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CORRECTIONS

Hochul OKs ban on double-bunking in NY prisons

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Cayuga Correctional Facility

Cayuga Correctional Facility in Moravia.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed legislation that prohibits double-bunking in New York state prisons. 

The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, codifies a policy already implemented by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Acting DOCCS Commissioner Anthony Annucci said in September 2020 that his department is no longer using double-bunking due to the decreased incarcerated population. 

Since 1999, the statewide prison population has fallen from 72,649 to 31,555 as of Nov. 1. 

When there were more incarcerated individuals in prisons, especially medium-security facilities, double-bunking was used to add beds in dormitory settings. In a unit that could hold 50 incarcerated individuals, bunks were added to some beds to expand capacity. 

While DOCCS removed the bunks, Annucci told state legislators that the additional beds would be available "if we ever need them in an emergency." However, the new law will prevent double-bunking from being used in dormitory settings.

The measure received bipartisan support in the state Legislature — the Assembly approved it by a 148-1 vote and the Senate passed it by a 63-0 margin. 

Assemblyman Billy Jones, a former corrections officer who sponsored the legislation, called double-bunking an "outdated and dangerous practice."

"For 20 years, I worked as a corrections officer and experienced firsthand the stress and painstaking hard work this job entails," Jones said. "Since I was elected, I have been working to end double-bunking in medium-secured dormitories at correctional facilities and I am pleased that Governor Hochul has signed this bill into law." 

The new law is a victory for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, a union representing state corrections officers. NYSCOPBA has long advocated for the passage of legislation to end double-bunking in prisons. 

Michael Powers, NYSCOPBA's president, told The Citizen on Thursday that the law will make prisons safer. 

"It's a pretty big win for us," he said. "We've been pushing for this for some time. "Granted, the bunks have come down. But statutorily now, they can never bring them back." 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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