Local lawmakers object to allowing state prison visits

State prisons to allow visitors

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Maximum security prisons in the state started welcoming back visitors Wednesday.

All other prisons, including those in the north country, are slated to start visitation August 8, which state Sen. Pattie Ritchie says has come as a surprise to some of her constituents.

“They haven’t been able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and had to make a lot of sacrifices over the last couple,” she said, so I think many were taken aback a little bit when they saw that visitation was going to resume at the correctional facilities.”

It's one reason why Ritchie has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in hopes of putting a halt to prison visitations.

Ritchie says visitors could bring COVID-19 into correctional facilities.

“This is for the safety of everyone,” she said. “This is for the safety of the corrections officers, the staff, those who are incarcerated up here, and also the community at large.”

The letter is endorsed by north country assemblymen Mark Walczyk and Ken Blankenbush.

Blankenbush says he's concerned about where visitors could be coming from.

“You’re getting people from all over the state to do visitation rights,” he said. “Are they in hotspots or are they down in areas that we don’t really know the situation is?” For Walczyk, the state allowing prison visitations while keeping other things closed is an example of inconsistencies during the pandemic.

"The same government that is saying we're not out of the woods yet, your bowling alley is still shut down, your gym is still shut down, you can't have this many people at a wedding, your church is at 50 percent -- that same government is now reprioritizing and saying we want the convicted felons to see their families at this point," Walczyk said.

Ritchie's letter doesn't state an exact timeframe for when prison visitations should be allowed again.

She says that's open ended right now.

The state’s guidance on prison visitations can be found at the Department of Corrections and Community Support’s website.

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