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News stories tagged with "incarceration"

Governor Nelson Rockefeller surprised his own staff with his dramatic shift on drug policy.
Governor Nelson Rockefeller surprised his own staff with his dramatic shift on drug policy.

Murrow Award: How Rockefeller drug laws changed America

This spring North Country Public Radio's news team has been honored with several major national awards for some of the work we've brought you over the past year. Much of that recognition has gone to our Prison Time Media Project, which over a year and a half has looked in-depth at the growth of the prison industry here in our region, across New York and around the country.

The series unfolded as the country was beginning to take another look at the way we think about crime, and justice, and these stories became part of that national conversation. The first story of the series has just received one of the top honors in journalism: a National Edward R. Murrow award.

In January of 1973, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller launched his campaign for what came to be known as the Rockefeller drug laws. Rockefeller demanded tough prison sentences, even for low-level drug dealers and addicts. It was an idea that quickly spread, influencing state and Federal law across the US.

In this first story, Brian Mann takes us back to the beginning, when New Yorkers were demanding solutions to a heroin epidemic that was scarring urban neighborhoods.  Go to full article
Donnie (in the foreground) and Didd on the bus leaving the North Country. Photo: Amy Finkel, for Gothamist, used with permission.
Donnie (in the foreground) and Didd on the bus leaving the North Country. Photo: Amy Finkel, for Gothamist, used with permission.

North Country inmates on the bus: free and nowhere to go

Every year, hundreds of men are shipped to prisons here in the North Country, to correctional facilities in Watertown or Malone, Moriah or Ray Brook. We've been telling the story of the region's prison industry with our Prison Time Media Project.
But every year, hundreds of men are also released back into society after serving their time in state or Federal lock-ups.

Often, former inmates are sent back downstate with little preparation and few resources for reentering society. Many begin their new lives with a bus ticket, a new set of clothes, and a small amount of cash.

Amy Finkel is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. She's working on a new project looking at reform and education programs in prisons and she recently published a photo essay in the online magazine Gothamist.

Her photos capture the bus journey that one group of men made from Saranac Lake after being released from prison back to New York City. She spoke about her work with Martha Foley.  Go to full article
Governor Andrew Cuomo has pursued an aggressive prison reform agenda in his first term. NCPR File photo: Mark Kurtz
Governor Andrew Cuomo has pursued an aggressive prison reform agenda in his first term. NCPR File photo: Mark Kurtz

Cuomo: "We must raise the age" juveniles are tried as adults

Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday named a new commission to look at whether teenagers should be tried in adult courts in New York. Last year, more than 30,000 16- and 17-year-olds were tried in adult courts in New York.  Go to full article
Brian Fischer led New York's corrections department for seven years from 2007 until 2013, a time when nine state prisons were mothballed.  Photo:  Brian Mann
Brian Fischer led New York's corrections department for seven years from 2007 until 2013, a time when nine state prisons were mothballed. Photo: Brian Mann

The man who led a revolution inside NY prisons

For decades, New York has maintained one of the largest -- and fastest growing -- prison systems in the country.

At its peak, more than seventy thousand men and women were held in state correctional facilities, many on lengthy mandatory drug sentences.

But over the last few years, the prison system has begun to shrink dramatically, with thirteen facilities closed or in the process of shutting down.

That quiet revolution was led in large part by former Corrections commissioner Brian Fischer, who stepped down last year after seven years in the post.  Go to full article
NYCLU says this kind of solitary confinement cell is widely used in New York's prisons, including Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone. Source: NYCLU
NYCLU says this kind of solitary confinement cell is widely used in New York's prisons, including Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone. Source: NYCLU

NY will limit solitary confinement time for prison inmates

Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to sweeping changes to the way state prisons use solitary confinement. The deal was prompted by a federal lawsuit filed by critics who say thousands of inmates, some of whom are pregnant or have mental illness, are being held for months and even years in isolation, often for minor infractions.

The deal will end the use of solitary confinement for the most vulnerable inmates, and will also mean strict limits on the length of time an inmate can be locked away.

The lawsuit focused in part on inmates housed at Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone, but will affect disciplinary procedures at a dozen state prisons across the North Country.  Go to full article
George Prendes, outside the apartment he lived in before he went to prison, on 107th Street and Central Park West. Photo: Natasha Haverty
George Prendes, outside the apartment he lived in before he went to prison, on 107th Street and Central Park West. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Fifteen years behind bars under Rockefeller drug laws

Yesterday, the Prison Time Media Project took us 40 years back to the start of the war on drugs, and the controversial sentencing rules created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Those new laws sent tens of thousands of men and women to prison on long sentences for low-level drug crimes. George Prendes was one of those people.  Go to full article
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller: Photo: Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller: Photo: Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office

How the Rockefeller drug laws changed America

This year, our Prison Time Media Project is spending the 40th anniversary of passage of the Rockefeller drug laws looking in-depth at how those tough-on-crime policies changed America.

The project began last January and in the months since, we've covered a lot of ground.

We've looked closely at the future of the North Country prison industry. We've asked how mass incarceration has affected women and families. We've probed the national debate over alleged abuse of solitary confinement.

As we hit the half-way mark, we thought it would be helpful to go back and revisit the first stories in the series, reports that laid the foundation for the Prison Time project.

In this piece, Brian Mann looks at the role played by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in changing the way America thinks about drugs, crime and justice.  Go to full article
Cassidy and Hermione. Cassidy says she has to work hard not to obsess about the day her daughter will leave. "You can't get sad about it yet, because everything that you feel they feel." Photo: Natasha Haverty
Cassidy and Hermione. Cassidy says she has to work hard not to obsess about the day her daughter will leave. "You can't get sad about it yet, because everything that you feel they feel." Photo: Natasha Haverty

When should babies stay with their moms in NY prisons?

The number of women in American prisons has gone up 800 percent over the last thirty years, according to the Federal Bureau of Justice. Most of these women are mothers. And about one in twenty of them are pregnant.

Here in New York State, a woman who gives birth while serving time has the chance to stay with her baby in a prison nursery, for up to one year, or eighteen months if the mother is eligible for parole by then.

A Department of Corrections study found that participating in prison nurseries lowers recidivism rates dramatically--cutting the chances of a woman coming back to prison in half.

Researchers say these programs also help the babies, giving them a chance to form secure attachments to their moms.

But in recent years, the numbers of mothers in the prison nurseries have gone down. In our latest installment of the Prison Time Media Project, reporter Natasha Haverty set out to learn why.  Go to full article
Prisons for sale. As two more prisons close down, there a dozen corrections and juvenile justice facilities in NY will be mothballed or up for sale. Photo: Brian Mann
Prisons for sale. As two more prisons close down, there a dozen corrections and juvenile justice facilities in NY will be mothballed or up for sale. Photo: Brian Mann

Act now! Clinton County prison just $140,000!

State officials have set a price tag on the mothballed prison in Clinton County and it looks like a bargain.

The Office of General Services says it will accept a minimum bid for the Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility of just $140,000.

That includes more than 27 acres of land and 23 buildings.  Go to full article
On the inside looking out. An image from the documentary film "The House I Live In." Photo: "The House I Live In," used by permission
On the inside looking out. An image from the documentary film "The House I Live In." Photo: "The House I Live In," used by permission

Why don't we talk more about North Country prisons?

Locking people up and keeping them behind bars is one of the North Country's biggest industries. There are more than twenty jails and prison facilities scattered across our rural region. Corrections and law enforcement agencies provide high-paying jobs from Ogdensburg to Glens Falls.

But the prison industry isn't something we talk about very often. The North Country's Regional Economic Development plan talks about renewable energy and trains and farms and government. But it doesn't even mention prisons -- not once.

Earlier this month, a student group at SUNY Plattsburgh invited community members, faculty and activists to meet and talk about mass incarceration and how it affects communities.  Go to full article

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