If you are currently or formerly incarcerated, have loved ones inside, work in support of people in New York prisons, jails and detention centers, or toward welcoming returning community members home; we ask you to join us in defending education access for ALL people held by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).
In March of 2012, DOCCS issued Directive 4921, a policy governing the acquisition, use and disposition of personal televisions within NYS prisons. Couched in 4921 is a provision that all people held in ‘TV Facilities’ – regardless of their owning a television or not, and whether or not they can afford one – may now receive books by mail only if they purchase them directly with commissary funds. 4921 thereby restricts access to a self-directed education, and vital health and legal resources scarcely found in prison facilities – and effectively bars mutual aid organizations who provide books free of charge.
The following NYS prisons have been designated ‘TV Facilities’, with harsher restrictions affecting over 13,000 incarcerated New Yorkers and targeting organizations that free provide educational materials: Attica, Clinton, Elmira, Five Points, Great Meadow, Shawangunk, Southport, Upstate, and Wende.
We do NOT want to repeal personal television access. Rather than place television and books in narrow opposition – as Directive 4921 has – we call broadly for the end of repressive conditions that place additional and unnecessary barriers between people and media that serves their development. We believe people deserve to receive FREE quality literature and literacy development materials, health and legal resources.
Stand with us by adding your name and organizational or institutional affiliation to a growing list of supporters on the attached petition, calling for the full restoration of access to FREE books by mail for all people held in DOCCS facilities. Email us your name, Organization/Institution, Zip Code so that we can add you to the petition (see below) to be delivered to Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Fischer. Additionally, we ask for your help in building support to move this work forward, by inviting your friends and allies to sign on as well.
I am joining New Yorkers across the state, and advocates, educators and authors nationwide, in calling for an immediate end to the provision in DOCCS Directive 4921 restricting packages containing free books and educational materials for people held inside DOCCS facilities with personal televisions.
By requiring a commercial transaction between vendors and inmates as a condition for access, Directive 4921 produces new barriers to continued education for over 13,000 incarcerated New Yorkers while erroneously claiming to expand inmate privileges. Needlessly expanding the package restrictions established through Directive 4911, Directive 4921’s additional restrictions are particularly discriminatory toward inmates who are indigent and most in need of the support that outside mutual aid organizations and charities provide, free of charge.
No doubt, Directive 4921 draws additional scrutiny toward the troubling appearance of overlapping interests between state and commerce as it relates to mass incarceration.
In support of continued education and self-development for all New Yorkers, I call upon you to repeal the unnecessary package restrictions in Directive 4921 and restore authorization in all DOCCS facilities for vendors providing free books and educational materials.