On March 6th, 2017, an internal memo was issued by Anthony Annucci, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), announcing potential policy changes where “packages or articles sent or brought to facilities” would be restricted to approved vendors. On December 4th, DOCCS issued a directive outlining a pilot program at three prisons – Greene, Green Haven, and Taconic – where packages would be restricted to orders from five vendors, thereby prohibiting personalized packages received from anyone else, and newly banning a long list of basic items like fresh fruits and used books.
Detailed changes were outlined in Jalil A. Muntaqim‘s “Open Letter to the Community” on December 8th and a few cost comparisons were published in the Daily News on Monday morning. Critical Resistance NYC has been receiving testimonies from people imprisoned in New York State insisting that this pilot program is an attack on their health and well-being and must be stopped immediately.
Testimonies from Imprisoned Organizers:
The prices of these vendors are exorbitant. Not only do families struggle to reach these prisons to visit their loved ones, which is another expense in itself, but they struggle every day just to keep food on the table. We are dealing with an aging population with medical conditions and an inadequate supply of fruits and vegetables, which is only provided when their families bring a package. The food they serve in these prisons does not have fresh fruits and vegetables or anything healthy, which only adds to the medical conditions and high cost of medical care. These junk food vendors will not help matters, they will only make matters worse. – Reginald
Families shop at the dollar stores or other affordable places. The other whispered element of all this is that a whole lot of what gets sent in is bought with food stamp money and without that option the families couldn’t send in anything at any price. The variety of unique foods and other things floating around make everyone feel more human. Mom can go find your favorite candy. That won’t be possible with limited package companies. I don’t get much, but every year my mom buys a pile of winter mint cookies and I make them last until July. – John B.
My support network isn’t very technologically aware. My mom doesn’t even own a computer, let alone know how to place orders. I won’t even mention what she can’t afford. Essentially, I was one of the few major financial contributors for my family. Now DOCCS is attempting to institute ANOTHER punitive restriction on our families. – John K.
Many prisoners, myself included, that are fortunate enough to have family that provide us with food via packages heavily rely upon those packages in order to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables as well as real meat products, albeit fully cooked from the manufacturer. We rely on those packages not only as comfort food, but in order to maintain some semblance of a healthy diet and life. Many facilities do not sell fresh fruits and vegetables in their commissaries. Most of the fair in the commissaries are processed cakes, cookies, candies, and other items that are so filled with sodium and other preservatives that you are practically embalming yourself by consuming them. – Sheldon
COs get paid to do a job, bring dogs in, x-ray machines. Now they say contraband was being smuggled in through packages. For argument’s sake, let’s just agree—now COs bring contraband in all the time, does that mean they’re going to stop letting them in? – Antwan
Call/write Governor Cuomo:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Call/write Acting DOCCS Commissioner:
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
1220 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12226
Call: (518) 457-8134
I am writing to demand that DOCCS revoke Directive #4911A and immediately end the pilot program that is placing huge restrictions on packages. This policy is cruel, outrageous, and creates a tremendous burden for imprisoned people, their families and their friends. Limiting items and restricting packages to a few vendors only serves to further isolate and harm imprisoned people and their support systems, and worsens the already inhumane prison conditions rampant across the state. You cannot allow this pilot program to continue.