In July 2011, funding for the free family bus program run by the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) was eliminated because of budget cutbacks.
This program was a vital means of accessing visits for the 80,000 children with an incarcerated parent in New York and for the thousands of other family members with a loved one in prison. The elimination of the program has been devastating to families who cannot afford the often expensive trips to far away prisons and to the incarcerated people who rely on visits to provide them with hope, healing, and the strong relationships that help ensure a successful transition home.
Visiting is especially important for parents with children in foster care who risk termination of their parental rights if they do not maintain consistent contact with their children.
Providing access for children and families to visit their loved ones in prison is good public policy and will help the state save money in the long run: maintaining family ties supports positive outcomes for children, reduces recidivism, enhances public safety, and contributes to positive and safe prison environments.
New York policymakers should allocate $1.5 million to reestablish a free prison bus service and restore a lifeline of support for children and families across the state.