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Families of incarcerated people rally outside Cuomo’s office to demand visitation rights

August 6, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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In an effort to keep the COVID-19 pandemic from wreaking havoc through the prison system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision suspended visitation rights for prisoners back in March. Nearly five months later, some 38,000 prisoners in New York State are still not able to have their friends and family visit.

In an effort to restore visitation rights at New York prisons, the Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ), a statewide advocacy group for the families of incarcerated people, held a rally outside of Gov. Cuomo’s office in Manhattan on Wednesday.

“The families, friends and supporters of the thousands of men and women who are incarcerated in prisons throughout New York State are united in our dismay over the inhumane changes implemented by New York DOCCS regarding visitation in prisons,” said a statement issued by AFJ. “These restrictions deepen the pain felt by the COVID-19 pandemic by limiting visiting hours, forbidding physical contact, limiting the number of visitors to two, closing the children’s play area and shuttering the Family Reunion Program.”

Advocates have claimed that the situation inside of prisons has been dire even as NYS recovers and have claimed that there is still little to no personal protective equipment, no social distancing, and a lack of access to medical personnel and COVID testing.

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Some in-person visits have been allowed, but there have been severe restrictions on time, the frequency of visits and the number of family members allowed to attend.

“Just as the rest of the world is finding creative ways to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, DOCCS can also do so without using measures so harsh, restrictive, punitive, and unjust for families,” said the AFJ statement.

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