North Country Assemblyman Jones, NYSCOPBA call on lawmakers to end double-bunking in medium-security prison dorms
Friday, February 14, 2020 - 5:43 pm

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, was joined by leaders and members of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) to urge lawmakers to support A.930, a bill that would end the practice of double-bunking in medium-security state correctional facility dormitories.

Current regulations allow for up to 60 inmates to be housed in a medium security dorm, with 10 such inmates living in double-bunked cubicles designed for one inmate, a release from the assemblyman’s office said. The housing of 60 inmates in a medium dorm was necessitated by the spike in the inmate population during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. However, since the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms, most of the system’s low-level offenders have been released, resulting in a significant inmate decline. And although the inmate population closely mirrors the number that existed prior to the inmate population explosion of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the state has not adjusted its policies for housing inmates in a medium dorm. The current inmate population numbers unequivocally support a return to the “50-inmate maximum” that existed prior to the inmate population explosion.

“As a 20-year correction officer, I’ve worked in dorms that utilize double bunks to house inmates. The prison setting is stressful enough without requiring a single officer to supervise 60 inmates during a shift. The practice of double bunking is irresponsible and outdated. The Department should immediately take steps to address the overcrowding in medium dorms by removing double bunks and limiting the number of inmates in those dorms to a maximum of 50. This must be done before the state ever considers closing any more facilities. Our corrections staff has a very difficult job as it is, and overcrowding these dormitories makes it even more difficult,” said Assemblyman Jones.

Assemblyman Jones and NYSCOPBA President Michael B. Powers also highlighted a recent report released by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) on violence within state correction facilities. The 2019 report found that the incidents of inmate-on-inmate (1265) and inmate-on-staff (1033) assaults were the highest ever reported.

“Our members are facing ever-increasing violence in our facilities and it is happening needlessly. In 2019, instances of violence and contraband were at the highest levels ever recorded. If the trends continue, 2020 is shaping up to be even worse. Double bunking inmates in a space built for one person is not the answer to reversing these trends. The inmate population has decreased to a level where the use of double bunks is no longer warranted. The space is available to spread the inmate population out and provide a safer environment for staff and inmates, alike. Rather than close prisons and force inmates into less space, the state should take the initiative and remove the double bunks and right-size the system that way,” said Michael B. Powers, President of NYSCOPBA

Powers also questioned the rationale of those who repeatedly raise concerns about the treatment of incarcerated individuals, yet take no steps to ensure that those individuals are housed in a humane setting — a living quarters designed for one person and not two.

“It is time for our elected officials to take action and take down the double bunks which needlessly requires two inmates to occupy a space designed for one person. The continued practice of double bunking puts our members and the inmates in harm’s way. We must take them down. I want to thank Assemblyman Jones for his leadership on this issue. He has worn the uniform. He knows what it takes,” Powers said.