Inmate advocates urge Cuomo to ditch rules on bringing packages to state prisons

Family and friends of state prisoners launched a postcard campaign protesting the Cuomo administration’s new package system requiring they use selected online vendors.
The inmate advocates began sending postcards on Wednesday urging the Department of Corrections to stop its pilot program launched earlier this month.
They are upset because the vendors charge more than local stores for simple items like cookies and clothes.
“Dear Governor Cuomo, this holiday season is about giving, not taking away,” one of the postcards reads. “I object to the new DOCCS package rules.”
Prison inmates have started using drones to smuggle contraband
For decades, friends and relatives were allowed to bring prisoners clothing, books and food items during visits or send them through the mail. Officers search the packages before giving them over to prisoners.
But prison officials say the new system — operational in three prisons — will reduce contraband being smuggled in.
Inmate advocates contend elderly loved ones will struggle with the online system, and they point out it does not allow them to send fresh fruit and vegetables.
“I often seek discounted prices for food, clothing, toiletries, shoes, books, magazines and hobby materials for myself as well as for my husband’s monthly packages which I deliver when I visit,” said the wife of a prisoner in Greenhaven Correctional Facility who asked to remain anonymous. “Many families live on a limited fixed income some may even receive Food Stamp Assistance.”
And only one of the vendors for DOCCS’s package pilot carries tampons, charging $10.50 for a box of 40, nearly double the price at Target and other local stores.
State prison officials say there may be an “adjustment” in prices based on feedback from families.
They are also looking to add three other vendors in the coming weeks. The system is expected to go statewide by fall 2018.
“The secure vendor program, used by almost 30 jurisdictions in the country, is a safe and secure method for families, friends or inmates to receive packages of a wide range of approved items, while significantly reducing the introduction of contraband into DOCCS facilities making them safer for staff and inmates,” said department spokesman Thomas Mailey.

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