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Amid the public health crisis of the life threatening COVID-19, also known as  coronavirus, we demand our incarcerated people, who are at increased risk are afforded basic human rights, and the tools needed to adhere to public health advice as noted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Beyond the need for best practices to avoid contracting COVID-19, the ability to communicate with their loved ones is essential for their mental and emotional health during this period.

New York State Governor Cuomo temporarily banned all visitation to jails and prisons across the state in an attempt to protect those incarcerated and staff in state efforts to contain COVID-19. While this measure is important to contain the virus, it does not consider the emotional and mental health consequences of further separation from families and loved ones.  

We are calling for the immediate removal of costs to telecommunications to those incarcerated in NYS and beyond during the COVID-19 crisis for the following reasons:

People incarcerated are five times more likely than the general population to have a serious mental illness.
During this period of significant financial instability, families, friends, and loved ones of those incarcerated shouldn’t have to bear an increased financial burden to support loved ones incarcerated, considering in-person visits are free of direct costs.
People who are incarcerated are human beings no matter the crimes they committed. They are already serving time by being incarcerated away from their families in often inhumane and abusive conditions.