New York Daily News: Cuomo Agrees To Restore $2.6M Budget Slot For Prison Visitation After Outcry Over His Proposal To Cut Back Days
THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 2017

The Daily News reported yesterday that Governor Cuomo will abandon his proposal to slash the number of family visits allowed at maximum security prisons amid strong pushback from Legislators and advocates alike.




New York Daily News
Cuomo Agrees To Restore $2.6M Budget Slot For Prison Visitation After Outcry Over His Proposal To Cut Back Days
By Glenn Blain & Kenneth Lovett
March 29, 2017

Gov. Cuomo has backed off a proposal to slash the number of visitation days the families of inmates at maximum security prisons would be allowed, a key lawmaker said Wednesday.

Cuomo as part of his state budget proposal in January angered prisoner advocates by proposing to cut the number of days in which visits are allowed at maximum-security state prisons to three days a week, down from seven.

But after an outcry from those in the prison community and lawmakers, Cuomo during budget talks with the legislative leaders agreed to restore the $2.6 million to fund the 39 positions needed to allow visitations every day, Assembly Corrections Committee Chairman David Weprin (D-Queens) said.

"I want to praise the governor for doing the right thing," Weprin said. "I think he heard from a lot of people and realized it doesn't make sense."

The agreement to restore visitation came as Cuomo and legislative leaders worked Wednesday to reach an overall budget agreement before Saturday’s start of New York’s fiscal year.

“All parties need to be happy for there to be a budget and we're still in the midst of those discussions,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

Lawmakers said they were nearing completion of a deal to raise the age that a teen can be charged as an adult from 16 to 18. Under the proposal being discussed, youths charged with misdemeanors and other non-violent offenses would be diverted to Family Court while those charged violent crimes would be handled by a special youth court created within the criminal court system.

“I am very confident we can all come together and get something done,” said Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference.

Lawmakers also reported near agreements on a new bond act to fund water system upgrades and a measure to allow ride sharing in upstate cities.

Critics, however, said the proposed measures did not go far enough.

"As more potential budget deals are learned, it is becoming increasingly clear that certain progressive issues are being left behind,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester County). “This is what happens when a Trump Republican minority is empowered to run the State Senate. Priorities like Raise The Age and education aid are being watered-down, while issues like ethics reforms and the DREAM Act are being forgotten completely. It is not too late to address these progressive issues and include real action in the State Budget."

Meanwhile, agreements on others — including an extension of New York’s expiring millionaire’s tax, workers compensation reform and funding for charter schools — remained elusive.

“We have two days of eternity (remaining),” Heastie joked to reporters.

If an agreement isn’t reached by Saturday, Cuomo has threatened to introduce short-term budget extenders that would keep the government operating. Such a move, he argued, would give the state more time to react to cuts in federal aid that are likely under President Trump and congressional Republicans.

Tina Luongo, of the Legal Aid Society, praised the decision to restore prison visitation, saying Cuomo' plan would have only served to penalize families trying to visit loved ones.

"These visits often serve as the only connection inmates have with the outside world," Luongo said. "They're fundamental for reentry back into society, and Albany should actually look for ways to increase access at medium-security prisons which were cut a few years ago."

In initially proposing the measure, Cuomo had said it would treat visitations at maximum security prisons more closely with what's done at medium security facilities. Cuomo's budget office had said that weekend visitations are the most popular for families traveling long distances and the change, along with an expanded use of video conferencing, would be a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.



This article originally appeared in The New York Daily News.