DEBRIEF REWIND: Inside the prison oversight bill that awaits Cuomo’s signature (podcast)

After countless hours of planning and coordinating, the Correctional Association of New York’s policy finally passed during a special session on July 22nd.

At the expansive session, Albany lawmakers addressed more than 100 other policies across a host of issues, including corrections related legislation.

The newly approved prison oversight bill had been crafted by Associate Director of Policy Phillip Miller at CANY.




“It’s unprecedented with the amount of access that we now have,” Miller exclusively told FingerLakes1.com.

Passing without any amendments from either the Senate or Assembly, the bill had only been introduced at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

Assembly Bill 10194, which had been introduced on March 24th overwhelmingly passed primarily along the Democratic Party line among the 150 representatives in the Assembly.

As for Senate Bill 8046, it passed 38-22 during the floor vote on July 22nd, just shy of a super majority vote.

Miller previously admitted on FingerLakes1.com’s Daily Debrief that it would be highly unlikely for the bill to be voted upon until the start of fall legislative session.

Yet, their piece of legislation garnered enough support on the floor to prompt a roll call vote in the Senate nearly four months later.

Although the bill has been approved, Governor Andrew Cuomo still hasn’t signed it yet.

Governor Cuomo is supposed to request the passed legislation for him to formally sign it into law or veto the bill as presented.

This next step isn’t expected to occur until sometime in late fall or early December before the start of 2021, according to Miller’s sources.

Still, even after the bill is officially signed, a 90-day waiting period goes into effect until becoming the law of the land.

DAILY DEBRIEF: Prison oversight reform in New York? (podcast)

In the meantime, however, politically charged negotiations may possibly ensue at the doorsteps of Cuomo’s executive office, a process that Miller is well-aware about.

“We will have some say in what can and can’t be cut,” he explained.

Strategizing ahead, an area of concern may lie in CANY’s ability to now conduct unannounced visits to any prison across the entire state.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the Correctional Association shall be permitted, at its pleasure, to access, visit, inspect, and examine all state correctional facilities without advance notice to the department,” reads the opening lines of the Senate bill.

Despite the bill passing without any amendments to the original proposal, concessions can still be made in Albany on perceived issues like the unannounced visitation statute.

But beyond the possibility of backdoor deals, Miller mentioned that CANY is currently mounting a grassroots campaign to ensure that Cuomo will follow through on signing the legislation this fall.

Looking forward, Miller patiently waits in anticipation for when CANY can “no longer be denied or ignored” by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.




A major proponent of the bill allows CANY “at any time” to request and promptly receive from DOCCS or other state agencies “paper, electronic, and digital records including but not limited to any and documents, papers, logbooks, books, data, video, audio, policies, procedures, directives and emails” related to the treatment of persons in custody or confinement as well as the management and operation of state facilities.

Access to all of the aforementioned documents remain unfettered “to enable the Correctional Association to carry out its mission and duties, regardless of whether such requested paper, electronic, and digital records could have been withheld under Article 6 of the Public Officers Law.”

However, there’s still a catch in that for documents that are granted permission to CANY may not be distributed for public consumption, if still deemed confidential or not given written consent by the parties involved, according to Miller.

Meaning, CANY can have unlimited access to any and all documents, but not the public, and DOCCS must comply with all requests which are separate from the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Miller also noted that this unprecedented provision requires DOCCS to cooperate with their organization’s efforts.

Drawing parallels to the recently signed repeal of Section 50-a, Miller considers his own drafted bill as their equivalent to enhancing transparency and accountability measures behind the concrete walls of correctional facilities, which are left out of sight.

Now, because of their bill and the new statutes soon being on the books, the Correctional Association of New York can now continue to shed light upon its 52 correction facilities while serving as state’s exclusive independent watchdog organization with the authority under preexisting state law to monitor its prisons for the last 176-years.

Miller, who just started his first week of studies at the CUNY School of Law expresses his utmost gratitude toward state lawmakers, protesters and the concerned general public that helped swiftly propel this piece of legislation, surpassing his own expectations.