Governor Cuomo Signs Proximity Legislation into Law Bringing Parents and Children Closer Together

25 December 2020

Governor Cuomo Signs Proximity Legislation into Law Bringing Parents and Children Closer Together

Measure will direct New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to place incarcerated parents in facilities closer to their minor children.

Download and share the press release here

YAC member Anthony speaking at the Visiting is a Lifeline Press Conference in December 2019.
YAC member Anthony speaking at the Visiting is a Lifeline Press Conference in December 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 25, 2020 – Last night, just in time for the holidays, Governor Andrew
Cuomo signed the Proximity Bill (S724A/A6710A) into law representing a huge victory and
welcome news for children and their families who will no longer face traveling very long
distances to visit an incarcerated loved one. This long-awaited law directs the New York State
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to place incarcerated parents
in the facility in closest proximity to their minor children that also meets parents’ designated
security level, and program and health needs.


The evidence that children love and need their parents is all around us, and yet families face
high barriers to staying connected: many of our state’s 52 prisons are not accessible by public
transportation, and are hundreds of miles away from where families of those incarcerated live.
For more than nine years, children, family members, and advocates have worked to pass this
legislation to support family relationships and children’s wellbeing.


The pandemic has made it difficult for all families to see one another and been particularly hard
on children who anxiously worry about their incarcerated parents' well being inside prison. For
approximately 80,000 children in NY State whose parents are in State prisons, the inability to
visit parents and spending holidays apart has been a longstanding reality predating the
pandemic. By signing this legislation, Governor Cuomo has set a national example that supports
children’s health and wellbeing by acknowledging and and supporting their access to their
moms and dads in prison.

 

In 2011, New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery introduced the Proximity bill, or
“April’s Law” after meeting with our Youth Action Council years ago and hearing from April how
difficult it was for her to visit her mom who was held in a prison far from home.

 

Since it was first introduced, this bill has been championed by several legislators, including
Assemblymember Nily Rozic who carried the bill in the Assembly, spoke at numerous rallies, and
secured the support of her colleagues; and Corrections Chairs Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda,
Assemblymember David Weprin, and Senator Hon. Gustavo Rivera who carried an earlier
version of this bill and championed it along with many others.

As a statewide collaborative of families, community-based organizations, and partners
representing government agencies and the faith based community, we look forward to
collaborating with DOCCS on how best to implement the new law.


“I am so happy to see the Proximity Bill (April’s Law) signed by the Governor. Children should
not be deprived of the opportunity to have a relationship with their parents because of
incarceration. This law will support vulnerable families by placing incarcerated parents at
facilities closest to their children,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Senate sponsor
of the new law
. “I thank my colleagues, the advocates and especially Alonicha (April) Triana
who shared with me how deeply affected she was by her mother’s incarceration and proposed
this legislation.”


"The Proximity Bill- or Close to Home Act- is a step forward in making visiting more convenient
and affordable for families experiencing the strain of separation along with their loved ones
who are incarcerated. This new law will go a long way in not only maintaining family bonds but
also reducing recidivism across the state. To those on Osborne's Youth Action Council who lent
their voice and story in support of this bill, today's bill signing is a moment to celebrate your
advocacy and feel empowered to stay involved in the work ahead." - Assemblymember Nily
Rozic, Assembly sponsor of the new law
.


“I commend Governor Cuomo on signing the Proximity bill. Incarcerated parents should be
located in facilities that are closer to their children when possible. Incarceration already creates
a multitude of trauma for families and the incarcerated individual. These relationship barriers
should not exist because of incarceration. This will help preserve essential bonds between
parents and their children and support devastated families. We all know that any kind of
isolation from our loved ones has a profound impact and does not build healthy outcomes for
the incarcerated individuals and the child too. I thank my colleagues in government specifically
Senator Montgomery and Assembly Member Rozic as well as the Osborne Association for their
fight in passing this legislation.” - Senator Luis Sepulveda, Chair of the Senate Crime, Crime
Victims, and Corrections Committee

“The Osborne Association applauds the passage and signing of this bill that recognizes the
love between children and their parents despite incarceration,” said Osborne Association
President and CEO Elizabeth Gaynes
. “Senator Montgomery first developed this bill after
young people shared just how hard it was for them to visit their parents in prisons hours
from their homes. Today, NY State removes a significant barrier to family connection and
wellbeing, affirming the importance of maintaining the parent-child relationship during a
period of incarceration. We thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing this law and
Senator Montgomery and Assemblymember Rozic for their leadership and look forward
to working with DOCCS to implement this important law.”


"It’s hard for me to encompass what this law truly means to families in just a couple of
sentences. My daughter was 8-months-old when I left her. Special moments like the one we
shared this weekend when we visited the Museum of Ice Cream are largely possible because of
the years I spent in Sing Sing--less than an hour away from home. That proximity helped me
nurture and maintain our bond. Now, children will not have to sleep in a van overnight to make
it to a facility 6 hours away or be woken at 4AM to travel. Thank you Governor Cuomo for doing
the right thing and signing this bill into law."
Martin Garcia, Worth Rises, NYCIP Partner, and Osborne Speakers Bureau Member


“I commend Governor Cuomo for signing the Proximity Bill into law. It is never too late to do
what is right and today the Governor showed that he understands the importance of family for
ALL New Yorkers. This is a celebratory occasion and I encourage everyone to enjoy the day.
However, tomorrow we must wake up and get back to work, reforming this unjust system that
impacts so many. I hope that this action shows that Governor Cuomo will be an ally in that
fight.” - Whitney Hollins, PhD., Educator, Author, NYCIP Partner and Osborne Speakers
Bureau Membe
r


“We commend the Governor for signing the Proximity Bill into law. In doing so, he recognizes
the importance of children being able to visit their parents during periods of incarceration. In
many cases, this contact is critical to children’s well-being and healthy growth and development.
Distance has for too long been a barrier that severed essential ties between children and
parents. Keeping parents closer also means that foster care agencies will be able to ensure that
visits happen more often, so that children in foster care may stay connected to their parents
when it is in their best interests. This is an important moment for thousands of children and
families.” - Sheila S. Boston, President of the New York City Bar Association

"When a child and parent visit, they become more deeply bonded, emotionally secure, and
hopeful. Proximity means that these visits can happen more often and with less toll on our kids
who no longer have to travel long distances to experience the embrace of a loving parent. It
also means that more parents who were formerly incarcerated have the foundation of a strong
relationship with their children when they return home, benefiting them, their children and
their community. We at Graham Windham are thrilled that the Senate and Assembly have
passed the proximity bill and that Governor Cuomo has signed it into law. Our kids deserve
nothing less." - Jess Dannhauser, President & CEO, Graham Windham


“As a child, I looked forward to visiting my father at a state maximum security prison. The
unfortunate thing about visits was that the prison was far from home. There were times we
could not make visiting day because there was no accessible transportation, or funds. I am
elated to know that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the Proximity Bill into law. This is great
for children and families to keep their bond with loved ones who are in prison. Visits are
essential to an incarcerated person and gives everyone involved something to look forward to.
Keeping families together can help reinforce positive goals and rehabilitation. I applaud the
Governor for signing the Proximity Bill into law. This will make a world of difference for children
and their incarcerated parents.” - Zudaydah Rivera, The Osborne Association


“Visiting is a lifeline for families who are separated by incarceration, reducing the trauma of
separation and helping maintain or strengthen critical parent-child attachment. For parents with
both criminal legal and family regulation system involvement, the ability to spend time with
their children is critical for successful community reentry and can make all of the difference
between whether there is family reunification or termination of parental rights.” said Lauren
Shapiro, Managing Director of the Family Defense Practice at Brooklyn Defender Services
.
“Most people incarcerated in NYS prisons are over 100 miles from their homes and their
families. Foster care agencies are often unable or unwilling to transport children hundreds of
miles to see their parents. A6710A/S724 will ensure that DOCCS considers the proximity to
minor children when determining which facility an incarcerated person will be placed. We thank
the youth advocates and children of incarcerated parents who made this law a reality, Senator
Montgomery and Assemblymember Rozic for championing this legislation, and Governor
Cuomo for signing the bill into law.”


“For young children whose lives have been upended by the incarceration of a parent, being able
to maintain loving relationships is critical to their wellbeing. This is even more important for
children in foster care, who often have experienced compounding traumas and instability. We
commend the Governor for signing the Proximity Bill, which will strengthen and sustain the
connections families need to remain stable and successful.”
- Ronald Richter, CEO and Executive Director, JCCA

"Visiting and connection to family support children's wellbeing and are one of the leading ways
to reduce recidivism. The Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood is thrilled that the proximity
bill was signed into law. Placing incarcerated parents closer to their children will make it easier
for children to visit consistently, and will have positive impacts on children and families
statewide." - Joan E. Hunt, Executive Director of the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood
and Coordinator of the Greater Hudson Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents


"Ensuring that parents are placed close to their minor children means better outcomes for
incarcerated people and their children, but more importantly it's simply the humane thing to do
in a society that proclaims family values." - Colleen Kristich, Community Researcher at
Partnership for the Public Good