The Jan 19 Press and Sun Bulletin article about failure of the NYS Commission of Correction’s response to inmate grievances is barely the tip of the iceberg. The public response to those they deem with multiple stigmas – inmate, mentally ill, and triple diagnosed developmentally impaired is to continually ignore or cut and reduce from services. Several recent governors have ignored local needs, most recently in 2014 when the Broome County Mental Health Clinic was closed to a thousand recipients resulting in continuing waiting lists for services and denial of service especially to the DD/MI population. No one rushed in with funding.
Broome County decided it did not want to pay the salaries and pensions for quality mental health workers. Remember, it is state and federal funding that provides the majority of these mental health services for the public residents. Instead Broome County follows the mantra of the radical right to only fund police and the military by hiring a dozen correctional officers.
175 years later, Dorothea Dix would be aghast to know that the mentally ill are still being “caged” (in solitary), beaten and neglected” in our local jails. It is a tragedy that Broome County does not have the integrity to have an independent criminal justice oversight committee. Too many employees fear standing up for clients. You are not aware that some inmates have waited a week to receive the grievance form they want to file. How does that impact the “24 Hour Reports” the Comptroller recommends? Over seventy percent of inmates are too poor to pay bail, therefore serving time before conviction.
Has the community kept up with best practices by contracting out to Correctional Medical Care at the jail? No. There have been several deaths at the jail. There are many reports of inhumane medical neglect.
It is the same Broome County legislators who in 2014, and a few months ago, wanted to deny the new detox facility to their neighbors. Five years ago if you wanted suboxone you had to go to Ithaca. Will funding for treatment follow? Or will they continue to cry Not MY Taxes. Why does the local press refuse to print this information. Who is willing to make government work for the people instead of the monthly assault that all government is totalitarianism.
Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier (J.U.S.T.) is dedicated to dismantling mass incarceration in the Southern Tier. The diverse, social conditions and institutions contributing to mass incarceration demand a multifaceted effort to devise its end. Championing community mobilizations, supports, and services to end poverty, racism, the criminalization of the differently-abled, and the school-to-prison pipeline, J.U.S.T. believes that rehabilitation, education, and persistent community engagement is the best way to bring about true change. J.U.S.T advocates with and for individuals, families and loved ones of those currently or previously incarcerated, as well as educates community members, police, schools and other community service providers about the harms of mass incarceration. We welcome all who are interested in creating a JUST community in the Southern Tier. (website www.justiceST.com)