilot program to assess the effects of housing
inmates who are parents of minor children close to home in order to
facilitate visitation between such parents and their children. The
department will select 60 inmate volunteers to be housed in a facility
closest to the communities where their children reside where such facil-
ity is an otherwise appropriate placement for them.
The department will be required to report to the legislature and the
governor on the effectiveness of the pilot program and make recommenda-
tions for expansion to other correctional facilities in order to place
more inmates close to their families and minor children. Should the
pilot program prove beneficial, the expectation is that the program will
be broadened to allow more inmates to be housed in close proximity to
their home communities, thus facilitating visitation and contacts with
their children and other family members.
This bill also calls for an independent, academic analysis of the effect
of the pilot program prepared in consultation with the department. Such
analysis will report on the impact, if any, the placement of such
inmates closest to the communities where their children reside has had
on the inmates themselves, the safety and security of the facility, the
foster care case and local social service agency, if applicable, and,
where possible, on the family members and children involved as well as
any other effect of the program that can be measured. The report shall
include recommendations as to the future of the program and what modifi-
cations would be recommended in order to improve implementation and
LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:
This act shall take effect six months after it shall have become law.