Rally to Support Visiting at Brooklyn Borough Hall

20 December 2019

Yesterday, the Youth Action Council, family, advocates, and elected officials gathered on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall for an inspiring rally to keep families together, and bring back the buses. Speakers professed their support of the vital pieces of legislation in the legislative session beginning in January that will protect and improve visiting at New York State prisons and jails.  


There are approximately 105,000 children in New York State with a parent in prison or jail. Most of these children deeply miss and want to visit their mothers or fathers, yet distance is a barrier, and many of New York’s 52 prisons are not accessible by public transportation. There are three bills before the New York Legislature that would improve children’s and family members’ access to their incarcerated loved ones: the Family Visiting Bus, Proximity, and Codifying Visiting bills will keep parents closer to their children, provide a means of transportation for family members throughout the state, strengthen family connections, and promote the correctional and public safety goals of rehabilitation and successful reentry.

Whitney Hollins and Martin Garcia emceed the event. 

In below freezing weather, the Youth Action Council, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, State Assembly member David Weprin, NYS Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery,  Hudson Mayor-elect Kamal Johnson, Jose Saldana, Director of Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), Echoes of Incarceration, and Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood gathered on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall to amplify our shared support for three bills that will be considered in the New York State legislative session beginning in January.  

“Bringing back free visiting buses and placing my dad closer to home would help tremendously,” said Anthony, Youth Action Council member and a child whose father is incarcerated hundreds of miles away. “Invest in us, invest in the bus.”

The coalition called for the Senate and Assembly to pass the Proximity Bill S724A/A6710 which would require DOCCS to place parents in prisons closer to their children, and the Family Visiting Bus Bill S731A/A5942 which would restore the Visiting Buses that transported thousands of families to visit their loved ones in New York State prisons every year for close to 40 years (from 1973 to 2011). The group also called on the Assembly to join the Senate in passing the Codification of Visits Bill A2483 which would enshrine into state law the right to in-person visits at state prisons and local jails, ensuring that video conferencing never replaces in-person visits as is happening in jails across the country. The coalition framed the passage of these bills as important racial justice and anti-poverty measures because families affected by incarceration are disproportionately families of color and low-income families who spend a significant proportion of their income to stay connected to and support incarcerated loved ones. They also proposed that contracts for the restored visiting buses should go to community-based small businesses, prioritizing businesses owned by people of color and women thereby reinvesting in the communities most affected by incarceration.

 Jose Saldana, Director of Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), was incarcerated for 38 years and came home two years ago. He said of his four children, “They basically grew up in prison visiting rooms with me and when the visiting room program was discontinued, I was still incarcerated. I have seen the devastation that that has caused on families.”

Jose Saldano, Director of RAPP 

The coalition called for the Senate and Assembly to pass the Proximity Bill S724A/A6710 which would require DOCCS to place parents in prisons closer to their children, and the Family Visiting Bus Bill S731A/A5942 which would restore the Visiting Buses that transported thousands of families to visit their loved ones in New York State prisons every year for close to 40 years (from 1973 to 2011). The group also called on the Assembly to join the Senate in passing the Codification of Visits Bill A2483 which would enshrine into state law the right to in-person visits at state prisons and local jails, ensuring that video conferencing never replaces in-person visits as is happening in jails across the country. The coalition framed the passage of these bills as important racial justice and anti-poverty measures because families affected by incarceration are disproportionately families of color and low-income families who spend a significant proportion of their income to stay connected to and support incarcerated loved ones. They also proposed that contracts for the restored visiting buses should go to community-based small businesses, prioritizing businesses owned by people of color and women thereby reinvesting in the communities most affected by incarceration.

“It’s cold outside, but it’s cold what we’re doing to families every day in this state,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “There’s no reason we’re sending family members from Bedford-Stuyvesant all the way to Binghamton … We know this is about dollars and cents, we know this does not make sense.”

Read more about the rally in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle