A state lawmaker wants to end the practice of double bunking in medium security prisons in New York -- a move that has been pushed over he years by the union that represents corrections officers.
The bill backed by Assemblyman Billy Jones and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association would limit the number of inmates allowed in a medium security dormitory. By only allowing 50 inmates, the state would end double-bunking.
Regulations currently allow for 60 inmates to be housed in a medium security dorm, but at least ten of these inmates are usually double-bunked in a cubicle meant for one.
This needs to happen before Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration closes any more prisons, Jones said. Cuomo has proposed closing more prisons with 90 days notice.
It's yet to be determined which prisons would close.
"The prison setting is stressful enough without requiring a single officer to supervise 60 inmates during a shift," Jones said. The practice of double bunking is irresponsible and outdated."
In the early '80s and '90s there was a spike in the inmate population, so the state encouraged medium security facilities to house more inmates. But changes in drug laws and sentencing saw a significant decline in inmate numbers, which is why NYSCOPBA says there is no need to continue to house so many inmates in one dormitory.
Especially since a 2019 report released by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, found that assaults on staff and other inmates were the highest they have ever been.
"If the trends continue, 2020 is shaping up to be even worse. Double bunking inmates in a space built for one person is not the answer to reversing these trends," said Michael Powers, the president of the corrections officers' union.
"Rather than close prisons and force inmates into less space, the state should take the initiative and remove the double bunks and right-size the system that way,”
New York has closed 17 prisons since 2011.