“Daddy I love you” Those were the words of a young girl excitedly aimed at her smiling, beaming father. One person was heard to say to her friend over the partition, “You are looking good handsome, I love you,” met by the warm response “I love you too.” Another young Black man was heard to say “please call my mother and tell her to visit now that she can”. There were smiles of joy all around: people once again, after 2 lonely years, could visit loved ones in the Broome County jail — long after visitation had returned to local nursing homes, hospitals, all state prisons, and most county jails across the state.
The Sheriff and County lawyers resisted and continue to resist in court visitation in any form. They were forced to open the jail only due to a successful lawsuit filed by Josh Cotter of Legal Services of Central New York on behalf of Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier. A judge ruled in JUST’s favor, the County appealed, and a judge stayed the appeal and ruled that visitation had to begin today (see the JUST website for details www.justiceST.com ).
It was however limited visitation, a testimony to the Sheriff’s and County’s persistent, unethical violation of basic human rights. The Sheriff set a schedule of his own, and not one proposed by the court. There were 40 hours a week of visitation in pre-covid days across five days of the week; the current schedule is 15 hours across three partial days (for days/times to visit see file here). JUST will be filing a contempt of court order against Sheriff Harder. Stay tuned for more action in the courts and outside the jail.
JUST met family members coming and going to visitation with coffee and donuts outside jail. It was a warm, celebratory day despite all the difficulties and obstacles that remain in front of us.