Gov. Andrew Cuomo rescinds pilot program that would have banned nonprofit book donations to prisoners


A new state policy would keep nonprofits like NYC Books Through Bars from sending books to inmates in New York. (Photo by Zach Williams/ NYN Media)

UPDATE: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced via Twitter on Jan. 12 that he has directed the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to rescind a controversial pilot program.

"I am directing the Dept. of Corrections to rescind its flawed pilot program that restricted shipment of books & care packages to inmates," reads the tweet. "Concerns from families need to be addressed while we redouble our efforts to fight prison contraband."

Nonprofit NYC Books Through Bars released a statement latest that afternoon. While the group "cautiously welcomes" the reversal by Cuomo but added that the controversial pilot program was only one part of a larger problem.

"We hope that this situation has brought attention to the plight of the tens of thousands of incarcerated New Yorkers who live every day without access to meaningful literature, fresh food, warm clothing, and their families," the statement reads. "Not only have New York State and DOCCS systematically failed to meet these needs, but Directive 4911A was cruel in that it furthered the deprivation of those in its custody."

A spokesman for Cuomo declined to say to NYN Media whether or not Cuomo would commit to ensuring that New York nonprofits like Books through Bars could continue prison programming unimpeded in the future.


The ability to send books to prisoners will grind to a halt throughout New York unless the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision declines to implement a pilot program that currently limits care packages to those bought through six selected vendors that only offer a total of 77 books. If not, then nonprofits like NYC Books Through Bars will have to cease two decades of work sending books to inmates throughout the state.

"Directive 4911A hurts people far beyond the scope of NYC Books Through Bars' mission," reads a statement from the group. "It hurts New Yorkers in myriad other ways, inside and outside of prison: prisoners are deprived of fresh produce, visitors are no longer able to bring gifts, and small businesses are dismissed in favor of exploitative prison industry businesses."

NYN Media reporter Zach Williams visited the group in Brooklyn to observe their operations and better understand what's at stake.


This is how a new New York policy hurts nonprofits like Books Through Bars from NYN Media on Vimeo.

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