‘Kids go through this on a daily basis’
NYS legislature passes Montgomery’s bill to localize incarceration for families
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A bill to ensure that incarcerated
parents are sent to detention
facilities closer to their
children’s homes passed in the
New York State legislature on
July 21 — nine years after a
Brooklyn lawmaker fi rst introduced
The proximity bill, which
passed with overwhelming
bipartisan support and is expected
to be signed by Gov. Andrew
Cuomo, is the brainchild
of retiring senate stalwart
Velmanette Montgomery —
who introduced the measure,
known as “April’s Law,” after
meeting three children of incarcerated
parents who shared
their fraught experiences with
the criminal justice system.
One Brooklyn resident,
25-year-old Alonicha “April”
Triana, grew up visiting her father
each month in a prison a
few miles upstate — but when
her mother was incarcerated
nearly 400 miles away at a correctional
facility near Lake Ontario,
the distance made it impossible
for her to visit.
During their 2011 meeting,
the distraught daughter told
Montomery that her experience
was not unique, and spoke
of the trauma a lack of visitation
can have on a child.
“It’s a very important bill
because it’s not only me, it’s
a whole bunch of kids that go
through this on a daily basis
and a lot of people don’t even
know about it,” Triana said.
“It’s something that is coming
directly from the community.”
More than 100,000 children
in New York State have at least
one parent in state prison,
and after the detention system
halted free bus service to families
in 2011, many of them have
been effectively rendered unable
to see their parents — who
are currently assigned to one of
the state’s 52 correctional facilities
based on a host of factors,
such as prison capacity, health
needs, and security levels.
“There’s a lot associated
with going to get up and visit
your father, or your mother, or
your brother, any incarcerated
loved one,” said Anthony Funes,
whose father is incarcerated
on a 25-years-to-life sentence.
“It’s hard for anybody,
especially those who are not fi -
Funes, 18, last visited his
father in October 2019 because
the price of traveling the hundreds
of miles upstate, he said.
And 13-year-old Christina
Martinez, whose mother was
sent from Rikers Island to a facility
in Westchester and then
eventually to Albion, said she
felt punished by every transfer.
“I felt like I didn’t know why
I was being separated from her.
And just the further and further
they put her, it just didn’t
make sense. So that’s what
made me feel like, did it have to
do with something about me?”
A staffer at the Osborne
Association, which has been
lobbying for the bill alongside
children of incarcerated parents
for nearly a decade, said
that its passage has become
particularly crucial in light of
the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given that Black and
Brown families are disproportionately
affected by COVID-19
and losing income and jobs by
no fault of their own, this bill
would go a far way to alleviate
some of the fi nancial strain associated
with visiting,” said Allison
Hollihan, senior policy
manager for the New York Initiative
for Children of Incarcerated
Parents at the Osborne Association.
At the 2011 meeting, Montgomery
also met two other children
of incarcerated people —
Ashley Duncan and Raymond
Rodriguez — whom she named
two other bills after.
Ashley’s bill, which passed
in 2014, required New York’s
prison system to establish a
public website and phone line
with up-to-date information
on visitation rules and regulations
for all state facilities.
Raymond’s bill would require
state police to institute
child-sensitive arrest practices
for parents or legal guardians.
It has yet to be brought to a vote
Montgomery, whose district
Fort Greene, Boerum
Hill, and Red Hook, said that
the 2011 meetings were some of
the most memorable conversations
of her career.
“It’s really one of the highlights
of my time being able to
speak with them and actually
have them participate in the
process and be successful,” she
said. “I’ll always use this as I
have before as a clear and defi
nitive example of what we can
do to make important and signifi
cant policy changes if we
listen to young people.”
Retiring senator Velmanette Montgomery
Photo by Jason Speakman
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