Downtown

‘Invest in us, invest in the bus’: Children of the incarcerated call for return of prison visitation program

December 20, 2019 Paul Frangipane
Children of incarcerated parents rallied on the steps of Borough Hall to call for passage of three bills that advocates say would make it easier for families to visit their loved ones in upstate prisons. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Children of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated parents joined with advocates and local officials on the steps of Borough Hall Thursday night to call for the passage of a trio of bills that they say would make it easier for families to visit their loved ones in upstate prisons.

Advocates for families affected by the criminal justice system called for the return of a free prison visiting bus program that was slashed in 2011 due to budget cuts and has left families paying as much as $75 per person on transportation to prisons.

Children with incarcerated parents gripped homemade signs in the below-freezing cold Thursday night to share their family stories.

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“Bringing back free visiting buses and placing my dad closer to home would help tremendously,” said Anthony, a child whose father is incarcerated hundreds of miles away. “Invest in us, invest in the bus.”

Behind State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, children of incarcerated parents hold up homemade signs with poems representing their struggles. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Behind State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, children of incarcerated parents hold up homemade signs with poems representing their struggles. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

There are an estimated 105,000 children with parents incarcerated in New York State and of the state’s total incarcerated population, about 70 percent of people are located over 100 miles from their homes.

A study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections found family visits reduced the risk of recidivism by 13 percent for felony convictions and 25 percent for technical violation revocations.

New York DOCCS has not conducted any studies in relation to visiting and recidivism, but the department says it is committed to maintaining family ties.

“DOCCS encourages continued family bonds and prepares inmates for their return to society through facility visits, structured visitation programs and family events,” an agency spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle in October.


A bill introduced by Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa would reinstate the bus program, providing regular free transportation for residents of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany to state prisons. It would cost an estimated $3 million annually out of DOCCS’s $3 billion budget.

“When we do not allow children to say, ‘mommy,’ to say, ‘daddy,’ to call out for those parents and actually see them and touch them and feel them, we are denying their right to that relationship,” De La Rosa said at the rally. “They are serving time with their parents and that is not fair.”

Jose Saldana of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign, was incarcerated for 38 years before he was released two years ago. When he was arrested, he said, he already had four children.

“They would spend the next 38 years of their lives visiting me,” Saldana said of his children. “They basically grew up in prison visiting rooms with me and when the visiting room program was discontinued, I was still incarcerated. I have seen the devastation that that has caused on families.”

The visiting bus legislation and a bill to bring incarcerated parents to the facility closest to their families, are both sponsored by State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery in the Senate.

As part of a trio of bills, advocates called for reinstating a decades-old program that offered free regular bus service for families visiting their loved ones incarcerated upstate. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
As part of a trio of bills, advocates called for reinstating a decades-old program that offered free regular bus service for families visiting their loved ones incarcerated upstate. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The group also called for support of a bill to codify in-person visiting, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously proposed the expansion of video visits as an alternative to in-person visits.

The bills have stalled in the state legislature, in part due to budget concerns, advocates said.

Since 2011 when the free visiting bus program was cut, DOCCS has closed 17 correctional facilities, saving $2 billion, said Tanya Krupat of the Osborne Association, a group that works to create opportunities for people affected by the criminal justice system and the sponsor of the rally.

“It’s cold outside, but it’s cold what we’re doing to families every day in this state,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “There’s no reason we’re sending family members from Bedford-Stuyvesant all the way to Binghamton … We know this is about dollars and cents, we know this does not make sense.”


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2 Comments

  1. Laura Six-Pattay

    Why should a $75 bus fare be made free when prisoners already don’t have to pay for anything? They eat free. They can get a free education. They don’t pay rent. They can have a library of books brought directly to them for free. They get a free gym membership. They get free toiletries. They get free television, with cable.
    Why should taxpayers foot the bill, once again, for yet another perk inmates recieve?
    Why should working citizens who don’t break the law have to pay for a MetroCard to get around? Shouldn’t their transportation be free as well?
    If it’s the kids who are going to suffer… well, maybe the parent should think about that before they break the law and get incarcerated.
    Or, let the inmate pay the $75 for the bus.
    If I want to visit my family, I am expected to pay for a ticket.
    Stop coddling lawbreakers.

  2. Or how about you take that 3 million dollars and invest it in programs for the victims of crime! What about the damaged children who were traumatized from crimes of abuse, child molestation, rape, home invasion, and more? Why do we continue to victimize these criminals and their families?

    Are you people that isolated from the real world?
    Protected by the police, you hate.
    Living in your gated communities, outcrying about a wall being built to keep the cartel out of the U.S.
    Demanding bail reform to let out all the criminals because of “poverty”, as you sit in your 6 figure a year job on your $2K iPhones!

    Meanwhile the rest of society forced to live without those luxuries, working 2 jobs to make ends meat, trying to protect their families from the dangers you advocate for, because you won’t have to encounter the repercussions!

    Get off your high horses, report actual news, advocate for the actual victims, and stop this agenda of skewing the perspectives that these criminals are victims!