Earlier this year, New York state suspended a pilot program forcing families of inmates to buy from a limited number of private vendors when sending care packages to their loved ones.
New York began its own private care package pilot program at the start of the year at Taconic, Greene, and Green Haven Correctional Facilities. The plan was to extend it to all state facilities, according to a report from The Marshall Project. While the program was in effect, family and friends of inmates could only send care packages from select private vendors—care packages that had been pre-approved and pre-assembled—instead of buying items from stores of their choosing. With this program, New York joined hundreds of other corrections agencies, including California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, that are in the big business of prisoner care packages.
ICE reported “24,476 of the 185,507 inmates in the federal Bureau of Prisons system were not citizens…” THE NEW YORK TIMES Dec. 22, 2017
But, the program was not well received.
“Concerns have been raised by families of inmates regarding the availability and prices of products under this program, concerns we do not take lightly,” said Thomas Mailey, spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, in a press release.
For example, the program was meant to prevent contraband in New York prisons, but The Marshall Project reported that it also severely limited the books available to inmates. Taken together, the five approved vendors offered only 77 books, 24 of which were coloring books.
Those in favor of the suspension said the program restricted inmates’ ability to maintain personal relationships outside prison. “New York State has led the country in many ways in fighting recidivism and reforming the criminal justice system,” said Caroline Hsu, a Prisoners’ Right Project advocate, adding, “I would hate to see us take a step back.”