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Family members fight policy restricting care packages in prison

Family members rally against policy restricting care packages for inmates
Jessica Cain
Family members rally against policy restricting care packages for inmates

Family members of incarcerated New Yorkers held signs and chanted outside of the state office building in Syracuse on Tuesday.

They said they want to bring awareness to a new policy that prevents family members from sending food packages into prisons and limits the number of nonperishable care packages an inmate can receive to two per year. All food packages now have to go through approved vendors.

Liza Acqua has three sons who are incarcerated, and she said one of them is battling cancer. Acqua said personalized packages make a big difference.

"It puts a lot of warm in their heart,” said Acqua. “It's special because I'm used to doing for my kids, so to get it the way that they're going to get it, it's not going to be the same."

The state said the new policy is designed to help keep illegal drugs and other contraband out of prisons.

But Jesse Koklas from Citizen Action of New York said packages are already heavily screened, and there are other ways to address the problem of drug use.

"If that was really the intention, why not increase programming for addiction and other programs inside to actually deal with the root cause of the problem?" said Koklas.

Koklas said multiple advocacy groups expressed concerns to the state about the policy, but they received a response that the policy will stay in place. She said she and other advocates will keep fighting to try to get it changed.

“Care packages are a little piece of home,” said Koklas. “It’s really vital for folks inside, and they really look forward to that in a place that can be pretty difficult and devoid of comfort.”

Rallies were also held Tuesday in Albany, Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, and outside of Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.