Advocates Succeed in Halting Harmful Changes to Visiting Standards at Rikers Island

20 January 2016

Osborne's President and CEO, Elizabeth Gaynes testifies before the New York City Board of Correction at the October, 16 2015 hearing on  proposed revisions to minimum standards for new york city jails regarding visiting

On December 16, 2015, Osborne’s Director of the NY Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, Tanya Krupat, testified in front of the New York City Board of Correction about the importance of rejecting changes to the minimum visiting standards that would have greatly restricted visiting on Rikers Island. This was her third time testifying to oppose proposed changes, and after 8 months of collective action with other community and faith-based organizations and many concerned individuals and groups, the Board of Correction approved a new rule package that largely preserves current visiting regulations for children who have parents detained or sentenced on Rikers Island. The revised NYC Department of Correction preserves the appeals process with the Board of Correction and removes background checks on visitors; it does add a plexiglass barrier between visitors and the one they are visiting, but includes exceptions for children up to age 14 who are allowed to sit on the lap of their parent or family member. 

 The revisions also: 

  • Include an expanded definition of family (broadly defined)
  • Add that visits cannot be denied, revoked, limited or interfered with based on gender, including gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression
  • Allow children up to age 14 to sit on their parents' or family member’s lap despite the addition of a plexiglass barrier
  • Include NO restrictions on visitors based on criminal record, pending criminal charges, or lack of family relationship
  • Add requirement that restrictions on visiting rights must be “tailored to the threat posed by the inmate or prospective visitor and shall go no further than what is necessary to address the threat”
  • Preserve criteria for denying, revoking, and limiting visiting rights
  • Preserve the appeals process of visiting restrictions: Appeals go straight to the Board to be decided within 5 business days but adds 10-day extension for deciding an appeal where good cause exists for the delay

Osborne acknowledges the coalition of organizations and individuals who helped achieve this momentous outcome.