Assemblyman David I. Weprin Leads Virtual Rally Supporting the Protect In-Person Visiting Bill

Albany, New York Today, Assemblyman David I. Weprin, Chair of the Committee on Correction, led a virtual rally in support of the Protect In-Person Visiting bill, which passed out of committee. The bill safeguards the right of families, friends, and volunteers to visit an incarcerated person, daily and in-person.

Joined by his fellow elected officials, the Osborne Association, and family members of incarcerated individuals, Assemblyman Weprin warned against using screen-based technology to substitute for face-to-face interactions. The latest technological advances in video conferencing are often prohibitively expensive for families of incarcerated individuals. The Protect In-Person Visiting bill makes current visitation programs more accommodating and accessible.

“I am proud to be the prime sponsor of the Protect In-Person Visiting bill. This bill is about protecting families. Families have a right to see one another in-person. No child should have to miss school to see his or her parent. Visiting is a fundamental aspect of the rehabilitation process. Studies show that in-person visiting reduces recidivism rates, which is something we can all stand behind,” said Assemblyman David I. Weprin.

“With the two Bedford Hills Correctional Facilities in my district, I am a cosponsor and avid supporter of Chair Weprin’s commonsense and humane proposal. Providing a clear visitation program that is easily implemented, we will help provide institutional safety, rehabilitation and public safety,” said Assemblymember Chris Burdick.

“People who are incarcerated are entitled to be treated as human. We should ensure they have the right to receive visits from loved ones. Implementing an in-person visitation beyond just a screen honors that right and is essential,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas. “Research also shows us that in-person visitation lowers the risk of future recidivism, boosts morale, and helps people who are incarcerated to maintain long-term relationships. That is why I fully support this legislation and thank my colleague Assemblymember Weprin for introducing this bill and the advocates for their work. I look forward to voting on its passage.”

“People who are incarcerated should be granted every opportunity to receive visits from friends and loved ones. This should not be at the hands of Corrections to decide if the option is available. Visitation should be a right that is structural to ensure that every incarcerated person has access to it,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.

“As someone who raised my children in prison visiting rooms, I know all too well the burdens that families of incarcerated people face. In-person visiting was a vital lifeline for me, my children, and their father, yet it has remained closed at places like Rikers Island for more than a year. The Protect In-Person Visiting Bill will ensure that all incarcerated people and their families have the right to in-person visits and that for-profit video conferencing equipment does not displace the right for families to be together in a visiting room,” said Osborne

Association President and CEO Elizabeth Gaynes. “We thank Assemblymember David Weprin for being a powerful advocate and sponsor of this bill, all the legislators who are working to end practices that harm children and families separated by incarceration, and our many colleagues who have worked for so many years to pass this legislation.”

“As youth who have or had an incarcerated parent, we know firsthand that not having access to in-person visiting can leave us confused and saddened. When children don’t get to see their parents because in-person visiting is not an option, they may think their parent doesn’t want to talk to them when in reality, it is that they have no choice. Children should not be punished by not having the choice to see their parents. In-person visiting is important to maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with our parents. There is nothing like seeing your parent in person. Period. We urge the NYS legislature to See Us and Support Us by passing bill A4250/S2841A immediately,” said The Osborne Association Youth Action Council.

“It is so important for children to visit an incarcerated parent in person that the Children of Incarcerated Parents’ Bill of Rights created by young people states, ‘I have the right to speak with, see, and touch my parent.’ Due to the pandemic, everyone can now understand that video conferencing is a great supplement to in-person visiting, but nothing can replace seeing someone in person. The New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents calls on the State to not only protect in-person visiting by immediately passing bill A4250/S2841A, but to also offer free video visiting in all NYS prisons. By doing so, children’s wellbeing will be supported, and incarcerated parents will be more likely to succeed when they come home,” said Allison Hollihan, New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents.